The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta shows that the automaker is committed to making its entry-level sedan a more viable alternative to mainstream rivals such as the Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, and Toyota Corolla.

The new Jetta, unveiled Sunday at an off-site event ahead of the Detroit auto show, is now based on VW’s MQB platform, which forms the basis for everything from the Golf hatchback and Passat sedan to the Tiguan and Atlas SUVs. Here, it translates to a 1.3-inch-longer wheelbase in the 2019 Jetta, freeing up precious legroom for passengers.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta front
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CR has praised the outgoing Jetta for its roomy backseat, so the added space should only make a good thing better. We also noted that the Jetta was more expensive than key rivals. To that end, VW lowered the Jetta’s base price to $18,545. (This price is exactly $5 less than what you’d pay for an entry-level Toyota Corolla.)

The Jetta is available in five trim levels: S, SE, SEL, SEL Premium, and sporty R-Line. VW did not release details on the trim levels. Regardless of which you choose, under the hood is a 147-hp, 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine that sends its power to the front wheels.

A six-speed manual transmission can be ordered with the base Jetta. Otherwise, all other trim levels come standard with an eight-speed automatic coupled to a fuel-saving start/stop system. VW has not provided estimated fuel-economy figures. The previous Jetta with same engine registered an overall economy average of 32 mpg overall during CR’s testing.

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2019 Volkswagen Jetta

Inside the new Jetta, VW has made an effort to improve the materials and give the cockpit a more premium feel. We’d noted the “lackluster” cabin finish in the previous Jetta, something we’ll be paying attention to in the new model. Optional cabin features include heated and cooled front seats, leather seating, and dual-zone climate control.

To help woo tech-savvy car buyers, the 2019 Jetta comes standard with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and MirrorLink compatibility. (All three app-driven features enable a connected smartphone to operate via the infotainment screen.) A 400-watt Beats Audio system is also optional for the audiophiles among us.

Advanced safety features—including automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning, and blind-spot warning—are available as options. We believe that AEB and FCW should come standard on all trims. Also available are rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warning.

Look for the 2019 Jetta to go on sale this spring.

Read the latest Volkswagen Jetta road test.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta