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.

Her name may not be familiar to the average customer, but Gunhild Liljequist's plaid design helped Volkswagen reach a new audience in the 1970s.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Plaid is nearly as iconic in the Volkswagen enthusiast world as the Light Bus and the Beetle. When it debuted in the 1976 Golf GTI, it was thanks to one woman, one of the company's first female designers, Gunhild Liljequist.

Life wasn't always all horizontal and vertical lines for Liljequist. She was a porcelain painter and chocolatier candy-box designer by trade who made a career change to join Volkswagen's Germany-based Department of Fabrics and Colors in Wolfsburg in 1964. She was 28.

With the first Golf GTI set to come into production, Liljequist was tasked with designing a variety of interior elements of the compact car. Her work primarily focused on paint hues, trims, and interior detailing. At a time when bold patterns in muted colors was commonplace, Liljequist gave the GTI two distinct design elements - a tartan seat pattern and a golf ball-style gear knob.

Gunhild Liljequist Volkswagen Clark Plaid Liljequist sits in the Golf GTI she helped make popular.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

"Black was sporty, but I also wanted color and quality," Liljequist said. "I took a lot of inspiration from my travels around Great Britain and I was always taken by high-quality fabrics with checked patterns … you could say that there is an element of British sportiness in the GTI."

She, unsurprisingly, faced resistance. However, the tartan seat pattern, now known as Clark Plaid, and the new style of the car's shifter knob made it through to production.

Though she's more of a black and white pattern gal, Liljequist dove deep into the color spectrum during her time at Volkswagen. The culture and rapid pace of vehicle evolution allowed Liljequist to experiment with her influence reaching into some of the brand's most iconic paint hues, trims, and interior accents.

Clark Plaid is available in the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Rabbit Edition.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

She also contributed to the 2987 limited edition Etienne Aigner Mk1 Golf Cabrioet, a car that was influenced by women's leather accessories. Liljequist formulated the iridescent pearl color that is on the vehicle's exterior and applied it using a transparent foil.

Liljequist retired in 1991 but her legacy endures. U.S. buyers can currently purchase a 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Rabbit Edition, which features Liljequist's Clark Plaid in its seats.

The Volkswagen Car-Net system is getting significant upgrades for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Easy-to-use infotainment operating systems with mobile capability are becoming standard for automakers in North America. Now, with the debut of their next-generation Car-Net system, Volkswagen, the world's second-largest automaker, is making the leap to the modern digital age.

New Mobile App

Car-Net Remote Access will give owners the ability to control some functionality of their vehicle via a mobile app. The app can control a vehicle's remote start and stop ability (where properly equipped), remotely lock and unlock doors, honk and flash the lights of the vehicle, show the last parked location, and give the owner a view of their fuel level, mileage, and door and window status. It is free to use for five years from the date of vehicle purchase.

Volkswagen Car-Net Remote Access The new Car-Net app allows owners to remotely access their vehicle.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The app's parking information feature is powered by Parkopedia, which helps users locate off-street parking information. Users can press the "P" icon on their screen and the app will show them available parking locations near their chosen point of interest. That information can then be pushed to the car's navigation system, located in the head unit.

Vehicle Health Reports are automatically generated monthly and are sent to a driver's email address. When service is required, Car-Net can notify the customer and allows them to schedule a dealer visit.

Volkswagen's Family Guardian software sends an alert the vehicle owner when the vehicle travels over a pre-determined maximum speed limit and outside of a designated boundary zone. It also alerts when the vehicle is driven outside of a curfew timeframe and when it travels more than two-tenths of a mile outside a valet drop-off location.

Volkswagen Car-Net Remote Access The new Car-Net app can help drivers find their car if they've misplaced it in a parking lot.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Roadside Call Assist can be activated by touching the wrench icon in the app.

New for 2020, the DriveView program allows enrollees to become eligible for a discount from their insurance company, should the company support the driver monitoring program. Based on typical drive behaviors, the app gives the driver a score, which can then be passed on to their insurance company.

Car-Net Remote is offered on most 2020 model year vehicles.

Car-Net Safe & Secure

Volkswagen's Car-Net Safe & Secure is a paid subscription service that features information and emergency assistance, crash notification, anti-theft alert, and stolen vehicle location assistance in the same manner that OnStar does. The service costs $99 annually and renews automatically at the end of each year's subscription term unless cancelled.

Volkswagen Car-Net Hotspot A Wi-Fi hot spot is available in most model year 2020 vehicles.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Car-Net Hotspot

The branded Car-Net Hotspot service is a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot that allows users to connect up to four devices simultaneously. It runs on the Verizon Wireless network and customers who use Verizon as their wireless provider can add their mobile data plan to their existing plan as another line. Non-Verizon customers can opt for a pre-paid plan that costs just $20 per month plus associated taxes and fees, however the rate may not be available in all states.

Car-Net Guide & Inform

Volkswagen's navigation system, which provides enhanced infotainment functionality, is called Car-Net Guide & Inform. Using the factory-installed system, owners can access traffic reports, fuel prices, sports scores, movie times, and weather data as part of the three-month SiriusXM Travel Link trial. Car-Net enrollment and subscription is not required.