I don’t need to remind you that good fuel economy is a positive thing. Heck, every time you or I go to the pumps, we wonder why we don’t simply become hermits. The answer is easy: We like driving too much. And there we are.
Combining gas mileage and not falling asleep at the wheel is hard to achieve, and I know this. I can tell that many consumers have given up trying to get the best of both worlds; I see Priuses everywhere! Or is that a sign of something else?
Nevertheless, my job here and now is to tell you that it’s not impossible to enjoy the open road all the while nursing a tank of gas. What’s more, you can bring the family and loads of gear along for the ride. Best part? You can get all of this for just over $25,000.
German good looks
The MK6 Volkswagen Jetta is fresh from a mild facelift but continues largely unchanged since 2011. The revised exterior bits are mostly concentrated on either end of the car. The nipped and tucked grille is sharper as are the headlights with their integrated “J” LED lights. The taillights get the same straight-cut treatment for a more defined look.
The cabin is much the same as it was, which (as the saying goes) means it ain’t broke no fixing was needed. Fit and finish is still segment leading with proper materials. The dashboard’s layout retains its straightforward design; the ergonomics are precise and classy.
The Jetta is surprisingly roomy, able to accommodate five adults in relative comfort. The front perches are supportive and a good driving position is easy to find. The trunk is impressively capacious for a “compact” sedan.
TDI, because you want it
This is the answer. At the moment, the $3,200 jump from the excellent 1.8 TSI engine with the 6-speed automatic to the 2.0L TDI and 6-speed DSG ‘box is difficult to justify given the current affordable price of gas and the constant fluctuating price of diesel.
Now, there are few certainties in the world beyond taxes and death, but rising gas prices is one of them. Getting the most out of a litre of gasoline or diesel is always the goal. Although the internal combustion engine still has more unlocked potential, at the moment, the diesel engine will give you more range out of that same litre.
My week with the Jetta TDI returned an average of 7L/100km despite my lead-footedness… An impressive feat (pun intended). Shaving off an extra litre per 100km is very feasible, and rewarding. What I’m saying here is that impossibly annoying and frustrating hyper-milling is not necessary with most diesels.
Volkswagen’s 2.0L TDI mill is gifted. In North America, it produces 150 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. In many other markets, it’ll pump out up to 181 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, as I experienced firsthand when I drove the new Golf Alltrack. Despite its lower output here, this engine is no slouch. Torque swings in as low as 1,750 rpm, and tapers off at 3,000, 500 rpm before max hp joins the party. This means that the Jetta pulls non-stop.
It also operates brilliantly thanks, in no small part, to the VW’s excellent 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automated manual gearbox. To say this transmission is good would be like saying the Golf Sportwagon R is pretty… The transmission swaps cogs faster than a cat on a Whiskas Temptation treat and just as aggressively, but without the claws. I would add that the lack of wheel-mounted paddles is wrong in this car, but I won’t.
To boot, the Jetta is a great driver. Its fully independent suspension provides equal amounts of comfort and handling.
There was a time when the car was more about maintaining a tight line on an onramp, but those days have been replaced by a cozy-er approach meant to entice a much broader audience of buyers. The softened focus on the drive does not negatively affect the car’s nimble attitude. The electric steering’s vibe is good with plenty of response from driver inputs. The brake pedal is a little soft for my liking but all works fine in the end.
The 2015 Jetta is poised and at home at highway speeds or in the heart of the city, avoiding potholes. When on the freeway, the TDI’s torque can be remarkable depending on engine speed. Thankfully, the DSG plays along nicely. The Jetta TDI is not fast, but the swell of torque makes you feel as though you are flying, all the while once more nursing the 55 litres of fuel.
Diesel for the $$?
I would definitely spend the money. In the long run, the engine’s supplemental cost will be reimbursed in the form of more range and a better resale value. However, there’s no denying that the 1.8 TSI is a great powerplant and could, at this very moment, be the smarter buy -- I’m convincing myself of this now as my Alltrack will probably only be offered with the TSI…
As far as diesels go, VW’s got the market cornered. The Chevrolet Cruze is out there (and soon to be revised), but its relevance is questionable. If TDI is not your thing then there are many more alternatives.
Keep in mind that a base Jetta retails for $14,990 or about $400 more than a Toyota Yaris -- just sayin’. My tester was a loaded Highline with DSG and retailed for $29,690. At this price point (but without the diesel) I’d suggest a stop at your local Mazda dealer for a peak at the 3. Otherwise, for a diesel, Volkswagen is your one-stop shop.