My 2005 Volkswagen Jetta was a gift from my dad for my 18th birthday and high school graduation. In the six years since, little Jane the Jetta (one of the last Jetta IV models) has seen virtually every state in the Southeast, hauled pretty much everything I own and covered about 125,000 miles.
These days, Jane is often messy, with me (only sort of) joking that I take my life for rides in my car. But she is as comfortable to me as my home. I feel completely at ease with her, knowing exactly how big her blind spots are and precisely how small a parallel parking space she can squeeze into.
Olga, our 2011 Jetta TDI, retains many of the things I love about Jane, plus a large number of upgraded features. Olga is slightly bigger and sportier, with tighter steering and a ton of torque from the turbo-diesel engine. She also has a rockin' sound system, Bluetooth connection, steering wheel controls and an easy-to-use navigation system, though the screen is a bit on the small side.
Olga's best feature is in those three little letters in her name: TDI. Her little diesel engine goes a long way on a single tank of fuel. Jane gets decent gas mileage – nearly 30 mpg on the highway – but she can't hold a candle to the 40.6 mpg I got while driving Olga to my parents' house last weekend. And while a lot of people think diesels are noisy and smelly, I haven't found Olga to be significantly louder than regular gasoline vehicles – or noticed any unpleasant smells emanating from the exhaust.
But there are a few areas where Jane still wins out. I noticed some minor jerkiness when driving Olga, particularly when going 10 mph or less. This is a common complaint of dual-shift gearboxes (DSG) like the one found in Olga. DSG transmissions offer better performance, but generally aren't as smooth as traditional automatics.
I prefer the softer interior materials in my 2005 Jetta, which have largely been replaced with shiny plastic in the 2011 model. And while diesel fuel offers hybrid-like fuel economy, not all gas stations carry it. In the middle of a big city like Atlanta – away from highways frequented by semis – it can be downright hard to find.
Perhaps the biggest compliment I could give Jane, my 2005 Jetta, is that she has been an excellent and enduring road trip car, perfect for a football-following college student and travel-happy young adult. I think the 2011 Jetta TDI's significantly better fuel efficiency and extra room could carry on Jane's road-trip legacy nicely – plus economically handle my daily commute now that I've graduated and joined the workforce.