RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – Oh, the plight of the lowly passenger car. Jilted by buyers swooning over CUVs, they are banished to the corner of the dance hall to sip punch and hope against hope.

It would make such great melodrama if not for the 5.6 million Americans who showed love for a compact or midsize car last year, a fact not lost on the folks at Volkswagen who in the coming weeks will drop a fully redesigned ’19 Jetta into the market.

The seventh-generation Jetta moves to VW’s Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) architecture, a cost-friendly platform that allowed the automaker to tailor the car to U.S. tastes and make it more desirable to folks who still prefer a trunk with their four doors.

That means the new Jetta is bigger inside and out. This is America, after all.  But the car also receives a bolder exterior design, high-tech interior tidbits and a powertrain lineup pared from three choices in its predecessor to a single, turbocharged 1.4L gasoline 4-cyl. mated to a new 6-speed manual transmission. Models tested here were outfitted with an equally new optional 8-speed automatic.

There is no diesel, as a post-scandal VW shifts away from the technology to electrification. Since sales of the Jetta have held steady since the engine option was discontinued three years ago, it will not be missed.

The model’s short-lived hybrid does not make a revival, either, and for now there is no blown-four making 200-plus hp. However, there is an R-sport trim line available for the first time and a cold-weather package comes later this year adding heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel and heated lower windshield.

Pricing starts at $18,545 and steps up to $26,945 through an entry-level S and volume-oriented  SE trim levels to R-Line, SEL and range-topping SEL Premium packages. A well-equipped S-trim model outfitted with the 8-speed auto tested here cost $22,155.

Not unlike VW with its diesels, Tobacco Road has cleaned itself up into high-tech hotbed with boutique hotels and hipster dining destinations. The bright red Jetta tested here with its generously chromed grille, blackened greenhouse and panoramic sunroof, coupe-like profile and blacked-out aluminum alloy wheels perfectly complement a backdrop of fashionably restored retail storefronts of downtown Durham.

The new Jetta may be slightly bigger, but it deftly navigates narrow streets choked with construction and a pair of college campuses crammed with students and faculty back from spring break. The responsive turbo and 8-speed gearbox enthusiastically tackle the rolling hills, meandering state roads and wide-open interstates connecting the passel of research universities.

Despite a heavy foot, the Jetta returns fuel-economy readouts above its combined 34 mpg (6.9 L/100 km) EPA rating.

Ride quality is outstanding. It sits sweetly between the softness most Americans prefer and the tightness Germans typically deliver. Compact buyers should find it particularly enjoyable, because while its feels like a substantial car from behind the wheel Jetta weighs a relatively spry 3,000 lbs. (1,360 kg) and the suspension provides just enough feedback to qualify as sporty.

The cabin is delightfully quiet, although the roads here are as smooth as the putting greens of its gentrified golf courses. Interior dimensions are not massively greater than its predecessor’s, but it feels roomier. Familiar horizontal lines remain and in the SE grade there still are a lot of gray and black surfaces, although the new Jetta has more character. Bump up to SEL and R-Line models for a pop of color.

Buyers also need to upgrade for the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, a 10.25-in. (26-cm) customizable digital screen and the new 400-watt BeatsAudio system. The BeatsAudio alone would be worth moving up out of SE models. Sound quality is marvelous, with music filling the lower portion of the cabin and lyrics floating above during a quick parking-lot test of a Jetta SEL.

Automatic post-collision braking comes standard. It will bring the vehicle to a stop after a crash, preventing a second collision that sometimes can be more deadly. Additional standard safety features, as tested, include a blindspot monitor, forward-collision warning and rear-traffic alert. Items such as adaptive cruise control, automatic headlight dimming and lane-keep assist also reside in higher trim levels.

CUVs, with their ever-expanding market share, may be America’s darling, but the 4-door car still occupies a place in its heart and the new Jetta is worth a trip around the dance floor.

jamend@wardsauto.com