CHICAGO, Illinois — Despite an impending snowstorm and freezing temperatures, we were able to make our appointment with Klaus Bischoff, Volkswagen design head, at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show.
Bischoff had a busy morning promoting the all-new 2019 Arteon sedan and we caught up with him later in the day at the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Design Workshop at a nearby event space in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood.
The all-new Jetta made its debut less than a month earlier at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show and Bischoff discussed the new model at a workshop during a fascinating presentation over drinks and tasty hors d’oeuvres.
Also in attendance was a classic 1982 Volkswagen Jetta that greeted us at the space’s entrance. Seeing the first generation model up close made it easy to see how far VW’s best-selling model has evolved.
The seventh-generation Jetta joins the Golf and Passat and now rolls on the MQB platform, which gives the sedan a 1.3 inches longer wheelbase over the last version—now at 105.7 inches. It also sports a wider track and more interior space than the previous generation.
“The Jetta is such an iconic product. We wanted to come up with something totally new. It was essential to give this product more prestige, more sportiness, a totally new proportion,” said Bischoff.
Starting up front, the horizontal lines of the grille and round, centered badge make it easy to identify it as a VW. You can see the family resemblance back to the original 1979 model.
“It was essential to give Jetta a strong face,” said Bischoff. “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.”
Compared to the boxy first-gen Jettas, the 2019 version is smoother, more sophisticated, and well rounded modern vehicle. But the more time you spend studying it; more character lines, wheel arches, and details that extend from the door to the taillight begin to emerge.
Around back, there’s a subtle spoiler that’s intergraded with the trunk—and the space found inside it has increased substantially as well. The interior receives a modest upgrade too with all its gauges and infotainment controls geared towards the driver. There are even a couple of knobs for the stereo—which is always greatly appreciated. Human-machine interface (HMI) is very much alive in the latest reincarnation of the Jetta.
“HMI design is about simplicity—you should understand everything from the first gaze,” said Bischoff. “A cockpit layout needs to be perfect in ergonomics, everything in one line, everything self-explanatory.”
Our favorite upgrade on the all-new Jetta is the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, which looks nearly as good as the ones found in higher end Audis.
Check out our video of Bischoff presenting a more detailed explanation of the Jetta’s new design language from the workshop here. The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is expected to arrive at dealerships in the spring.