June 19, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 19 August 2010 12:28
If the American driver is ready for a full-scale diesel invasion, Volkswagen is ready to deliver the goods. With emission levels low enough to pass muster in all 50 states, Volkswagen’s diesel power plant is quiet, powerful and refined. It also delivers fuel economy worthy of a hybrid, though diesel fuel remains at least 20 cents per gallon costlier than gasoline.Our test car, on a 600-mile round trip from western Connecticut to upstate New York, was a 2010 VW Jetta TDI Cup Edition. It’s a street-legal version of a race car VW developed in part to promote its four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel engine available in the Jetta and Golf models since 2008 and 2009, respectively. (A 3.0-liter V-6 diesel is offered in the big Touareg sport-utility vehicle.)
In all of its incarnations, the Jetta is a pleasant car to own and drive. And there are plenty of incarnations: in all, 30 different models, ranging from the $17,735 gasoline-powered Jetta S to the TDI Cup Street Edition, at $26,090. The Jetta is available as a four-door sedan or as a sport wagon; either model can be equipped with the diesel engine.
Our Jetta was the milder of the two TDI models, with a base price of $24,990. With options, including $1,100 for the six-speed DSG automatic transmission, the list price was $31,113.
The 140-horsepower engine emits a deep rumble that’s pleasing to the ear. Odors are nearly nonexistent, though you’re likely to pick up the scent if you find yourself behind a Jetta TDI at a traffic light. For the driver, the only inconvenience is the oil and grime on most diesel-fuel pumps.
The fuel economy is as good or better than advertised. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency predicts 30 mpg in the city, 42 highway, and we exceeded the latter by about three ticks on our trip to upstate New York. The engine also delivers strong performance, especially when accelerating from a stop or low speed.
Assembled in Mexico, the Jetta is fairly typical of its midsize-sedan breed where room and ride are concerned, but it exceeds many of its competitors’ driving dynamics and overall feeling of quality. It also has a good-sized trunk. The controls are simple and convenient, though the Jetta exhibits the European fetish of using very, very small icons to label the knobs and buttons.
With 30 models and several appearance-related options, it’s easy to get caught up in personalizing the Jetta. On the road, the Jetta is reminiscent of the more expensive Audi A4, but with a discernible whiff of Scion.
Rated average in reliability by Consumer Reports magazine readers, the Jetta earned four-star ratings in government frontal crash tests and five stars in side-impact crashes. The insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it top marks for its performance in frontal-offset crash tests.
Long a Volkswagen success story, the Jetta now has otherworldly fuel-economy capability thanks to the addition of diesel technology to its lineup.
Engine: 2.0-liter inline Four, 140 horsepower, 236 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: six-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,230 lb.
Suspension: four-wheel independent, MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Tires: 225/40R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 16 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gallons
Fuel economy: 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway
Fuel type: diesel
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