Unless you like shovelling heaps of your hard-earned cash into the registers at local gas stations, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI is a car you need to test-drive.
Big thing about the Jetta TDI? It’s a diesel. Diesel has about 30 per cent more energy per unit than gasoline — meaning the Jetta’s TDI four-cylinder engine creates 140 horsepower and a robust 236 pounds of torque from just two litres of displacement and a turbocharger.
Diesel engines generate lots of torque — which is the all-important figure when it comes to getting things moving. That’s why most trains and transports drink diesel fuel.
Sure, the Jetta TDI will never haul a transport trailer or skid off roofing shingles, but its powerplant boasts exceptional mileage alongside a power-band that’s meatier than a bag full of Baconators.
Diesel makes heaps of sense if you aren’t quite sold on a hybrid. What if the hybrid drive motor conks out, outside of warranty? Will that hybrid battery do its job at -40 C when you return to the Park ’N Fly with a suitcase full of Dominican rum? None of these are concerns faced by TDI owners.
And unlike days gone by, the new breed of TDI diesel engines run clean as a whistle. There’s no smell, no soot and no smoke. The tester’s powerplant was as quiet, smooth and refined as anything comparable running on gasoline — if not more so.
The tester also ran Volkswagen’s dual-clutch Direct Shift Gearbox or DSG transmission, which shifts precisely, at lightning speed, and so smoothly you’d never feel a thing.
Performance and fuel mileage are enhanced with this gearbox.
I watched delightedly as my fuel gauge took 180 kilometres to drop from ‘full’ and racked up some 500 clicks before reaching the ‘half’ mark. It took just under 700 kilometres before the tank dropped below a quarter full. I only visited the gas station once during my week-long test, and I’m OK with that.
Overall consumption landed at 6.9 L/100 km. With plenty of city driving, high-speed highway cruising and my lead foot, that isn’t bad at all. And with all that torque, Jetta TDI rips along something fierce when you give it the boots.
You’re not sacrificing performance here.
Extra points for the comfy heated leather seats, potent Fender audio system and fantastic headlight performance at night.
Roominess for four adults is adequate, the trunk is generous, and there’s plenty of at-hand storage, too.
The ride and handling are also nicely set up: Jetta TDI is responsive, sporty, comfortable, refined and fairly quiet, all at the same time. The powertrain, steering, ride and suspension are all dialed in very nicely here.
My only major complaint dealt with the cabin, which has been ‘cheapened’ compared to the last-generation Jetta to facilitate a lower price tag.
It’s assembled nicely and pleasing to look at, though the abundance of hard plastics let things down a little when touching most surfaces.
At the end of the day, those in the market for an upscale, slightly sporty, very thrifty and highly refined fuel miser should be sure to give the Jetta TDI a whirl — alongside the Chevrolet Cruze Eco, Mazda 3 Skyactiv and Hyundai Sonata Blue Drive.
2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
• Engine: 2.0-litre TDI Clean Diesel, 140 horsepower.
• Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive.
• Observed Average Mileage: 6.9 L/100 km
• Transmission: 6-speed DSG.
• Features: Fender Audio System, Bluetooth, heated leather, sunroof.
• What’s Hot: Great mileage, refined and quiet powertrain, generous trunk, comfortable and sporty.
• What’s Not: Low-budget interior feel, no proper arm-rest.
• Starting Price: $27,175 (Jetta TDI Highline).