By on June 15, 2009

When Jay Shoemaker reviewed the 2010 Prius, he castigated it for its dead-feeling controls, strange operating procedures and total lack of soul. He concluded: “But I have a feeling that one day soon we will be able to drive something that gets outstanding mileage while stimulating its operator in the process.” Mr. Shoemaker, your car has arrived. May I present the Volkswagen Jetta TDI?

VW took a different approach with its eco-warrior than Toyota. Instead of asking its drivers to wear their green/fuel economy on their automotive sleeves (cough Prius cough), the TDI is a model of subtlety. The only indication to the world that you’re driving anything more than an ordinary Jetta: the “TDI” badge on the rear end.

Both inside and out, the TDI is just a Jetta. That can be either a good or a bad thing, depending on what you think about the Jetta’s styling. Personally, I find it nice-looking in a wholesome “girl next door” kind of way. It’s not flashy, but you won’t be embarrassed to take it for a night on the town, either.

Inside, there are enough niceties like Sirius radio, trip computer, 115v outlet and heated seats to keep you from feeling you’re in a penalty box. For the gadget-oriented, a sunroof will set you back an extra $1K and sat-nav is a cool $2K. But that’s it for the toys.

Unfortunately, the TDI comes with only one choice in upholstery—V-Tex Leatherette (Mr. Shoemaker, your Naugahyde is ready). Only VW’s product planners know why Jetta drivers opting for the oil burner are condemned to plastic seating surfaces. During the summer months, owners in the southern climes may want to look into those beaded seat thingies taxi drivers use.

The TDI’s controls are logically placed and the manually-adjusted seats are firm in all the right places. Other than the upholstery (and the oppressive blackness of the test vehicle’s “anthracite” interior), the Jetta TDI’s interior is a pleasant enough place to spend a few hours. Or more. After three hours behind the wheel I felt like I could have easily done another three.

The fuel gauge said I could. I averaged about 43 MPG on a road trip that was roughly 80 percent highway driving and 20 percent city. And before all you Prius fans start pointing out that the Jetta TDI doesn’t get anywhere near the fuel mileage the 2010 Prius (51 city/48 highway), you’re right. The EPA rates the TDI at “only” 30 MPG in the city and 41 on the highway. But you know what? I’ll gladly sacrifice a few MPG to feel like I’m driving a car instead of playing a video game.

And that’s what sets the Jetta TDI apart from the hybrids. It provides more fun per MPG than any car with 2.0 liters churning out just 140 HP should. The secret: 236 lb·ft of torque that come on early and keep pulling. There’s no diesel clatter, no diesel smell. The only thing that indicates you’re driving a diesel (other than the mileage) is that you have to pull it up to a smelly diesel pump to refuel. That and the rev limiter that I kept bumping into when winding out the engine in first and second gears.

The TDI’s six-speed manual gearbox is well suited for the powertrain. While it didn’t offer the perfect snickity feeling of, say, the Miata’s six-speed, it slipped easily into gear. I never missed a shift trying to figure out where it was going.

On the highway, the TDI quickly settles down into fuel-sippin’ cruise mode. I had no problems keeping up with (and passing) traffic on long uphill runs. In fact, I’ll admit to feeling a bit smug as I sailed past an H2 at 85MPH, realizing that I was outrunning it while using a quarter (or less) of the fuel.

Everyone I asked overshot the TDI’s price by several thousand.  The six-speed model stickers at $22,270 (for the DSG automatic, add $1100). A set of overpriced floor mats and truck liner ($199) were the only installed options. While your local VW store isn’t very likely to cut you much slack on the price, the feds will bless you with a $1300 tax credit.

The TDI is an impressive automobile. If trading my Audi for one wouldn’t be the financial equivalent of dropping my pants, bending over the hood and telling the sales staff to line up and take a turn, I’d be tempted. If VW ever decides to sell a decent convertible with this engine, I could be walking funny for a few days—figuratively speaking, of course.

[Volkswagen provided the car, insurance and a tank of gas fuel for this review. Read Justin Berkowitz’s review of the Jetta TDI here.]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!


62 Comments on “Review: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, Take Two...”

  • avatar

    I looked at replacing my 05 Jetta with a TDI. I put 75k on my 05 in under 3 years. THe car for, what it is, can be a blast to drive. But, why does VW charge such a premium for the TDI, including upping the interest rate. 0% on a gas Jetta, 5.9% for a diesel!

    I didn’t buy it. $5k more the diesel urghh

    As per the vinyl seats, I liked them. Not as good as leather, but MUCH better than almost any cloth seat on the market,

  • avatar

    I find the Sportwagon TDI an attractive idea, but at around 28k, and with a bunch of unknown emission-control bits under the car, I’d be seeing the VW dealer as long as I owned the car…

    And I hear that those dealers are a harsh mistress.

  • avatar

    I’ve always loved the diesel VWs. I almost bought a 2004 model when downsizing from my SUV, but after driving the manual I decided I really didn’t want a stick in my area and I felt the automatic lost too much fuel economy for me to justify the price premium. Now that they have those DSG transmissions…

    Minion – It’s not so much raising the interest rate on the TDI as it is subsidizing it on the gas model. Look at any automakers incentives and you will see that the in-deman eco mobiles always have less in the way of incentives, be they rebates or interest rates. Also, you don’t have to finance with VW, in this area there is a bank that will do 5.25% on a 5 year loan if your credit is solid, and occasionally you will see lower, especially if you go shorter term.

  • avatar

    I test drove a Jetta TDI and really liked it. Good seats, nice shifter, plenty of torque, decent steering, etc. etc. It lacks, for me, decent headroom, and the sloping roofline means anybody with tall passengers has to get a wagon without a sunroof–there just isn’t good headroom in a sedan and it’s much worse with the sunroof.

    I liked the “vinyl” seats way better than cloth though I would prefer a leather option.

    A base model out the door at MSRP strikes me as a tad expensive, but not horribly so. More worrisome to me are stories from my German neighbor who has had VWs in his garage as long as I’ve known him. One VW had to be returned under the Lemon Law. If not for his Teutonic stoicism his dealer experiences would have brought the man to tears many times.

    Oh yeah, a 2009 VW with a 3/36 warranty compared to the 2008 VW 4/50 warranty? Give me a break. What does VW know about the long term reliability of their cars that they aren’t telling us? If they’re worried, so am I.

  • avatar

    Based on responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, 2008 and 2009 Jettas have required few repairs. Remains to be seen if long-term reliability will also be better than previous years.

    TrueDelta also has real-world fuel economy info on the TDIs–they’ve been very popular with our members. MPG appears to average in the low to mid 40s.


    Fuel economy:

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Fitzmall in Maryland has a bunch of them in stock, and is offering $2k+ off MSRP, mostly with DSG. I remember they were hot last year, not so much now.

  • avatar

    Nice car but VW needs to un-Corolla the exterior styling a bit and add some pizazz. The vinyl seats are a neat idea on a less than 20K car but for what is being chraged here they should be leather. Headroom is a bit tight and long term reliability is a question mark considering the spotty marks previous year VW’s have shown. I also wish these idiot car manufacrurers would come up with interior colors other than black lung charcoal, too light tan or oppressive gray. Finding a good used example at 15-18K might be the best bet.

  • avatar

    My sister has had a series of VW diesels going back to the early 80s. The last two have been TDIs, a mid-90s Passat and currently a Jetta wagon that is probably 6 or 7 years old. She has a 100 mile daily commute and puts a lot of miles on these cars. She keeps going back for more, so she must be doing alright. Between the VWs and her husband’s mid 90s Ford F-250 Powerstroke (and all the diesel farm equipment) they are a diehard diesel family.

  • avatar

    I think the idea of leatherette is sound: What is still going to look good, wear less, and last the life of the rest of the car? (umm, 300K plus for VW diesels is very common)

    My former 95 M-B E300D had almost 500K on it and it had MB-Tex (leatherette) and the interior still looked new.

  • avatar

    I don’t get the leatherette either. I’ve always preferred high quality cloth to either leatherette or leather. Less maintenance, and never hot or cold to the touch.

    If I needed a new car now, I’d be all over the TDi wagon with a stick. Option free please.

    I understand a revised and restyled (much nicer) is going to be released shortly.

  • avatar

    I’m conflicted on the upcoming Golf TDI. I want to buy one, but am scared.

    On the one hand, the 2001 Golf that we bought for my wife was a great drive, even with the automatic transmission that she requires. If it hadn’t been totaled, we would still be driving it. I miss it. The new Golf looks good and the new TDI engine is impressive.

    On the other hand, our 2001 Golf had the transmission grenade at 40k miles (thank goodness for that 100K powertrain warranty, what happened to that?) in addition to numerous other little problems (MAF sensor, EGR clogging, etc.). My A4 hasn’t been reliable either…

    If any one of the Japanese manufacturers brought a diesel commuter car to market, I have a feeling that VW would have a lot more trouble selling TDIs…

  • avatar


    This car is German.
    And you still ask why they enjoy suffering!
    I am surprised they don’t implant spikes, and suggest its for better body control through corners.

    Thank God so far for the Prius crowd keeping rather quiet.

    So far, with gas moving rapidly upward from speculation, the price of gas vs diesel still a good deal.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned 4 VW diesels since 1998 and plan to buy a new Golf TDI used in about 2011 or 2012. If anyone else dislikes the chrome front end as much as I do, check out the new Jetta sportwagen on The 2010 Jetta wagon is going to have the same front end as the 2010 Golf. Hopefully the sedan gets a chrome-ectomy as well.

  • avatar

    I loved my 2001 VW Jetta GLS TDI. The handling and mileage were great, and it was a real pleasure to take through the twists and turns of the Appalachian mountains. It could straighten turns and flatten mountains. But the leather-ish heated seats made me the most happy.

    Does anyone have any idea how the reliability is looking with the new DSG transmission? It sounds like a great idea, but I haven’t driven or owned one yet.

    (I owned my TDI for about a year (between 100k and 123k miles) and, during that time, I want through about five of the accursed 01M 4-speed automatic transmissions. I’m glad I kept my Ford Ranger around as a backup vehicle!)

  • avatar

    The vinyl seating surface kills it for me. But I hope that VAG makes this engine available in A3s and Golfs.

    My neighbor just got a 335d. TTAC should review that one too.

    Re: Luke42’s inquiry on DSG reliability, I would say that this transmission is generally reliable, but if you are one of the unlucky few who got a lemon, it’s the most expensive transmission ever to replace or repair.

  • avatar

    Your review reminds me of the 2yrs I did at Joliet State pen……

    I kid. As much as I’ve heard about and experienced crappy VW reliability, this car seems like a gem.

    My buddy just traded his Civic for the TDI Sportwagon… and you’re right, they are NOT dealing on these things.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the references, Frank.

    I completely agree that the Jetta is a superior choice versus the Prius for people who are looking for economy con brio, however it still doesn’t hit the sweet spot for me.

    Besides the flaws you mentioned (the seat material is ghastly), the Jetta lacks bluetooth and is German in design and name only (assembly takes place in Mexico). My biggest issue is DSG- I slog mostly in traffic and the stick is out of the question. DSG has no creeper mode and no hill holder and as a result, is quite unpleasant in stop and go traffic. The mileage gap is much wider between the Jetta diesel and Prius under these kinds of commuting conditions, so my quest for a fun to drive economical car will have to continue.

  • avatar

    I took a new Jetta TDI out for a test drive last week (sedan with manual transmission). Not bad, but the Toyota Corolla low rent interior was a major disappointment. Manual seats — come on now. No automatic HVAC? Also, I’d have a difficult time living with FWD.

    For the same price ($25k or so), I’d get a low mileage MB E320 CDI. Drives like a dream, RWD, 40MPG+ on the highway, will cruise all day at 140+, has all of the toys and a top-class interior. Plus, lower registration, depreciation and insurance for a used car. I’d venture to guess the total five year per mile costs for a new Jetta TDI and used E320 CDI would be very close.


  • avatar

    I own a 2006 Jetta TDI with the DSG transmission. I bought this car new and have driven it just over 84,000 miles. Reliability has been perfect and the only trips to the shop have been for scheduled maintenance. There-in lies my only complaint.

    Parts and service for these cars are expensive. Dealers charge $1,200 for the required 80K timing belt replacement (which includes the tensioner, water pump and serpentine belt) and around $400 for the 40K DSG service.

    I get my oil changed at a local independent shop, but these guys wouldn’t touch the timing belt. Perhaps in a bigger town I could have found an independent who specializes in VWs.

    In recent years VW has come a long way in improving their reliability. Now they need to design cars with a lower cost of ownership. I would love to own another VW diesel in the future, but I have a feeling that $1,200 timing belt is something I will not soon forget.

  • avatar

    VW’s problem children have been the gasoline engine cars, specifically the 1.8 Turbo and the 2.5 5-cylinder. Their TDI’s have been reliable as you’d expect a Diesel to be.

    My main bitch about the current crop of VW TDIs are the changes to how they work. CARB-mandated emissions regs have (ironically) made running a new TDI on BioDiesel impossible due to the use of “post-stream injection”. Owners of new TDIs are told that they can not run on a higher blend than B5 (5% BioDiesel 95% Petroleum Diesel). People who try report the cars throwing CELs at best, and going into “limp mode” at worst. Since I run my Diesel cars on anywhere from B50 (In mid-winter) to B90-B100 (the rest of the year) the current Diesel offerings are a no-go for me.

    Note to VW & California: It is hard to carry the “Eco-Warrior” banner when you take alternative fuels off the menu.

    Finally THANK YOU for the wrap up: “If VW ever decides to sell a decent convertible with this engine, I could be walking funny for a few days—figuratively speaking, of course.” I have been saying the very same thing for years. While I LOVE my 2002 1.9L TDI Jetta’s powertrain; the wonderful little 90HP engine that gets 50 MPG, and the fantastic 5-speed manual… I actually LOATHE the Jetta itself. yes, the trunk is roomy and can carry a lot of waste veggie oil containers, but I don’t need 4 doors and 5 seats. This is my commuter car. I drive it to work and back every day. I would MUCH rather have a 2 door, 2 seat car with the ability to drop the top on a sunny day. Imagine what sort of MPG I could get with a lightweight 2 seat spider mated to my current drivetrain?

    I envy the selection of cars available with Diesel power in Europe. Just about every automaker has a 2 door, 2 seat convertible that you can buy with a Diesel. Hell even Alfa has one. But here in the USA we’re told any number of fallacies, such as “Americans don’t buy Diesels” “Sports cars have to be quick from 0-60”, “Diesel emissions kill people”, and “Economy cars have to have tacky minimalist interiors.” So we get 4-door Jettas & Prius’ with plain interiors.


    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Nguyen Van Falk

      Biofuels aren’t environmentally friendly if you take into account the enormous toll that agriculture takes on the environment.

      If you’re running on recycled waste oil, it’s a different story, but fresh biodiesel is pretty bad for the environment too.

      I don’t get why people attach environmentally friendly tags to things like hybrids and biofuels. Hybrids are fuel efficient, but buying a new car full of batteries is not good for the environment and buying it for that reason is misguided. Buy one for its efficiency.
      Biofuel is good for energy independence, but not for the environment. Farms pollute like no other industry and taking oil from the food market to fill your tank is morally suspect. Biofuels are good for energy independence, but not the environment.

  • avatar

    I hadn’t realized how this car is priced, in theory this could be a really attractive option if you can actually get a near-base model. Too bad about the 1600 USD and (claimed) +1.3 sec 0-60 penalty for the wagon…

  • avatar

    Anyone knows why VW won’t offer Passat Wagon with this engine in the US? They do in Europe. It would have been an excellent match.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Nguyen Van Falk

      Probably because the Passat is too big and might require urea injection to scrub the exhaust. Look up how expensive filling up an MB ML320cdi’s urea tank and you’ll see why it’s not viable for the diesel-averse US market.

      I could be wrong though, but I know the Jetta is light enough to not need the urea, so maybe the passat is too heavy.

    • 0 avatar

      Dr. Fauk.
      The Passat was sold in Sedan and Wagon form both in North America with the 2.0 liter diesel, also rated at 140 HP.
      In Europe, the heavier Audi A6 also comes with that engine, in both FWD and AWD.
      There are no technical issues.
      What it comes down to is that VW will not go through the expense to federally certify a vehicle that they think will sell in very low numbers.
      Someone in HQ decided that Diesels will be Jettas for now, and Golfs too soon.
      If people in HQ’s understood the market, MB would make a killing selling an E-Class CDI wagon in North America.
      Unfortunately, the Germans seem to suck at both marketing and predicting the market for various models.

  • avatar

    Anyone knows why VW won’t offer Passat Wagon with this engine in the US? They do in Europe. It would have been an excellent match.

    I’ve wondered that myself. The Passat really is an excellent car, and I’d feel much better about it, but I think it would push the price of an already-very-expensive car into the stratosphere.

    The Jetta already pushes the envelope (a TDI Jetta nicks the lower end Passat) in price, and I don’t think VW makes a healthy margin on these cars.

  • avatar

    But here in the USA we’re told any number of fallacies, such as “Americans don’t buy Diesels” “Sports cars have to be quick from 0-60″, “Diesel emissions kill people”, and “Economy cars have to have tacky minimalist interiors.” So we get 4-door Jettas & Prius’ with plain interiors.

    These are more or less true, and certainly aren’t fallacies as much as their uncomfortable truths.

    Americans don’t buy diesels, or at least aren’t willing to pay enough for them to make margin for their makers. If they did, Toyota et al would have exploited that niche quickly.

    Sports cars (in America) do have to be quick to sixty. So do sedans. Hell, the Toyota-friggin-Sienna can lay waste to most European hot hatches. Americans like easy power and don’t appreciate handling. Even Mazda and VW are succumbing to this, realizing that in order to sell to more than a handful of gearheads you need to play to the market. You and I don’t like it, but it’s true

    Diesel emissions do kill. The allowable limits for particulates and oxides of nitrogen or sulphur (the kind of pollution that will kill people in places like Los Angeles or Toronto) are much too high in diesel exhaust and, while they’ve gotten better, have a long way to go before they can catch gas, let alone gas-electric. People harp on CARB, but those same people probably don’t live in the Los Angeles basin.

    And economy cars do need to have basic interiors because, quite frankly, every dime spent on a soft dash is a dime not spent elsewhere. Economy cars have to fit a budget, and as nice as an Alfa 147 or Peugeot 207 is on the inside, North American buyers would not put up with their crap and would prefer the rock-hard dash and bullet-proof, neglect-friendly mechanicals of your average Corolla.

    I don’t like it, but it’s the nature of the market. You’d be equally pressed to explain why you can’t sell kei cars in North America.

  • avatar

    Frank thanks for the fine review. I have the 2009 TDI sedan with DSG. I love it! The ride/handling combination is superb and I love the feel of the steering. Over 4,000 plus miles I am averaging 39.7 MPG with around 45/48 on the highway.

    “Shoes” said the DSG does not creep and does not have a hill holder. Mine creeps and has a hill hlll holder, which makes it very pleasant to drive.

  • avatar

    Love the comments about the prospect of trading in an Audi for a TDI. I have calculated that the depreciation minus the gas savings on a TDI would more than offset the repair costs on my Audi given current trends. Of course I may just be forestalling the repair bill for a few years.

    VW dealers in the Bay Area absolutely will not go below $1000 over MSRP on a wagon right now, but sedans are plentiful at invoice. I ended up finding an offer below MSRP using a car buying service, but I have to go to SoCal to get the car.

    The wagon has a unique aesthetic feature I really liked. The panoramic sunroof has a perforated screen which has the effect of filling the inside of the car with filtered light, as if you are in a forest. The screen can be moved independently of the sunroof itself, so you can have the top open with the screen in place and get air without sun beating down on you. A small thing, and the configuration cuts down on rear headroom somewhat. But my wife and I were both children of the Vista Cruiser era, so it meant a lot to see this tradition continuing.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian –

    Americans don’t buy diesels – Perhaps, but how much choice have we had in them? The VW TDIs have been the only consistent choice, and they are selling well enough. VW couldn’t keep enough V10 TDI Touregs on the lots, and the short lived Jeep diesels were also sucked up quickly. Although admittedly a different category, I sell at least four or five diesel Super Duty trucks for every gas model I sell, and the only reason people look at Dodge HD trucks is the Cummins diesel. If Toyota made a diesel car the size of a Corolla or Camry it would sell like hotcakes, but it will never happen because they put all of their eggs in the hybrid basket and they don’t want to fragment their market.

    Sports Cars have to be quick to 60 I agree with you here, we do tend to like our 0 – 60 bragging rights, but you can market a sporty car without it being a sports car. The VW GTI isn’t a fast car, but it is sporty and sells well, similarly the Mazda3 (non-speed varieties), Mini Cooper, and Honda Fit aren’t barn burners, but they sell well off of a sporty vibe. Even better, while we look at 0-60, the time 0-30 or 0-45 is much more important in 95% of driving, and diesels, with their gobs of torque, are superior to gas engines there.

    Diesel Emissions Kill Maybe, but plenty of European cities seem to be doing fine with it. I don’t remember a cloud of death overtop of London last time I was there. Also, if pollution from too many people gets to be too much for someone in an overcrowded area (such as L.A. or NYC) they can always move somewhere else – it isn’t exactly like we need to encourage more people to live in either locale.

    Economy Cars have to be cheap inside First of all, I am sure Toyota could cut into their profit margin on each Corolla sold and give it a soft touch dash and better instruments/displays if the market demanded it, but since we keep buying the Wal-Mart special ones, they are happy to keep building them that way. Also, just because a car is small, or sized like an economy car, doesn’t mean it has to be super cheap in cost. The Mini is a good example of premium meets small, and the upcoming Ford Fiesta and redesigned Focus will also feature upscale interiors in smaller cars (as long as Ford keeps their word and doesn’t mess with the insides too much compared to the Euro versions).

  • avatar

    Volkswagen provided the car, insurance and tank of gas for this review.

    The thing about TDIs is, it’s usually best to stick with diesel fuel. Someone should tell VW… or RF :-)

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    Good catch, turbosaab. Fixed.

  • avatar

    Perhaps, but how much choice have we had in them?

    It doesn’t matter, not really. Less choice ought to mean more opportunity for growth, but it isn’t happening. VW does it because their core market of Europhiles can sustain it, but no one else can make the costs work in North America. If Honda can’t justify it for Acura and Toyota isn’t even trying (remember: both makes have very good diesel engines in Europe) it’s not going to fly.

    Diesel is expensive: you need a big, heavy block, expensive injectors and emissions control equipment and a turbocharger and associated plumbing. That doesn’t come cheap, and North America doesn’t suffer the artificial price disparity that would make it worthwhile. That North America’s biggest market (California) isn’t friendly doesn’t help.

    Even in Canada, which is more amenable to diesels, the penetration doesn’t go past VW and Mercedes.

    but you can market a sporty car without it being a sports car.

    You can, but you won’t get many buyers. A few of them sell reasonably well, but only as halo cars and one-offs. Even brands (I’m thinking about Mazda) that tread on sporty DNA are walking away from actual sporty cars in favour of street monsters because the economics are there.

    I wish they weren’t, but even commenters here, who pine for European metal, eschew the “tinny” and “underpowered” sporty cars we do have in favour of their bigger brethren. You can bet that if the FIAT 500 ever made it over hear, people would be saying “Why spend x on the 500, when you can pay just a little more for the Calibre SRT” or somesuch.

    Don’t believe me? People say it about the Honda Fit all the time.

    Maybe, but plenty of European cities seem to be doing fine with it.

    Point one: no major European city has the misfortune of being like Toronto, let alone Los Angeles, in geography. If you replaced every car in LA with a diesel, it would kill people. CARB, as far as I’m concerned, is doing the right thing in keeping diesels out of SoCal.

    Point two: European air quality in major cities is terrible, both quantitatively and qualitatively. I can smell, and worse: feel, the fumes in my nose, throat and mouth after any length of time in Turin, Paris or even Munich. You can see the particulate stains on the buildings and you can smell it.

    Weirdly, this is one area in which North America leads.

    Also, if pollution from too many people gets to be too much for someone in an overcrowded area (such as L.A. or NYC) they can always move somewhere else – it isn’t exactly like we need to encourage more people to live in either locale.

    That’s not sustainable. We do that now, and it creates a mess of suburban sprawn and ghettoizes the inner cities. “Just move somewhere else” is a bad way to avoid dealing with the problem of air quality.

    It also negates the reason people live there in the first place. You can’t exactly move from Los Angeles or New York to Podunk unless you have a very specific and/or easily transportable skillset. Most people can’t or don’t.

    Also, just because a car is small, or sized like an economy car, doesn’t mean it has to be super cheap in cost.

    Carmakers, especially mass-marketers, have to make margins. GM should be a shining example of what happens when you sell a product for less than the cost of manufacture (and no, it’s not the UAW or legacy cost). Just increasing the cost without increasing the margin is a really good way to starve your balance sheet.

    The Mini is a good example of premium meets small,

    The Mini also sells less than a order of magntitude fewer units than the Yaris, let alone the Corolla. The Mini cannot and would not sell at mass-market levels because people would not pay the money. Even in Canada, where you can buy a gutted Mini “Classic” or Europe, where you can get a Mini “One” (even more spartan) it doesn’t come close to the volume of the much more plebian Polo.

    You’ll note that the Corolla-sized Lexus IS also boasts a wonderful interior. Guess why.

    and the upcoming Ford Fiesta and redesigned Focus will also feature upscale interiors in smaller cars

    I doubt it. European Fords aren’t really as nice as they’re made out to be. Oh, the dash looks nice in photos, but the Focus and Fiesta have always lagged the Golf and Polo. They are, more or less, on par with Toyota’s offerings in interior quality.

    Look, I want nice economy cars as much as you do, but they just don’t sell here. The Golf is a distant contender, the likes of the 318ti were chased away, the B-Class barely sells in Canada and isn’t available in North America at all. The Astra bombed until the price was cut to “slit your throat” levels.

  • avatar

    If VW ever decides to sell a decent convertible with this engine, I could be walking funny for a few days—figuratively speaking, of course.

    Funny you should say that.

    VW is considering production of its Concept BlueSport convertible as early as 2012…one engine option VW is considering being a diesel engine, perhaps a more powerful variant of the TDI’s engine.

  • avatar

    Prius crowd are quiet because We are laughing.

    This car is ugly here and it is more uglier in person.

    Who wants to buy a diesel? While the Japanese Automakers are making Hybrid cars.
    German cars still like to drink diesel fuel.

    Geez I am not even a Toyota fan but have high respect with Toyota Hybrid cars.
    I drive a Mitsubishi.

    • 0 avatar

      BEAT: “While the Japanese Automakers are making hybrid cars” they are making 100 times as many diesels. They sell them ALL over the world. Except in North America. Where Toyota introduced the hybrid to get the tree-huggers to stop spray-painting all those Toyota SUVs on the lots. (Do you remember back when Toyota sold more models of SUVs than anyone?)
      The Hybrid is a marketing gimmick that only works in the USA.
      Its a sad commentary on people’s knowledge (or lack of) of the vehicles that they drive daily.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    Coming from Europe I always thought the anti-diesel arguments were just thinly veiled protectionism but comparing the air quality of Tokyo, which is largely diesel free with that of any large European city (on a very unscientific basis, granted) seems to indicate otherwise – the air is truly much more pleasant to breathe.

    As for the Jetta, it’s always managed to be much better positioned in the US than in most of Europe, where you need to be above 60 on average to even be let near one in a dealership (I do apologise to all younger Jetta / Vento / Bora drivers out there but have seen that particular one far too often – with VW dealers actively discouraging anyone younger who was interested and trying to get them either into a Golf or a Passat).

  • avatar

    What am I missing here? The TDI meets all 50 states emission requirements, including CA. It won 2009 Green Car of the year from Green Car Magazine and has less emissions than some hybrids. If everyone in Los Angeles traded in their car on a 2009 TDI the air would be cleaner.

  • avatar

    “clean diesel” is still dirtier than modern gas engines. That’s what you’re missing, fgbrault. The Jetta TDI is in the dirtiest category allowed for sale among new cars; not the cleanest.

    Not one mention of interior room in this review. Not one mention of how the emissions control system must be serviced. Huh. Imagine that.

  • avatar

    Not one mention of interior room in this review. Not one mention of how the emissions control system must be serviced. Huh. Imagine that.

    Interior room was adequate for me and the two passengers I had. And before you ask, trunk space was more than adequate.

    I don’t mention service requirements or intervals for any of the cars I review. Those are things anyone who is considering purchase of a car should research on their own.

  • avatar

    If the current “cash for clunkers” deal remains as is, I will need to get a 42mpg car, since my ’05 petrol Golf gets 32 mpg. I would have no problem with this car EXCEPT…. it has official mpg of 41… one less than i need for the $4500 pay off.

    Does anyone know what the official mpg ratings of the upcoming Golf TDI is? I’d rather have to hatchback anyway.

  • avatar

    Quote: M1EK :
    June 16th, 2009 at 11:24 am

    “clean diesel” is still dirtier than modern gas engines. That’s what you’re missing, fgbrault. The Jetta TDI is in the dirtiest category allowed for sale among new cars; not the cleanest.

    Not one mention of interior room in this review. Not one mention of how the emissions control system must be serviced. Huh. Imagine that.:Quote

    I researched it and you are correct that the Jetta TDI at Tier 2 Bin 5 is with the group of 2009 cars emitting the most emissions (it does better though with CO2.) However, the majority of 2009 gasoline engines are Tier 2, Bin 5, so at least it is no worse than most.

    The Jetta has plenty of front seat room, but can be a little cramped in the back seat. It has a large trunk for a compact – 16 cubic feet plus fold down rear seat backs and a passthrough.

    I can not find any mention in the Maintenance Booklet of service for the emissions control system until 120,000 miles, when the particle filter is to be checked.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the review. I really like the TDI Sportwagen and don’t mind the vinyl-tex whatever. I was interested in the DSG, but sketchy reviews have put me off. I’d wait for the better looking 2010 model in October in any case – maybe they’ll fix the DSG programming by then too?
    Finally, the idea of paying MSRP, let alone OVER MSRP! in this market makes me sick…

  • avatar

    I fell in love with the TDI sportwagen and got on the waiting list last fall…..and waited…..and waited…….

    I finally got off the list after 3 months and pulled the trigger on an 08 GTI with 0% for 60 months. I couldn’t get financing under 6% and I was going to pay sticker……..a difference of over 5K.

    This car would have been great….if I could have found one

  • avatar

    BEAT :

    Prius crowd are quiet because We are laughing.

    i doubt it. the prius crowd just doesn’t care about cars. as far as they are concerned a car is just another appliance and the prius is a well made appliance.

    personally, i love diesels. i almost cried when i sold my benz 240d. still, i think we should acknowledge the hybrid’s advantage over diesel as a clean machine. the part that drives me crazy is that it isn’t diesel technology that’s dirty, it’s our fuel. we have tons of natural gas in the us but nobody seems interested in converting it to clear diesel which would run perfectly clean. yes, gas to liquid is an expensive refining process but it would get cheaper if we ramped up production. if you are not familiar with gtl tech see

  • avatar

    M1EK wrote:
    Not one mention of how the emissions control system must be serviced. Huh. Imagine that.

    Can you be more specific on this? I know the Mercedes Bluetech diesels have the urea injection system requirement (the cost of the urea per mile seems to be left off of most people’s calculation on these cars), but VW doesn’t require this. What are the emissions control system requirements you are talking about, especially given someone else’s post here that a 120K mile particle filter is all that’s required?

  • avatar


    It doesn’t matter, your old car won’t qualify for the Cash for Clunkers deal as it currently gets decent fuel economy. The program only works for people who bought gas guzzlers in the first place. The EPA combined rating needs to be 18 mpg or LESS to count for any incentive.

    Also, to be clear, the fuel economy rating for the program isn’t based in the highway rating, it’s a combined average of city and highway.

  • avatar

    Diesel is now competitive with mid-grade fuel so at first glance the TDI appears to be a money saving proposition. But the TDI has a timing belt as opposed to the gas engine’s chain, and I expect a diesel will have an expensive fuel filter that needs regular changing. I’d like to know what these maintenance costs are in order to calculate the real cost of ownership.

  • avatar

    We sold my wife’s A6-quattro wagon, and she’s been driving a TDI wagon with DSG (& leather) since Feb.
    I’m 6’5″ and yes, we have have the sunroof, and there is lots of head-room.
    (to the person who commented about lack of room … there’s a handle on the side that adjusts the seat height. I know its a novelty for folks used to Japanese cars, but the seats go up-and-down and the steering wheel goes in-and-out in addition to up & down … something standard in European cars but only found in top models from Asia)

    She drives a lot getting stuff for our company. She filled the Audi (base 2.8 V6) 5 times a month. She fills the Jetta twice a month (whether it needs it or not).

    And you can buy diesel everywhere … EXCEPT locations where land is very expensive, like city centers. There, the stations are smaller and only have room for 2 tanks underground (premium and regular, which get mixed for mid-grade). Outside city centers almost every station sells diesel. You’re just not looking for it, but its there.

    The Jetta TDI is a blast. We have performance summers on 17″ alloys. Passing drivers of modified V6 Japanese cars uphill in mountains is the most fun, because it takes them so long to catch up! I just set the cruise at 140kmph (around 90 MPH) and let the TDI do its thing.
    And still get almost 50 MPG :)

  • avatar

    Can you be more specific on this?

    People fall all over themselves to insist that hybrids must be more difficult to maintain because of the “two engines” and the battery. Why no mention, at all, of the new, unproven, emissions control stuff that had to be bolted on to this thing to make diesel just barely clean enough to be sold?

  • avatar

    “Why no mention, at all, of the new, unproven, emissions control stuff that had to be bolted on to this thing to make diesel just barely clean enough to be sold?”

    Huh? “Unproven” ????
    Check your stats. VW has the largest R&D budget of any car-maker on the planet and the most advanced technology.
    The Bugatti Veyron, more than 10% faster than the fastest from Ferrari, etc., is powered by 4 GTI engines sharing a common block.

    VW sells more diesels than anyone. However, most Japanese car fans are unaware that Toyota sells more right-hand-steering cars than left-hand. Of those right-hand drive cars, most are pickups, and the vast majority of those pickups are powered by TOYOTA DIESEL ENGINES.

    If Toyota stopped selling the Prius, the impact would be less than 1% of 1% of sales.


    Toyota is likely the #2 diesel engine maker in the world!

  • avatar

    Dear bempey,

    Please read again, important phrase bolded for emphasis:

    Why no mention, at all, of the new, unproven, emissions control stuff that had to be bolted on to this thing to make diesel just barely clean enough to be sold?

    VW (and Toyota and others) have plenty of experience with the old very-dirty-diesel. The new emissions control systems to make diesel cars just barely sneak in under the emissions rules now in effect are unproven; not the diesel engines themselves.

  • avatar

    Particulate filters are not new and are derived from industrial processes.
    However, their application to vehicles had to wait for the “clean diesel” fuel, as the old fuel’s sulphur would clog them up.

    As for “unproven technology” — VW/Audi invented clean diesel (TDI) technology over 15 years ago, so maybe you’re talking about those new hybrid vehicles? ;)

  • avatar

    bempey, there is new emissions control equipment on these vehicles which did not need to be on them before – equipment which requires service; which is at least complicated enough to mention – given the past hatchet-jobs given the Prius here.

  • avatar

    I never through I’d buy a VW due to all the socialists that drive them, but if I was looking for a new car right now, I’d test drive this diesel Jetta. Diesels are fun to drive too!

  • avatar

    I bought an automatic 09 Jetta Diesel TDI a week ago and the transmission started slipping within 48 hours. It’s been in the shop for 3 days (waited through holiday weekend), and after replacing the sensors recommended by the manufacturer they’re still not sure what’s causing the problem. Imagine my frustration to find that after trading in an 07 Rabbit that I loved for the “green car of the year”, I’d become entangled with a Lemon law claim. Lawyers are telling me that the car must be in the shop for 30 days to qualify under the provisions of law.

    Meanwhile, I’m stuck with a crappy rental car, and the dealership is racking up miles on a car that I’m paying for which doesn’t work.

    It had 18 miles on it when I got it, and 180 when I put it in shop. Anyone else heard of this problem?

  • avatar

    Bummer! My wife’s Jetta TDI has DSG and no problems, other than I think it revs too high when you stop on it. (you want to work the turbo, not the revs, to drive efficiency & mileage up)

    In Canada, VW dealers are almost all exclusively VW (or VW/Audi) and sales volumes are much higher on a per-capita basis, so they’re pretty good.

    But in the USA I’ve heard lots of horror stories, especially from the “Buick/Kia/Mazda/VW/Yamaha/AirStream” dealers that have 3 mechanics of which only 1 has his license … less than a year, etc.

    From a proper VW dealer, you can expect updates on your car at least daily (by phone or e-mail, your preference) along with a clear understanding of “the plan”.

    If you think your dealership sucks, ask around about a better one.


    Warranty work is paid by VW to the dealership doing the work at FULL rate (no discounts to VWoA) so its gravy … they ALL want it. Which is why some dealerships will lie to you and say you have to bring the car back to them.
    Every dealership wants warranty work!

    So you can try to find a better dealer. Check the forums on VwVortex, FredsTDIclub, etc. if you don’t have other VW owners to ask. And feel free to talk to your regional VW Rep. … VWoA should give you that person’s contact info if you ask.
    They are your ombudsman for car/dealer issues and give the dealer a kick in the butt if that’s what it takes to get things going.

    Good luck!
    PS: Worst case is they swap trannies … you should be on the road soon :)

  • avatar

    Thanks Bempey…
    Unfortunately a swapped out transmission is not my idea of a just repair on a brand new car.

    I want a new car that works. I didn’t drop $26K for a refurbished transmission, which is basically what they’re offering me. Not to mention the stress I’ve had to deal with the past two weeks, the crappy rental ordeals, oh and the hundred miles or so the service department is racking up on my car.

    I’d really like to know why the Electronic Valve Body is on NATIONAL BACK ORDER.

    Supposedly my lemon will be back on the road the middle of next week. I pray to god it gets struck by lightening or worse. That car is cursed.

  • avatar

    Its unfortunate, but see how it works when you get it back.
    Hope for the best: it will likely be fine after.
    Prepare for the worst: document everything, every visit, every call to the dealership, make sure the regional rep knows about this. Then, if you DO have more issues you are armed and prepared.

    Just for a comparison, if you buy a Subaru WRX manual, you can expect 2nd gear to fail prematurely. If you’re lucky, it happens while under warranty. If not, it costs over $7k to repair.
    Honda’s eat tires after 30k miles due to a bad suspension design that is 10 years old, but they won’t fix. Toyotas have numerous problems and brakes have no lifetime compared to German or American cars … there is no perfect car or brand.

    DSG is cutting-edge technology and appeared on Audi, then VW, then Porsche and (?) Nissan/Infiniti (G37 … I think)
    Its risky being on the cutting edge, but in return you’ll get Automatic Tranny convenience with Manual performance and mileage.
    I hope you can enjoy your car when you get it back.

  • avatar

    rurugirl, probably DSG temperature sensor. See for info.

    I have been researching these for potential purchase and overall it’s a GREAT car but unfortunately most dealers are beyond clueless when it comes to servicing them (i.e. can’t even handle a simple oil change – many owners have reported that they are overfilling the cars and using wrong spec oil).

  • avatar

    Just purchased  a new 2010 Jetta TDI. Did the research between diesel and hybrid including interviews with several coworkers who drive both.
    As a previous Lexus owner I would always request hybrid loaners when my vehicle was in the shop for maintenance or recalls. Something I noticed but rarely see addressed in the forums is the hit hybrids take in fuel economy as the temperature drops. I researched this extensively and discovered the physics that cause your notebook to loose its ability to maintain a charge when left overnight in temperatures below 50 degrees degrade the hybrid battery charge capacity the same.
    I did not find this problem with diesel power.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • -Nate: Everywhere that was opened, the idiots of course gathered as close together as they cold…. Expect spikes...
  • Lou_BC: @Aurthur Daily – The most disturbing thought I have about all this is the possibility that @theloon...
  • Lou_BC: “Four infectious disease doctors in Canada” Four…..4…..Four If you consider that...
  • Lou_BC: “Four infectious disease doctors in Canada” Four…..4…..Four If you consider that...
  • Arthur Dailey: Do you need power door locks on a cheap working pickup? What if they offered only with manual...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Timothy Cain
  • Matthew Guy
  • Ronnie Schreiber
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth