While our long-term Jetta TDI covered thousands of miles in August, mostly thanks to a cross-country jaunt with Michael Zak at the controls, things settled down in September as the blue sedan became accustomed to its new California residence.

Bounced around between the team, the frugal four-door went to Autoblog's Director of Photography, Drew Phillips, first. The bugs were scraped off, the windows cleaned and the Jetta prepared for its official photo shoot (check out the photos laced throughout this post, or click here to see the full gallery). After a week with Drew, it motored across Los Angeles and was soon dropped off at an LA airport parking garage with the keys in an envelope bearing my name (I was arriving back in town after a flight from the Frankfurt Motor Show).

My first order of business was to give the Jetta TDI a quick mechanical inspection...
The once-over was warranted, as I found the oil sump overfilled (kudos to Volkswagen for still equipping the TDI with a traditional dipstick – it appears to be a plastic rod). Since nobody who drove it admitted to putting any oil in the crankcase, the culprit must have been Suburban Volkswagen in Troy, Michigan – they serviced the vehicle in early August, just before it headed west. It doesn't seem to affect the 2.0-liter turbodiesel's operation, so we aren't going to mess with it.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI engine2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI engine detail

The tire pressures were also low (29 psi at each corner), so I bumped them up to 35 psi all around, which is slightly higher than Volkswagen recommends (the door sticker says 33 psi) but I prefer the firmer ride and I will have four passengers in it most of the time. Lastly, I used a six-millimeter hex tool to crank the headlight beams up slightly as they were aimed seriously nearsighted from the factory.

Mechanically speaking, the now 14,000-mile Jetta TDI has been sound. It is worth noting the tires are in excellent condition with a good wear pattern and the brakes look like they will go five times the already covered distance. Oddly, and inexplicably, every so often the seatbelt chime will alert in the middle of a left turn. The ringing stops as quickly as it starts. If it continues, we will have it looked at.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI interior2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI engine start button2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI navigation system2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI shifter

My first impressions of the new Jetta's cabin aren't very positive. While I had mentally prepared for a cheapened interior, I continue to find additional minor cost-cutting annoyances. First on the list is the frequently used start/stop button. It appears to be a round push-button with a chrome trim ring. In truth, it is a cheap, one-piece square switch which moves its whole surround when pressed. Interior lighting is also frustrating, as the driver cannot activate the rear overhead lights (to help kids with their seatbelts) without opening a door. The no-frills navigation unit is nearly useless, too, with a lack of information on the small screen and an inability to zoom out while retaining detail, but I do like its touchscreen buttons when controlling a Bluetooth phone.

Hardly one to join the green movement and "hypermile," I recorded the lowest fuel economy average in the logbook – 30.8 miles per gallon – after driving around town for a week straight, barely touching a highway. Of course, I wasn't driving with efficiency in mind. On the other hand, I also took a roundtrip to San Diego and achieved 41.6 mpg on one tank, including the stop-and-go downtown segments. The Jetta TDI eats miles effortlessly. It is hard to complain about a quiet cabin and a 500-plus mile cruising range.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI rear 3/4 view2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI grille2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI wheel2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI taillight

As others have mentioned, the manual transmission is sloppy and the clutch unreasonably light (stalling is to be expected), but I still prefer manually spinning the engine up to 4,500 rpm in every gear over any DSG or automatic option. The 236 pound-feet of torque makes driving the turbodiesel enjoyable as it allows the Jetta to pull itself, loaded with passengers, up hills and grades without wheezing. Even though it didn't win our recent Eco Compact comparison, there is plenty of fun-to-drive DNA buried within the Jetta, and I'd still choose the oil-burning Volkswagen over a Chevrolet Cruze... or a Toyota Prius, for that matter.

October is going to be a busy month for our long-term Jetta TDI, so follow our more frequent updates on Facebook between our monthly reports.

Keep your eyes locked on the official Autoblog Facebook page for the majority of our updates, as well as the official Autoblog Twitter account (@therealautoblog, look for the #ablongterm hashtag).


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 56 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        • 3 Years Ago
        [blocked]
          Rob
          • 3 Years Ago
          Banned? Really? What an idiotic statement.
        don
        • 3 Years Ago
        Good lord - where do you live - Mars?
        Wutbuerger
        • 3 Years Ago
        You just don't make much sense 81... Let's just assume for a second that you have a 2009 VW Rabbit 2.5, 5-cylinder that averages 29mpg versus a 2011 Golf TDI that averages 43 mpg. Under those conditions, you're achieving 48% better fuel economy for only 21% additional cost of diesel versus gas. You're at a net gain from the very start. Driving 30,000 miles per year (I'll assume high mileage if one is considering a diesel), the Golf TDI spends $2,790/year on diesel ($4/gallon) versus $3,414 for the Rabbit on Gasoline ($3.30/gallon). Now, that only adds up to about $50/month, but it's a difference none-the-less, not to mention the driving enjoyment from 236ftlbs that doesn't get seen on paper. In order for the TDI efficiencies to be a wash, you would have to be driving less than 3,000 miles per year while holding all other conditions constant OR achieving 35.5mpg or so with the TDI. I'm not saying diesels are right for everyone, but making blanket statements that "rabble rabble diesel is more expensive on the sign so it's no good rabble rabble" makes about as much sense as a poopy flavored lollipop.
          graphikzking
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Wutbuerger
          Diesel car costs more money than the 2.5 5 cylinder. The 2.5 5 cylinder engine has got to be one of the worst engines in a small car. Why not compare it more with the 200hp 2.4 liter from hyundai? Or the Cruze Turbo engine etc. I would love to see VW put a small diesel into a small pickup truck. Then I'd be onboard. On this car, if someone drives a lot of highway (40% or more) then it's a great option. For someone that drives more city driving any gas car with start/stop functionality will compete on gas mileage and not have the price premium of a diesel. My buddy has a Passat diesel and it has 110k miles and he had to replace the turbo. 2 dealers wanted over 1600$ to replace. He ended up buying it online and having a local shop install it for I believe under 1000$. There isn't 1 simple answer really. I think we need hybrids for city people and diesels for country drivers. Warm weather florida people can have electric cars since sunlight / solar power is abundant. Cold weather people will need hybrids since diesel (his passat) has trouble in extremely cold weather. I know they state it's possible to start the car in sub 0 degree weather but when we went to Vermont we had to wait until mid afternoon for the car to start.
        Michael Harley
        • 3 Years Ago
        I've noted a huge fluctuation in price in Los Angeles. Some gas stations have premium unleaded the same as diesel, while others have it 70 cents higher. Frustrating, as it seems they are gouging these days. - Mike
          don
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Michael Harley
          I've noticed that as well and don't know what the heck the deal is. I've even seen it cheaper than premium (rarely) here in Texas and then a few miles further on, 30 cents over. It seems years ago it was cheaper than unleaded.
      don
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have a '11 Sportwagen TDI which I dropped off at the dealer for a fix. My loaner was a new Jetta and I was appalled at the interior and how 'heavy' if felt, yet thankful that the Sportwagen is really a Golf. As soon as I got mine back, I debadged the sucker. Having said that, I'm seeing a buttload of them. Man, they look sooooo generic.
      Johnny Trailerpark
      • 3 Years Ago
      V-dub: failing to the center. I miss the old VW that was actually fun and youthful. Reliable build quality be damned!
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        J
        • 3 Years Ago
        Fried_Brain, what's happening? I'm glad you can contribute some of your Forrest Gump-like wisdom to this forum....
        MJC
        • 3 Years Ago
        You forgot "actually fun to drive, unlike anything current from Asia" and also "selling like hotcakes." Not to mention the TDI is pretty bulletproof and not unreliable.
          MJC
          • 3 Years Ago
          @MJC
          Fried_Rice's troll status is evident now. First of all, the Vader ad was for the Passat and not the Jetta. Second of all, none of the cars you list drive like a VW. I have a Civic and it is incredibly reliable and somewhat fun to drive, but like all Asian cars it feels much less solid than a VW (the trunk lid alone probably weighs 10 pounds less), it has steering that is more vague, it has little torque, and it's very loud. Although they've cheapened the Jetta, it still offers a different experience than any of the cars you listed and that is why people are buying them. I drive a MKV Jetta daily (and have always had European cars) because I like to drive. My wife drives the Civic daily becuase it just works and gets her where she needs to go - that's the role of an Asian car.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @MJC
          [blocked]
          Roman Turna
          • 3 Years Ago
          @MJC
          Wait till 70 to 80k miles when your turbo, injectors, air weight, flywheel etc. will die. Its weak side of these "economical" diesels. Ask any european who had any TDi and used it every day. Not to mention problems with freezing diesel in winter times when you are simply not able to start your engine.
          cashsixeight
          • 3 Years Ago
          @MJC
          Not unreliable? Why not just say "reliable"?
          Quen47
          • 3 Years Ago
          @MJC
          Point me towards the nearest Japanese turbo diesel and I will consider it instead of a Golf TDI. Oh wait...
          • 3 Years Ago
          @MJC
          [blocked]
          MJC
          • 3 Years Ago
          @MJC
          LOL. Like I said, I own a Civic and it's a great econocar. But the Civic engine is also 1990s-era and the 2012 interior might as well be made out of tupperware...it's horrific. At least the VW 2.5 has some decent torque. And yes the Jetta has some harder plastics than its predecessor but all the surfaces you touch and use are top-notch.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Quen47
        • 3 Years Ago
        I was going to downgrade you until I recognized the sarcasm
      Clipper44
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is about the most bland car I've ever seen.
        Rob
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Clipper44
        That's it? You don't have anything useful to add other than that you have garish tastes?
          Clipper44
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Rob
          I offered an opinion as to the design of the car..which is more than you provided. No, nothing else to add..it's a bland car not worth chewing up a bunch of words or time over.
        lencarv
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Clipper44
        Bland? check again http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6178/6205799296_eedc5ce8fc_z.jpg
      Andy
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why on earth would you rev the TDI to 4500 RPM with any frequency? I have a '11 Golf TDI with a manual and I basically never take it past 3000 RPM, because it isn't necessary. There is more than enough power from 2000-3000. That probably explains why I have no problem getting ~38 MPG in the city compared to your ~31.
        Michael Harley
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Andy
        Because it willingly does so. I've driven countless diesel-powered vehicles with a slushbox, but this is my first with a manual transmission — I'm used to spinning the engine north of 6,000 rpm. The torque curve is down low, as you indicate, but I don't enjoy only having a 1,000-rpm shift band. - Mike
          Michael Harley
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Michael Harley
          creamwobbly, And that is precisely why we have "long term" vehicles in our fleet — so all of us become familiar with the different fuel technologies. Diesel is a whole new world, and a very different approach, when compared to traditional gasoline engines. I am learning how to "short shift" (that is what us gas guys call it) to keep the engine in its torque band. So far, I am a big fan of diesel. - Mike
          Andy
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Michael Harley
          Sounds like the world is your race track. I'm all for wringing out a car under the right circumstances, but it is not too often in daily driving that you need to take a TDI up to 4500 or any car up to 6000 (with the possible exception of very low-power vehicles like the Honda Fit). Just because they can doesn't mean they should. That being said, I guess if I wasn't paying for maintenance or fuel, I might drive with a bit more spirit.
          creamwobbly
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Michael Harley
          I don't believe it stems from choice. I think you just don't know how to drive diesel, like so many other reviewers. I say this without malice -- it really *does* take a while longer to learn to love the torque and use it well. Give it a try -- I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised.
      Tristan Pollard
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wow, the TDI hate is in full force today. I got an 05 mkiv jetta tdi as my first car and I can't complain with it really. Only issue I ever had in the 2 years\30k i had with it was a check engine light for a glowplug that had a vw recall on. I get about 42ish mpg mixed highway and nyc driving. It's not the most exciting thing to drive but it is an eco car that is really reliable. And if you run it on used cooking oil like i do, theres no complaints. you cant have your cake and eat it too, the jetta isnt meant for speed and thrills. diesels are definitely more reliable than gassers. you'll see tdi's with 200-300k miles running perfectly fine. not to mention they hold their value much higher than the gas equivalent. unfortunately america's ignorance with diesel is still prevalent. i roll my eyes whenever i tell an older person that my car runs on diesel and i hear "diesel? smelly? slow? loud? cant start in the cold?" smh
      William
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't know about the Jetta but I get about 43 city in my VW GOLF TDI. I know how to nurse it and when i do and can get 55+ mpg highway...with air conditioning running. Actually, I got that when it was brand new - not broken in - when I came home from buying it out of town. I haven't had a need to rev it much above 2000 rpm really.
        Cruelheart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @William
        This makes sense if William is from Canada. Remember we Canadians have a bigger gallon, mainly because we are more awesome and to measure that much awesome you need bigger units of measurement.
        sick of stupidity
        • 3 Years Ago
        @William
        I call BS on the 55 unless you have those tires at 100psi...rework the numbers billy!
          Pete K
          • 3 Years Ago
          @sick of stupidity
          I've personally gotten 56 mpg on a long highway trip...
      Brand X
      • 3 Years Ago
      If any President ever proved that their party is for all for supporting big business no matter the cost to the "little people" it would be Barak Obama and what his Administration has done.
      countrygurlz770
      • 3 Years Ago
      i had a 2006 jetta and i loved it.. i decided to check out the new ones.. wow.. very low end.. looks like a mazda or Suburau
      AcidTonic
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wow the TDI hate crew is in full force today. I'd take one over a hybrid any day.
    • Load More Comments