Inside Story: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline volkswagen inside story diesel
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

I used to think that a carbon footprint was what you made if your Chuck Taylors got too close to the campfire ashes. These days, saving the planet has gone beyond the granola belt, and it involves a lifestyle far beyond the confusion of the recycling bin. We may not be at the point of rationing our personal methane emissions, but the time is fast approaching that a white-gloved finger wipe will no longer be reserved for a lemon-scented furniture polish commercial.

That Flying Fickle Finger of Environmental Debate is headed straight for your tailpipe. You could always spot the mile-miser Volkswagen diesels of old, thanks to black plumes of soot rolling out of the tailpipe. The soot is kaput, thanks to the Clean Diesel tech that arrives for this Oh-Nine Jetta TDI Highline, which weighs in at an MSRP of $31,075. (Pricing shown does not reflect freight, taxes, or regional incentives.)

Inside Story: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline volkswagen inside story diesel
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline. Click image to enlarge

Thanks to holiday travel commitments, this edition of Inside Story has an added bonus; 1400-ish kilometres of real world, and really cold weather mileage testing.

The cockpit/centre stack

Vee-dub’s venerable sensibility for layout and ease of control access is the nice way of saying that there is little to report in the way of cockpit improvements. Throw in some funky swatches, and I’d swear I was in the GTI tester from some much warmer periods in 2008. The three-spoke tilt/telescoping wheel boasts multifunction control tabs, which can tweak the audio system, access vehicle information on the IP cluster centre display, and provide Bluetooth wireless phone handshakes for an additional $375 option tick. Cruise control is fitted on the turn signal stalk, while the wipers receive intermittent swipe and heated windshield washer nozzles.

Inside Story: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline volkswagen inside story diesel
Inside Story: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline volkswagen inside story diesel
Inside Story: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline volkswagen inside story diesel
Inside Story: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline volkswagen inside story diesel
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline. Click image to enlarge

The audio head unit and climate controls reap the benefits of nano-confusion for operation. The stability program switch is found below the HVAC switchery. The six-speed Tiptronic automatic shift adds a manu-gate, with no shift delay or actuation issues for the spirited pilot. All power windows are equipped with Auto ascent/descent. Exterior mirrors are power-positionable, with the treat of defrosting heat. Note the keyed lock-out for the power trunk release, which is next to the power fuel door popper.

Cubbies!

Let’s start in the aft cabin and work our way forward. The fold-down centre armrest reveals a storage compartment, and a slide-out dual cupholder, with spring-loaded L-shaped cinchers. Note Vee-Dub’s continued glee of the key, with a lockable pass-through hatch door for skis and the like. The centre console lid ratchets into place for the perfect armrest height, while the storage gully hides an audio auxiliary jack.

Front door storage pockets sport bottle-specific indentations, with smaller rear door cavities, and rear seatback pockets. The flock-lined glovebox is lockable, with a reserved shelf for the owner’s manual packet, and an adjustable cooler vent. The centre console cupholder offers no useable cinch, though the depth is decent enough to avoid most spillovers. To the left of the driver is an additional drop-down storage cubby. A 12-volt DC powerpoint is found below the HVAC controls, hidden by a tip-up door.

The overhead

Even space-savvy packages like the Jetta can benefit from sliding visors, which also conceal vanity mirrors with roof-mount lighting. The centre pod includes map lighting, sunglasses holder, and a dial-in gap control for the power moonroof slider.

Seat treat

When it’s Kelvin-cold outside, your front seat Highline passengers are treated to five-step dials for seat heating. Both front seats are manually adjustable for height and lumbar. The only power assist is for the driver, for reclination.

Inside Story: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline volkswagen inside story diesel
Inside Story: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline volkswagen inside story diesel
Inside Story: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline volkswagen inside story diesel
Inside Story: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline volkswagen inside story diesel
Inside Story: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline volkswagen inside story diesel
Inside Story: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline volkswagen inside story diesel
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel Highline. Click image to enlarge

Speaking of the Kelvin scale, the Inside Story Comfort Dummy was reprimanded for not supplying a seating position picture…something about the tripod freezing to his hands. The Dummy did report that seating positioning was excellent for front and rear passenger positions.

Cargo embargo

Many vehicles trumpet the practicality of the 60/40 fold-down rear seatbacks, though most stuff buffs will agree that the portal to your cargo-carrying dimension is usually around 70 per cent of that promise. The Jetta provides one of the largest pass-through cavities to date, well trimmed, with acceptable angles for the lowered seatbacks.

Spare care

Well, it’s practically a full-sized spare tire, which probably explains the maximum speed warnings on the steel-rimmed all season skin in the tire well. The spare is a 15-inch 195/65R15, while the stock wheels can be as large as 17 inches, with 225/45R17 rubber. What’s it all mean? – a little something that most space-saver spare tires can’t accomplish; driving dynamics. Roadside assistance is provided for the first four years of ownership, with no mileage limit.

The mill

The kinder, gentler 140-horsepower TDI mill displaces 2.0 litres, with good access to all fluid levels, and practically zero access for everything else. Note the oversized gas strut for the hood. Here’s a consideration; an oil pan heater for Canada-spec Clean Diesels. There were a few dicey moments for cold weather starts in the minus 30 range. Heat was a continuing issue, as with most diesels. (Those heated seats aren’t just for bun toasting; they ARE your heat for the first twenty minutes of driving.) There’s nothing a diesel loves more than 20-odd minutes of warm-up before it moves. Most folks will leave their vehicles unattended as they idle, which is actually a punishable offence under the Highway Traffic Act in Manitoba. Your unfeeling laws may vary.

Vee-Dub continues to push the 1,000 kilometres per tank quotient for their diesel-equipped Jettas. What better way to prove the validity of this statement than to drive from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay, and back again. There are two advantages to this run; lower speeds in Ontario (90 KPH), and changing terrain for variations in engine load. The Transport Canada figures state 4.9 litres per 100 kilometres. This shakedown was only able to muster 6.1 litres per 100 K, though I think I heard the Evergreens breathe more deeply as I passed. Temperatures ranged from minus 3 degrees to minus 25 degrees Celcius, not including wind chill factors.

The Verdict

I’ve never considered myself to be a glow plug thug, but one can’t ignore just how far the modern diesel engine has come in such a short period. You still have to mentally map your filling stations of choice, and the prospect of minimal heat for Prairie residents could result in peaceful picketing. Maybe it’s An Inconvenient Truth talking, but the Clean Diesel tech is a worthy enviro-savvy choice, for those not quite ready to make the leap to gas/electric hybrids. Wrap the new TDI up with the Jetta’s long-standing functionality, and you settle in comfortably at five stars.

Next week: Saab 9-3 Aero AWD

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