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Review and photos by Greg Wilson
Volkswagen made a few improvements to its fuel-efficient, diesel-powered Jetta TDI Wagon for the 2004 model year. Its new ‘pumpe duse’ 1.9 litre turbo diesel engine develops 10 more horsepower (100 vs 90), but more importantly, it offers 20 foot pounds more torque (177 foot pounds of torque at 1800 rpm vs 155 foot pounds at 1900 rpm). That extra torque provides improved throttle responsiveness at low speeds for typical starting, passing and maneuvering in day-to-day city driving. (See Jim Kerr’s Auto Tech article for more details on VW’s new pumpe duse diesel engine)
Fuel consumption is excellent – this is the most fuel-efficient wagon in Canada and recipient of the federal government’s 2004 Energuide Award – but the new engine uses slightly more diesel fuel than the 2003 model when equipped with the standard five speed manual transmission. 2004 fuel consumption figures are City 6.5 l/100 km (43 mpg) and Highway 4.6 l/100 km (61 mpg). 2003 figures are 5.6 l/100 km (50 mpg) and Highway 4.4 l/100 km (64 mpg).
A new five-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission replaces the 4-speed automatic for 2004. With this transmission, fuel consumption figures are about the same: City 7.1 l/100 km (40 mpg) and Highway 4.9 l/100 km (58 mpg), but this new transmission offers better shifting performance and the option of manual shifting.
All Jetta Wagon TDI models, which start at $27,550, come in one well-equipped GLS trim level which includes power windows, door locks, keyless entry, air conditioning, front and side airbags, 15-inch tires and alloy wheels, fully carpeted trunk, and four wheel disc brakes with ABS.
My test wagon had the optional 5-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission $1,400; Luxury Package (power moonroof, alloy wheels) $1,440; Leather Package (leather seats, shift knob, handbrake lever, lumbar adjustment, multi-function steering wheel $1,195; and side curtain airbags $220. With Freight and A/C tax, the total price of my Jetta Wagon TDI came to $32,460. Pretty steep for a compact wagon..
Handsome and practical
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The Jetta’s styling, in both sedan and wagon format, seems to get better with age. It’s simple, well-proportioned, and handsome – and in the case of the wagon, extremely practical too. The upright sides and tall roof make for generous headroom and cargo room behind the rear seats. And its big windows provide excellent visibility for the driver. It’s not a sporty looking wagon, like the Mazda6 or Volvo V50, but it’s certainly a very tasteful design. The Jetta Wagon is a bit narrow for three passengers in the rear seat, and the rear window doesn’t open separately (few wagons do), but those are my only complaints.
The Jetta TDI Wagon looks identical to other Jetta Wagons except for a discreet ‘TDI’ badge on the rear hatch. Some may notice that the TDI’s standard 15-inch wheels are smaller than those on some other Jetta models.
My test car had an attractive black and beige interior with the optional leather
seats. The fit and finish in the Jetta is tops in its class, and it really feels like you’re riding around in a small luxury car. In particular, the metal trimmed gauges are more attractive than the plain gauges of earlier models. I also liked the digital transmission gear indicator in the gauge cluster.
The Jetta’s front seats are elevated, so it’s easy to slide in and get comfortable. The sturdy, smooth leather seats offer substantial side and thigh bolsters and offer manual height adjustment, and lumbar adjustment. As well, the steering wheel has manual telescoping and tilt adjustments. Seat heaters with five temperature settings are standard, mandatory for cold winter mornings.
The Jetta’s stereo includes an extra-large liquid crystal display which makes it easier to read the station from a distance. It’s also a nice-sounding unit with adjustments for bass, treble, middle, fader and balance. My car had the optional steering wheel mounted Volume and Seek buttons.
Just below the simple heater/air conditioning controls is a sliding door for coins next to a 12 volt powerpoint – a larger compartment to fit a cell phone would have been better. The centre armrest contains a small storage area, and it folds up out of the way should you want to use the two cupholders beneath it. There are pockets in the front doors, but I think the Jetta needs more storage space in the console area. I liked the front power windows which feature ‘one-touch’ up and down functions. The rear power windows roll down about 80% of the way.
Front and rear headroom is generous even with the optional sliding glass moonroof. The Jetta is narrow, so the rear seat is only good enough for two adults. And legroom in the rear seat can be tight if the front passenger has long legs. But there is generous footroom under the front seats. There’s one cupholder and map pockets on the back of the front seats, but no folding centre armrest.
For safety, the Jetta Wagon includes driver and passenger airbags and front-side airbags, front three-point safety belts with pretensioners and shoulder height
adjustment, five height adjustable head restraints, and the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) system in the rear outboard seating positions.
Side curtain airbags, which protect the heads of the front and rear passengers, are a $220 option, and are well worth the money.
According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2004 Jetta Wagon received 5 stars for the driver and 5 stars for the front passenger in a 35 mph frontal crash test. Side impact tests conducted on a Jetta sedan with side airbags gave 4 stars for the front passenger and four stars for the rear passenger. As well, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, tested the 1999 Jetta sedan (which has the same bodystyle) and gave it a ‘Good’ rating in a 40 mph frontal offset crash test.
The Jetta Wagon’s fully carpeted cargo compartment includes a sliding privacy cover, rear powerpoint, a medical kit, and four chromed tie-down hooks. A real bonus is the useful plastic storage containers underneath the cargo floor.
The trunk has 34 cubic feet of cargo space from floor to ceiling behind the rear seats. The floor is 990 mm (39 inches) wide between the wheelhousings, 787 mm (31 inches) tall, and 990 mm (39 inches) long.
With both split folding seatbacks folded down, the cargo floor is 1625 mm (64 inches) long, and there is a total of 1469 litres (51.9 cu. ft.) of cargo space. However, to fold down the seatbacks, you have to first remove all three head restraints, pull up the seat cushions, fold down both seatbacks, and store the head restraints in the slots provided in the top of the raised seat cushions. It’s a bit awkward.
The Jetta Wagon also comes with standard roof rails, and in combination with its long flat roof, the Jetta Wagon is ideal for carrying mattresses, sheets of plywood, skis or snowboards.
Unlike earlier VW diesel engines, this one is not smelly or dirty. The only time you’ll notice smoke coming out of the exhaust is first thing in the morning when you
start it up. After that first burst of smoke, you don’t see it again until the next day.
Acceleration is very responsive due to its low-end torque and five-speed automatic transmission. At speeds up to 50 km/h, you’ll find it very responsive. In fact there’s so much torque, you can spin the front tires on take-off, if you want to. Whoo! Go diesel! But beyond that, it’s leisurely, with 0 to 100 km/h in the 13 second range with the automatic transmission, which is better than last year’s official figure of 14.7 seconds.
The engine makes a mild clattering noise during idle, but with the windows up, it’s not obtrusive. Under acceleration, it’s noisier, but during steady-state driving and highway cruising, it’s surprisingly quiet. With the 5-speed Tiptronic transmission, the Jetta Wagon TDI does just 2,000 rpm at 100 km/h in fifth gear, and 2,400 rpm at 120 km/h. This transmission is perfectly suited to the diesel because the engine has so much torque that the transmission can shift up at relatively low revs, thus reducing engine noise and saving fuel.
The Jetta Wagon’s ride is very comfortable – it has an independent McPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear axle – and Michelin MXV4 195/65R-15 all-season tires on standard five spoke alloys. Handling is nimble, and the Jetta Wagon’s compact size and tight turning circle of 36 feet makes it very maneuverable in parking lots and city streets.
Disc brakes on all four wheels are standard equipment, and they include ABS, and electronic brake pressure distribution. As well, “Engine Braking Assist” (EBA)
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prevents compression-induced skidding in slippery conditions.
The rear wiper (which has an intermittent wipe setting), washer and defroster really improve rear visibility, particularly in the morning when the window is covered in condensation, or when driving in heavy rain. In winter, it will no doubt be useful in removing slush, grime, ice and snow.
My only serious complaint are the bulky rear head restraints which block rearward vision through the rearview mirror and when shoulder-checking. Many cars now have a smaller centre rear head restraint which lowers flush with the top of the seat, but the Jetta’s is big. And the right-rear head restraint is positioned in the line of sight between the driver and the right-rear side window.
A frugal, well-finished, practical small wagon, the VW Jetta TDI Wagon is a comfortable, classy, safe hauler with adequate performance and class-leading fuel economy. Tight rear legroom, bulky rear head restraints, and a rather high starting price are my only complaints.
Technical Data: 2004 VW Jetta TDI Wagon
|Options||$ 4,255 (5-speed automatic Tiptronic $1,400; Luxury Package (power moonroof, alloy wheels) $1,440; Leather Package (leather seats, shift knob, handbrake lever, lumbar adjustment, multi-function steering wheel $1,195; Curtain airbags $220)|
|A/C tax||$ 100|
|Price as tested||$32,460|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger compact wagon|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||1.9 litre 4 cyl. diesel, Pumpe Duse direct injection, turbocharged,
SOHC, 8 valves
|Horsepower||100 @ 4000 rpm|
|Torque||177 lb-ft @ 1800 – 2400 rpm|
|Transmission||5 speed automatic Tiptronic (std 5-speed manual)|
|Tires||P195/65 R 15 H all season tires|
|Curb weight||1438 kg (3170 lb.)|
|Payload||458 kg (1010 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2515 mm (98.9 in)|
|Length||1409 mm (173.6 in.)|
|Width||1735 mm (68.3 in.)|
|Height||1485 mm (58.5 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||962 litres (34.0 cu. ft.) seats up|
|1469 litres (51.9 cu. ft.) seats down|
|Fuel consumption||City: 7.1 l/100 km (40 mpg) (Imperial gallons)|
|Hwy: 4.9 l/100 km (58 mpg) (Imperial gallons)|
|Warranty||4 yrs/80,000 km|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|