2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDIPosted on February 19th, 2015
Compact sedan is fuel-thrifty and fun to drive
By Nina Russin
A smile crosses my face when I spot the Volkswagen Jetta TDI sedan parked in my driveway upon returning from the Chicago Auto Show. The Jetta stands out in a sea of plain vanilla competitors as the car that didn’t jump the shark. It doesn’t compromise: not in fuel economy, nor styling, nor performance. It is the total package.
Average fuel economy for the turbo-diesel test car with the six-speed manual transmission is 36 mpg according to the EPA. If anything, that’s a conservative estimate. On my 100-mile test drive, I averaged closer to 40.
Equally important is performance, which is true to the sedan’s German heritage of driver-focused automobiles. The Volkswagen Jetta lures drivers behind the wheel with promises of peppy acceleration, crisp shifting and a suspension equally at home on urban thoroughfares and winding two-lane roads, delivering on all fronts with aplomb.
Base price for the SEL model tested is $26,410 excluding the $820 delivery charge. The driver assistance and lighting package on the test car adds blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, rear traffic alert and park distance control, bringing the final MSRP to $28,920.
Test drive in Arizona
On paper, hybrids and diesel cars offer similar fuel economy benefits over traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. In the real world, diesel trumps the hybrids. The reason is that diesel engines don’t lose gas mileage when driven hard. The gasoline engines in most hybrid powertrains do.
Granted, one pays a premium for diesel fuel, and in some cases needs to add urea every 10,000 miles or so. But there are other advantages to less frequent fill-ups, namely the time the car owner saves and the convenience of being able to drive an extra couple hundred miles on a tank of fuel.
Although Phoenix, Arizona has its fair share of stop-and-go traffic, the roads here are wide and designed for high-speed driving. Average speeds on the 10 interstate between Phoenix and Tucson to the southeast are 80 miles-per-hour: the environment diesel-powered cars excel in.
The six-speed manual gearbox is a delight to use, with crisp gear changes courtesy of its short-throw shift lever. Granted, some readers would prefer not to deal with a clutch pedal in stop-and-go traffic. For those, the dual-clutch automatic transmission delivers crisper, faster shifting than viscous couplings.
The two-liter turbo diesel engine under the hood of the test car is new for 2015, delivering 10 more horsepower than the outgoing block. The engine reaches its 236 foot-pounds of peak torque at the tip of the throttle for exceptional power off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic. A new active grille shutter feature enhances the sedan’s aerodynamics, boosting highway fuel economy to 46 miles-per-gallon.
The abundance of engine torque makes it easy to perform second-gear starts with the manual transmission, saving some gear changes in stop-and-go traffic. All of the gears have quite a bit of range. Pushing the revs has little impact on the car’s fuel economy.
An electric power steering system saves weight and space under the hood when compared with a traditional hydraulic unit. The unit’s performance on the low end is quite good, with a 36.4-foot turning circle. On-center response is a bit soft, but the driver will in no way feel disconnected from the wheels.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of struts up front and multi-links in the rear. Anti-roll bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.
The optional active safety features including blind spot monitoring are a worthwhile investment for buyers who will be commuting through dense traffic. The blind spot warning system illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when cars in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. The feature makes it easier to weave through thick traffic with confidence.
The rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the rear of the vehicle onto the center stack screen. Lines superimposed over the image show the car’s trajectory according to steering inputs and help the driver gauge his distance from obstacles in the path.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing engine, road and wind noise intrusion inside the car, enabling the driver and passengers to converse or enjoy the optional Fender premium audio system.
The Jetta interior seats up to five adult passengers. Although rear legroom isn’t quite as good as for the midsize Passat, most should be comfortable in the outboard positions on longer trips.
The power driver’s seat on the test car was easy to adjust for a clear forward view, with ample lower lumbar support. Seat heaters on the test car keep front-row occupants comfortable on cold winter days. A dead pedal reduces leg fatigue on longer trips.
Keyless start enables the driver to fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket.
Other standard convenience features on the SEL grade include satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, daytime running lamps, dual-zone climate control and a cooled glovebox.
The trunk is quite spacious, easily accommodating luggage, golf bags and the weekly groceries. Second-row seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor for longer items.
The Volkswagen Jetta comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control, daytime running lamps, tire pressure monitoring and 24-hour roadside assistance during the factory warranty. Volkswagen adds complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first year of ownership or 10,000 miles.
The peppy new Jetta TDI sedan is waiting for driving partners at Volkswagen dealerships nationwide.
Like: An affordably priced compact sedan with exceptional fuel economy, attractive styling and excellent performance.
Dislike: Soft on-center steering response.
Model: Jetta 2.0L TDI SEL
Base price: $26,410
As tested: $28,920
Horsepower: 150 Hp @ 3500 rpm
Torque: 236 lbs.-ft. @ 1750 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 31/46 mpg city/highway
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