New Car Reviews

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI – Four Seasons Update – July 2009

Long-Term 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Update: Summer 2009 ( 3 of 5 ) Miles to date: 0

Mileage to date: 21,360
Months in fleet: Nine

Our smooth-driving, long-legged Four Seasons Volkswagen Jetta TDI has left Michigan, but thankfully not for good – it’s currently in New York for a summer fling with senior editor Joe Lorio and NY bureau chief Jamie Kitman.

Before the Jetta headed east, several Ann Arbor-based staff members weighed in on their feelings three-quarters of the way through our year with our first-ever diesel long-term car.

Assistant editor David Zenlea, perhaps the biggest fan of the TDI, drove the Jetta to Chicago in June to visit his folks. “I started out my trip with the intent of hypermiling and seeing how high the TDI could go in terms of miles per gallon,” he wrote in the VW’s logbook. “Of course, I soon got bored/annoyed with this idea, because it involves going slow and accelerating even slower, and I soon relapsed into my normal, mildly aggressive driving style. I should add that to get the most out of the Jetta in the suburbs, you can’t be shy–you have to get on it and short shift into second and third. Still, I averaged an indicated 43.6 mpg for the whole trip.”

That impressive mileage led senior Web editor Phil Floraday to reacquaint himself with our Jetta. He wrote: “I felt compelled to spend a night in the frugal, slow, Spartan confines of the Jetta TDI after a weekend of fun in the Chevy Camaro SS and a night with the Aston Martin DB9 Volante. I’m surely headed to hydrocarbon hell if I keep selecting cars with double or triple the cylinder count of the Jetta, so I’ll try to do a little atoning now.

“Actually,” Floraday continued, “a four-cylinder Jetta TDI isn’t a bad place to spend some time. If this were my car, though, it’d be a wagon and have the DSG dual-clutch automatic. I much prefer the DSG to our manual since this TDI has so little horsepower. You really need to drop a gear or three for passing, and I’ll readily admit to being too lazy for the frequent up- and downshifts required to hustle along the two-lane roads on my commute.”

It seems that our new associate editor Eric Tingwall would also prefer the DSG: “I’m glad to see that others have moaned about this clutch. I stalled at two out of my first three traffic lights and then on a hill this morning–twice. There’s absolutely no feel in the pedal, and even when I manage a perfectly smooth take-off, I’m not quite sure where the clutch engages or how I pulled it off. Frustrating.”

Executive editor Joe DeMatio chimed in with some wisdom about the bigger picture, though, writing, “The Jetta was a nice car for a lazy Sunday afternoon drive through the country. Perfectly reasonable body control, decent steering feel, good ride comfort; really, I have no complaints. Sure, you learn to keep the revs up, especially when you’re launching from an intersection, but overall it’s a very tractable powertrain.”

And as Jablansky noted during his trek from Michigan to New York, that powertrain is fantastic for long journeys. “After 750 miles, I’d only stopped once and still had half a tank left,” he scrawled in the logbook. “On the same trip, our frugal Four Seasons Honda Fit required three stops.”

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Base price (with dest.): $23,090
Price as tested: $23,090


Body Style: 4-door sedan
Accommodation: 5-passenger
Construction: Steel unibody


Engine: Inline SOHC turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel
Displacement: 2.0 liters
Power: 140 hp @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 236 lb-ft @ 1750-2500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission
Drive: front-wheel
Fuel economy: 30/41/34 mpg (city/hwy/combined)


Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Turns lock-to-lock: 3.0
Turning Circle: 35.8 ft
Suspension, Front: McPherson struts, coil springs
Suspension, Rear: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Vented discs / solid discs, ABS
Wheels: 16 x 6.5
Tires: Continental ContiWinterContact
Tire Size: 205/55 R16 H all-season


Headroom F/R: 38.5 / 37.2 in
Legroom F/R: 41.2 / 35.4 in
Shoulder Room F/R: 54.8 / 53.1 in
Wheelbase: 101.5 in
Track F/R: 60.6 / 59.8 in
L x W x H: 179.3 x 70.1 x 57.4 in
Cargo Capacity: 16 cu ft
Weight: 3230 lb
Weight Dist. F/R: N/A
Fuel Capacity: 14.5 gal
Est. Range: 490 miles
Fuel Grade: diesel fuel

Standard Equipment

Front, side, curtain airbags
Auxiliary jack
Cruise control
Electronic stability control