Behind the Wheel

2019 Volkswagen Jetta Review: Good ole days of 'Betta Getta Jetta' have passed by

The Volkswagen Jetta has been redesigned for the 2019 model year but still isn't as good as its rivals.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

As catchy a marketing campaign as it is, the "Betta Getta Jetta," tagline falls flat when you test drive the latest iteration of the compact car. With stiff competition from the recently redesigned Toyota Corolla, Mazda Mazda3, and Kia Forte.

The Jetta a compact car that sits below the Passat and new Arteon in the German automaker's U.S. lineup. The Golf and Beetle are smaller than the Jetta. It was fully redesigned for the 2019 model year.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta The Volkswagen Jetta looks very similar to every other VW on the lot.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

In every grade, the Jetta is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine that produces 147 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with a six-speed manual transmission in the base model, but all subsequent trim levels come standard with an eight-speed automatic. The powertrain is competent but doesn't differentiate itself from the competition. It's fuel-efficient, achieving 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway regardless of transmission.

The compact car has a cabin filled with materials that are just "meh." Compared to the thoughtfully styled and appointed surfaces of the Mazda3 and high-quality design and materials in the Corolla and Forte, the Jetta just doesn't cut it, especially in its lower trims.

The Jetta comes standard with a 6.5-inch infotainment touch screen, four speakers, a USB port, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink. That's a decent list but even when you add equipment like the dual-zone automatic climate control and 8-inch touch screen, the Jetta still looks cheaper than much of its competition.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta The interior of the Jetta is modern and straightforward.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Climate controls are intuitively laid out in the Jetta but certain functions, like dimming the driver information display, are controlled via the infotainment screen and frustratingly unavailable while driving at least as tested in the SE trim.

Unlike other vehicles in its class, the Jetta doesn't come standard with much driver assistance technology. Blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and lane departure warning are all available.

As is customary in Volkswagen cars, the seats in the Jetta aren't comfortable for long stretches of time but they are supportive, keeping a driver and passengers in place as the vehicle remains reasonably planted through twists and turns in the road. Unlike other vehicles in its class, the Jetta has enough room in its rear seat for two average sized adults.

2019 Volkwagen Jetta The Jetta has a good amount of passenger and cargo space.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

This redesigned Jetta has less cargo space than you'd find in its previous generation but it still holds up versus the competition. There are a good number of nooks and crannies to store things in, in the cabin.

There are few compelling reasons to choose the Jetta over the Corolla, Forte, and Mazda3. Each of those vehicles does many things better than the Jetta, and delivers at least one stand-out reason to choose it over the Volkswagen. If you're in the market for a new compact car, skip the VW lot.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Production of the Volkswagen ID.4 will mark the automaker's first all-electric SUV launch. The ID.4 will have about 310 miles of range, depending on the drive package.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen is investing heavily into electric vehicles (EVs), even in the U.S. where the models make up a smidgeon of the sales each year. The company has already begun expanding its Chattanooga, Tennessee factory to build a North American center for the engineering and assembly of EVs.

That doesn't mean that they're just working on cars. They're working on the design of the "things" that go into cars as well. Much of this will happen at the Engineering and Planning Center (EPC) in Chattanooga. Breaking ground on the center is set to happen soon with the expectation of it being fully operational by spring 2021.

Volkswagen Chattanooga plant Volkswagen is investing $800 million and adding 1,000 jobs at its Tennessee plant. Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The EPC will feature a unique, state-of-the-art high-voltage laboratory that is designed to develop and test electric vehicle cells and battery packs. These cells and packs are slated to be assembled in the U.S. before being inserted into vehicles.

"There are two ways that auto companies approach the development of electric vehicle batteries," said Wolfgang Maluche, Vice President of Engineering at Volkswagen of America. "A lot of them will farm out the development and testing of batteries to another company, and some will actually do the work of developing and testing in-house. We are doing the latter."

The lab will include pressure testers, explosion-rated climate chambers and – perhaps the most unique – a custom multi-axis shaker table (MAST), which is designed to test the integrity of vehicle components in some of the roughest conditions they might face on the road.

According to Volkswagen, most automotive labs have MASTs, "but almost none were designed for electric vehicle batteries". EV batteries present their own set of testing challenges because of their size and weight. They typically weight hundreds of pounds each, making them the heaviest component in an EV.

"The battery is not only shaking; it is going through a series of harsh conditions to test its durability in a variety of possible environments, from the South Pole to the Sahara," said Jason Swager, the Director of Electrical Development. "We needed to build a MAST that could withstand the immense force and frequency that we need to test these batteries."

Volkswagen describes the process:

"To run a MAST at such high frequencies, Volkswagen had to design its own tool rather than using an outside supplier. The supports for the MAST will be buried 12 feet under the lab's floor and buttressed with concrete to help withstand the forces in use. Volkswagen's new lab will be only the second location in the country with a MAST of this size."

Volkswagen is building the lab to LEED standards. "This lab was planned to be as sustainable as possible," said Maluche.

The production version of the Volkswagen ID.4 EV is expected to be revealed soon. It will be produced at the factory. The company recently celebrated the 1 millionth vehicle to roll off the line at the plant.

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The Nissan Maxima is one of the cheapest cars to insure in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

ValuePenguin, which is owned by Lending Tree, has surveyed the vehicle landscape, finding the top five vehicles with the cheapest car insurance rates.

To determine the winners in this survey, ValuePenguin investigated the relationship between car insurance costs and safety, specifically looking at driver fatalities per million registered vehicles according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The analysis determined that "vehicles associated with fewer fatal accidents tended to have lower car insurance costs. Conversely, cars associated with higher rates of fatal accidents saw more expensive car insurance rates."

Many of the vehicles listed earned a top IHS Top Safety Pick+ rating for 2020.

No. 5 - Subaru Legacy

2020 Subaru Legacy Photo courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

The Subaru Legacy was completely redesigned for the 2020 model year. It now features a powerful engine, engaging drive dynamics, and high-tech infotainment and safety features. Subaru equips the model with standard all-wheel drive.

No. 4 - Volkswagen Golf GTI

2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The Volkswagen Golf GTI has been refined for 2020. It is now available in three trims—S, SE, and Autobahn - and VW has given the model additional standard safety technology. The Golf GTI is one of the few models still available with a manual transmission. The company recently revealed the next generation of the Golf GTI for 2021.

No. 3 - Nissan Maxima

2020 Nissan Maxima Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

​The Nissan Maxima doesn't compete against many other large sedans these days, but it still puts up a good fight giving buyers plenty of reason to explore the segment. The 2020 Nissan Maxima is relatively the same as the 2019 model. Nissan Safety Shield 360 is now standard on the car, adding automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam assist, and rear automatic braking to every Maxima model.

No. 2 - Acura ILX

2020 Acura ILX Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

The ILX is the entry point into the Acura brand and, despite not being the newest model in the company's portfolio, it's still attracting plenty of buyers. How long the ILX name will be around is up in the air. A recently leaked dealer slideshow discussed a new compact car coming soon. but did not explicitly call it the ILX name.

No. 1 - Nissan Leaf

2020 Nissan Leaf

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Nissan Leaf is one of the most popular electric vehicles the world. It's available in two battery grades that offer up to 226 miles of range. The popularity of the Leaf has made it one of the best-known EVs in the world. Recently, the company released the "Nissan EV Driver Etiquette" guide.

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