2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2010 Volkswagen Jetta

Our long-term Jetta TDI diesel tester is now back home with Volkswagen Canada, but more than four months and nearly 8,000 kilometres behind the wheel gave us an excellent perspective of the car’s strong points and weaknesses.

We knew going in that fuel consumption would be one of the positives, based on the car’s Energuide ratings of 6.7/4.6 L/100 km (city/highway). Once the engine was fully broken in (which appeared to be around the 3,000-km mark), the car easily averaged in the low-5.0 L/100 km range on the highway, and in mild spring weather, the city average never went over 7.5 L/100 km. Both of these numbers are higher than the rated figures, but that’s par for the course in any car, regardless of the power source.

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

As noted by Paul Williams in his test drive of this car, the Jetta diesel is a well-scaled car. The exterior dimensions are tidy, yet the interior is roomy enough that it never felt like a penalty box, even on long highway drives. The massive trunk is a plus too; the similar Golf is available as a hatchback or station wagon, but the sedan provides all the practicality that many drivers will need on a regular basis, and then some.

The optional twin-clutch DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) transmission is a treat, with its smooth shifts and prompt responses to drive input, but personally, I would still choose a manual transmission for the additional control in messy winter weather (the DSG doesn’t allow the car to be started in second gear for additional grip on slippery roads). For the uninitiated driver, the DSG’s tendency to lurch when downshifting as the car slows to a stop is off-putting, even though it’s possible to tailor your driving style to avoid this. There’s also the issue of long-term reliability: my experience in reviewing used cars with the DSG suggests that its complicated nature makes it problem-prone (though not so much that I’d recommend against it outright), something that would also likely make for expensive repairs after the warranty expires.

Even Volkswagen’s entry-level models are known for their composed-but-entertaining on-road manners, and the Jetta is no different. The ride is wonderful, if even a bit too soft in some circumstances, and road and wind noise are minimal, in spite of the aggressively-lugged Pirelli winter tires our tester wore for the duration of its stay with us.

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

There were a few nervous moments and some choice words uttered the first time I filled the tank with diesel, as the filler neck appears to be too small to properly accept the diesel pump nozzles at every gas station I visited. If it seemed difficult to get the nozzle in the car, it required even more force to get it out, at which point I was worried about breaking the car in the process. Apparently, I’m not alone in this experience, either.

The VW dealer I picked up the car from suggested the use of diesel conditioner in cold weather. Not an expensive proposition; a bottle that lasted all winter (with some left over) cost about $5, but I was less pleased when the closed bottle tipped over and leaked in the trunk. The stuff stinks, and it took a serious scrubbing to get the smell out. I disagree with the notion of a certain carmaker that “diesel is a dirty word,” but this stuff is best stored in the garage or garden shed, though it would be far more convenient to keep it in the car so it’s right there at fill-up time.

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