2022 Volkswagen Jetta Highline: A Shadow of Itself

There was a time when the Jetta was the darling of Quebec drivers. Especially the first generations. People appreciate its safe driving, its solidity, its interesting motorization and its large trunk. To the point of forgiving him a sometimes questionable reliability and some stubborn flaws.

Expressly designed for the affluent North American market, by grafting a closed trunk onto its sibling, the Golf hatchback, the Jetta experienced a very variable fortune. Since the release of the affordable version of the Golf two years ago, this compact sedan has been the entry point into a Volkswagen lineup that has happily succumbed to the onslaught of the SUV and the rise of the electric drive.

Therefore, it was up to the 7th generation Jetta to defend the Volkswagen name and colors in a rapidly shrinking automotive market. In Quebec, four times more utility vehicles and light trucks were sold than cars in 2021. And this trend is unlikely to reverse anytime soon as sales of compacts fell by 28.2 % for the entire country in 2022.

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

In the name of resistance

The ice is therefore thin for the Jetta, which nevertheless continues in the face of the sales successes of its great rivals, the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. Especially since there is an amazing number of variants of the latter while only two versions of the Jetta are currently offered. First is the regular model, powered by the same four-cylinder turbocharged 1.5 liter and 158 horsepower, available in three standard equipment levels: Trendline, Comfortline and Highline.

Then there’s the Jetta GLI, powered by a 2-liter four-cylinder turbo and 228 horsepower. It is clearly the sports car of the family, which is also presented separately on the Volkswagen site and which is entitled to its own color brochure. A treatment similar to that of the Golf GTI and R. Except that no other Golf will imitate the squadrons of Japanese and Korean cars, alas.

The Jetta has been given a series of updates, to mark the halfway point of their 2022 sales cycle. The most obvious are the redesigned front and rear fascias and bumpers. The horizontal chrome strips added to the grille, sure to please American buyers, further dilute the Germanic – or European, at least – character that made this sedan so successful here. It’s been made in Mexico for a long time… Also noteworthy is the new 8-inch driver’s digital display, which rises to 10.25 inches in the top-of-the-range Highline model.

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

Its best assets

The piece de resistance of this remodeling, however, remains the 1.5-liter, 158-hp turbocharged four-cylinder we first discovered under the hood of the Taos compact SUV. The Jetta is, moreover, one of the rare compacts still available with a manual gearbox. Except for the Highline version, which only comes with an 8-speed automatic, a $1,400 option for the Trendline and Comfortline. In terms of performance, the first reaches 100 km / h in 7.76 seconds, only 0.1 seconds more than the Jetta GLI with manual transmission, whose engine delivers 228 horsepower.

184 lb-ft of torque from the 1.5-liter engine is delivered as soon as it hits 1,750 rpm. Using the Miller cycle, modified by Wolfsburg engineers, gives the Jetta Highline an official RNC fuel consumption rating of 5.7 L/100 km on the highway. The best in its niche, with the Hyundai Elantra in the TVC. Note that manual-transmission Jettas are better, with an RNC rating of 5.5 L/100 km. They are less economical in town, however, and their average rating is higher as a result.

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

With good fuel consumption promised, on a straight course, the Jetta is the perfect candidate for an unusual test. The mission was to reach Ann Arbor in Michigan as fast as possible, in complete comfort, with all the space desired, starting from Longueuil. A journey of just over 1,000 km, made in mid-October and completed in just under ten hours, with a single stop for supplies, food, etc. The purpose of the exercise is to participate in the test days that will lead to voting in the North American awards (NACTOY).

Familiar comfort and whimsy

From the first moments, the Jetta Highline is smooth and quiet on the highway. Over the kilometers, however, I noticed a floating heading and crosswind sensitivity. Soon the electronics started acting up… The cruise control was deactivated at the first drops of rain, due to supposedly clogged sensors. It started again when the rain got stronger.

On stage, the radio stayed on, despite pressing the button/switch repeatedly. He was quiet after locking the doors and waiting a minute. Two hours later, the cruise control was interrupted again by light rain. This time, he came back to life fifteen kilometers later, when everything dried up again. Go figure!

Photo: Volkswagen

Arriving at Weber’s Inn in Ann Arbor, average fuel consumption was 5.4 L/100 km, 0.3 L/100 km better than the official rating. To my delight, I noticed the very honest comfort of the seat, after 1,028 km of driving. This, despite a seat that is only diagonally adjustable and slightly tilted backwards. The notes also mention that the multimedia interface is correct, with clear screens, graphics without frills or fancy. However, they revealed that the video image from the rear view camera sometimes jumps and flickers. Nothing is perfect

Successes and flaws

The return trip was uneventful, or nearly so. After 300 km, the cruise control and the lane keeping system were effectively deactivated as a light rain fell for an hour. Twelve kilometers later, they started to pick up again, two hours later, for no apparent reason… New surprise when the CarPlay and Bluetooth interfaces stubbornly reconnect, after a single refueling in Ontario. It was joy on board. We had to wait for the next start, the next day, for them to resume the service.

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

Good news on arrival, on the other hand, as the Jetta consumed just 4.9 L/100 km for the 1,030 km back east. This gives an impressive overall average of 5.2 L/100 km for the 2,062 km travelled. Few small hybrid cars can claim to do better.

Its economy on the road, its relatively comfortable interior and its spacious trunk are the best features of the Jetta Highline. She also looks great in this new Metallic Royal Red with ruby ​​highlights. For others, his daily drive is frustrating. It rolls by leaps and bounds ever so slightly, without much passion, character or precision. The opposite of the best Jetta of the past, quite frankly.

See also: Antoine Joubert shows off the 1992 Volkswagen Jetta

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