In the saturated realm of compact cars there are good reasons to buy the seventh-generation Volkswagen Jetta, but they are not the reasons you’d expect. As the product of a German carmaker you might expect crisp handling from an Autobahn tuned suspension, but hit a bump in the Jetta and the suspension floats, like me, squishily absorbing the impact. Yeah, I know, squishily isn’t it word. With sharp steering inputs body roll is pronounced. If you want taut European driving fun, look outside of Europe. Softer damping and a simplistic torsion beam rear suspension might dull the Jetta’s thrill quotient, but it doesn’t hamper comfort. For cruising or simply commuting the Jetta is an excellent choice. In many ways it’s more Corolla than the Corolla, sorry Corolla.Adding to the pile of pragmatic delights are a highly adjustable driving position, welcoming seats with oddly good lateral support for rear passengers, superior outward visibility supported by rear corner windows, and a large center storage area cleverly constructed of light-colored plastic so you can easily find the stuff inside. As for passenger space palatial might be over selling it but not by much. Seated behind my preferred driving position head, knee and foot clearance are outstanding for a compact car. While we’re on the subject of knee clearance, this bit of the steering column hits my knees, well vice versa, when I get in or when I’m just adjusting my legs, and no I’m not going to drive like this like some kind of idiot. Look I’m driving a bus. In addition to unexpected knee bruises the Jetta’s quirks include rear windows that only open this much, weirdly low center vents, and absence of vents for rear-seat passengers, and at least in our test car an ultra finicky sunglass holder. Hopping back on the complement train the Jetta excels as a cargo hauler with a large 14.1-cubic foot trunk and standard 60/40 split folding seats, just mind the gooseneck hinges so nothing gets crushed.To some eyes the Jetta might seem plain outside and in. Whatever your take the interior is functionally arranged featuring simple controls, soft touch points, abundant door storage, a useful USB adjacent bin for your phone, and an infotainment screen smartly angled towards the driver. Interacting with the screen while you’re driving can be super distracting, but it’s much less distracting when that screen is easy to reach and to see.Poke. The logically arranged
interface is displayed on a standard 6.5-inch or on higher trims eight-inch touchscreen and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across the board. Yes, even on the bass S trim which starts well below $20,000 with destination charges and includes all the essentials like alloy wheels, AC, cruise control and even full LED lights. Budget an extra $800 if you want to swamp the bass car’s 6-speed manual for the 8-speed automatic transmission that’s standard on all other trims. Speaking of the eight-speed, it shifts quickly and smoothly and helps maximize the modest output of the Jetta’s 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.With the 1.4-liter acceleration is adequate once you get off the line. Where the small displacement really pays off is fuel economy. Who wants 40 mpg on the freeway? And that’s running regular unleaded instead of premium like some turbocharged engines. In town fuel economy is strong, too, aided by an automatic start/stop system that cuts the engine when the vehicle is motionless. When automatic engine start/stop systems first appeared they kind of sucked. The restarts were really jarring but in the Jetta restarts are quick and uneventful. You may have reached the point where reaching down and pushing the off button is more annoying than just letting the system do its job.Good job, good job, you’re so much better than all those terrible systems used to be. If we’re being honest Volkswagen’s reliability has varied over the years. If let’s say you were to have bought a super unreliable 2005 Volkswagen Touareg you might appreciate the Jettas sixty or seventy-two thousand mile transferable warranty, bumper to bumper yo. If you’re ready to join Team Jetta what should you get? For our money the SE is the play. For about $23,000 it adds heated front seats, dual zone automatic climate control, keyless access with push button star,t and helpful safety upgrades like blind spot monitoring and forward collision warning with automatic braking. Climb to the SEL and SEL Premium trims if you want adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, Beats premium audio, leather seats with ventilation that can be activated in concert with the seat heaters, and this cool reconfigurable 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster swiped from VW’s luxury division Audi.Thank you Audi. Lastly there’s the Jetta R line to consider offering sporty-er looks and electronic differential control for improved power delivery and
corners. Though if it’s performance you want maybe save your pennies for a V-dub that starts with the G and ends with an I. Butt before any of that let’s roll out the competitors, which include the ubiquitous Honda Civic, the fun-loving Mazda 3, the all-wheel drive Subaru Impreza and countless others. The seventh-generation Volkswagen Jetta may not be a Teutonic bliss factory but it is a comfortable, spacious, value-packed, inoffensive sedan with a long warranty. For many compact car buyers it’s a winning combination. .