Indeed, many drivers drew comparisons with the Ford Fusion Hybrid, a car that is larger and about $5000 more expensive than the Jetta. The gas/electric Fusion bests the TDI in city and combined fuel economy, but the Jetta is better suited to long-distance commuters, due to its better highway fuel economy. Plus, the Jetta offers similar levels of sophistication and practicality, with a trunk and back seat that defy the VW's compact-car status.
Normalcy - in the context of exceptional fuel economy - is one of the reasons to appreciate the TDI. As senior Web editor Phil Floraday noted, "It does a much better job of engaging the driver than your average hybrid." The Jetta's diesel character even fades from notice during long or relaxed drives. "For all that's written and said about diesel technology, the really amazing thing about the Jetta is that you hardly ever think about its engine," commented assistant editor David Zenlea. The TDI's consistent reliability was also notable. Over its 28,720 miles with us, our Jetta fulfilled its duty without fault. Even better, regular maintenance was covered by VW's three-year, 36,000-mile free-service program.
For 2010, Volkswagen has an answer to our call for more energetic handling. The TDI Cup Street Edition includes larger brakes, stiffer antiroll bars, and the sport-tuned suspension from the turbocharged gasoline-powered Jetta GLI. There are also special body panels, interior trim, and wheels to celebrate Volkswagen's TDI Cup amateur racing series. We're eager to sample that car, as the Jetta's lack of sporting demeanor is really what kept it from wowing our drivers. We enjoyed the car for its frugality, maturity, and for being different. In the end, though, the small VW just didn't have the charisma to move our inner tachometers. It sure makes a convincing argument for the tiny part of us that occasionally cedes to reason, but the Jetta TDI rarely makes appearances in our impassioned automotive dreams.
Pros + Cons
+ Cheap to buy and own
+ Comfortable cabin
+ Upscale refinement
- Sedate character
- No-feel clutch
- Anonymous styling
Price as tested
ABS; traction and stability control; aluminum wheels; air-conditioning; keyless entry; power windows, mirrors, locks, and sunroof; heated front seats; leatherette seating surfaces; cruise control; six-disc CD changer; auxiliary audio input; Sirius satellite radio; 115-volt power outlet; tilting/telescoping steering column; front, side, and side curtain air bags
*Estimate based on info from intellichoice.com