It's a long-established practice for compact sedans to steal a design idea or two from their larger counterparts, and these three - all underlining the continued importance of this type of car to the North American market - are no exception. They're all nicely done, however. First up, the latest MQB-platform Volkswagen Jetta nods a bit to the good-looking Arteon and Passat as well as to the Golf it shares its underpinnings with. It's truncated, of course, given the squashed dimensions, but there's a similar sense to the coupe-like profile and overall stance, as well as to the overall surfacing and sharply creased beltline, deep front grille, and LED light graphics. Inside, it's much like the latest Golf (no bad thing) with VW's latest digital cockpit HMI - plus a 400-watt Beats audio system, intended to appeal to the young customers the Jetta attracts in the US (it's no longer on sale in Europe). All in all, it's grown up in character as well as in literal size and spaciousness.
Volkswagen states the case for the Jetta as being 'one of the world's most successful sedans', given that some 17.5 million of these Golfs-with-boots have been sold (since 1979), but it isn't necessarily going to have it easy. The latest Toyota Avalon [above], for example, also launched in Detroit, has been quite strikingly sharpened-up (shades of not just Camry, but the Lexus line-up too) and has become much bolder, especially in full-frontal view; and the attractive Kia Forte [below] is emulating the sporty Stinger to good effect. These are compact, affordable cars that, whether you're a fan of the four-door format or not, can hold their own in the US consumer mainstream against the more fashionable and ever more-ubiquitous SUVs and crossovers.