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Volkswagen Jetta TDI (Diesel), 2010: The Weekly Driver car review

After a two-year absence because of stricter emissions requirements, the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta lineup, for the second straight year, includes TDI versions of the sedan or wagon. It features a turbocharged, clean-diesel engine and superior fuel mileage. It’s like Volkswagen figured out all reasons why the Jetta and its siblings are so popular in Europe are the same reasons the diesel and the car’s other industry-leading standards would likely be successful in the United States.

Electronic stability control and a cold weather package with heated front seats and steering wheel, for example, are standard on all 2010 models. The standard stability control system comes two years ahead of a federal mandate requiring all vehicles sold in the U.S. to have some sort of standard stability control feature.

It’s those features that have helped make the Jetta the best-selling European car in the U.S. market.

The Weekly Driver’s First Impressions:

The 2010 Volkswagen Jetta lineup offers three engine choices: a 170-hp 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder (the standard base powerplant); a turbocharged 2-liter, 200-hp four-cylinder (employed in a number of different VW and Audi models); and a 2-liter, 140-hp turbocharged diesel four-cylinder, dubbed the TDI (for Turbo Direct Injection).

2010 Volkswagen GTI

My weekly test drive was an option to an option. I had the 2.0-liter 140-horsepower edition featuring the TDI Cup edition. It’s a kit that features front bumper, side sill extensions and a rear valence. It also includes a lower side body black “TDI Cup Edition” decal. I’m not big on decals, but the VW’s is understated. As a diesel Jetta, lots of passersby were curious.

The Weekly Driver’s Ratings

Acceleration (6)
A diesel, you say? Where’s the “ping, ping, ping?” It doesn’t exit. The Jetta is among the few diesel choices that doesn’t let anyone know it’s a diesel — until they’re filling the gas tank less frequently. Then it all makes sense.

Braking/Steering/Handling (7)
Things in cars happen quickly in Europe. Good thing there are a lot of Jetta editions (gas and diesel) around. There are plenty of reasons why the Jetta is the best-selling European car on the U.S. market. Its solid feel, stop-on-a-dime braking and confidence around town or on the highway are three of the best reasons.

Cargo Room (6)
Spacious trunk with easy access for a sedan.

Controls (6)
Straightaway, non-sense approach. Easy-to-read odometer with simple lettering and numbers and no gimmicks. Air conditioning adjustments are not the most intuitive.

Details (6)
Sometimes, special edition vehicles feature gaudy-looking decals that cheapen the outside appearance of a car, like it has to prove something. The lettering for the TDI Cup Edition is attractively positioned.

Front Seats (7)
Comfortable and positioned nicely in the cabin. Cloth design pattern looks dated.

Fuel Economy (10)
With the exception of hybrid models, the Jetta’s 42 mpg freeway estimate is at the top of the rankings. During my test period, I averaged 36.2 mpg in combine freeway and city driving.

Quietness (6)
It’s a diesel, of course, and the engine sounds different. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the Jetta is surprisingly quiet. There’s little wind rush and the diesel engine’s starting noise subsides within a few seconds.

Rear Seats (3)
My wife and I gave two friends a ride home from the nearby community theater. Their reaction was nearly immediate. “Are you writing a review of this car? Geez, the back seat is tight and it’s a hard ride.”

Ride Quality (6)
Long gone are the days when driving a diesel meant giving up something else. The Jetta is quiet and fares well around town and on the freeway. It’s not luxurious, but it’s comfortably efficient.

Total (63 out of 100)

Class — Sports sedan.

For standard equipment/option package information, visit: www.vw.com.

Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price — $24,999.00

Price As driven — $31,113.00

Mileage Estimates — 30 mpg (city), 42 mpg (hwy).

Warranty — Bumper-to-bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 12 years/unlimited mileage.

What Others Say:

“On its own merits, any Jetta is a good choice for those who want a premium German sedan but find themselves with a beer rather than a champagne budget.”

—- CarandDriver.com.

“During our time we were averaging around 37 mpg – easily unmatched by anything this side of a hybrid – and we had assuredly more fun in the process.

—- Autoblog.com

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“It’s not quite a luxury car, but it has the exterior styling and performance of a vehicle with a much higher sticker price. No one tell Volkswagen, please!

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