A battle is still taking place in the compact car market here in Canada.
All of the big American brands have abandoned this segment and left it for to the Japanese, Koreans and Germans to duke it out. Buyers are constantly told to consider a Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla or Hyundai Elantra. The other remaining brands are sadly pushed to the side when in fact, they are making some of their best cars right now. The Mazda3 and this 2020 Volkswagen Jetta Execline fall into this category offering some truly great options for consumers.
The Volkswagen Jetta Execline can best be described as an “Audi Light” for those on a budget; those that are less concerned about what badges are placed their car and more focused on the features and quality. In comparison to a majority of its competitors, the current Jetta feels more sophisticated, upscale and mature.
Visually , the Jetta is what I consider understated elegance. It is handsome all around even though the rear seems more like an afterthought when compared to the front end. Look at the Jetta and you immediately know that this car holds German roots. There are no odd bulges, lines or spoilers are to be found anywhere. In one word, clean. Other compacts are either overly styled or down right bland.
A nice touch is that the 2020 Jetta has standard LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights on all models, while lower trim models on competing compact cars penalize owners with halogens up front. These LEDs look great and provide excellent visibility during night driving. The Habanero Orange paint adds some flair compared to the sea of grey and blues normally offered. Our Execline tester came equipped with 17-inch wheels; unfortunately the Falken Sincera all-season tires scramble for traction when asked to move briskly. A massive sunroof is also included, and brightens the rather dark interior.
Inside, the eight-inch infotainment touchscreen and 12.3 inch gauge cluster are clean touches. The all digital gauges are a first in this segment and the setup looks fantastic. It is highly customizable and a great addition is the ability to have a navigation map up front and center. This system may not be as detailed as the Virtual Cockpit found in recent Audi models but for this segment, it brings a level of luxury that’s completely unique. 10 color choices of ambient lighting are available depending on your style or mood.
The 2020 Jetta has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard. The screen is clear and reacts quickly with very little lag. Navigation is standard on the Execline as well as a great eight-speaker BeatsAudio sound system. Those looking for a focus on heavy bass will absolutely love this system! With the screen and HVAC controls angled towards the driver, everything is ergonomically placed within reach. A wireless phone charger is well placed to accept large cell phones like the Samsung S20.
Soft touch materials surround passengers in a sea of black and gray. However, if you want something different, you can choose a beige and black option, neither of which can be selected with the Habanero Orange paint choice. Up front, a heated steering wheel and seats are included as well as air conditioned seats, while rear passengers are rewarded with heated seats. The seats are covered in soft leather and have a sporty design that adds to the great overall look.
Seating is comfortable front and rear for taller occupants. Getting in and out is a breeze even for taller people and headroom is ample. Leg room in the back more than enough for two adults. Cargo capacity in the trunk is a massive 399-liters and can be expanded when you fold the 60/40 split folding rear seats. Access to the trunk is wide and tall, a signature trait for the Jetta that allows for easy loading and unloading of larger items.
Power is provided by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 147 horsepower at 5,000RPM and 184 lb-ft. of torque at 1,500RPM. Though these numbers sound underwhelming when compared to some of the compacts around today, the Jetta is surprisingly enjoyable to drive. Power is available down low with a hint of turbo lag but doesn’t sound like a bag of marbles when accelerating. The eight-speed automatic transmission is smooth and imperceptible. Enthusiasts looking for more speed and handling capabilities should absolutely look into a Jetta GLI (reviewed here).
Even with its torsion-beam rear suspension, the Jetta Execline handled our Toronto roads with confidence. It’s stiffer than its Asian counterparts but still comfortable for the daily commute; only the most potholed roads rattled the interior and its occupants. The Jetta’s steering lacks any feedback but it’s light and perfectly acceptable as a daily driver.
Buyers looking for fuel efficiency should seriously put the Jetta on their list. Volkswagen has the Execline rated at 7.8L/100km in the city and 5.9L/100km on the highway. While highway driving we easily managed 5.7L/100km and after a full week, achieved a combined 6.7L/100km. The Jetta’s fuel efficiency beat all expectations, as small turbo fours usually end up consuming more fuel than they are rated for, especially when still in their break-in period like this tester was.
Pricing for the 2020 Jetta begins at $21,245, while our Execline model tested starts at $29,895. The Advanced Driver Assistance Systems Package adds an extra $1,005 for a total of $30,900. This package includes adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking and lane keep assist for all of the active safety features that have quickly become an industry standards.
Those aggressively shopping in the compact economy car segment should seriously consider the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta Execline. This is a car that’s priced slightly higher than many competitors, however it offers significantly more refinement and comfort for the class. The overall package of performance, fuel efficiency and technology make the new Jetta a compelling option for any buyer.