2019 Volkswagen Jetta
Volkswagen needs you…and a lot of other Americans…to reach their goal of 5% U.S. market share. It’s about 2% today. Their new atlas and Tiguan SUVs will certainly help, but they need more. So, enter an all-new Jetta compact sedan. Now, VW says that more than ever, it was designed with Amercian buyers in mind. But in doing so, VW risks ruining what made Jetta popular in the first place. So let’s see how well VW walks that tight rope.
With over 17½ million sold since 1979, the Volkswagen Jetta is a well-recognized, global nameplate. When the last Jetta sedan debuted right around the beginning of this decade, it was part of Volkswagen’s new strategy to not only build cars in North America, but to tailor them specifically for American drivers.
What that meant was less emphasis on ride-and-handling, making space and price the priorities. That “bigger and cheaper is better” approach yielded exactly the desired results, record sales.
For 2019, the 7th gen. Volkswagen Jetta not only doubles down on that strategy, but attempts to bring more driving excitement back into the mix.
While it still bears a resemblance to the conservative Passat, it’s certainly the most dynamic Jetta we’ve ever seen, and if you were expecting to hear the words “coupe-like profile”; well, they’re here.
The other usual descriptors apply as well, longer wheelbase, shorter overhangs, wider track; and cliché as it all may be, it’s hard to argue with the very handsome results.
A slicker shape is only part of what VW has done to get back some of the fuel economy lost without diesel or hybrid models. Active grille shutters up front, and while technically the same engine, the 1.4-liter turbo behind that grille is now tuned for more efficiency.
3-horsepower was lost in that transformation, now at 147; but torque remains the same at 184 lb-ft.
Furthering the theme, base cars get an extra gear for a 6-speed manual, and the optional automatic is now an 8-speed.
The results are improved Government Fuel Economy Ratings of 30-City, 40-Highway, and 34-Combined; the same regardless of transmission.
While far from flashy inside, the exaggerated tilt of the center stack, sets a more driver-oriented tone to the space; and there’s much less hard plastic to be found, leaving nothing much to complain about.
And impressive features like the digital dash won’t be found anywhere else in this segment.
Top SEL Premium trim will also get you leather seats, both heated and ventilated; a new 8-inch Discover Media infotainment with navigation; selectable drive modes, and a 10-color LED ambient lighting system.
There is indeed plenty of space inside to get comfortable, no matter whether you’re the driver or just along for the ride. And cargo space is plentiful as well, at 14.1 cubic-ft.; 60/40 split-folding seatbacks are standard.
Our early drive time came around Raleigh, North Carolina; and we’ll jump right in with talk of the suspension. Yes, a torsion beam is back at the rear on all trims. And while it’s easy to complain; for American Jetta buyers, it’s likely the ideal blend of capability with great everyday comfort.
And, it keeps costs down. Helping offset that is the fact that that torsion beam is now bolted to VW’s MQB architecture. Does it provide A4-like sport sedan agility? Not quite. Is it a sensibly entertaining everyday compact sedan? We’d say yes and then some. Certainly more lively than segment leaders Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
The new 8-speed automatic stays very busy managing power delivery from the little 1.4-liter; but it does so without undo effort. Sporty R-Line trim has no any added power, but it does get an XDS electronic differential, unique wheels, black trim, and dual exhaust tips.
VW is certainly attempting to attract your bucks by delivering as much bang as possible; very well equipped base S trim starts at $19,395, down 100 bucks from last year; top trim SEL Premium goes for $27,795. Plus, VW’s new People First warranty includes bumper-to-bumper protection for 6 years or 72,000 miles.
It would be foolish to expect the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta alone to put the brand’s sale’s goal within reach. But, it is another correct step in that direction. VW has walked the tight rope well. So, if you’re thinking about a compact sedan, with Corolla and Civic on your list, we think you should add the very entertaining VW Jetta at the top.
- Engine: 1.4 liter
- Horsepower: 147
- Torque: 184 lb-ft.
- EPA: 30 mpg city / 40 mpg highway
2023 GMC Canyon
Canyon Goes Bigger
Most people know the GMC Canyon as the Chevrolet Colorado’s professional grade cousin. And while that sounds like just marketing speak, with an all-new design of GM’s midsize truck platform comes more genuine brand separation. So, let’s see what the third-gen GMC Canyon delivers in real time!
Small trucks are once again a big deal, and part of the reason is that they are no longer small. There’s not much about this 2023 GMC Canyon that resembles the ¼-ton Sonomas, S-10s, Rangers, and Datsun trucks that were wildly popular in the 1980s.
Of course, then, people were willing to sacrifice certain “big-truck” things for an easier to use and more economical pickup experience. Well, we don’t seem to be big on compromise for much of anything these days, and the current midsize crop of trucks deliver more than ever. So fittingly, the 2023 Canyon will be available as a Crew Cab only with a 5-foot bed. No more extended cab or long bed options. Wheelbase is about 3-inches longer than before, with the front wheels pushed more towards the front. It definitely looks tougher, and they’ve even eliminated the much-hated front air dam that protruded well below the front bumper.
The Canyon also comes exclusively with the high-output version of GM’s 2.7-liter turbocharged I-4, with a stout 310-horsepower and 430 lb-ft. of torque. At times it feels even more powerful than those numbers would indicate, with its diesel-like torque delivery enabling a best-in-class max tow rating of 7,700-lbs. No choice of transmission either, strictly 8-speed automatic, but you can still decide whether you want rear or 4-wheel-drive.
At minimum, ground clearance is 9.6-inches, which is more than an inch taller than last year, and almost 2-inches over Chevy’s base Colorado. And since it’s all about the off-road packages these days, our AT4 tester comes with 4-wheel drive, off-road suspension, locking rear diff, 2-speed transfer case, hill descent control, and 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires.
And that’s just where things get started, as at the top of the heap, there’s a new AT4X with 10.7-inches of ground clearance, enhanced front and rear e-locking differentials, 33-inch mud terrain tires, Multimatic dampers, and an additional Baja Drive Mode. We’ll have more on the AT4X real soon.
But for all Canyons, including this AT4, GMC went tech-heavy, as all get 11-inch infotainment screens and a fully digital driver display in either 8 or 11-inches. Plus, an available head up display comes with most trims, and there are even optional underbody cameras.
Unique AT4 features include a Jet Black and Timber interior motif with stitched logos on the leather front seats. Those seats are definitely comfortable, and it feels maybe a tad roomier than before, but still well shy of the sprawling space in a full-size truck. It’s even more noticeable in the rear, though there are more practical storage options back here.
The AT4 gets a sliding rear window, along with a tailgate storage system to complement the integrated ruler, and bed side-mounted 120-volt power outlet. The Canyon already delivered one of the best rides in the midsize class, and the taller suspension seems to only improve on that; it’s not quite crossover plush, but certainly great for a body on frame truck.
Though the higher ground clearance and off-road emphasis kept it from being a track star. Indeed, healthy amounts of understeer and body roll greeted us in our handling course. It was a little hesitant off the line in speed runs, but once rolling, power poured on steadily. 0-60 in only 7.5-seconds, and through the ¼-mile in 15.6-seconds at 91 miles-per-hour.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the AT4 are 17-City, 21-Highway, and 19-Combined; we averaged an acceptable 18.2 miles-per-gallon of Regular. Pricing starts with a 2-wheel-drive Elevation at $38,395. That puts it at midlevel Chevrolet Colorado, with is consistent with the mission of the new Canyon. All other trims come with 4-wheel drive, this AT4 starting at $45,395, and the AT4X now eclipsing Denali as the highest offering at $56,995.
So, as small trucks have grown, so has the price of entry. But if that doesn’t scare you off, there is no denying the 2023 GMC Canyon is yes bigger, but also bolder and badder than before. Does that necessarily make it better? We say positively yes!
- Engine: 2.7L Turbo-4
- Horsepower: 310
- 0-60 mph: 7.5 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 121 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 18.2 mpg (Regular)
- Transmission: 8-speed auto
- Torque: 430 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 15.6-seconds at 91 mph
- EPA: 17 City / 21 Highway / 19 Combined