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The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is here, and even if it doesn’t look at that different from its predecessor, it’s what’s underneath that counts.

And there are some major changes that make the 2019 Jetta ride and handle like the pint-size luxury sedan it once was.

First, some inside baseball. The 2019 Jetta now rides on the same, sophisticated architecture as the VW Golf. That’s big news, since the Golf sets a high bar for comfortable cruising and entertaining driving.

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A 1.4-liter turbo-4 paired to a choice of 6-speed manual and 8-speed automatic transmissions is the only underhood setup at launch. Front-wheel drive is standard and it’s the only way to get your Jetta.

The Jetta’s styling is evolutionary, albeit with some cleaner finishes and more use of chrome. Its roofline is lower, but the car is wider and longer overall and rides on a wheelbase that grows by a little more than an inch.

Inside, passengers will find more stretch-out room than before—and that’s saying something, since the last Jetta was plenty roomy. Bigger upgrades come in the features department, where new infotainment systems and an optional LCD screen that replaces the conventional gauge cluster are tech highlights.

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It’s also clear that VW has more confidence in this new Jetta than in the last one. Some new options like leather upholstery and cooled seats are here for the 2019, but they weren’t on last year’s model.

VW will offer a full suite of collision-avoidance tech as options, but not as standard equipment as on rivals from Toyota and Mazda. Pay extra and you’ll net automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control, among other safety goodies.

There’s a lot more than meets the eye with the 2019 Jetta. We’ve driven prototypes and have found them to feel like cut-rate luxury cars. That’s a compliment, especially given that pricing isn’t likely to stray far from the outgoing model’s sub-$20,000 base price.


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