2011 VW Jetta TDI Long-Term Test: Wrap-Up
After a full year of testing our 2011 VW Jetta TDI, it's time to say goodbye. While the 2011 Jetta was redesigned and made more affordable at the expense of some of its past niceties, we've come to appreciate its comfortable ride, spunky driving characteristics and high fuel economy. As an adieu, a handful of our editors put their final thoughts together on their impressions of our eco-friendly Volkswagen:
I have not been a fan of previous Jettas. They've always looked great but were way too small inside. This new Jetta is a really great car and now appropriately sized for a small family. I drove this car day after day for months and never got tired of it. The back seat is more than big enough for two or even three kids and the front seats go back really far making excellent legroom. The TDI engine is brilliant - tons of torque combined with very good fuel economy add up to a car I'd easily pick over any hybrid. But the car doesn't drive like a fuel sipper, it's actually fun. The off-the-line power combined with slightly sporty driving dynamics give the impression that the Jetta TDI is much more expensive than $26,000.
But the Jetta isn't perfect. The navigation system is difficult to use and often gives turn commands too late. I also fee like the Jetta TDI has too much road noise. Granted, there is very little engine noise because the rpms stay so low you can barely hear the diesel engine. But I think this is why too much road noise makes its way into the cabin.
At the end of the day, I'd rather have the Jetta TDI than a Toyota Prius, Nissan Leaf, Chevy Cruze Eco or Honda Insight. In spite of its fuel-efficient engine, the Jetta TDI is rewarding to drive, attractive and comfortable. The pros far outweigh the cons.
"Fun. Simply put, the 2011 VW Jetta TDI was a fun car to drive. With enough power and sporty handling to allow me to pretend that I was driving a much more expensive sports sedan, the Jetta was a great car to just take out for a drive. Because of my commute and the constant shuttling between kid activities, fun had not been something that I associated with driving for quite some time. However, from our first date through our bittersweet goodbye, Olga was a great dance partner and I really enjoyed our time together. Considering the mix of performance and diesel economy that the car offers, the VW Jetta TDI definitely won a place in my heart."
When I think of the time I spent in the Jetta, there are a few things that stand out in my memory.
First, that car was really responsive - quick to get moving, quick in the turns, and quick (but smooth) to stop. I liked that at moderate to low speeds, when I took my foot off the accelerator, the Jetta would slow down noticeably, as if downshifting, so that I didn't always have to use the brakes. That might not be a positive feature for everyone, but it was great in my opinion since I spend a lot of time in stop-and-go traffic.
I also personally enjoyed hearing the subdued but distinct rattling "diesel" sound from the engine, both at idle and at full throttle. There's something reassuring about a diesel sounding like one, albeit a refined version of the old-school noisemakers from the '70s and '80s.
Lastly, the Jetta seemed like a big car in small car clothing to me, which is to say the interior was plenty spacious, but the car could be easily tucked into a tight parking space. And the small-car fuel economy she delivered was just incredible.
The Jetta brought a touch of class, sportiness and economy to my world, and I'm glad to have had the experience.
I found the Jetta comfortable and fun and was very impressed by its fuel economy - 42 mpg is a quite a feat. The navigation system was intuitive and easy to use and made for easy driving around Atlanta and on road trips. I didn't love the downgraded interior materials, but I would still recommend the Jetta, especially to the environmentally-consious consumer.
I was impressed mostly by our test car's delightful combination of a thrifty yet robust turbodiesel powerplant and VW's slick dual-clutch automatic. In sport mode, the transmission shifts both up and down at higher engine speed than in normal mode, providing a stick-shift-like driving experience, only with less work. Normal mode provides less driving excitement but delivers fuel economy to rival even hybrids. The economics of diesel are open for debate, but the Jetta's TDI engine and DSG transmission are a winning combination for delivering economy without ruining the fun.