Wow, has the Jetta come a long way since it debuted in 1979. Its success over the years is cemented by the numbers -- VW says it’s sold 17.5 million Jetta’s worldwide and 3.2 million of those in the United States. Redesigned for the 2019 model year (check out my 2019 review here), the 7th-generation Jetta is a huge step forward in style, cabin quality and new technology, most impressively with an available fully-digital gauge cluster.
New for 2020
The 2020 Jetta spans 5 trim levels: the S, SE, R-Line, SEL, and my top of the line SEL Premium. For 2020, next-generation Car-Net and Wi-Fi comes standard on the entire lineup. A six-speed manual is now standard on R-Line models and wireless charging comes standard to the SEL/SEL Premium.
The Jettas 2019 redesign gives it a much more distinctive and bolder look with its long, wide chrome grille. The Jetta also brings in a few design elements from the current-generation Audi A3 with its elongated LED headlights and taillights and with similar strong lines on the profile. My tester’s Blue Silk Metallic hue really does it justice as does my trim’s 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Dual exhaust tips are for looks only. Other exterior features include power-adjustable, manual sliding and heated side mirrors, a power panoramic sunroof, and rain sensing front wipers with heated washer nozzles.
This SEL Premium sports a dark Titan Black leather interior and multi-textured surfaces. A well-designed soft-touch dashboard area frames the multimedia display. The front door panels are a mixture of soft-touch material and plastic with silver trim pieces and glossy black accents surrounding the handles. Leather “Comfort” Sport seats feature side bolstering and long cushions, which are great if you’re tall. The power lumbar support in the 8-way power driver’s seat felt terrific, but beware, the passenger’s seat is manual only. Both front seats are heated and ventilated.
A heated, leatherette-wrapped steering wheel greets your fingers. You’ll find traditional controls for dual zone climate on the center stack. The center console houses push-button start, an available wireless charger, a leather gear shifter, an automatic parking brake and a button to turn off start/stop, (which I never did because I didn’t find it noticeable.) You’ll get two USBs up front, one in the back of the center console, a spot I find hard to reach.
The Jetta is spacious with plenty of leg-room for all. The second row offers a dropdown center console and 60/40 fold-down split. The SEL Premium’s heated rear seats have firm side bolstering which makes them seem on the narrow side. There is plenty of cargo space in the trunk.
On the plus side, the Jetta's available 10.25-inch VW Digital Cockpit is terrific. It displays bright, colorful graphics along with a driver information display and an available full screen map view. Likewise, the available 8-inch multimedia pinch-and-zoom touch screen responds quickly, offers a clean interface, and also fits this vehicle nicely. The rear back up camera resolution is also a winner.
On the down side, I’m not a fan of the way VW set up its voice recognition/navigation system. The system seemed cumbersome to operate requiring more steps to operate than other systems. I couldn’t seem to simply say the name of a specific restaurant, have the system locate and get directions (although it will pull up a list of area restaurants.)
VW’s MIB II multimedia system includes VW App-Connect, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth. The Jetta’s available 8-speaker Beats Audio system with a subwoofer sounds great. You can also customize the interior with a cool 10-color ambient lighting system.
Ride and Drive
If an all-around pleasant ride and drive is what you’re after you won’t be disappointed in the Jetta. It’s a comfortable commuter car with easy maneuverability. (You’ll get 34 mpg combined in city and highway driving.) Handling is tighter than on the larger Passat sedan. Drive modes include Eco, Normal, Custom and my favorite sport mode which improves response. All trims share a torquey 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed automatic (the base and R-line trim come with a 6-speed manual.) The Jetta’s 147-horses felt “peppier” than the number might suggest. VW also offers customization options to input four driver profiles.
I’d like to see VW offer more standard driver assist features across the lineup. Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist) and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert are standard on all but the base model. Only the top two trims receive High Beam Control, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Assist. Automatic Post-Collision braking, which employs after you’ve been in a crash, is standard on all trims.
The VW Jetta SEL Premium is a fuel-efficient, well-designed and executed compact sedan that offers a great ride, quality interior and some cool features, all for under $30,000, which makes it well worth a test drive.
2020 Volkswagen Jetta SEL Premium
- What I liked most: VW Digital Cockpit, Beats Audio.
- What I would change: Voice recognition/navigation system operation.
- MSRP: Base price: $27,945; as equipped: $28,865.
- Fuel Economy: 30 city/40 highway/34 combined.
- Official Color: Blue Silk Metallic.
- Odometer reading when tested: 2,335 miles.
- Weight: 2,967 lbs.
- Spare Tire: Temporary spare.
- Length-Width-Height: 185.1” long/70.8” wide/57.4" high.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.2 gallons with passenger side filler.
- Towing Capacity: N/A.
- 2020 VW Jetta in a few words: A comfortable commuter car with easy maneuverability that gets great fuel economy.
- Warranty: New Vehicle Warranty; 4-year/50,000-mile (whichever occurs first)Limited Warranty Against Corrosion Perforation; 7-year/100,000-mile (whichever occurs first); 2-years/20,000 Carefree Maintenance; 3-year/36,000 Roadside Assistance.
- Final Assembly Location: Pueblo, Mexico.
- Manufacturers website: Volkswagen