Volkswagen Jetta (Mk7)

Debut: 2018
Maker: Volkswagen
Predecessor: Jetta Mk6 (2010)

 Published on 19 Apr 2018
All rights reserved. 

Still targets at the mainstream, but the new Jetta cuts costs without making you feel it.

Few people love the last generation Volkswagen Jetta. In an attempt to compete with Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic etc. in the USA market, Volkswagen decided to abandon its semi-premium image and trim costs as much as possible. It was given a dull packaging, a lot of low-rent plastics, a cheap rear suspension and an outdated 8-valve engine. Fans of VW were shocked and disappointed. The cheaper car lured more buyers from the mainstream crowd, but not more enough to threaten its Japanese rivals. Moreover, it damaged the reputation of the German brand. Even though multi-link suspension and TSI engines were introduced afterwards, it was too late.

Wise people learn from mistakes. This time around, the 7th generation Jetta has corrected many faults of its predecessor. Not that it abandons the mainstream positioning. No, the new car still targets at the same buyers of Corolla and Civic thus it is deemed to be half a notch lower than Golf. In the US market, it even marginally undercuts the old car model by model. However, this time it manages to cut costs without making you feel it. This is very important.

From B-pillar rearward it looks remarkably like an Audi A3 sedan.

The new Jetta might not be a piece of art. Its front end design is particularly dull. The wide hexagonal grille has little aesthetic to speak of, nor it has any family resemblance to other Volkswagens – isn’t hexagonal grille a signature of Audi? I don’t understand why it was designed that way. However, front end aside, the car looks pretty good. Its body profile is sleeker, the waist line is lower and crisper. From B-pillar rearward it even looks remarkably like an Audi A3 sedan. Jewel-like head and tail-lights add to the sense of sophistication. Drag coefficient is also improved from 0.30 to 0.27.

The new car is slightly longer and wider than before, while its wheelbase is stretched by 35mm to 2685mm. Nevertheless, the latter does not reflect in rear legroom, as it is actually reduced by 18mm. The cabin does afford slightly more headroom and shoulder room for both rows. Get inside, you will find it still offer competitive space for the class. 4 six-footers can be squeezed inside without much complaint, although they will be happier to squeeze inside a Civic. What really lifted the new Jetta above its predecessor is the design and build quality of the interior. Its new dashboard is so much more stylish, while there are a lot more soft-touch or better grained plastics – though no match for Golf, predictably. The infotainment touch screen on the center console is angled slightly towards the driver for easier reading. You can even opt for a TFT instrument called Digital Cockpit, or Volkswagen’s version of Audi Virtual Cockpit. Moreover, you won’t be disappointed with Volkswagen’s infotainment system, as it is typically intuitive and responsive. The base car offers cloth seats but they are supportive. Leather upholstery is available on more expensive models. For quality perception and technology, it has its Japanese rivals clearly beaten.

For quality perception and technology, it has its Japanese rivals clearly beaten.

As the cabin is more expensive, some costs have to be trimmed elsewhere. The new Jetta has its rear suspension reverted to cheap torsion-beam axle. Disappointed? Not really, because it is now built on the same MQB platform as Golf VII. Remember, the lower power models of Golf employ also torsion-beam rear suspension, but we heard no complaints. It goes without saying the problems of the old Jetta was more about its older platform than its suspension. As long as you don’t target at Ford Focus-level of sharp handling, a torsion-beam axle could be up to the job, provided you have a good platform that is rigid and light.

The MQB satisfies this requirement. On the Jetta, the suspension tuning is softer than its siblings to deliver the kind of ride comfort that American customers want. It is also mounted through hydraulic bushings to reduce NVH. On the road, the car rides nicely in most situations. Only really large bumps will catch it out and reveal its lack of fully independent suspension. Thanks to the solid chassis and good insulation, high-speed cruising feels remarkably refined. Handling is also very competent. Its dual-pinion steering guides the car accurately. It corners with decent body control. At the limit, it runs into understeer gently, but the predictable handling is exactly what most family car buyers want. However, more demanding drivers will prefer the tighter control and sharper turn-in of Focus, Golf, Mazda or even Honda.

A torsion-beam axle could be up to the job, provided you have a good platform, MQB.

Unexpectedly, only one engine is offered in the US market at launch. The 1.4 TSI engine is carried over from the old car. It produces 147hp and 184 lbft of torque, emphasizing on low-end torque (which peaks from merely 1400 rpm) rather than high-end sparkles. This is a good bread-and-butter engine that satisfies the need of everyday driving. Mated with a new 8-speed automatic gearbox (no DSG this time) or 6-speed manual, the car delivers respectable fuel economy, decent performance (expect 0-60 mph in about 8 seconds) and good refinement, if lacking excitement. Honda’s 1.5 Turbo engine offers more power and sportier sound, but Jetta will respond with a powerful 2.0 TSI engine soon, hopefully under the badge of GLI. The 8-speed automatic works smoothly and responsively, a better bet than Japanese CVTs. The manual gearbox offers crisped gearshift and a linear clutch.

It might be too much to declare the Jetta back to form, but it is certainly miles better than the last one. If it is given a more stylish nose, an optional multi-link rear suspension and the choice of more powerful engines, it might even threaten Golf. Cost control is still very much a concern in its development. Fortunately, this time the drawbacks are kept to the minimum. At the moment, the new Jetta is to be built and sold only in North America. Volkswagen should consider introducing it to China and the rest of the world.
 Published on 22 May 2019
All rights reserved. 
Jetta GLI

The GLI goes way better than it looks.

Traditionally, the hot version of VW Jetta is called GLI instead of GTI, but it takes most mechanicals from the Golf GTI. The new Jetta GLI is no exception. It employs the GTI's EA888 2-liter turbo engine with 228hp (SAE, or 230hp DIN) and 258 lbft of torque, accompanied with the same VAQ electronic LSD, 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG, adaptive dampers and, most important, multi-link instead of torsion-beam rear axle on lesser Jettas.

Although the Jetta outweighs the Golf by more than 100kg, it is still plenty fast, doing 0-60 mph in 6 seconds. The power is flexible and plenty. The manual gearshift and clutch take-up are excellent. The DSG is as great as usual. The car also cruises with superb refinement, a sign of quality product.

When it comes to handling and ride, it loses very little to its lighter and shorter sibling. The steering remains well weighted, accurate and responsive. The suspension, even without adaptive dampers fitted, copes well with rough surfaces yet has body motions well controlled. It rolls progressively and balances nicely. Easy to drive fast and slow. The 340mm front brakes, taken straight from Golf R, handles its extra weight with ease. Like Golf GTI, this is not a top-tier, hardcore driver’s car, but it hits the right balance between driving fun and practicality/affordability.

And what an affordability – it costs less than the Golf GTI, yet it offers more metal for the money. Remember, the Jetta has a longer wheelbase hence a lot more rear legroom than the Golf. Its boot is also a lot larger. You might not notice from the driver’s seat, but rear passengers will feel the difference. How does Volkswagen managed to offer more car for less buck? Look at the hard plastics on dash and door panels, the cheaper cloth seats and instrument gauges and you’ll see. The dull exterior and interior design also save a lot of man-hour. A Golf GTI makes you a prouder owner. The Jetta GLI is still a good car, just underrated by its cheaper packaging.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Jetta 1.4TSI
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4702 / 1798 / 1458 mm
2685 mm
1395 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
147 hp
184 lbft
8-speed automatic
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
1347 kg
127 mph (est)
Jetta GLI
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4704 / 1798 / 1443 mm
2685 mm
1984 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
228 hp
258 lbft
6-spd manual (7-spd twin-clutch)
F: strut
R: multi-link
1441 kg (1452 kg)
149 mph (est)
5.8* (5.6*)
13.8* (13.8*)

Performance tested by: *C&D

AutoZine Rating

General models


    Copyright© 1997-2019 by Mark Wan @ AutoZine