The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Information Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Loyal Edition

THE AUTO PAGE
By
JOHN HEILIG

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Loyal Edition
Engine: 2.0-liter TDI 4-cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 140 hp @ 4,000 rpm/236 lb.-ft. @ 1,750-2,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with Tiptronic
Wheelbase: 101.5 in.
Length/Width/Height: 179.3 x 70.1 x 57.4 in.
Tires 205/55R16
Cargo volume: 16 cu. ft.
Fuel economy: 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway/39.4 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gal.
Sticker: $24,190 (includes $650 destination charge)

The Bottom Line: The Volkswagen Jetta TDI is essentially invisible. Its styling is standard three-box, with nothing to distinguish it from many other cars on the highway. Unless you have the optional sticker package emblazoned on the side that announces to the world that this is a diesel. And when you go to fill it up, you'll be pleased to note that the fuel economy is in the vicinity of 40 mpg for everyday driving.

While the Japanese and American manufacturers have pretty much committed themselves to development of hybrid vehicles, the Germans (Audi, VW, BMW and Mercedes-Benz) have retained interest in diesel, specifically clean diesel, power for a wide variety of vehicles. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to drive an Audi Q7 clean diesel. This week the vehicle of choice is a Volkswagen Jetta TDI.

The Jetta is as normal a vehicle as you could ask for. It's a standard three-box design (one box for the engine compartment, one for the passengers and one for the trunk). As such, it's essentially invisible on the highway, which allows the driver to reach high speeds without getting caught.

Our tester, however, was anything but invisible with I hope optional) huge "TDI Clean Diesel" stickers on the sides. Teenagers loved it, but senior citizens like myself found it a bit gaudy.

On the positive side, clean diesel has a new fan in me. We drove the Jetta in essentially suburban driving conditions with one long Interstate run. We averaged 39.4 mpg, which is excellent no matter what the form of power is.

For those whose rap against diesels is that they are noisy, the Jetta is as quiet inside the cabin as any car. There is a slight tap-tap on the outside, but it's not nearly as offensive as some older diesels and present pickup diesels are.

The other rap against diesel sis that they are smelly, but modern diesel technology has eliminated that complaint, too. We did pick up some smell when we messed up in refilling, but that wasn't the car's fault.

The Jetta itself has been a good vehicle for VW. It's an ice size, with comfortable seats and excellent road manners. The front seats offer good side support, while the rear have very good knee and leg room, for two.

Each of the four doors has an assist handle. Coat hooks, rather than being part of the assist handles, are mounted on the rear of the B-pillars. They can offer a blind spot (and hangers can get in the driver's ear), but they're not intrusive.

The 2.0-liter diesel engine offers good power at 140 horsepower and great torque at 236 lb.-ft. These contribute to the good road manners, as does the six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic (manual mode).

The Jetta has an excellent trunk at 16 cubic feet. In addition, the rear seats fold 60/40 to give the rear seat area as additional storage.

The audio system is good, with AM/FM/CD/AUX. The AUX input is in the center console. I liked the simple two-knob radio, with one for volume and one for tuning. Switching among the inputs is done with switches.

Instrumentation is clear, with white-ob-black dials and an orange information system in between the two major gauges. The i.p. is orange and blue backlit at night which is okay if you're in New York City.

While the Jetta is front-wheel drive and diesel powered, we were still able to chirp the tires on acc eleration. We've never been able to do that in a hybrid.

We're in for a couple of years of the hybrid vs. diesel debate (with electric, hydrogen and fuel cells thrown in. Don't ask me who's gonna win, but as of today, I think the diesels are ahead.

2009 The Auto Page Syndicate