Volkswagen may be focusing much of its post-diesel emissions scandal effort into developing electric vehicles and crossovers, but the Jetta compact sedan remains important enough to the brand that they rolled out a redesigned version at the 2018 Detroit auto show.
An exterior design that we think looks a bit Audi-esque makes this the first VW to adopt the brand’s new front-end design, with a bold grille that stands out on an otherwise conservative sedan. The 2,685-mm wheelbase is a stretch of 32mm over the outgoing car, suggesting a bump in rear-seat legroom that we take as recognition of the Honda Civic’s grown-up cabin.
Inside is a more tech-intensive interior that gets VW’s digital cockpit gauge cluster for the first time along with ambient lighting that can be set to 10 different colours. An available panoramic sunroof is larger this year, and VW now offers front seats that are ventilated as well as heated.
An available 400-watt stereo shares infotainment touchscreen real estate with VW’s Car-Net system, which brings Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality to the Jetta.
Active safety features like forward collision warning, automatic braking, radar cruise control and automatic high beams are on offer, too.
As safety and technology lead the way toward autonomous driving, details on a car’s powertrain almost seem secondary. In the Jetta, those are nothing to get too excited about. All trims use a 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 147 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque.
Jetta transmission options include a six-speed manual that can be upgraded to an eight-speed automatic. Front-drive is all there is, but certain trims come with what VW calls the cross differential system, which applies braking to the inside front wheel in turns to improve cornering accuracy.
We expect the eight-speed automatic will improve the Jetta’s already thrifty fuel consumption figures; those estimates were 8.5/6.2 L/100 km (city/highway) in the outgoing Jetta fitted with its optional six-speed auto.