Is there a more quintessentially American Volkswagen than the Jetta? Having grown up in Europe, my default image for VW is the humble Golf. But hatchbacks never really caught on stateside. Until the age of the crossover, you needed a trunk if you wanted to sell, and the Jetta—a Golf with a trunk—proved that in spades. VW has sold way more than three million of them here since 1980, keeping the Jetta nameplate alive in the US market even while it called them Ventos or Boras or Sagitars elsewhere.
Now there’s a brand-new Jetta on the block, the seventh generation to bear the name. Calling it a Golf with a trunk is underselling it. These days, car companies like VW use architectures, not platforms, and the MQB architecture lets it build Golfs and Jettas but also Atlases, Tiguans, A3s, and TTs, plus some Seats and Skodas we won’t see for another 25 years. The architecture fixes some dimensional relationships, including the distance between the front axle and the pedals, for example. But it leaves others free, so a Jetta can be as wide as a Golf but much longer and with a larger wheelbase. (Or plain bigger all around, like that Atlas.)