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The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta made its debut at the Detroit auto show a month ago, sharing the MQB platform with the latest VW models like the Arteon and the Atlas, as well as representing the latest in VW design language for its small and midsize passenger cars. Just about everything is new in the 2019 model, save for the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that carries over from the outgoing model. The new Jetta is wider, lower and longer than the model it’s replacing, and perhaps the most noticeable visual change (aside from the front fascia) is a fastback-style profile, giving the new Jetta something in common with the larger Arteon, which is positioned about the Jetta and the Passat.

So how did the design of the Jetta evolve from the sixth to the seventh generation?

Volkswagen sought to give the new Jetta a more coupe-look appearance, giving the sedan a fastback silhouette punctuated by an offset roofline called a “phase” in design-speak: a narrow strip that travels parallel to the roofline and into the C-pillar. This visual trick that designers use to visually reduce the car’s height gives the new Jetta a more streamlined look, borrowing the coupe-like profile of the outgoing CC sedan.

“What’s going to call attention from the first glance is the sculpted body side and the strong shoulder line that runs from the taillight to the driver door,” said Marco Pavone, Head of Exterior Design at Volkswagen. “The surface treatment is a lot more masculine and sporty on this car.” 

2019 Volkswagen Jetta interior

Volkswagen used a single chrome strip that runs along the dash and transitions into the doors.

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Volkswagen also reimagined the grille, giving the new Jetta a look meant to immediately identify it as a Volkswagen using repeating horizontal lines bookended by LED headlights. The trapezoidal grille houses four chrome bars, and two of them flow into the horizontal LED elements within the headlights themselves with the aim of giving the Jetta’s front fascia a unified, wide appearance. The LEDs within the headlights themselves form a wraparound pattern, connecting the top chrome piece at the top of the grille to the horizontal bars within.

“It was essential to give Jetta a strong face,” said Klaus Bischoff, head of Volkswagen Design. “The combination of headlight and grille into one shape gives the front a very wide look, but the grille is also very high and deeply carved—it stands proud. It’s totally new for Jetta to have such a powerful expression.”

The new design of the grille advances the goals of the seventh-generation sedan: Giving the Jetta a completely new but still recognizable face, while also communicating premium positioning in its segment.

“The Jetta is such an iconic product,” Bischoff said. “We wanted to come up with something totally new. It was essential to give this product more prestige, more sportiness, a totally new proportion.”

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The horizontal line theme carries over into the interior as well: Volkswagen gave the new instrument panel a strictly horizontal shape with decorative trim that runs across the whole instrument panels and flows into the doors. Helping accentuate that single line is the 10-color ambient lighting system, available as an option. The colors of the light can be selected by the driver manually, but the light is white as a default, switching to red while the car is driven in Sport mode and blue while it is in Eco mode.

“HMI [human-machine interface] design is about simplicity — you should understand everything from the first gaze,” Bischoff adds. “A cockpit layout needs to be perfect in ergonomics, everything in one line, everything self-explanatory.”

Many of these themes also appear in the all-new Arteon sedan, positioned above the Passat in the VW lineup. The coupe-like sedan made its North American debut this week, replacing the CC while giving the VW sedan range a decidedly sportier appearance. The Arteon, which also features a fastback profile, will be the marque’s new flagship in the U.S.

The all-new 2019 Jetta, meanwhile, is due to go on sale in the second quarter of this year — it’ll get here before the Arteon does.