It's been a little over six months since the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI joined our long-term garage, and since then, we've put more than 17,000 miles on this Tempest Blue sedan. After spending much of the summer in Detroit, the Jetta TDI was road-tripped out to Los Angeles where the Autoblog staff in Southern California have been tending to the car.

Even after half a year, we are still amazed at how easy it is to get excellent fuel mileage in the Jetta TDI. Official EPA ratings for the car are 30 city and 42 highway, but rarely do we fall below that average. Twice we have averaged more than 50 miles per gallon for a tankful, and only occasionally do we drop below 40 mpg on average. Apparently, only lead-foot Michael Harley, last month's caretaker of the Jetta TDI, knows how to get mediocre fuel mileage out of the 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder, averaging around 35 mpg during his time with the car.

This admirable fuel mileage translates to well over 500 miles per tank (we went 608 miles in between our last two fill-ups), a pleasant change compared to the frequent stops necessary with other vehicles.

Of course, there's more to the Volkswagen Jetta TDI than its fuel mileage. Follow the jump to read more about how the other aspects of the car have fared during the past month.
2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI headlight2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI wheel2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI taillight2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI logo

The interior of the Jetta TDI has been the main subject of our complaints since it first arrived in April. Volkswagen has fitted most of the Jetta lineup with cheap materials throughout the cabin for 2011, and unfortunately, the TDI is no exception. In our comparison test with the Honda Civic Hybrid and Chevrolet Cruze Eco, the Jetta was voted to have our "least favorite cabin of the bunch." In particular, the seats are made of faux leather and their contouring makes it difficult to find a good sitting position. Over the past month, we have started to notice the discomfort less, so it's possible the seats will be easier to live with over time.

Thankfully, Volkswagen hasn't cheaped out on this car's most common touch points – the steering wheel and shifter – both of which are pleasant to the touch. Another positive is the amount of leg room and massive trunk, which swallow appendages and luggage with ease, respectively.

A few other notable mentions for the interior include the start button and the navigation system. The start button's cheap execution and awkward placement behind the shifter and the several-second delay between pressing it and the start of the engine had us wishing for a standard key ignition. The touchscreen navigation system is actually one of the simplest and easiest to use – keying in destination points takes mere seconds – but we wish the screen was larger and that it could zoom out farther. One feature we very much appreciate is its ability to pick out gas stations specifically with diesel fuel.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI interior2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI front seats2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI navigation system2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI shifter

Another common issue with the long-term Jetta TDI is the clutch, and nearly every member of the Autoblog staff who has driven the car has managed to stall it at least once. After spending several weeks with the car, we've learned how to better work with the nonlinear clutch and occasionally balky gearshift lever, although the combination still manages to catch us off guard and stall unexpectedly every few days. We might be inclined to opt for the optional DSG, but we've heard reports that dual-clutch Jetta TDIs aren't exactly a joy to operate, either.

As for reliability, our Jetta TDI has been rock solid. We still have yet to take advantage of Volkswagen's three-year / 36,000 mile free maintenance while the car has been in Southern California, although the 20,000-mile service is only a few fill-ups away. The only problem we've encountered is a buzzing from the driver's side dash that comes and goes (currently all is quiet). Given VW's history for spotty reliability and the unexpected death of our previous long-term 2010 Jetta TDI Cup Street Edition, we're very pleased with this performance and are hopeful that it's a harbinger of things to come for the entire company.


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  • 49 Comments
      EstePincheWay
      • 3 Years Ago
      Trust me... you won't need that warranty at 30k. But you will be wishing you had it at 60k-70k. First hand experience with an 02 Jetta 1.8T and an 07 Jetta 2.0T. I'll never drive a VW again.
        JamesC
        • 3 Years Ago
        @EstePincheWay
        Not to be an ass but I'd suggest that to be true of perhaps most automobile manufacturers. Saying that VW still does have a ways to go to improve their quality/reliability.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      te3
      • 3 Years Ago
      We had a 2005.5 Jetta and it was perfectly reliable in the 4 years we owned it.
        jeremie
        • 3 Years Ago
        @te3
        For a vehicle to be perfectly reliable for 4 years and an unspecified number of miles is nothing to brag about.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @te3
        [blocked]
      jasdroe
      • 3 Years Ago
      The TDIs have had better quality than the gasoline VWs, and that has been true for years. I had my 2003 Golf TDI for nearly 9 years, and it was about the best car I owned.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        SheldonRoss
        • 3 Years Ago
        What gas engine gets even close to that mileage????
        Justin Campanale
        • 3 Years Ago
        Where do you live? Just asking. Diesel is only 15 cents more than gasoline over here in NH
          Rotation
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Justin Campanale
          I don't know where he lives but it was over $1 more per gallon in Michigan when I was there last week. $3.00 for regular gas, $4.15 for Diesel.
          Lachmund
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Justin Campanale
          how can that be? tax differences?
        • 3 Years Ago
        [blocked]
          • 3 Years Ago
          [blocked]
      over9000
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'd take the BR-Z over this anyday for sheer driving pleasure.
      fat_owl
      • 3 Years Ago
      maybe the delay between depressing Start button and engine firing up is because it's a diesel and you've always had to wait a few seconds for the glow plugs to heat up.
        Terrywood02
        • 3 Years Ago
        @fat_owl
        In the 2.0 TDI the Glow plugs only preheat when the temp is below 7 F. The actual cause is VWs kessy system. It authorizes ignition, starts the computers, then fires the engine. My gasser Touareg does the same thing sadly.
          fat_owl
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Terrywood02
          Terrywood02, thanks for the clarification.
          creamwobbly
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Terrywood02
          Then this is a bug. Maybe next version could pre-authorize ignition and have all systems running so that the "start" button actually does what the driver expects.
      CarCrazy24
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's too bad they cheapened the interior so much, but other than that I'm very happy that VW supports diesel technology. The 12' Passat TDI might just be my next daily driver
      whofan
      • 3 Years Ago
      Nice looking car. I`d be hard pressed pass by the new Chevy Cruze when purchasing a new car. Volkswagon still has nice looks. I don`t know what the Japanese makes are doing as far as design goes these days? Many of the cars from Japan look terrible with Subaru and perhaps Mazda being of the few exceptions.
      William
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm getting about 42 mph city in my VW Golf TDI 6 speed manual. With 100% highway about 54 mpg, nursing it a bit. Though I'm not a global warming kook, I like reducing the amount of my money that goes for oil - too often foreign oil. I love the feel of this car. Its small but feels very substantial. I look forward to the inevitable reduction of weight of cars over time - carbon fiber body parts, etc. Better MPG = more money kept in my pocket.
      01nb
      • 3 Years Ago
      The DSG in our 11 Wagen TDI has been great. There is a period where one needs to become accustomed to how it operates. I think most people see the unassuming shift lever and think its a typical automatic and don't understand that this thing has clutches which take up differently. Honestly, most people don't understand or care to understand the difference. Once one gets used what it is going on in there, it's all quite natural....
        01nb
        • 3 Years Ago
        @01nb
        Another thought - we have not been getting the same unbelievable numbers - i.e. 50mpg on highway trips - but it basically averages 32mpg or so in the city which is where the super-majority of our driving occurs. Only have 5k on the car, so I expect this to get a little better over time. We do see 42mpg when we do go out on highway trips. This car really shines on longer drives...
      samirb17
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have the some kind of buzzing on my jetta as well! Though, it's a 2007, I still get some buzzing. when I push down on my dash below the windshield it stops. I am starting to think the windshield wasn't installed properly. I hope you guys find a solution that might apply to me as well
        vc-10
        • 3 Years Ago
        @samirb17
        My parent's Golf does the same. It's a 2004, UK spec, and the windscreen hasn't been replaced. I think it's just age and something's come loose back there. It's the vent for the demister that does it.
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