Review: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Gets a Boost From CarPlay Even on Lower-Level Trims

Volkswagen's Jetta compact sedan, a mainstay of the German automaker's lineup for 40 years, received a significant redesign for the 2019 model year, bringing a new platform, fresh new design, technology upgrades, and more.

The Jetta is popular with car buyers looking for a cost-efficient daily commute vehicle, and the new Jetta starts at a little under $19,000 but can rise to around $30,000 if you opt for the high-end SEL Premium trim and upgrade the wheels.


I spent some time testing out a relatively modestly specced 2019 Jetta SE, which is the second lowest of the five available trims and starts at just over $22,000 before any additional options.

VW offers three different infotainment systems across the Jetta trims, starting with the 6.5-inch Composition Color system on the S, SE, and R-Line trims and moving up to an 8-inch Composition Media system on the SEL trim that adds features like voice control, CD player, and premium Beats Audio in addition to the larger screen. On the top-level SEL Premium trim, you'll find that same 8-inch screen but with what VW calls its Discover Media system that includes built-in navigation but lacks the CD player.


As an SE trim, my test vehicle came with the 6.5-inch Composition Color system, which gave me an opportunity to see what a buyer with a relatively modest budget can expect to experience in a Jetta.

Composition Color


On its own, the Composition Color system is pretty basic. It includes AM/FM radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity for media sources, Bluetooth phone support, and some vehicle efficiency data.

Main FM radio screen on Composition Color infotainment system

There's no SiriusXM and no embedded navigation, but what it does have is VW's Car-Net App-Connect that's standard across the lineup, and that means support for CarPlay and Android Auto, which I'll get to shortly.

Connection screen for CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink

The Composition Color system is simple and easy to use, with large icons for changing radio presets and making other adjustments. The user interface design isn't very exciting, as it's mostly white on black with a bit of accent color here and there, but that's partly due to the simple functions it offers.

FM radio station list for browsing

On higher-level trims with the Composition or Discover Media system, the general look is the same but you'll see a bit more color in appropriate places like channel logos on the preset buttons in SiriusXM.

Playing audio from a phone via Bluetooth

The screen has a matte finish that does a decent job of minimizing glare and fingerprints, although the hardware buttons surrounding the screen tend to pick up a bit of visible oils from your fingers.

Speaking of those hardware buttons, they represent a straightforward set of options that eliminates the need for any sort of home screen on the system. Radio and Media buttons at the top left let you jump straight to the radio controls or change audio sources, while a Car button at the bottom left shows you some vehicle data like fuel and power efficiency.

Bluetooth phone favorites

At the top right, you'll find a Phone button for accessing a Bluetooth-paired phone and an App button to take you into CarPlay or Android Auto. Finally, a Setup button at the bottom right gets you into various settings. A power/volume knob on the left and a tune/scroll knob on the right complete the lineup of hardware controls.

The Jetta offers nearly a full set of hardware climate control knobs and buttons, which is great for making adjustments by feel rather than having to hunt around on a touchscreen. There are also touchscreen controls if you prefer to use them, although it took me a little while to even discover them.

Hardware climate controls

The climate control screen on the infotainment system is activated by hitting a Menu button on the center fan control knob. Locating it so far from the screen is a little odd, but I guess it makes sense to have it with the physical controls and once you learn it's there, you're unlikely to forget it.

On-screen climate controls

The touchscreen pretty much duplicates what the hardware controls can do, although the digital screen lets you see more information such as exactly where air flows from on different fan settings and quickly switch between them.

Driver's display in instrument cluster

The Jetta SE does include a digital driver's display with several different views to help you see some data like audio track information, but it's monochrome and pretty low resolution, so it could stand to see some improvement. It's not until you get up to the SEL and SEL Premium trims that you get a full digital cockpit, including the ability to display full-screen navigation on the SEL Premium's Discover Media system.

CarPlay


To augment the Composition Color, VW supports CarPlay and Android Auto standard on all trims, and here you'll get the usual CarPlay experience with full, vivid color on the screen. At only 6.5 inches, things can get a little cramped, particularly in Apple Maps or Google Maps where you have informational overlays obscuring portions of the map view.

CarPlay home screen

There's a VW app icon on the CarPlay home screen that takes you back to the Composition Color system, but it's easier to just use the hardware buttons to jump straight to your desired function from wherever you are in CarPlay.

Apple Maps in CarPlay

The combination of CarPlay and the Composition Color system on the lower-level Jetta trims really lets you see how you can get away with a barebones infotainment system. The built-in infotainment system really doesn't need to support much more than terrestrial radio, as even basic phone connectivity like Bluetooth call and media support are unnecessary once you activate CarPlay.

CarPlay's "Now Playing" screen

With nearly everything you need being delivered from your phone through CarPlay, it makes even a basic built-in system much more powerful, as long as you have a decent screen and some good hardware controls around the periphery.

Google Maps in CarPlay

The Composition Color system found on the lower-level Jetta trims doesn't include its own voice assistant functionality, so the voice control button on the steering wheel serves only a single function, and that's for interacting with your phone. That means Siri Eyes Free if you're connected via Bluetooth, and if you're got CarPlay running over USB it'll bring up the Siri interface for that.

Voice assistant button is at top left of right cluster

Ports and Connectivity


The S, SE, and R-Line trims of the 2019 Jetta include only a single USB-A port located near the bottom of the center stack, adjacent to a roomy tray where you can store your phone. The SEL and SEL Premium trims add a rear charge-only USB-A port.

Phone storage tray with USB-A port

I always like to see as many ports as possible including one in the center console compartment for those who want to tuck their phones away, but the compartment in the Jetta is pretty small (though deep), which would make it difficult to include a USB port inside.

Wrap-up


Most people considering a Jetta are probably, looking for a relatively cheap, reliable daily commuter car, and the Jetta delivers on that front, complete with one of the best warranties in the business. All Jettas come with CarPlay and Android Auto support standard, which is great as even an entry-level buyer can end up with a fairly powerful infotainment system based around their phone.

I do wish that an 8-inch display, or even a 7-inch one, was standard, as it would give a bit bigger palette for CarPlay. Many apps look fine on the smaller 6.5-inch screen found on lower Jetta trims, but navigation in particular suffers from the limited screen space.

It's always nice to have some sort of extra display space to show more than CarPlay, whether it be a split widescreen main display, a secondary one on the dash, or a multifunction one in the driver's cluster. It's great that these lower-level Jetta trims include one, but it could stand to some improvement in both looks and functionality.

The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta starts around $19,000, and with CarPlay being a standard feature it's one of the cheapest ways to get into a CarPlay-equipped vehicle. Manufacturers are rapidly bringing CarPlay support downmarket in both models and trims, but it's good to see VW being one of the leaders here. If anything, CarPlay is more important on a low-end trim than it is on a maxed-out vehicle with its own navigation system and all of the other bells and whistles.

If you do want to upgrade your Jetta, you can certainly do that, and the higher-end Composition Media and Discover Media infotainment systems offer some nice upgrades on that front, topped out by the Digital Cockpit that can fill nearly the entire driver's cluster with a navigation view on the top-end Discover Media.

Related Roundup: CarPlay

This article, "Review: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Gets a Boost From CarPlay Even on Lower-Level Trims" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Toyota Expanding CarPlay to 2020 Tacoma, Tundra, Sequoia, and 4Runner as VW Debuts Wireless CarPlay in Europe

Toyota today ahead of the Chicago Auto Show announced that its 2020 model year Tacoma, Tundra, Sequoia, and 4Runner vehicles will feature CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa in the United States.

CarPlay in 2020 Toyota Sequoia

CarPlay will be a standard feature in each vehicle, but screen size will vary by trim. With the 2020 Tacoma, for example, the base SR trim will feature a 7-inch touchscreen while SR5 trims and higher as well as TRD Pro trims of the Tundra, Sequoia, and 4Runner will feature a larger 8-inch touchscreen.

The press release doesn't specify whether the CarPlay implementation is wired or wireless, but it is presumably wired in line with its 2019 and newer Avalon, Corolla Hatchback, Camry, RAV4, Sienna, and C-HR. Toyota will offer wireless CarPlay in the 2020 Supra since it is based on a BMW platform.

Last year, we published an in-depth review of how CarPlay performs in the 2019 Avalon and 2019 Corolla Hatchback.

Toyota was one of the last major automakers to offer CarPlay, which provides convenient dashboard access to iPhone apps such as Phone, Messages, Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze, Apple Music, and Spotify. These will be the first-ever Tacoma, Tundra, Sequoia, and 4Runner models with factory-installed CarPlay.

CarPlay availability in Toyota vehicles may vary outside of the United States. Pricing and availability were not disclosed.

2020 Volkswagen Passat in Europe

In related news, Volkswagen this week announced that the 2020 Passat will be its first vehicle with wireless CarPlay, although the press release is for the European market. It's unclear if or when Volkswagen will offer wireless CarPlay in the United States or other countries—we've reached out to ask.

CarPlay enthusiasts may remember that Apple apparently prevented Volkswagen from demoing wireless CarPlay way back at CES 2016 for reasons unknown.

Related Roundup: CarPlay

This article, "Toyota Expanding CarPlay to 2020 Tacoma, Tundra, Sequoia, and 4Runner as VW Debuts Wireless CarPlay in Europe" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Volkswagen Car-Net iOS App Now Supports Siri and Siri Shortcuts for Vehicle Unlocking and More

Volkswagen today announced that subscribers of its Car-Net service can now use the iOS app and Siri to lock and unlock their car. The Siri command for this will be, "Hey Siri, lock my car."

With the feature, Volkswagen owners can also start and stop a charging session for electric cars, set a specific temperature in the car, locate the car, turn on the defroster, check estimated mileage, check charge levels, and enable the honk and flash alarm commands.


The company also confirmed that Car-Net supports Apple's new Siri Shortcuts app, allowing drivers to set personalized phrases that activate these Volkswagen connected car abilities alongside other smart home commands.
“We are constantly looking at innovative ways to make VW Car-Net more convenient and relevant for our customers,” said Abdallah Shanti, EVP, Global Chief Information Officer Volkswagen Brand & Car-IT. “With Siri Shortcuts, creating voice commands to use with our mobile app was a great opportunity to do just that! Integration with Siri helps our drivers keep eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.”
Siri Shortcuts debuted in iOS 12 this past September, allowing users to create complex commands that tie together numerous apps, services, and smart home devices into one speakable phrase. To get the update for the VW Car-Net app, you'll need iOS 12 or later on iPhone [Direct Link].

Related Roundup: CarPlay

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