VW's many-times-updated compact is finally due for a replacement.Volkswagen's updated small sedan was caught testing in the California desert this week, giving us our first glimpse at what many could argue is a long-overdue replacement for its stalwart Jetta, expected to make its debut in time for the 2019 model year. The sixth-generation Jetta sedan goes back to the 2011 model year, making it older than the Focus. After many generations of an update and refresh cycle that matched its platform-mate, Golf, Volkswagen saw fit instead to apply rolling updates to the existing chassis, leaving it to languish on what is now a significantly outdated platform.
Part of Volkswagen's strategy revolved around its controversial choice to enlarge the Jetta in an effort to further "Americanize" it. Early models were also delivered without the previous-generation's independent rear suspension and base models were sold with what many viewed to be an archaic two-liter engine. Those issues were rectified in a series of updates over the course of the sixth-generation car's lifetime, but each variant has now fallen behind its equivalent Golf in both refinement and available equipment.
It's too soon to say for certain exactly how many lessons Volkswagen learned from the last-generation Jetta's launch, but given the course taken with the Golf (and America's waning appetite for sedans), we expect to see some cost-saving measures taken with the new design, perhaps including a return to the torsion bar rear-axle on at least some models, as was done with the Mk VII Golf. Fortunately, we also expect it will ride on the MQB platform employed so successfully underneath the iconic hatchback (and a multitude of other VW Group products).
There's not much to learn from these shots, though we can see that the elegant rear end that has graced Volkswagen's four-door cars since the J Mays era is present here. The general proportions seem spot-on as well, but we'll have to wait for some of the camo to drop before we really get a good look at the details.
Our spies tell us a 1.6-liter engine will power base models, with 1.2- and 1.4-liter turbocharged engines rounding out the lineup. Whether a GLI version will return is somewhat up in the air, as it seems to have been neglected in favor of its hatchback cousin, the GTI.