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2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

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Published on Sat, Sep 22, 2012

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (Doug Stokes)

Volkswagen sought out to design a Jetta that speaks a language Americans understand: Spaciousness, great gas mileage, and a great bottom line. The new 42 miles per gallon VW Jetta TDI arguably speaks this language better than any other. Doug Stokes reports. Words and pictures by Doug Stokes Let’s see, where to start. The last (and only) Volkswagen road car that I ever owned was a 1954 Beetle with a fabric sunroof, an 1,131cc engine, and a 4-speed manual that had a non-synchro first gear. That semaphore-signal, oval rear window machine and three or four Formula Vee race cars down the road and here we are at the wheel of the new Jetta TDI, a car that still sports that V over W logo and that seems every bit as willing to please as my Volksie of old.

Volkswagen Jetta TDI in Toffee Brown Metallic (Doug Stokes)

Fifty-eight years later, there were a few differences of course. First of all, there are almost no compromises in comfort, ride, carrying capacity, power, and styling made in the name of economy here. This turbo-diesel powered VW is Uncle Sam-rated at 30 (city) and 42 (hwy) miles-per-gallon of low sulfur. Priced in the LA area at the time of this test drive within a few cents here or there of 91 octane. Which means that (once again) diesel makes sense. I did not do any sort of a drop-by-drop fuel check during my week in this one, but the odometer said 332 miles when I (reluctantly) turned over the keys and the “gas gauge” (er, fuel gauge) read a little better than half-full (the Jetta’s fuel tank holds 14.5 gallons of diesel). The rough math indicates the numbers that the old guy in the striped pants lays on us can easily be achieved. With this kind of abundant torque 236 pound-feet of it(!), I’m not really too sure of why anyone would really want to equip one of these cars with a six-speed manual transmission. I mention that as this one was so-equipped (but I loved it—almost—unconditionally nevertheless). Remember, this is a two-liter engine with 140 horsepower. But that big diesel torque, aided and abetted by that six-speed stick had me almost searching out stoplight drag races.

That rear deck hides a trunk of enormous proportions (Doug Stokes)

Unless you live at the top of Witch Mountain or a similar hilly neighborhood, I’d sure suggest opting for the automatic transmission for this one. We had a drive-time (7:30 a.m. on a Monday) flick across a chunk of the county (Pasadena to Santa Monica) that was a great workout for the left leg and right wrist, but I wouldn’t recommend it—nor tolerate a daily drive that replicated that route. With the Olympics recently past, we all sort of got accustomed to seeing well-conditioned athletes making all sort of very difficult stuff look easy. That’s the sense that you get with one of the new generation of clean TDI diesels, there’s effort alright, lots of it, but there’s no strain, just an flow of graceful, understated power that can put one in the fast lane—fast. After a week with this one, with the kind of range and fuel mileage and midrange ability to move very smartly that this diesel-fueled car affords, I’m not sure I’d ever suggest a hybrid to someone looking for good service and low enviro-impact.

The Jetta TDI is available with a 6-speed DSG automatic with Tiptronic and Sport modes (VW photo)

Since we’re talking numbers here, this fully-equipped DIESEL-powered, Toffee Brown Metallic Jetta maxed out its Monroney at a modest $22,775.00 (plus destination charge). The six-speed manual is a no-charge option, as is the Cornsilk Leatherette interior and the aforementioned metallic paint. That 23.5 grand has some very nice stuff associated with it like a Sirius satellite radio system (Siriously Sinatra on 71), all the device interface connections that your most tech-savvy teenager can ever use, some cleanly-styled 16-inch alloy wheels, and the complete package of electronic safety measures, starting with ABS brakes and going on through stability control, anti-slip regulation, and tire pressure monitoring. Four-wheel power-assisted disc brakes are the coin of the realm these days, and these are good ones. I had the occasion to really test them in real traffic during a bit of a dust-up that I happened upon, and rather quickly found the Jetta’s binders to be excellent both in pure stopping power and controllability under some fairly heavy conditions. It’s not part of our normal testing protocol, but the save was nonetheless instructive. This is a conservatively-styled four-door compact car that hardly seems compact in any way in my book. The rear seat room for two adults is spot on and the trunk can be only be described as generous (and then some).

Volkswagen Jetta TDI interior (VW photo)

I said conservatively-styled above when I should have indicated that this really quite a nice-looking unit: sharp edges where they should have a bit of a crease, an alert stance, and a family resemblance grille. The way that this one was put together could only be referred to as exemplary. Nothing flashy, nothing garish, solid looks that nicely matched the solid performance. This Jetta TDI version comes on line when many concerned buyers are looking at hybrids. Our counsel is to get a few miles in one of these first. -DS SIDEBAR COMMENT: Complaints? Yeah sure! My main one being the fact that the Volkswagen people came and took the car back after the week that it was loaned to LA Car was up! Aside from that, I personally had a heck of a time with the alarm button the switchblade remote key unit. I kept inadvertently setting off the emergency horn symphony, albeit I do like the idea of a panic button (hey, this is LA car, right?). On the plus side, check out the clean tailpipes on this diesel unit that had well over 20,000 miles on it (see photo gallery). For more information about Volkswagen products, go to SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Price: $22,775 (6-speed manual) $23,875 (6-speed DSG automatic) EPA fuel economy ratings: 30 miles per gallon city/42 miles per gallon highway

The 2.0-liter common-rail, direct-injection turbocharged TDI diesel (Doug Stokes)

Engine: 2.0-liter inline four cylinder, common-rail, direct-injection turbocharged TDI diesel Horsepower: 140 at 4000 rpm Torque: 236 pound-feet at 1750 rpm Transmission: 6-speed manual (6-speed DSG automatic with Tiptronic and Sport mode optional) Drive configuration: Front engine/front-wheel drive Transmission type: 6-speed manual base/6-speed automatic with Sport Mode and Tiptronic Sequential Shifting Front suspension: Independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, telescopic gas-pressurized shocks, stabilizer bar. Rear suspension: Twist Beam Rigid Axle, coil springs, telescopic gas-pressurized shocks, stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 16-inch alloy/205/55R16 all-season radial tires Brakes: Front: 11.3 in. vented discs with dual-piston calipers Rear: 10.6 in. solid discs with single-piston calipers ABS, EBD, BA Dimensions Total length: 182.2 Total width: 70 in. Total height: 57.2 in. Curb weight: 3,162 lbs.

You can stare in the patterns of the Jetta lens for a good minute (Doug Stokes)

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