New Car Reviews

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Well, this is certainly a diesel car that most Americans could love. It has lots of torque, of course, but also more revs than you’d expect. My biggest impression of the powertrain is the linearity of the power delivery and the elasticity of the throttle – the accelerator pedal has a lot of tension in it, which is good.

I’m also reminded of how much better the Jetta is now than the last-generation car that became America’s sweetheart, before its lack of quality bit everyone in the ass. This car has much better body control, steering, and brakes than before.

Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor

If your commute involves any amount of highway stretches, buy this instead of a hybrid. VW’s created a comfortable, enjoyable, economical – and, when built as a SportWagen – practical alternative to the gas/electric hybrid.

Although I like the TDI coupled through the six-speed manual, it’s quite easy to stall right off the line, tempting me to spend the extra dough on the DSG box. Either way, it’s one of the smoothest compact cars I’ve driven in quite a while – something I revel in every time I take this car on long journeys.

Evan McCausland, Web Producer

Diesel fuel was $0.89 a gallon more expensive than regular gas this morning. Sorry, this will need to change before I hop on the diesel train.

The TDI’s DSG gearbox works great with the diesel. Funny, it needs fourth gear to reach 60 mph. Short gearing helps hide the lack of horsepower. Only from a stop is it somewhat weird. Still, the manual version is difficult to move away from a stop as well. In some ways the chassis is better than the A4’s.

Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor

The Jetta TDI is a nice car, perfectly suitable for most consumers and commuters. The ample torque is great for hill climbing, although the DSG’s manual shift mode could be better – it doesn’t hold gear at redline. The brakes feel hesitant – you have to hit the pedal hard for serious stop action. Steering, ride, body control/damping, and handling are all superb. The trunk is plenty large and the interior is lovely, although the center rear seat is compromised by a fold down arm rest that ruins back comfort.

Overall, it’s a nice ride, but I doubt the reliability of the complex diesel emission control systems. For that reason, I can’t say I’d trade this for a sub-$20,000 Honda Civic.

Don Sherman, Technical Editor

After driving the Jetta TDI to our All-Stars venue, I stopped to fill it with fuel. After a little more than 200 miles, it only needed five gallons of diesel, meaning a pretty impressive average of about 40 mpg. When I went inside to pay, the woman behind the counter timidly asked, “Did you know you were putting diesel in your car?” When I answered in the affirmative, she said, “I didn’t think cars could run on diesel. I’ve only ever seen trucks fill up at that pump.” So it would appear that VW has a ways to go in educating Americans about the fact that diesel cars are a fuel-efficient alternative to hybrids. Add to that the fact that diesel fuel is about $1.00 more per gallon in these parts than regular gasoline, and the Jetta TDI might prove to be a hard sell. That’s a shame, because it’s really a pretty pleasant, if not exactly thrilling, car to drive.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Base Price (with destination): $23,090
Price as tested: $23,090

Fuel Economy: 30/41 (city/hwy)

Size: 2.0L SOHC I-4
HP: 140 HP @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 236 lb-ft @ 1750

Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic

Weight: 3230 lbs.
Wheel/Tire Info:
16″ Aluminum Wheels (size)

Buying Guide
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2009 Volkswagen Jetta

2009 Volkswagen Jetta

MSRP $17,515 S (Manual) Sedan


20 City / 29 Hwy

Safety (IIHS):

Best Pick

Horse Power:

170 @ 5700