2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

The diesel returns to take on the hybrids

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

After a two year absence Volkswagen has brought the Jetta TDI back to North America. In 2007 the German automaker was forced to stop shipping its cult favorite diesel models over here because they wouldn’t meet our emissions standards.


1. The Jetta TDI has returned now that low-sulfur diesel fuel is available throughout North America.

2. The diesel-powered Jetta may only make 140hp, but torque is a significant 236 ft-lbs.

3. EPA rated fuel economy is 29/40 mpg (city/hwy), although independent testing has rated the TDI at 38/44 mpg

Contrary to what you might think about polluting diesels, it was actually the low quality of diesel fuel available in the U.S. and Canada that was the problem – not the cars. Now that the regulations concerning diesel in North America have been changed and low sulfur diesel is the norm, the TDIs are back.

Traditionally, Volkswagen markets its diesels at a lower price-point, with fewer gadgets and gizmos than many of its gasoline models. This marketing strategy is due to the fact that VW sees the TDI as appealing more to an economy-minded individual who sees saving (and in particular saving at the gas pump) as a priority.

That being said, there isn’t a lot to talk about in terms of fancy options. There is, however, a lot to say about what is under the hood.


The Jetta TDI is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter powerplant and while 140hp might not sound like a lot, you are never left wanting thanks to 236 ft-lbs of torque from just 1750 rpm.

It’s actually surprising how much grunt the TDI Jetta has, although an adjustment in driving style can be necessary. Unlike dropping a gear in a gasoline car, a switch-down in a diesel results in an unexpected amount of torque. Normally you don’t need to drop gears because there is so much low rpm thrust, but when you do it’s often excessive.

I was actually surprised when I picked up the car to discover that it was not a manual transmission, but one of VW’s technologically sophisticated six-speed double-clutch DSG automatic units. Until this car, every diesel I had ever driven was a manual and it just hadn’t crossed my mind that they came in automatic form. As for the DSG box, it’s a real treat, with lightning-quick shifts. It can be operated in Automatic mode, in an Auto Sport mode or in a Manual mode through the gear lever. Don’t confuse this system with some of the manumatic boxes on the market; the DSG is flawless and since VW brought it to market everyone is following suit… even Porsche and Ferrari.


 But enough with the performance, the real reason people buy a TDI is because of the fuel-economy. Volkswagen officially rates the Jetta TDI at 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. They do, however, also like to point out that in independent testing the car achieved 38/44 mpg (city/hwy) – an improvement of 24 percent.

Our numbers fall closer in line with the latter. In fact, these new TDI models should be handled differently by the VW press folks. While a standard vehicle loan is one week, it should be two with a TDI. Chances are most journalists won’t even be able to get though a single tank of gas in just seven days.

When compared to a gasoline version of the Jetta, the improvement in mileage is impressive, as standard Jettas get 21/29 mpg (city/hwy). And as for the availability of gasoline over diesel, that really isn’t an issue. Unless you live in an extremely remote area, almost every major chain of gas stations carries diesel.

As for that typical diesel clack-clack sound, it doesn’t penetrate into the cabin, but from outside the car it won’t take a diploma in tractor repair to guess there’s a diesel under the hood.


In terms of standard equipment and amenities, the TDI gives you essentially the same goodies as the gasoline SE model, minus the sunroof.

Inside the cabin you will find air conditioning and cruise control, one-touch power windows and locks with remote keyless entry, a tilt and telescopic wheel with audio controls, 8-way manually adjustable heated front seats with a power adjustable back and manual lumber support. There’s also a 10-speaker AM/FM radio with a six-CD changer, MP3 capability, Satellite radio ready and an auxiliary input (with an iPod specific input optional).

The shift knob and wheel are both leather-coated and a multi-function trip computer lets you keep an eye on how little diesel you’re burning over every mile. The rear seats have their own ventilation system, while up front a three-blink light-tough signal adds convenience, as do three power outlets (as well as one 115 household outlet).

Some unique features include the novelty of being able to open and close the windows with the key, as well as one ingenious invention, an indicator that tells you when you brake pads need replacing.

Aesthetically, the interior of the Jetta TDI is well put together and thanks to VW’s V-Tex leatherette upholstery it looks like the robust and high-quality German product that it is. (A note to Canadian readers here; while V-Tex seats come standard in the U.S. they are optional in Canada… the same goes for the wheel-mounted audio controls).

Those who do want to spice up the interior further can do so with a Navigation system at a cost of $1,900. Letting a little light in through an optional sunroof will run you $1,000.

In the safety department the Jetta has the usuals like ABS, EBD and Brake Assist. There are six-airbags with additional rear side airbags available at a cost of just $350. Stability control is standard, as it is in all VW models, and the Jetta comes with a tire pressure monitoring system as well as a system that automatically locks the doors above 8 mph.


Behind the wheel the Jetta TDI surprises with plenty of horsepower and Volkswagen’s impressively solid chassis. Steering is direct and the driving experience is an enjoyable one.

We thought the stock 205/55/16 tires were more than adequate, although those looking for an even sportier time can’t go wrong with the wider and lower profile optional 225/45/17s. And for just $450 it’s money well spent – if only for the added looks of some 17-inch rollers.

With all the available torque there is plenty of power, especially for passing. Volkswagen rates the car at 8.2 seconds to 60 mph with the manual and 8.5 seconds with the DSG transmission – although it feels faster. What’s odd about that statistic is that in every other VW car the company lists the DSG-equipped model as having a faster time than the manual.

Once up to speed the Jetta TDI settles in nicely and loves the open road. There’s no denying the car was built with the autobahn in mind.


At just $22,270 to start the Jetta TDI is priced attractively for a quality product – especially if you subtract the available $1,300 federal income tax credit. Volkswagen also offers a SportWagen starting at $23,590, with twice the trunk space (32.8 cu.-ft.) and 66.9 cu.-ft. with the rear seats folded.

It gets great gas mileage although consumers really should take a look at some of the latest hybrid offerings and make a decision based on what type of driving they do most. Volkswagen may not want to admit it quite yet, but hybrids appear to be winning the hearts of fuel-conscious consumers – at least in North America.

Generally it’s a great car to get behind the wheel of, with excellent handling and a solid feel, although low-rpm diesel powerplants just don’t make for a very exciting drive.

The only other issue I have with the car is the styling. Not being a huge fan of the standard Jetta design, it might really help Volkswagen to change the hearts and minds of Americans by giving the TDI a little sex appeal – something like a GLI aero kit would be perfect.


Solid driving feel
Quality interior


Blasé exterior
Excessive thrust when tranny downshifts
Still sounds like a diesel outside

« Back

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.


2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked