Base Price: $22,830
Price as Tested: $24,510
Capsule Review of the 2010 TDI Jetta
The 2010 TDI Jetta is so spirited and quiet you might not believe there's an oil burner lurking behind that big chrome VW badge in the grille. It has all the trappings of a premium car but it's priced on the high side for a compact sedan. The fuel mileage is outstanding: it's rated at 30 city / 42 highway but my tester scored predictably higher. If you're shopping for a small, efficient, alternative fuel sedan, read on...
Highs:• Hybrid-like mileage
• Sporty road manners, grownup interior
• Spunky diesel engine
Lows:• Slight turbo lag
• Premium pricing
• Me-too styling
2010 VW TDI Jetta Review
Hybrids grab headlines, but it's tough to beat diesel engines in terms of fuel efficiency and durability. Volkswagen has long subscribed to this ideology and has worked hard to get it's TDI-powered "clean diesel" cars certified in all 50 states after a brief pullout from the Northeast and California during the final years of the last decade. Will the People's Car company's effort pay off in showroom traffic? If the Jetta TDI clean diesel I drove recently is any indication of the future of diesel motoring, I hope so.
Not Your Father's Diesel
First and foremost, forget everything you think you know about diesel engines. The smoky exhaust, the sluggish acceleration, the clattering and shaking. In the TDI Jetta that stuff is just a not-so quaint memory of diesels past. Volkswagen claims its TDI powered Jetta accelerates more quickly than the gasoline version and is 50% more fuel efficient. My stopwatch reported a 0-to-60 mph dash in 8.5 seconds and during my all-too-brief test period I managed to get 40 mpg in a mix of highway and city driving.
Under the Jetta TDI 's hood is a 140hp, 2-liter, turbo diesel, direct-injection four- cylinder engine that can muster up an impressive 236 pound-feet of torque. My loaded-up tester retailed for $24,510 and was equipped with the optional ($1,100) smooth-shifting six-speed automatic DSG gearbox with Tiptronic, though a six-speed manual is standard equipment.
Driving the car it's virtually impossible to discern the TDI from a gasoline-fueled engine. It feels gutsy and robust though there is a slight bit of turbo lag when you first tip into the throttle. The Jetta's sporty ride and handling have long made it a favorite with younger and especially female drivers. The twitchiness and dartiness of Jettas yore is gone from this chassis replaced with a nice progressive steering feel. The ride is sophisticated for such a small car: compliant without wallowing all over the place, yet firm enough to keep its composure when pushed deep into a turn. While the MINI is universally hailed for its excellent handling (in this price range), the Jetta feels more grownup without feeling like it's over the hill. It's these traits that will continue to endure this car to the under 40 crowd.
If Volkswagen does one thing very well it's interiors. Simple, subdued, and somewhat serious Teutonic styling is the order of the day inside the Jetta TDI. Clean, easy-to-read analog gauges with a centrally located digital multi-function display make up the instrument cluster. Seats are supportive and eight-way adjustable while the upholstered surfaces and switchgear are all reminiscent of higher-line VW's and Audis.
The TDI is based not on the entry level Jetta S but on the SE, so it receives a number of niceties as standard equipment including: a leather-covered brake handle, V-Tex leatherette door panel trim, a Sirius-capable radio, V-Tex leatherette seats, a leather-covered shift knob, a 10-speaker sound system with in-dash CD changer and auxiliary jacks, a split-folding rear seat with center armrest, and a leather covered three-spoke steering wheel.
Bluetooth connectivity is on the list of improvements for 2010 and revisions have been made to the air conditioning controls and the interior trim. Nothing Earth-shattering to be sure, just minor refinements. Also for 2010 Grey interior is no longer available in the Jetta, but buyers will be able to choose from two new shades: Titan Black and Cornsilk Beige.