2010 Volkswagen Jetta

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Our Take
Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    24-35 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    170-hp, 2.5-liter I-5 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain:
    Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    5-speed manual w/OD
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Steering and handling
  • Seat comfort and support
  • Ride comfort

The Bad

  • Wide center console

Notable Features of the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta

  • Optional diesel
  • Wagon model
  • Manual or automatic
  • Six standard airbags

2010 Volkswagen Jetta Road Test

Joe Wiesenfelder
Editor's note: This review was written in October 2008 about the 2009 Jetta TDI sedan. Interior changes for 2010 aren't reflected in the photos. To see other changes for 2010, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

I addressed the wagon version of Volkswagen's 2009 Jetta in an earlier review. Here I report on another returning champion, the TDI diesel version, which is back after three model years away from the U.S. It's now the first-ever 50-state diesel car — a model clean enough to be sold even in California and other states that have adopted its more-restrictive standards. For comparison, the previous-generation TDI (which stands for turbo direct injection in VW parlance) scored 1 in the EPA Green Vehicle Guide for pollution emissions, on a scale where 10 is best. The 2009 TDI scores 6, which is equal to the lowest-rated gasoline-engine Jetta. (Gas models sold in California rate higher, as they have for years.) One thing's clear: The difference between gasoline and diesel cars has narrowed dramatically in many ways.

The Efficiency of a Hybrid
Now that diesels are as clean as gas, why would you want one? Diesel engines typically get at least 20 percent better efficiency than a comparable gas engine, which is what a good hybrid delivers. That's clearly the case here, as the EPA rates the TDI sedan at 30/41 mpg city/highway with the six-speed manual. The 2.5-liter five-cylinder gas engine with a five-spe...

Editor's note: This review was written in October 2008 about the 2009 Jetta TDI sedan. Interior changes for 2010 aren't reflected in the photos. To see other changes for 2010, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

I addressed the wagon version of Volkswagen's 2009 Jetta in an earlier review. Here I report on another returning champion, the TDI diesel version, which is back after three model years away from the U.S. It's now the first-ever 50-state diesel car — a model clean enough to be sold even in California and other states that have adopted its more-restrictive standards. For comparison, the previous-generation TDI (which stands for turbo direct injection in VW parlance) scored 1 in the EPA Green Vehicle Guide for pollution emissions, on a scale where 10 is best. The 2009 TDI scores 6, which is equal to the lowest-rated gasoline-engine Jetta. (Gas models sold in California rate higher, as they have for years.) One thing's clear: The difference between gasoline and diesel cars has narrowed dramatically in many ways.

The Efficiency of a Hybrid
Now that diesels are as clean as gas, why would you want one? Diesel engines typically get at least 20 percent better efficiency than a comparable gas engine, which is what a good hybrid delivers. That's clearly the case here, as the EPA rates the TDI sedan at 30/41 mpg city/highway with the six-speed manual. The 2.5-liter five-cylinder gas engine with a five-speed manual gets 21/30; the more powerful turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder rates 21/31 but requires premium gas. So the TDI is 41 percent more efficient than the base engine in mixed driving.

That's based on the EPA figures, mind you. Real people are reporting better numbers, so VW commissioned an independent test that came up with 38/44 mpg. My results weren't that good, but they were better than the EPA's. My sedan had the six-speed automatic Direct Shift Gearbox, EPA rated at 29/40 mpg. The best I did was 41 mpg on a highway trip of about 30 miles, which included some construction at the tail end. My city results centered around 34 mpg and never dipped below 30 mpg, and the overall mileage for the week was also 34 mpg. The Jetta TDI's mileage is likely to improve over its first 10,000 miles or so, as is true of gas engines.

So, what does this efficiency cost you? Not too much. At $21,990, the base TDI is roughly $2,000 more than the gas-powered Jetta SE, which it's close to in terms of features (see a side-by-side comparison). But you can also subtract from that price the new $1,300 federal tax credit for the diesel and whatever you save in fuel costs. Where diesel fuel used to be less expensive than gas, it typically runs 20 percent more expensive now. Bummer, but if you're getting 40-plus percent better mileage, you still come out on top, and your car is releasing less carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, you can only use up to a 5 percent biodiesel blend (B5) or you'll void the warranty. This is a common restriction among new diesels.

Driving a Clean Diesel
As for the driving, the TDI gives up nothing to the gas versions, in my opinion. Though the engine has lower horsepower, it has characteristically higher torque at low engine speeds. In practice, it seemed my Jetta limited its torque in standing starts, an intentional design to prevent wheelspin. When already in motion, the rush of power when I tromped on the accelerator was more immediate. Overall lag was minimal, which is good to see. So far the Mercedes clean-diesels we've driven exhibit considerable lag when you call for rapid acceleration. Whether it's turbo lag, torque management or transmission hunting isn't clear, but the delay in response is there and it's frustrating.

Overall, the DSG transmission works nicely with this engine, though there are some quirks. It's a little slow to engage and creep forward when you take your foot off the brake, and you'd best engage the handbrake before putting it in Park, because the car rolls a bit more afterward than the average automatic does. (Here in the flatlands, the parking brake isn't always necessary.)

Just Like Gas...Mostly
All told, the TDI differs only in the most obvious ways from the gas versions. It requires fuel that's harder to find, especially in some regions, but most of the drawbacks associated with diesels are gone: It starts immediately and can operate down to -10 degrees F; it sounds distinctive but not particularly noisy; it appears to be smokeless; and the exhaust simply doesn't smell, mainly thanks to modern fuel's decreased sulfur content. It has adequate power, and it even has the same service interval as gas Jettas: 10,000 miles.

Unlike larger clean-diesels, this 2.0-liter four-cylinder doesn't require AdBlue, a urea solution carried onboard, to control the pollution levels. The new emissions controls are virtually trouble-free. One exception is the particulate filter, which traps soot in the exhaust stream and burns it off so it's harmless. The owner's manual notes that the filter can become blocked as a result of the car not being driven long enough distances for heat to build up. "We recommend that you try to avoid making only short journeys," the manual warns. If it does happen, an indicator illuminates on the instrument panel, and the cure is to drive at a speed of at least 37 mph for 15 minutes, according to the manual. An engine speed of 2,000 rpm and 4th or 5th gear is most effective.

Apart from that, the only TDI-specific item I saw in the maintenance schedule was the particulate filter replacement at 120,000 miles. For perspective, many gas engines are dead by this point, where diesels are known for lasting hundreds of thousands of miles. Diesel aficionados are sure to object to this added expense.

The 30 Percent Solution
When TDIs were discontinued in 2007, they made up 30 percent of the roughly 100,000 Jettas sold in the U.S. annually. VW hopes to increase that percentage, though only 2,500 have been imported per month since Aug. 1. Volkswagen of America has requested more for next year, but the current economy might make the point moot. It hasn't stopped buyers yet, though. The 2008 allotment is sold out, and VW says Jetta TDIs ordered now will be delivered in three to four months.

When I refueled the TDI for its return, I was reminded of a long-standing drawback: Diesel fuel is an oil that doesn't evaporate like gas does. It tends to collect on the ground around the pump and on the nozzle handle, and it's easy to track into the car or your house. Even now, every second or third time I fill up my hand gets coated with diesel fuel. The car technology and fuel quality have evolved, but the availability and dispensing (or those doing it) haven't.

Send Joe an email 



2010 Jetta Video

From the 2010 Chicago Auto Show, Cars.com's Mike Hanley takes a look at the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI SportWagen.

Latest 2010 Jetta Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.2)
Performance
(4.3)
Interior Design
(4.3)
Comfort
(4.2)
Reliability
(4.2)
Value For The Money
(4.2)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Most reliable car I have owned

by Remy from Lon Beach,CA on August 22, 2018

This car met all my need.Great gas saver,it?s just the right size.I really like the look of this car,this is the best value for your money. Read full review

(4.0)

Great little car

by cleichtn on July 24, 2018

Great value and great, safe car for the money. It is small, but large enough for four people comfortably and drives great. This is a great starter call for your kid in college but I wouldn't recommend ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2010 Volkswagen Jetta currently has 5 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2010 Volkswagen Jetta S

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
marginal
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranties

Backed by Volkswagen
New Car Program Benefits
  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    36 months / 36,000 miles

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits
  • Maximum Age/Mileage

    7 years/less than 72,000 or 75,000 miles (model-year specific)

  • Basic Warranty Terms

    Model-year 2017 and older, 2 years/24,000 miles; model-year 2018 and forward, 1 year/12,000 miles; TDI models, 2 years/unlimited miles

  • Powertrain warranty

    5 years/60,000 miles

  • Dealer Certification Required

    100-plus point inspection

  • Roadside Assistance

    Yes

  • View All Program Details

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Jetta received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker