With all the recent developments and hype around electric vehicles and hybrids, it seems like traditional diesel fuel-misers may have some tough new competition from the newer technology. However, for those whose needs are simply not yet met by the likes of batteries and chargers; diesel still remains, in my humble opinion, the option that offers the least amount of compromise, while still offering low overall cost of ownership. That said, if you’re even going to think about going diesel, you might as well go directly to the all-time king of diesels, Volkswagen. VW has been building diesel engines since the dawn of time and have remained focused on continually refining their latest TDI (turbo diesel injection) engines. Now, it’s been years since I’ve set foot in a diesel; so I thought it would be a good idea to put a brand new 2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI through the paces of my daily grind to find out for myself just how far the technology has come.
To my surprise, unlike most other test vehicles, I found myself collecting the keys to a rather basic and stripped down Reflex Silver Jetta TDI. While that meant I’d have to get used to looking at plastic hubcaps for a week; it also meant that I’d be driving a car with little distractions from the driving experience itself. After all, with an MSRP of under $25,000, my tester already has a significant price advantage over the majority of high-tech fuel saving alternatives on the market. Even in the lower Trendline+ trim, my tester had almost everything I needed. On board were toys such as Bluetooth & iPod connectivity, steering wheel controls mounted to the high quality leather wrapped wheel, heated cloth seats and the 6-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox.
Based on the fact that I hadn’t driven a diesel in ages, as I cranked over the Jetta for the first time I was completely expecting to hear that familiar old diesel growl. However, I was sort of caught off-guard at just how smooth and refined the TDI sounded; no growl, no shaking idle. In fact, at one point during the week I found myself on a short trip with a fellow car enthusiast in the car. As we arrived at our destination I had mentioned something about the car being a diesel and to my surprise my friend had no idea we were in a diesel at all! The latest TDI is just that refined. The impressive levels of refinement don’t stop with just the engine either. Those Germans and their attention to detail have made the Jetta an incredibly comfortable car to get around in. The car is solid comfortable and quiet in all situations, and on the highway it just seems to glide along with almost no steering input, such a great trait for long road trips. The Jetta also has a certain confidence to its road manners that I really enjoy.
During my week with the Jetta TDI, I learned that the car greatly surpassed my expectations and proved that the TDI does have a fun side. Even though the 2.0L TDI only puts out 140hp, one of the advantages of diesel engines is the large amount of torque that can be achieved; so the TDI’s 236 lb-ft of torque really went a long way to pull the car out of the corners. While the feedback from the steering wheel leaves a little to desired, the handling proved very predictable with minimal under and torque-steer. Additionally, the DSG dual clutch gearbox, really showed off its talents, and in “Sport” mode, did a phenomenal job keeping the RPMs right in the power band.
The Jetta’s driving dynamics speak volumes with regards to the build quality of the car. Happily, the quality is carried though the interior as well, and while my tester came equipped with a rather minimalistic list of features, the interior remains very functional and pleasant place to be. What’s really impressive inside the Jetta is Volkswagen’s use of space. The car actually seems to grow when you get inside. It offers a massive trunk and excellent rear legroom, while still managing to feel spacious and airy up front.
Now, on to what everyone has been waiting for, fuel mileage. Over a week’s worth of mixed commuting in heavy traffic I averaged a thrifty 5.8L/100km. Considering the fact that I had to sacrifice nothing to get that sort of fuel economy I am quite pleased. I didn’t have to plug it in and worry about weather, I had plenty of pickup power and interior space, and I wasn’t bored or uncomfortable. My only little gripe is with the fact that I found myself struggling to find diesel at times. Not all gas stations in my area carry it, and most GPS systems are not able to search specifically for stations that sell diesel. However, with a 1000km range, you won’t have to look for it that often anyway. Based on the Jetta TDI’s impressive economy and comfort for long distance drives, I feel like it’s the perfect choice for anyone who commutes for hundreds of kilometers on end.
I’ve come away from my week with the Jetta TDI with a new appreciation for diesel and the leaps and bounds of improvement VW has made with these engines. Honourary mention goes to the Jetta’s closest competitor, the Chevrolet Cruze 2.0TD. Volkswagen has not only mastered the art of diesel engines, but they’ve mastered the recipe for the Jetta as well in order to create a very compelling combination.
2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Gallery