2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge
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2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, by Greg Wilson
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2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

North Vancouver, British Columbia – The Jetta TDI is back with a new, cleaner, more powerful 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine, the addition of a new wagon TDI model, and a lower price-tag: base 2009 VW Jetta TDI “Trendline” sedan models start at $24,275, about $2,400 less than the 2006 Jetta TDI sedan.

In the United States, 2009 Jetta TDIs start at US$21,990 which works out to CAN$23,342 at today’s exchange rate. So with importing and conversion costs factored in, there’s not a big difference in price.

The Jetta TDI was last sold in Canada as a 2006 model. Stringent, new North American emissions standards in 2007 forced Volkswagen to pull the previous 1.9-litre TDI engine from its 2007 lineup, but the company continued selling some 2006 Jetta TDI models into 2007.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

The new, cleaner 2.0-litre TDI engine offered in the 2009 Jetta TDI sedan and the new Jetta TDI wagon has more power (140 vs 100 hp), more torque (235 vs 177 lb-ft), is quieter, and emits less nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions (when fueled with the new Ultra Low Sulphur diesel fuel) in order to meet stringent Tier II/Bin 5 emissions standards.

Surprisingly, the 2009 Jetta TDI is the only diesel-powered car priced under $40,000 available in Canada right now. (The diesel Smart Fortwo was replaced in 2008 with a gasoline version). In other parts of the world, diesel cars often make up 50% or more of the total passenger car market, and have done so for a long time. The reason for diesel’s unpopularity here – and particularly in the United States – is the generally unfavourable perception of diesels that lingers from the days of underpowered, smelly, noisy diesel models. Some vehicle manufacturers – notably VW, Audi, Mercedes and BMW – are betting that today’s improved diesel technology will convince more N.A. consumers to make the switch.

However, the surging popularity of fuel-efficient hybrids has diminished that appeal somewhat. Many new car-buyers prefer the familiarity and greater availability of gasoline, not to mention the status that comes with buying a high-tech hybrid automobile.

So, in a way, the 2009 Jetta TDI is a test case for the viability of “affordable” diesels in North America. Can it broaden diesel’s appeal from a niche group of diesel lovers to a mass-market of new car-buyers? A lot may depend on how well the new diesels are marketed.

New for 2009

The 2009 Jetta TDI has the same bodystyle and interior as the redesigned 2006 Jetta sedan but the engine and base manual transmission have been changed for 2009. A new six-speed manual transmission replaces the previous five-speed, while the automatic transmission remains VW’s excellent DSG six-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual shift option.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

Other changes for 2009 include new standard side curtain airbags; a new Hill Assist feature on models with the optional DSG transmission and optional stability control; and a new optional Sport package with bi-Xenon headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, sport suspension and front fog lights.

The new turbocharged 2.0-litre 16-valve SOHC four-cylinder diesel engine features common rail direct fuel injection with high pressure injectors that help improve performance, fuel economy and emissions. The new engine produces 140 horsepower at 4,000 r.p.m. and a generous 235 lb-ft of torque between 1,750 and 2,500 r.p.m.

There a couple of interesting new features to this engine: a nitrous oxide storage catalyst captures NOx emissions which are periodically treated and removed without resorting to the urea injection method used by Mercedes-Benz and others which requires periodic refilling of an underhood urea container . As well, a new particulate filter removes particulate matter (black soot) from the exhaust. Ultra Low Sulphur diesel fuel must be used to fill the tank, and even though it is now mandatory in North America, I always check the pump to make sure. Volkswagen says the 2009 Jetta TDI can run on B5 bio-diesel fuel (95% petroleum and 5% renewable diesel) which produces 5% less CO2 than gasoline, but you’ll have to find a station that sells bio-diesel first.

Trim levels and pricing

Three trim lines are offered for 2009: Trendline, Comfortline, and Highline.

In addition to the 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine and six-speed manual transmission, base Trendline models ($24,275) include standard cloth seats, height adjustable driver and front passenger seats with lumbar adjustment, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, air conditioning and automatic temperature control, front, side and curtain airbags; AM/FM radio single CD/MP3 player and eight speakers, two folding keys with remote locking, power windows with pinch protection and one-touch down feature, cruise control, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, and variable intermittent wipers. Also standard are 205/55HR-16-inch all-season tires and steel wheels, electro-mechanical variable-assist power rack-and-pinion steering, four wheel disc brakes with ABS, ASR (traction control), EDL (electronic differential lock, and EBA (engine braking assist which prevents compression-induced skidding in slippery conditions). Stability control is a $450 option on all trim levels.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

The Jetta TDI Comfortline ($26,775) adds 16-inch alloy wheels, premium sound system with in-dash six-disc CD changer and 10 speakers, auxiliary jack, leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and hand brake lever, eight-way manually adjustable front seats with driver’s power recline, front seat heaters; folding front centre armrest with storage compartment, rear passenger ventilation, and chrome side window frames.

The top-of-the-line Highline ($29,775) adds leather seats, multi-function trip computer, power sunroof, heatable windshield washer nozzles, centre rear armrest and pass-through, and multi-function steering wheel with audio controls

Stand-alone options include rear side airbags ($450), power sunroof ($1,400), and (ESP) electronic stability control optional ($450).

Driving impressions

Let’s cut to the chase: official Energuide fuel economy figures for the 2009 Jetta TDI sedan are 6.8/4.8 L/100 km city/hwy (manual transmission) and 6.8/4.9 L/100 km city/hwy (DSG automatic). My test car had the optional DSG transmission, and over a week of careful driving using fuel-efficient driving techniques, I managed 5.7 L/100 km (50 mpg Imperial) which is almost exactly Energuide’s combined rating.

Apart from the driver’s skill, two key features of the Jetta TDI make it possible to attain this excellent fuel economy: the turbocharged engine’s generous torque at low revs, and the six-speed DSG automatic transmission. The diesel engine’s healthy torque enables the Jetta TDI to cruise along and even accelerate up hills without the engine going over 2,000 r.p.m., and when driven gently, the transmission will shift up before 2,000 r.p.m. Similarly, cruising on the freeway, the engine revs at just 2,000 r.p.m. at 100 km/h in sixth gear. The lower the engine revs, the less fuel it uses.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

This is unlike non-turbocharged gasoline engines that often develop maximum torque in the 3,000-4,000 r.p.m. range. The Jetta 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder engine, for example, develops its maximum torque at 4,250 r.p.m. Its Energuide fuel consumption rating is 10.7/7.2 L/100 km city/hwy.

The other benefit of the 2009 Jetta TDI’s generous torque is quick acceleration in the 0 to 80 km/h range. With maximum torque developed so early, the Jetta TDI just flies off the line, pressing the driver back in the seat with a sensation similar to that of acceleration in an electric car or a hybrid with the instant low-end torque of an electric motor. The six-speed DSG transmission shifts quickly, smoothly and often, a perfect complement to this turbocharged diesel engine. It’s also possible to shift manually using the DSG’s sequential Tiptronic shift mode, or put the Transmission lever into “S” mode where automatic shift points are delayed for better acceleration. However, with a 4,500 r.p.m. redline, the 2.0-litre TDI engine doesn’t have the “legs” of a typical gasoline engine, and highway passing is more of a challenge.

Driving aggressively won’t help your fuel economy though, and I would expect energetic driving techniques to increase the Jetta TDI’s average fuel consumption by one or two litres per 100 km.

The new 2.0-litre TDI engine is quieter than the old 1.9-litre TDI engine, and the annoying rattle of the diesel engine’s high-compression combustion ignition process is more of a background sound in the new Jetta TDI. The new engine is clean too: you can’t smell the diesel fumes and there’s no black smoke coming out of the tailpipe.

The one remaining downside of owning a diesel car, at least in my opinion, is the availability and convenience of diesel fuel. Where I live in Vancouver, one in five gas stations might have diesel fuel and I have to go out of my way to fill up. In addition, at the diesel station closest to me, diesel fuel is in the Full Service lane, so I have to wait for an attendant to fill it up. I’ve heard from readers and associates that some areas of the country have a diesel pump at every gas station, so I would recommend that you check out your neighbourhood gas stations before committing to buy a diesel car (or truck).

Like the gas Jetta, the Jetta TDI is a very nice car to drive – comfortable on the highway, stable in the corners, with a firm but compliant independent suspension, and decent turning circle of 10.9 metres (35.8 ft.). It’s not as exciting as the Jetta with the 2.0-litre turbocharged gas engine, but it does offer the thrill of saving money at the pump.

One more thing: electronic stability control is an option on all Jetta TDI trim levels in Canada but it is standard in the United States. I can only assume this is done to reduce the base price of the Canadian model.

Interior impressions

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

My Jetta TDI Highline test car had most of the options available including leather seats, sunroof, premium stereo, driver information display, and multi-function steering wheel. The Jetta’s interior quality is first class but the dark dash colour is rather bland. Thank goodness for the silver trim on the dash and doors, and the aluminum shift gate and steering wheel trim.

The front seats have excellent back, thigh and torso support, and both offer manual height and lumbar adjusters. A tilt/telescoping steering wheel completes the custom fit for most drivers. Automatic temperature control and front seat heaters with variable temperature control would make life pleasant in the cold winter months.

Rear passengers have adequate legroom and headroom, and the rear seat is comfortable for two adults. My test car had a folding rear centre armrest with slide-out cupholders.

The driver faces two large, simple round gauges with cool blue illumination and red pointers and two smaller gauges for fuel and coolant. Between the gauges is a bright red digital display with the time, compass, radio selection, odometer, trip odometer and gear selection. The optional display also includes an average fuel consumption reading, “km to empty” indicator, and an outside temperature gauge.

The premium stereo has a six-CD/MP3 player, optional Sirius Satellite Radio, and a large blue on white display. With ten speakers, the sound is clear and compelling – and enjoyable.

Interior storage consists of numerous small bins but no really big ones: a small bin under the armrest between the front seats with an auxiliary jack for iPods; a small covered bin in front of shift lever with a 12-volt outlet; a fairly large glovebox; flip-down coin tray near the driver’s door, a small open bin on the dashtop, map pockets on the back of the front seats, door pockets, and storage in the rear centre armrest. There are two front cupholders and one in the rear.

Apart from the aforementioned standard front, side and curtain airbags, the Jetta TDI sedan’s safety equipment includes a “Buckle Switch Sensor” that deploys airbags depending on safety belt use, five adjustable head restraints, five three point safety belts, LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), and top tethers in the rear outboard seating positions.

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Click image to enlarge

The Jetta’s huge trunk is fully lined, and includes a removeable storage divider on the right side, a flip-down grocery hook, and a 12-volt powerpoint. The folding rear seatbacks are released from inside the passenger cabin not the trunk – and the optional rear centre pass-through is a bonus for skiers.

If you’re looking for more cargo space, consider the 2009 Jetta TDI Wagon – its base price of $25,775 is $1,500 more than the sedan.

Verdict

Driven in a fuel-efficient manner, the new Jetta TDI diesel sedan will offer better fuel economy than most cars while still offering a rewarding driving experience. The new 2.0-litre diesel engine is quieter and more powerful than the previous 1.9-litre unit.

Pricing: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Base price: $29,775
Options: $2,300 (six-speed DSG automatic/Tiptronic transmission, $1,400; ESP, $450; Sirius satellite radio, $450)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,335

Price as tested: $33,510
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta

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    2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, by Greg Wilson

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    2009 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon 2.5L by Greg Wilson

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