The 2010 Jetta Sportwagen is not as well known as the Toyota Prius.
But the two vehicles have been compared. The Prius is the much talked
about, industry-leading hybrid. The Jetta TDI is the increasingly
popular and peppy diesel.
The Prius made many of 2010 Best-of-the-Year lists and even topped
some of the compilations. But the Jetta and its surprising value and
impressive as mileage ratings weren’t too far behind. In short, the
Prius revolutionized the hybrid industry in the United States and the
Jetta may well do the same for cleaning-burning diesel engines.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
There’s no easy Northern California or San Francisco Bay Area
connection to Mendocino. In either of the two major options to get to
the picturesque coastal city, stretches of winding roads interrupt
steady freeway driving. One route is more severe, but either journey
has a reputation as unfriendly for car passengers. In other words,
there’s a high rate of car sickness.
But the routes, including the our recent two-day getaway from
Sacramento along highways 101 and state route 128 were avoided of bouts
of nausea but provided an ideal driving scenario to test the 2010
Volkswagen Jetta TDI diesel. Hilly, long winding roads, sharp turns,
fog and bright sunlight were all part of the journey. We covered about
500 miles in two days, some open freeway, some gnarly, two-lane country
roads, some city driving. If there’s a better way to test drive a
vehicle, I unaware of it. And if there’s a better performing wagon and
a better performing diesel, I’m unaware of it, too.
Here’s a surprise. The Jetta is a wagon, VW’s Tiguan is a compact SUV. The Jetta has 18 more cubic fee of cargo space with the seats up than the Tiguan.
The newly style interior console and side panels are
straight-forward, but nothing fancy. The console has the “dimpled”
appearance finish, a better-lasting approach than crack-prompting soft
There’s plenty of head and leg room for front and back-seat
passengers and optional leatherette seats are stylish and complement
the side paneling and carpet, like a nice pair of two-tone saddle shoes.
A stylish wagon seems like an oxymoron. It’s not with the Jetta
Sportwagen. Restyled for 2010 with a new front grill, Jetta SportWagen
is a “station wagon” far removed from the box-like reputation of the
wagon your grandfather or even father owned. It has round corners and a
European look, with leanings more toward the sports car segment than
crossover or SUV options.
For anyone still clinging to the notion that diesels “ping” their way
along to their less-than-impressive acceleration to highway cruising
speed, forget it. The Jetta SportWagen TDI diesel may use diesel fuel,
but it’s difficult to otherwise distinguish it as a diesel. It can pull
away from other vehicles in city and highway traffic and its 2.0-liter,
140-horsepower engine gives a larger impression. The diesel engine is
audible when it starts, then settles into a quick rhythm.
The electro-mechanical power steering, front-wheel drive,
independent front and rear suspension, anti-lock braking system and
electronic stabilization program all work in perfect harmony. The Jetta
acts like it owns the road despite its understated appearance.
Panoramic sunroof. It extends well into the roof are of the second seat and has several adjustment options.
Masterful driving control.
Turn signal indicators mounted in side mirrors.
Seatbelt positioning and comfort.
MSRP for the diesel is about $2,000 more than the gas version. It’s nearly recouped by a $1,300 clean-fuel rebate.
Some inconvenience finding diesel fuel.
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 8.2 seconds.
Airbags: Driver and front passenger front and side and front and rear side curtain.
Antilock brakes: Standard
Fuel economy: (EPA estimates) 30 mpg (city), 42 mpg (hwy).
Government Safety Ratings (stars): Frontal crash (driver 4, passenger 4); Side crash (driver 5, passenger 5); Rollover (4).
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $24,310.00
Price As tested: $27,910.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5
years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 12 years/unlimited miles; Roadside
Assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles; Courtesy Transportation,
Web site: www.vw.com.
What Others Say:
“The TDI’s spunky diesel engine and sport suspension up the fun factor,
but also keeps things frugal with its stellar fuel-economy figures . .
. The TDI’s price premium over gasoline-powered 2.5 models will take
time to recuperate, though it should qualify for a tax credit.” —- Consumer Guide.com
“For driving enthusiasts looking to trade gas money for feature content, the 2010 Volkswagen TDI is a solid choice.” —- Edmunds.com
“With that $21,995 starting price, the 42 MPG highway fuel
economy, sharp looks, seriously nice interior and a responsive chassis,
this new Golf TDI makes more expensive cars look frivolous and direct
rivals look behind the times.” —- Jalopnik.com
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“Sometimes Best of the Year lists make sense, sometimes they
don’t. The Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI made nearly every list
available — Green Car of the Year to World Car of the Year. With the
average price of a new car in the United States nearly $30,000 and the
Jetta fully loaded about $2,000 less, let’s add Best Value of the Year
to the car’s honors. In short, there’s very little not to like about
James, a journalist since 1976, is co-author of Tour de France For
Dummies. He owns several websites, contributes to many print and online
publications and is also the editor of TheWeeklyDriver.com. A long-distance runner for nearly 30 years, Raia also rides his bike — to nearby coffeehouses. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.