Volkswagen has been one of the leaders in what we like to call, the real green car movement. No hybrids for us thank you, unless of course it’s the Honda CR-Z because that’s the exception to the rule. Diesel power has long been a hallmark of the company’s push in Europe and now, with TDI fully establishing in the United States, the newest generation Jetta is ready to get it’s diesel motor.
The question was never if diesel vehicles were brilliant, the question has always been, will Americans buy them? For many years the answer to that question was a resounding no. Like a little girl that just can’t get her way, Volkswagen will continue to push diesel power in our lives and the new Jetta TDI is one hell of a strong argument.
The newest Jetta is an interesting story. Volkswagen and their world domination plan has taken away some of the German aspects from the sedan and cheapened it up for the American market to compete with the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla. But unlike those two vehicles, the Jetta can be fitted with a diesel. Consider that one point in Volkswagen’s court.
Hit the jump to read on.
Volkswagen’s new approach with the Jetta starts on the exterior. The larger grille is gone, in favor of a narrow one. The headlights are narrow and wrap around the front, and the front lip spoiler stands out, but it looks pretty good to us.
From the side, the Jetta is fairly uninteresting. The only things we can really comment on are the side mirrors, which look fairly aerodynamic, but aside from those, this could be any sedan from the side view.
Around back, the rear takes some inspiration from its older and more expensive brothers over at Audi. Once again, it’s fairly unassuming. Put a Honda Civic badge on there and most of America wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The TDI badge fits right into its slot, where as our other Jetta test vehicle, the 2.5 SEL seemed squeezed in.
Basically, nothing has changed from the normal Jetta to the TDI version, except for the badges of course. If you like the petrol version, you should like this one as well.
The interior, like we touched on with our review of the normal Jetta, has been redone and taken down to match the car’s new price. Once you plop yourself into the comfortable seats and grab the wheel, you will notice that it feels pretty good.
Moving over to the center stack, most of the controls have been redone, but they work fairly well and are easy to use. The climate control knobs are not that great to touch, but they look much better. Everything is laid out so that most people should be able to understand how everything works within a few seconds of being in the car.
Above the climate knobs, you’ll find the stereo and Volkswagen’s new 5.5-inch touch screen navigation system. The stereo sounded brilliant and was easy to use, but we can’t say the same for the screen. While it adds a nice visual aspect to the car, using something that is that small in size takes some getting used to. Luckily, once you spend some time with it, you shouldn’t have too much of an issue. Our test car with iPod integration, Bluetooth and auxiliary jack, and a six-speaker audio system made the overall experience seem a bit classier.
Open the boot and you will notice that the new Jetta was designed for Americans in mind. There is plenty of room for groceries, luggage, tools, and bodies. The rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor for longer items like skis and snowboards.
Under the hood is the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel with 140 horsepower at 4000 rpm and 236 pound-feet of torque at 1750 rpm. Since the Jetta TDI reaches peak torque at such a low rpm, there is plenty of power for merging onto traffic, climbing hills, and just plain having fun.
The turbo diesel motor accelerates the Jetta from 0-60 in just 8.7 seconds, just a few milliseconds off from the petrol version. That motor was connected to a six-speed direct-shift transmission, which uses friction plates to yield performance just like a manual gearbox. Of course, we would rather just have a manual, but it worked well.
The Jetta TDI uses an independent front suspension and a semi-independent rear. That setup is much more compliant through the bumps than the base petrol version, which uses a torsion beam. The vehicles used 16-inch wheels, which are good, but not as good as the 17-inch ones on the SEL. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard with four-channel antilock-braking to stop the car.
On the road, the Jetta TDI is very good in nearly every way. Only when you first turn the key – actually press the button – do you hear the diesel noise. When stopped at a stoplight with the radio off you might be able to hear that clanking diesel noise, but it’s rare. On the road, the motor is quiet and very refined. It pulls well in any situation, but it does have a heavier feel to it over the petrol.
Hit the corners and you notice right away that the power source in the front of the car is a tad heavier. The steering is tighter and heavier and the nose doesn’t turn in with as much crispness as the Jetta SEL we tested. That being said, it’s no slouch. The TDI could put a smile on your face through the bends and then an even bigger one when you go to fill up.
The EPA rates the Jetta TDI at 30 miles per gallon city and 42 on the highway. That might not be as good as the Toyota Prius or the Chevrolet Volt, but you won’t have nearly as much fun driving them as you will this wonderful machine. After a day’s worth of hard driving around the city, the TDI gave us 30 miles per gallon on its computer.
The Jetta TDI won’t be for everybody, because some people still can’t get over the diesel vehicles of the olden days. Those were loud, smelled bad, and made people around them sick. These new clean diesels are far more advanced and offer great mileage with a fun to drive attitude.
It might not be as crisp as a petrol car, but the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is brilliant. We do have our complaints though. The overall look of the exterior just blends in, never standing out in a crowd. The interior looks good, but some of the controls and plastics are harder than we remember from the old model. The navigation is small, but you will get used to it, and we promise you that. The price is around $24,195 with all the options, but the base is around $23,000.
Overall, if you want good mileage, German engineering, and a fun to drive vehicle, pick up the Jetta TDI. We just might.
Why we like it: It’s taken some time for diesel to catch on in the United States, but this new TDI might just do it. The price is spot on, the German quality is still there, and the fuel economy is outstanding.
Why we don’t like it: While the German quality is still there, it’s taken a backseat. The price was lowered, as was the quality. The looks have gotten bland and some of the interior controls are better to look at than to touch.
Overall rank and verdict: We like the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. The diesel motor is quiet and refined, the fuel economy is wonderful and the quality, although taken down a notch, is still pretty good.