Is Volkswagen Jetta TDI worth it?
The Jetta is a bit more expensive than many other small cars and the question we hear often is "Is the Jetta TDI worth it?" The diesel engine offers excellent fuel economy, especially on the highway, but the Jetta TDI is priced a bit higher than other compacts. Will the higher initial costs be offset by fuel cost savings? We took the 2012 Jetta TDI for a test drive to find out.
2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Canadian model
The 2.0L TDI Clean Diesel engine
Fuel Economy: The 2012 Jetta TDI diesel can reach 0 to 60 mph in just 8.7 seconds, yet it is rated
near the top of its class for fuel economy at 30/42 mpg city/highway (7.8/5.6 L/100 km). Interestingly, in most cars you have to drive slower to achieve good fuel economy. In the Jetta TDI, judging by the instant fuel economy monitor, we didn't notice much difference in the fuel consumption rate between 60 and 70 mph (97 and 113 km/h).
The EPA estimates that on one full tank (14.5 gallons or 54.9 liters), the 2012 Jetta with an automatic DSG transmission can travel 444 miles (714 km) with mixed 45% city, 55% highway use, or 548 miles (882 km) if driving only on the highway. On various forums, many Jetta TDI owners report driving more than 600 miles on one tank.
What about the usual reservations about the diesel cars: the noise, smell, smoke, and diesel fuel availability?
Diesel noise: When started cold, the Jetta TDI is a bit noisier than a typical gasoline car. However, once the engine is warmed up, you can hear some diesel noise at idle, but it's barely noticeable when driving at city or highway speeds. Because the diesel engine has more torque at low rpms, when driving on the highway it sounds more like a low grunt compared to a high-rev noise of a typical 4-cylinder gasoline motor. Driving at 60 mph (100 km/h), the Jetta TDI tachometer needle stay under 2,000 rpm.
Diesel smell and smoke: The smell and smoke at acceleration was not uncommon for the TDI models from the early 00's; however, with the introduction of ULSD fuels in 2006 and new diesel emission control systems, it's all in the past. We haven't noticed any smell from the exhaust, even when backing up the new Jetta TDI into a
garage. There was no smoke on acceleration either.
Diesel fuel: The 2012 Jetta TDI requires Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD), which is a clean burning diesel fuel. There shouldn't be a problem finding service stations selling ULSD fuel in the US or Canada, unless you are somewhere very far from major highways. Read more about Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel at the EPA website. You can also read these ULSD FAQs at the Clean Diesel Fuel Alliance website.
The Jetta offers class-leading 38.1 inch of legroom in the back.
Interior: Inside, the Jetta looks classy with sharp gauges and user-friendly controls. There is probably more hard plastic than in the previous Jetta, but the cabin still looks very stylish. The Jetta is very spacious; the rear seat legroom (38.1 in) is huge for a small car, making it easier to install a rear-facing child safety seat. The front seats are on the firm side but very supportive and comfortable on a long trip. The steering tilts and telescopes. The driver's seat height adjustment has a very good range, so it's easy to find a comfortable position for tall or short people. The trunk is large.
Handling and ride: On the road, the Jetta handles crisply with good grip in turns. The steering is responsive and precise; the car holds a straight line well. The ride is Euro-firm, but still comfortable. The cabin is well insulated from wind and road noise. With 236 foot-pound of torque, the turbocharged TDI engine pulls easily, whether from a stop or when merging or passing on the highway. The only complaint is that when driving at very slow speeds, the DSG transmission is not very smooth, as it's essentially a computer-controlled manual gearbox.
In the NHTSA crash tests, the 2011-2013 Jetta sedan received four stars in frontal and five stars in side crash tests. The 2012 Jetta Sedan and SportWagen also earned the IIHS Top Safety Pick award.
Is the Jetta TDI expensive to own? Edmunds.com estimates the five-year ownership costs for the 2012 Jetta TDI to be in the same range as for the 2012 Toyota Corolla and 2012 Honda Civic.
Will the Jetta TDI be reliable in the long run? Consumer Reports rates the 2011 Jetta sedan TDI 'below average' for reliability, with 'squeaks and rattles' and 'power equipment' getting the lowest marks. However, the major components, such as the engine, transmission, brakes and suspension are rated above average. We spoke to the Volkswagen service expert, according to whom, other than some minor problems, this generation Jetta TDI is generally OK.
Pros: Highway fuel economy, highway passing power, good handling, clean classy styling, spacious interior with plenty of rear-seat space, comfortable front seats, decent size trunk, good crash test ratings.
Cons: higher price, the TDI diesel engine needs more maintenance, complex diesel emission control system, the engine is a bit noisy when cold, the DSG transmission is not very smooth at low speeds.
Verdict: Maybe the higher initial price won't be offset by fuel saving in a pure financial sense, but if you have a long commute, the Jetta TDI is one of the best choices out there.
Interestingly, in the Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction survey, the Jetta TDI is rated at the top, with 79 percent of owners indicating they would definitely purchase the same car again. We drove the 2012 Jetta TDI, in real-world conditions with the 41-miles (66 km) one-way commute for a five-day work week, including some weekend shopping. With 80% highway, 20% city use, we measured the combined fuel economy at 40.5 mpg or 5.8 L/100 km. Driving a classy car with plenty of passing power that handles nicely and is very fuel efficient, it's easy to understand why so many owner's are satisfied with it. Even our harshest critic didn't have any complaints about this vehicle and this says a lot.
Few words on maintenance: For the TDI, use only ULSD fuel. As with any turbo engine, don't shut it off right after spirited driving or after climbing long uphill stretch of the road; let it idle for a while to cool down the turbocharger.
Volkswagen recommends using high-quality synthetic engine oil. If you want your engine to last longer, change your oil more often than the recommended 10K miles / 15K kilometers interval. The diesel fuel filter should be changed every 20,000 miles or 30,000 km. The DSG transmission fluid and filter should be changed every 40,000 miles or 60,000 km. The timing belt in the 2.0L TDI engine needs to be replaced at 120,000 miles (195,000 km). You can check the US maintenance schedule for different models here.
More on maintenance:
| 10 simple tips how to keep
your car running longer »
| Easy car maintenance
checklist with photos »
2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI specifications (US model)
| Overall length:
| 182.2 in (4,628 mm)
70.0 in (1,778 mm)
57.2 in (1,453 mm)
104.4 in (2,651 mm)
|| 36.4 ft (11.1 m)
|| 3210 lb
1456 kg (Jetta 2.0L TDI automatic)
|| 15.5 cu. ft.
||2.0 TDI, in-line 4 cylinder, turbocharged
direct injection, common rail.
140 hp @ 4,000 rpm, 236 lb-ft @ 1,750-2,500 rpm
|EPA Fuel Economy (US mpg, L/100 km):|
| 2.0L TDI Diesel Manual:
2.0L TDI Diesel Automatic:
| city: 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km)
hwy: 42 mpg (5.6 L/100 km)
city: 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km)
hwy: 42 mpg (5.6 L/100 km)
|Recommended Fuel:|| Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD)
|Fuel Tank Capacity:
||14.5 US gal (55 liters)