Volkswagen Jetta TDI Review

A lifetime of exposure to noisy, smelly city buses and 18-wheelers (not to mention passenger cars of the 70s and 80s) has given diesel a bad reputation.

Time to shake that once and for all. And a great way to do that is with a drive in a Volkswagen Jetta TDI.

TDI is Volkswagen's clean diesel engine...a terrific marriage of ultra-low sulfur fuel and a technology that burns fuel so efficiently, there's very little waste.

Kneel down by the tailpipe of a running TDI and there's no diesel odor whatsoever.

The 140 horsepower made by the 2-liter four-cylinder engine isn't a world-beater, but diesels are all about torque...and the TDI makes 236 pounds per foot of it...it's a cliche, but it really does pull like a locomotive.

Inside, the Jetta TDI is all business, no frills...but not cheap or austere. Everything is logically placed, falls easily to hand, and moves with a solid, high-quality feel.

The big payoff here is mileage. The EPA says 29 city, 40 highway...and we managed 42 and a half in a week of 50/50 urban freeways and surface streets, which makes it as good as our real-world experience with both the new Honda Insight and the Mercury Milan Hybrid.

Where the Jetta TDI pulls ahead is in the value equation. $22,830 base price (our tester had a six-speed automatic for $1,100 and a sunroof for $1,000...which, after destination charges, put the bottom line at $25,640.) and diesel longevity...250,000 miles is equivalent to 100,000 miles or less in a gasoline engine. 400,000 miles or more is not uncommon.

It doesn't scream "hey, look at me, I'm saving the planet!" the way Toyota Priuses (Prii?) and Insights do...it just gets the job done...and there's a very good chance it will be doing that job a lot longer. The Jetta TDI earns its place not only on TireKicker's Top Ten Fuel Savers, but also on TireKicker's Top 20 Cars.

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