Breaking the meta: 7 generations of the Volkswagen Jetta


With over 18 million units sold globally market, the VW Jetta is one of the German automotive marque’s best-selling models. Now in its seventh generation, the Jetta continues to deliver a compelling mix of European handling and style in a four-door sedan package.

As the newest Jetta arrives this year, Volkswagen takes a look back at how the Jetta broke the automotive meta.


The Jetta began as a trunk-equipped version of the Golf which was released in 1979. It had seating for four and put out 76 horsepower which made it a fun family car. It also offered upscale styling and was rather a tad bit more luxurious than the Golf, with automatic transmission and full carpeting as an optional add-on.

On that note, the VW Jetta was a model that broke the subcompact segment — in an era of frugality — from the get-go.


The second-gen Jetta followed in 1985 as Volkswagen delivered on customer feedback which resulted in more visual and interior sophistication and a new zippy 100hp engine.

It was also bigger than its predecessor and could now hold five people instead of four.

This formula of making the car larger and more powerful became a common recipe for the nameplate which saw the Jetta move from subcompact to compact category over the years.

In 1991, the VW Jetta became the marque’s best-selling car in North America, outselling the Golf two-to-one.


When Volkswagen introduced the third-generation Jetta, the model not only saw an increase in proportion but also a new powerplant. The 1993 model featured Volkswagen’s signature narrow-angle V6 engine with 172 horsepower under the hood. And while this was a time when Volkswagen was struggling to make sales in the US, the Jetta proved a welcome sales success.


The year 1999 saw the arrival of the fourth-gen Jetta which offered more of the Bauhaus-style visual cues from the larger Passat than the smaller Golf. This generation also saw the addition of a wagon model to the Jetta lineup.


Volkswagen introduced the fifth-generation Jetta in 2005 which again was larger than its predecessor. As a result, the fifth-gen Jetta offered a larger interior space and made room for new safety innovations including active head restraints, optional seat-mounted rear-sided airbags, and emergency brake assist.

It also offered a mix of available powertrains, electric power steering, as well as comfort and convenience features such as dual-zone automatic climate control.

Volkswagen unveiled the Jetta SportWagen at the New York Auto Show in 2007 which had increased cargo space and a panoramic sunroof.


The sixth-generation Jetta was introduced later in 2011 and was built to accommodate the tastes of a broader audience. This generation saw a hybrid engine option along with new trims like a GLI-influenced Jetta Sport. The Sport trim featured a lowered sport suspension, rear spoiler, and two-tone heated seats. It was powered by a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that produced 170 horses.


The current seventh-gen Jetta came out in 2018 and delivered a slew of innovations 1.4-liter TSI engine with 148 horsepower and a variety of tech and style improvements. As one would expect, the seventh-generation Jetta was larger than its predecessor. The increase in size again gave way for a plethora of new interior features including available 10-color customizable ambient lighting, heated front seats, and the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit.

VW has announced a mid-cycle refresh which will be featured in the 2022 Jetta. According to Volkswagen, the refreshed Jetta adopts the 1.5-liter turbocharged and direct-injection EA211 engine found in the recently-launched Taos compact SUV, making produce 158 horses out of the box.

“As the best-selling VW for more than 30 years, Jetta has proven to be a compelling value. This refresh takes the strengths of the current generation — a spacious interior, excellent fuel economy, and low maintenance costs — and builds on them with a fresh design, better technology, and more access to the driver assistance features buyers are looking for. With the introduction of a new Sport trim, it is easier than ever for customers to get their hands on a vehicle with a sporty appearance at a value-oriented price point,” said VW Senior Vice President for Product Marketing and Strategy Hein Schafer.

The 2022 Jetta is expected to reach US dealers in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Photos from Volkswagen

Also read: 

Volkswagen design head shares details behind 2022 Golf GTI development

Volkswagen ID.5 GTX to appear at Munich auto show

Volkswagen shares details of updated 2022 Tiguan

Read All

Featured Articles

Recommended Articles For You

Read All

Featured Volkswagen Cars