From Past to Present: The Evolution of the Volkswagen Jetta
With the 2019 Jetta arriving at Volkswagen Van Nuys, we are reminded the reasons why this sedan has become the most popular vehicle in our lineup for almost four decades.
Let’s go back to 1979. The Rabbit replaced the Beetle as the leading Volkswagen model. However, you can only get the Rabbit in a hatchback. Volkswagen developed a sedan version of the Rabbit (Golf Mk I) and named it the Jetta – after an Atlantic Ocean jet stream.
America received the first Jetta for 1980. Customers were curious at first. The sedan was available in a two-door and four-door with better materials inside and an air of luxury not seen on the Rabbit. In fact, some thought it was an Audi, at first. It was all Jetta that first generation model.
There was another reason why the Jetta appeared to be an upscale model. Unlike the Pennsylvania-produced Rabbit, the Jetta came directly from Germany. Back then, cars coming from Germany had an air of superiority and luxury above all others.
That first generation Jetta was a fun-to-drive model that was popular everywhere. That included certain high schools parking lots in the San Fernando Valley, where students started to convert their Jetta by swapping the grille with the flush European headlamps. They even tuned them to match the performance of the Rabbit GTI. That is how popular the Jetta was here in Southern California.
When the Mk II Golf arrived for 1985, a new Jetta was introduced alongside it. There was more sharing of the basic design inside and out, with the Jetta retaining its trunk in the rear. That was when customers noticed that the Jetta had the biggest trunk in its class. This would be one of the reasons why the Jetta became a success through six generations.
Jetta models came with various engines over the years. Most of them were found on other Volkswagen models, from diesels to the VR6 to today’s 1.4-liter TSI turbocharged engine. They also grew in interior volume, as well as exterior dimensions. Every generation had one thing in common – they attracted more customers to Volkswagen than any other model during its long run.
The new 2019 Jetta is designed to not only honor its history but to create its own legacy. If you owned a Jetta in the past, or want to experience one for the first time, stop by Volkswagen Van Nuys to see the all-new 2019 Jetta.