2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Greg Wilson
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First, the bad news: there won’t be a 2007 Jetta TDI, 2007 Rabbit TDI, or 2007 New Beetle TDI. VW’s current 1.9-litre turbo diesel engine won’t comply with stricter 2007 diesel emissions standards, despite the introduction of new Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel fuel (ULSD) at the pumps in October. Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre TDI engine sold in Europe won’t meet the North American requirements either. However, VW engineers are working on the next-generation 1.9-litre TDI engine, which features new common rail injection and particulate filter trap technology; unfortunately, it won’t be available until the 2008 model year.

The good news is that Volkswagen will continue producing the 2006 VW Jetta TDI sedan in Mexico until the end of 2006, and sell them as 2006 models well into the 2007 model year – at least until they run out of vehicles to sell. Volkswagen Canada also got their hands on some extra 2006 Golf TDIs (which are built in Brazil) which they forecast will be sold into 2007 as well. But there won’t be any more 2006 Jetta TDI Wagons or New Beetle TDIs.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

According to VW Canada’s Public Relations Manager, Patrick Saint-Pierre, the current 1.9-litre TDI engine will run just fine on the new Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel fuel available across the country since October 15th. “The TDI engine is compatible with low-sulphur diesel with no change in drivability,” he explained. In fact, there will be “lesser emissions from burning this cleaner type of diesel fuel,” he said.

There will be no price increase for the 2006 Jetta TDI this fall: it’s still $26,750 with the five-speed manual transmission, and $28,150 with the six-speed automatic DSG transmission.

As almost half of all Volkswagen Golf and Jetta vehicles sold in Canada are diesel models, I don’t think VW will have any trouble selling the remaining 2006 models – particularly as the 2006 Jetta TDI has the new Jetta bodystyle with its bigger interior, larger trunk, and new independent rear suspension.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge


Driving impressions

Although I’m not a diesel fan, after a week driving the 2006 Jetta TDI, I came away with mostly positive driving impressions. If you still think that diesels are underpowered, noisy and/or smelly, “Forgeddaboudit!”. The Jetta’s distinctive diesel rattle at idle and diesel clatter under acceleration can barely be heard if the windows are up, and at freeway speeds, the engine is very quiet, due in part to its low revving nature.

While the Jetta TDI’s official 0-60 mph times of 11.5 seconds (manual) and 11.6 seconds (automatic) are certainly slower than the 9.1 seconds (automatic) VW cites for the Jetta with the 2.5-litre five-cylinder gas engine, the TDI’s acceleration from a standing start, in the 30 to 50 km/h range in city traffic, and when pulling out to pass on the freeway, is immediate and satisfying – mostly because its 100-hp engine develops most of its torque (177 lb-ft) between just 1800 and 2400 rpm. For comparison, the 2006 Jetta 2.5 develops its maximum torque of 170 lb-ft at 3,750 rpm.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

The Jetta TDI’s fuel consumption is miserly enough to put a smile on Scrooge’s lips: with the five-speed manual transmission, the Jetta TDI sips a meagre 6.6 L/100 km (43 mpg Imp.) City, and 5.2 L/100 km (54 mpg Imp.) Highway, according to Natural Resources Canada. With the optional six-speed automatic, it’s 6.8 L/100 km (42 mpg Imp.) City, and 5.1 L/100 km (55 mpg) Highway. Compare that to the conventional Jetta 2.5 with city/highway ratings of 10.8 L/100 km (26 mpg Imp.) City and 7.2 L/100 km (39 mpg Imp.) Highway (same for both transmissions).

Theoretically, with its 55-litre fuel tank, the Jetta TDI has a driving range of over 1000 kilometres on the highway compared to approximately 760 km in the gasoline-engined Jetta 2.5. Even around town, the Jetta TDI has potential driving range of over 800 km compared to just over 500 with the Jetta 2.5. Real-world driving range will no doubt be less, but the TDI will obviously go further.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

My test car was equipped with the optional six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) which has gotten great reviews in non-diesel models. Unlike a regular automatic transmission, this one has no torque converter. Instead, it uses two clutches to pre-engage the next gear while you’re in another gear, shortening gear change times. Its manual shift mode allows you to make quick sequential shifts by pushing forwards to shift up and back to shift down. Somewhat surprisingly, the DSG transmission works very well with the diesel engine and in automatic mode, shifts crisply and smoothly at lower engine revs, complementing the engine’s low-revving nature. It’s less successful in manual mode because there’s no real need to hold it in a lower gear longer when maximum torque and performance is developed at low revs.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

One of the reasons for the Jetta TDI’s great fuel economy on the highway is in fact its low-revving engine – my tachometer read just 2000 rpm at 100 km/h in top gear and 2500 rpm at 120 km/h. Even when driving in the city, the engine is running mostly in the 1000 to 2000 rpm rev range. The redline is only 4500 rpm.

I found the Jetta TDI’s ride very comfortable and handling very capable – the new 2006 Jetta features a new independent multi-link rear suspension that helps to smooth out bumps and improve handling. 195/65R15-inch all-season tires are standard, but my car had the optional Continental ContiPro Contact 205/55R16-inch all-seasons on attractive alloys which come in a $2,000 option package that includes sunroof and extra chrome trim. These tires proved capable in varying weather conditions. Traction control and electronic differential lock are standard while stability control (ESP) is optional.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

The Jetta’s standard power assisted rack and pinion steering is not a variable-assist system, but I found it provided sufficient boost at slow speeds to make manoeuvring easy. The Jetta TDI has a fairly tight 10.9 metre (35.8 ft.) turning circle.

Still, even with its great handling and braking (from standard four discs with ABS and emergency Brake Assist system), the Jetta TDI is not a sporty sedan. Its diesel engine runs out of steam near its redline and just doesn’t have the legs of the 2.5-litre five-cylinder gas engine or the available 2.0 litre turbocharged gasoline engine. In a way, the Jetta TDI engine is like the old-fashioned domestic V8s: it’s happy to rumble along at low revs, offering instant acceleration when needed, but never wanting to work too hard.

My only reservation with the TDI diesel engine is the noise it makes when the windows are down or the sunroof is open. Though it’s a lot quieter than earlier VW diesels, it’s definitely noisier than the 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge


Interior impressions

Strips of what look and feel like real aluminum line the dash and doors and surround the shift lever, adding a little cheer to what is a rather dark interior. There’s plenty of headroom and legroom for four adults in the Jetta TDI, or three kids in the back seat. The well-bolstered driver and front passenger seats are height adjustable with a manual lever and include a standard manual lumbar adjustment (a 12-way power driver’s seat with three-position Memory is optional). As well, the Jetta’s steering wheel tilts and telescopes to accommodate different drivers. Front seat heaters with five temperature choices are standard, and they proved to be welcome bunwarmers on the optional leather seats in my test car.

The Jetta TDI’s instrument layout is simple and traditional and includes a digital display between the round tachometer and speedometer that shows outside temperature, odometer, time, and transmission gear indicator. The latter shows what gear the transmission is in at any given time – a useful feature not found in all cars. The small round coolant and fuel gauges seemed a bit tiny though.

The centre stack includes a rewardingly simple radio and CD/MP3 player with large radio preset buttons, and clearly marked functions. This base stereo system even features ten speakers, and sounds very good. The optional premium audio system includes a six-disc CD changer but you still get ten speakers. The heater/air conditioning system is also a simple, traditional three-dial system (for temperature, fan speed, and ventilation), however it includes a confusing button marked ‘Economy’ which really means ‘Air Conditioning Off’.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

Just ahead of the shift lever is a small storage bin and a 12-volt power outlet, a handy place for a cell phone. Behind the shift lever are two open cupholders and another 12-volt power outlet, and just behind that a small storage bin with armrest. Storage space is rather limited in the Jetta, but there are large front door pockets with bottleholders, a reasonably-sized glove-box, a fold-down coin tray near the driver’s door, and an optional folding centre armrest in the centre rear seatback with a covered storage tray and two spring-out cupholders.

2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

Folding, lockable 60/40 rear seatbacks are standard in the Jetta TDI and they can be released from inside the car or inside the trunk. A centre rear pass-through is available as an option.

The Jetta TDI’s 400-litre (14.1 cu. ft.) trunk is fully lined and quite large for what is supposed to be a compact car.

Dual front and side airbags are standard in the Jetta TDI while curtain airbags and rear side curtain airbags are optional for an extra $450 (worth the money!). The Jetta also includes five height adjustable head restraints – the front ones are active head restraints to help prevent whiplash – and rear LATCH and tether anchors for child seats. Bright Xenon headlights are also available for $750.


Verdict

If you can put up with a little diesel clatter, the Jetta TDI will reward you with excellent fuel economy and driving range, responsive performance, a roomy cabin and trunk, and a comfortable ride.


Pricing: 2006 VW Jetta TDI

  • Base price (man) $26,750
  • Base price (auto) $28,150
  • Options $6,075
  • Luxury Leather Package (leather seats, steering wheel, shift knob, $3,300; Electronic Stabilization Program, $450; Rear side curtain airbags, $250); Luxury Package (16-inch tires and alloy wheels, power sunroof, chrome window trim, $2,075)
  • Freight $615
  • A/C tax $100
  • Price as tested $34,940


Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications


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