2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI; photo by Chris Chase. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase

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2010 Volkswagen Jetta

Ottawa, Ontario – If I had concerns about the Jetta TDI’s real-world consumption the last time I updated my long-term experience in the car, they’ve all but disappeared. A series of road trips – one to Montreal and two to the Toronto area – allowed me to rack up some serious kilometres and a real-world, highway fuel consumption average in the mid-5.0 L/100 km (56 mpg Imp.) range. That splits the difference between the car’s Natural Resources Canada city and highway ratings, but is a respectable number considering I was cruising at a brisk pace.

Autos blogger James Bergeron subjected the Jetta to a week of his largely rural commuting routes and came away with an average of 7.3 L/100 km; that was when the car had barely 3,000 km on the clock. The car has well over 5,000 clicks showing on the odometer now, and in my city routine – which involves much more stop-and-go driving than James’ – the Jetta is averaging of about 7.5 L/100 km, and that’s without my favouring the car whatsoever.

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI; photo by James Bergeron. Click image to enlarge

During the highway driving, I discovered just how well-suited the Jetta is to long-distance cruising. The car is stable at speed, and doesn’t get pushed around too badly by crosswinds. The front seats are wonderfully comfortable, and the transmission’s gearing helps keep the engine’s speed at a reasonable 2,500 rpm at 130 km/h.

If I have any complaint about the Jetta, it’s not with the drive, but with the refuelling process. The diesel nozzles at every gas station I’ve stopped at with the Jetta won’t go into the car’s filler without a serious shove, and getting the nozzle out again requires even more force, to the point that I was concerned about breaking the car. My solution next time was to only insert the nozzle partway, which worked fine until the tank was nearly full, and it overflowed, as the nozzle wasn’t in far enough to active the pump’s auto-stop device.

A co-worker of James Bergeron who has owned a TDI Jetta for a couple of years complained of the same problem, and a full-serve attendant who filled the car for me said he’s had the same thing happen to him filling other diesel-powered Jettas. For my part, I’ve driven two other diesel vehicles in the last couple of years: the most recent was a BMW X5 35d, and the other was a Euro-spec Mitsubishi Colt, and neither of those cars presented any problems at the pumps. A quick search of the web revealed that I’m not the only one: check this thread at VWVortex.com.

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI; photo by Chris Chase. Click image to enlarge

As mentioned in my last entry on this car, VW’s Direct Shift Transmission (DSG) is generally flawless in its operation, but the low-speed lurching I mentioned can be traced to the transmission’s timing in downshifting to first gear as the car slows. From a “rolling” stop, the gearbox will hold second gear, which results in nice-and-smooth acceleration. Slow down just a little more, though, and the tranny will move to first, and if you get on the gas just as it’s doing so, you get the low-speed lurch that so many complain about with this transmission. The same characteristics apply to creeping along in heavy traffic; it’s an annoying sensation, but a little time taken to learn the transmission’s habits goes a long way toward a smoother city driving experience.

For 2010, VW’s mainstream sedan gets a new steering wheel and gauge cluster, shared with the new-for-2010 Golf hatchback and wagon. The stereo and climate controls are new, too, and it’s attractive and mostly very easy to use. The stereo’s volume and tuning knobs are quite small and are basically impossible to use with heavy gloves on. That’s less of an issue for the driver who gets steering wheel-mounted controls, which in and of themselves, are a big improvement over those used in previous model years. From the driver’s seat, the markings on the climate controls are small and hard to read.

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI; photo by James Bergeron. Click image to enlarge

The two-tone Cornsilk Beige-on-black interior is attractive and garners positive comments from just about anyone who gets into the car, but the downside to the light-coloured leather is that dirt shows easily; it’s easy to spot where dye from darker colour clothing and coats has left its mark on the most-oft-used front seats.

Interior space is good, though it’s important to remember that for all that VW markets the Jetta as a premium compact (compared to mainstreamers like Civic/Corolla/Elantra et. al), it’s not significantly larger inside, if at all, than those less-expensive cars.

The Jetta’s base price is $22,175 for a Trendline model with the 2.5-litre gas engine; the TDI engine is a $2,300 jump to $24,475, a price that includes 16-inch steel wheels, manual “Climatic” air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, locks and heated exterior mirrors, an eight-way manually-adjustable front seats, six standard airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control.

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI; photo by Chris Chase. Click image to enlarge

My tester sports Highline trim, which is the highest available with the diesel motor and, in fact, the TDI Highline carries the highest base price of any Jetta model. To my tester’s $30,785 MSRP, add $1,400 for the DSG automatic transmission (the only option offered) and $1,365 freight for a total of $33,640 before taxes. Compared to the base TDI Trendline, the Highline adds a long list of standard kit, the highlights of which are a power sunroof; 16-inch alloy wheels; heated windshield washer nozzles; a folding, adjustable-height front centre armrest; multifunction trip computer; 10-speaker stereo with touch-screen controls and iPod adapter and media device interface; rear passenger side airbags and outboard seatbelt pretensioners; leather seats (heated up front); and stability control with brake assist.

The only item I find conspicuous by its absence is automatic climate control, a feature that’s available in many other compacts for far less money than this Jetta is worth.

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