Volkswagen is proving that you don’t have to purchase a hybrid in order to drive a green car. That is the idea behind the German automotive manufacturer’s alternatively fueled 2009 Jetta TDI. Our car came equipped with a 2.0 Liter turbo diesel power plant making 140 HP and 236 lb-ft of torque and still gets and EPA estimated 40 MPG on the highway when connected to our car’s DSG gearbox. Starting out at a little over $22,000 the VW Jetta TDI is an affordable alternative to other environmentally friendly vehicles. Our Reflex Silver Metallic four door medium sized sedan rode on a set of stylish 16 inch alloy wheels and aside from the TDI badge on the trunk, this Jetta looked just like any other Jetta in the VW family.
The interior was filled with goodies like CLIMATIC air conditioning, V-Tex leatherette comfort seats and a 6 disc CD changer with auxiliary input jack for all your MP3 needs. One of the nicer features that comes with our TDI, or any new Jetta for that matter, is 24 hour road side assistance for the first 3 years or 36,000 miles of ownership. Not to mention that thanks to the new common rail fuel delivery system, the Jetta TDI is the only diesel in the U.S. that meets the strict European Tier II Bin 5 emissions requirements without the aid of any additional additive, that is the equivalent of being an LEV II rating from the California Air Resources Board. Coming in at $25,070 the Volkswagen Jetta TDI is a pretty good price to pay for such a well finished, economical and fun to drive package.
Volkswagen decided not to expose their alternatively fueled Jetta with large stickers or gaudy emblems, instead our TDI appears to be the same as any other MKV platform Volkswagen with room for five and a trunk, there is no difference between our Reflex Silver Metallic Jetta TDI and the other compact four door sedan from VW. Aside from the attractive 16 inch rims, the only thing that gives this green car away is the TDI badge on the trunk. We especially like the blue “I”, a hint at the German automaker’s cleaner future with cars like the Blue Sport Roadster.
The headlights are round and friendly, the car is proportionately sized, the large chrome treatment in the grill is nice but it’s a shame that Volkswagen has decided not to differentiate the front ends of the Golf and Jetta like they used to, that always made for some pretty cool looking GTIs with square headlights. Not that there is anything wrong with the exterior of the TDI. The magic of the TDI comes under the hood and at the pump, although it would be nice for VW to play up the color blue a little bit more, perhaps on the lips of the rims or on the grille, just something subtle to differentiate the car from the rest of the VW lineup. One thing is for certain, if you like the looks of the Jetta, you would have no problem, with the TDI.
The inside of the Jetta TDI is just what you would expect from the German automotive giant, the interior was comfortable, with a well laid out instrument cluster and center stack that not only looked good, but was very user friendly as well. The seats were nice, wrapped in black V-Tex leatherette, a durable, attractive and a very good leather substitute. The material is more breathable than leather, but not as much as a cloth covered seat would, and isn’t as cushy or grippy as the woven material. However a few important pieces like the multi-function steering wheel and hand brake lever are covered in the real thing.
The radio was top notch, it stored up to 6 CDs that can also play MP3 burned discs as well as through the auxiliary input jack. The tuner can pick up AM/FM and Sirius satellite radio signals, which were all easily found thanks to the intuitive, well placed dials and user friendly layout. The only problem we found with our Jetta TDI is that Volkswagen continues to use the same vinyl coating for items like the window switches that are found to have peeled back exposing the plastic underneath in many used cars. There was also a plastic screen in the middle of the dash that had already started to lift at the corners, possibly a byproduct of the car’s tight suspension.
Surprisingly the suspension on our Jetta was stiff, and made he car feel more like a sports car than something you should be getting a tax credit for driving. This is only a likely side effect of having TDI emblems stuck to the side of the Volkswagen Group’s Le Mans winning endurance race cars. VW must see diesel differently than the rest of the world, where we here in the U.S. see dirty pollutants, in Germany the turbo diesel trend is the next best thing in the high performance market.
Our car cam equipped with a DSG intelligent gearbox, however when paired with the 140 HP 2.0 Liter TDI power plant, the combination takes some getting used to, especially when attempting to pass on the highway. When you pull out and mash the gas, the TDI falls flat on its face before finding a lower gear and pushing through its limited RPM range. We found ourselves having to apply a substantial amount of pressure to the accelerator in order to get the Jetta to move with decent vigor. However while driving on city streets the power train combination tells a different story, we found ourselves feathering the throttle, because if we were not delicate our heads would unexpectedly be thrown back into the headrest from the diesel’s outstanding 236 lb-ft of torque when attempting to inch forward in traffic.
From the driver’s seat, the Jetta TDI carries none of the traits of traditional oil burners. The only time you will know that you are behind the wheel of a diesel is the split second that you creep away from a stop, this is the only time that the insulation underneath the engine cover doesn’t muffle the clacking of the compression ignited alternatively fueled power plant that gets a hybrid-like EPA estimated 29 MPG in the city and 40 MPG on the highway.
Why to buy?
If you are a father, looking for a safe reliable ride for your daughter and have the foresight to think ahead about maintenance and fuel costs, the Jetta TDI is for you. The diesel power plant has less moving parts, which means less to go wrong and fewer potential problem areas. Despite the exorbitant cost of diesel fuel in the U.S. it is still a more economical option over gasoline based on the alternative fuel’s increased range characteristics.
If you want to fly under the green car radar in a green car, and still feel like you can have fun in the twisties, take the TDI over a mountain pass, you’ll fall in love.
This is also the car to buy if you want to compete in the Jetta TDI Cup, a one make green racing series for the diesel powered Volkswagen.
Why not to buy?
If you are still hesitant about diesel power, whether it is due to the selective supply, inflated price or just because it is different; but still want to save some money at the pump and show off how green you are to your friends, you should look at a hybrid. The Toyota Prius is a great option and will instantaneously earn you street credit as a hyper miler or you can look at the more affordable Insight from Honda; although neither of these options offer the same traditional styling as our Jetta TDI.
If you want a Jetta because you are looking for the traditionally affordable four door VW think again, this one will probably be a little too uncomfortable. The suspension is set up more like the hot hatch GTI, stiffly sprung and slightly harsh, good for carrying speed through turns but not so great for going over speed bumps in the mall parking lot.
Top Speed Final Verdict:
The Jetta TDI experience is surprisingly different than what you would expect from looking at the car from the outside. This four door VW has been infused with the spirit of a GTI and the soul of a green vehicle. Our Jetta TDI took a little getting used to, but once we figured it out, we liked what we were driving, especially when it came time for a fill up, something that never happened. We enjoy the sporty ride, but question whether this is what American new car buyers are looking for from the familiar four door Jetta.
Our TDI was able to throw you back in the seat with it’s 236 lb-ft of torque, which can be easily boosted with some computer software. This Jetta has more speed under the hood than you would ever expect from your sister’s car. One of the interesting things about our Jetta TDI was the needle on the tachometer; it moves around more like a tire pressure gauge than something connected to a traditional internal combustion engine, we aren’t sure whether this is attributable to the diesel engine or the double clutch transmission.
Either way it didn’t bother us too much, our only recommendation would be to test drive a manual version as well to see what you prefer. By the way, the Jetta’s 2.0 Liter turbocharged engine is the only diesel on the road today that meets the strict European CO2 emissions regulations without the help of a urea additive, like AddBLUE. Now that’s green.