Capsule Review: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
capsule review 2015 volkswagen jetta tdi

To say the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI isn’t about fuel savings is to miss the point. But to say it’s about all-around money-saving is to tell a lie.

If your only mission was to spend less money on personal transportation in the new vehicle realm, jaw-dropping highway mileage generated by a 2.0L turbocharged diesel is not necessarily the ticket to personal financial freedom.

• USD Price As Tested: $30,020

• Horsepower: 150 @ 3500 rpm

• Torque: 236 @ 1750 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 44.4 mpg

There are much less costly ways of getting around town than in a highbrow Jetta like our test example, with its leather seating, navigation, upgraded audio, and Volkswagen’s dual-clutch direct-shift gearbox.

So why can’t the two objectives comingle? I’d argue that they can, that a new car buyer can enjoy the benefits of an upgraded, torquey, semi-luxurious, and spacious German compact car – and spend the money that’s required to do so – while also enjoying weeks of fuel tank range.

However, it’s not as easy for me to say that as it was in the past. After years of local parity or even diesel-favouring prices, diesel now costs significantly more than regular gas in Nova Scotia. The new turbocharged 1.8L four-cylinder gas-fired engine I experienced in the Mk7 Golf also eats into the TDI’s efficiency advantage in ways the old 2.5L five-cylinder never dreamt of doing. And the CAD $2300 premium for the TDI over that flexible 1.8T is frightening, at least before resale value is taken into account.

The TDI isn’t quite on the same level as a Tesla Model S, whose owner who can afford the initial outlay and enjoys the combination of electrified transportation and ridiculous performance. Nor can a direct comparison be drawn with a Chevrolet Volt owner who accepts the higher price of the car because he finds satisfaction in lengthy periods of electric-only driving without the penalty of limited range. Nevertheless, in a similar manner, the up-front cost and premium at the pump won’t hinder a TDI owner from sourcing pleasure in her car’s real-world pace and its aversion to fuel consumption.

See, just because a new car consumer purchases or leases a car with clear fuel saving intent doesn’t mean the consumer must showcase frugal tendencies across the board. They can still drive the car they want. And strangely enough, despite forgettable styling, a lack of auto headlights, not quite Golf-like steering, some wind whistle around the A-pillar, an antiquated infotainment unit, and one of the less effective DSG pairings, the Jetta TDI is, in fact, desirable.

Granted, I’d argue that it’s less desirable as the equipment level rises. The Highline-trim car loaned to us by Volkswagen Canada creeps deep into Passat territory. Yes, the Jetta is very roomy considering its exterior dimensions – at 182.2 inches long, it’s only two inches longer than a Mazda 3 sedan. But the Passat’s interior is utterly massive.

In the U.S., diesel-powered Jettas start at $22,460. The 6-speed dual-clutch automatic adds $1100. A Jetta SEL TDI with the DSG and the $1690 Driver Assistance package (forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, etc.) tops out at $30,020, including the $1750 diesel option. A mid-level Passat TDI costs $29,945.

But remember, the 2015 Jetta is not like the 2014 Jetta. Independent rear suspension aids ride quality, which really is quite serene. The upgraded interior, aside from the laggy touch screen system with its poor graphics, never once let me down in terms of material quality or ergonomics. Jetta steering still lacks the Golf’s sharpness, and the DSG’s lack of instantaneous response works with the comfort-minded chassis to steer you away from aggressive driving on twisty back roads. The Jetta’s overall on-road behaviour, however, provides a mature ambience, leaving me the with the feeling that the Jetta is perhaps better at taking the fight to midsize sedans as a slightly downsized alternative rather than challenging compacts with its upper-crust price tag.

Also updated for 2015 was the powerplant. The diesel is still a 2.0L with 236 lb-ft of torque, but it’s not the same 2.0L diesel of old. It’s quieter, smoother, and just a little bit happier to rev, and it’s also more efficient. The EPA highway rating moved up from 42 mpg to 45. In a week of driving around the city and its suburbs, the 44.4 mpg this Jetta registered was simply astonishing. With temperatures below freezing and a heavy right foot, the test example easily outperformed its city and combined ratings and very nearly matched the official highway figure.

Question the wisdom of spending $30K+ on a fuel miser if you must, but 44 mpg in city driving is the kind of mileage that engenders diesel loyalty. I just wish the 2015 Jetta still looked like the fourth-gen model, handled like the GLI, and could be filled up with fuel that didn’t cost an extra $0.47/gallon.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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2 of 70 comments
  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Mar 18, 2015

    It's just kind of a lot of money to pay for a Jetta. I've been in Jettas and I know what they're like inside. And I can tell from the photo that there's lots of hard plastic in there. I have seen a couple GLI's around, and they catch the eye with their styling. "I’d argue that they can, that a new car buyer can enjoy the benefits of an upgraded, torquey, semi-luxurious, and spacious German compact car – and spend the money that’s required to do so – while also enjoying weeks of fuel tank range." Agree - shorten your commute! :)

  • Stuki Stuki on Mar 19, 2015

    The Big3 should be selling re brands of this car. To the legions of buyers whose other "car" is an HD diesel pickup. Those guys are already well versed in the "diesel way" of doing things ( driving around at idle rpms, donning gloves to fill the tank and walking around with shoe soles smelling diesel...), but are mostly too vested in buyin' 'Murican to ever look at a VW.

  • Daniel J The Two Tier system was done on purpose. The UAW and the auto companies couldn't just shaft employees who, in essence, signed up before the financial meltdown. To stem their compensation, anyone who joined after got paid lower.This was done on purpose. The auto companies benefit because they cut costs and they also hope that eventually the new employees might dislike the deal the UAW make and possibly defect from the union when these same employees could join a non-union shop for more money.The UAW was hoping for the opposite, that these new employees would be mad at the auto companies and side with the union when it was time to re-negotiate.At this point, are the current Tier 1 employees going to take a cut? Can the auto companies afford to give the Tier 2 employees the same amount of money as the Tier 1?
  • Redapple2 UAW - Already overpaid. Relevant question. What are the transplants paid? Honda, Toyota, Nissan, VW. What about Tesla? What about Tier 1 and 2 auto suppliers. UAW should have been smashed when GM and FCA went bankrupt.
  • Redapple2 TV screens to run everything instead of knobs. Turbo 4 that poorly does the job of a V 6. I think i will turn away from new product and preserve what I have for 15 years. I m reaching that point.
  • Redapple2 Air tags are cheap, if you must
  • Teddyc73 "While this may simply be the result of electric sales reaching peak saturation until technological improvements, emissions regulations or novel designs move the needle forward" You mean until Democrats using their lies about the climate change hoax further sabotage the oil industry forcing us into EVs.