2020 Volkswagen Jetta R-Line new car reviews

Nowadays, it’s pretty common for car makers to drop a manual transmission from a model’s lineup, but adding a manual transmission into the mix? That’s a little more unusual.

Despite that, that’s exactly what Volkswagen did for the 2020, adding an optional three-pedal setup for the R-Line Jetta.

At any rate, the Jetta sees most of its equipment carried over from last year, save for a few add-ons like the transmission mentioned above, wireless charger on SEL and SEL Premium trims, and in-car Wi-Fi standard in all trims.

Speaking of trims, there are five in total for the compact sedan: S, SE, R-Line, SEL and SEL Premium. All are powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four rated at 147 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque that’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission or, available only on the base S and “sporty” R-Line trim, a six-speed manual transmission.

We were able to sample the R-Line Jetta, though without the optional manual. Keep scrolling to get our thoughts on what it’s like to drive.

Other staff views

J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

I’ll start out by saying that Jettas back in the A2 days had a bit more of an edge. They were small, sporty sedans that darn near encroached on “GTI with a trunk” territory in certain trim levels.

While sporty Jettas still exist, the current car has further distinguished itself from VW's GTI lineup than past models, but while it may have lost some of its “edge,” it’s more than made up for it by delivering exceptional value and poise.

The current Jetta—especially in our R-Line test model configuration—drives and has the presence of a much more expensive premium car, but with a price right in the neighborhood of $25,000 it offers a lot of function and driving engagement for the money. While it may never rise to the level of “exciting” the way a 1988 16v Jetta could, anyone shopping in the Corolla, Forte, Sentra range would be wise to add it to their comparison list. You may find that for less money the current Jetta offers a superior driving experience.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

I admit, I peeked at JG’s counterpoint before writing mine. He’s right: The latest Jetta lacks the edge of, say, the A2-chassis car. Back then, a Jetta felt like something that you could autocross on weekends but carry your friends during the week. It might have been a near-perfect mix of party up front, business in the back. Or something like that.

The latest car doesn’t feel like something that you’re going to hike up on three wheels while a SuperTrapp buzzes away. It’s basically VW’s version of the smaller/mid-size sedan–something aimed at the brand’s loyal following.

The seats, wheel and switches all deliver that VW feel. Nothing in here to make you think about a Kia, Nissan or Honda. It trades efficiency and clarity for bling.

Even though it’s likely not your next autocrosser, it still very much feels like a driver’s car: great gearbox, direct steering, minimal interior distractions. It’s not fast or edgy but refined, perhaps.

Can VW leverage those attributes to pull people into its dealerships? That still remains the questions, especially as sedans aren’t exactly today’s hot property.

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View comments on the GRM forums
Shaun Dork
11/9/20 7:01 p.m.


I'm glad somebody still makes one.



dxman92 Dork
11/10/20 10:53 p.m.

As much as I'm sad VW dropped wagons in the states, glad they still make an actual manual trans equipped car.

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
12/28/20 10:51 p.m.

I don't understand how "R" can be put on a 1.4 Jetta. Talk about making the people buying the Golf R feel less special lol. 

I'd still just be happy if they made the Alltrak wagon with the GTI's 2.0T.....I'd trade my GTI in for that in an instant (well, if it also had a manual). 

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