By Cars.com EditorsMay 13, 2009
About the video
Cars.com's Joe Wiesenfelder takes a look at the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta. It competes with the Subaru Impreza and Honda Civic.
(upbeat music) Hi, I'm Joe Wiesenfelder with cars.com here with the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. It is a clean diesel, a milestone. It's the first 50 state diesel car.
It can be sold even in California, which has always been a little bit too stringent for diesel cars. It's technically, a TDI, a Jetta TDI. TDI stands for turbo direct injection. But basically what you need to know is it's as clean as a gasoline engine. (engine whirring) So why would you even want a diesel? Because they're more efficient than gasoline only engines of an equal power. They're actually about as much more efficient than a gas engine as a hybrid is. This car is rated for about 29 miles per gallon city and 40 highway. In reality, we're getting much better numbers. Independent labs are getting numbers as high as 38 city and 44 highway. Now, you know why you would want a diesel, you're probably thinking you wouldn't want one because they have a reputation. We'll see how close a modern TDI is to that notion. Now you may have heard over the years, that diesels are hard to start, especially when it's cold out. That may have been true at one point. The addition of glow plugs has helped a lot. What happens is you turn the ignition on and you watch for a squiggly line there. And once that goes out, that means it's ready to start. Now the longest you have to wait for that light to go out is like a second. And even in really cold temperatures like zero, when I started modern diesel engines, the longest you have to wait for the glow plugs is maybe 10 seconds. So it's not that different from a gasoline engine. As for the sound, I'm talking in a normal voice and I'm not drowned out by the sound of the engine. If you're outside, it definitely sounds different. You might say, "Hmm, that's a diesel," but it's not loud. It's not noisy. As for the smoky, smelly reputation, as you can see, there's no smoke here. I haven't seen any smoke when I've been driving it. And it really doesn't smell either. And that's partly the fuel, it's low sulfur diesel. I feel a little woozy. Now in terms of equipment, the TDI is somewhere between the SE and the SEL trim levels. Those are the gas versions. Really well equipped and the price is just under $22,000. Also, you get a federal tax credit. That's real money. That's not a deduction, it's a credit. And then there's the issue of how much you save in fuel. Now, diesel fuel costs more than gasoline now. It didn't used to be that way. If you do the math between this version and say a gas version of the Jetta, you'll probably find that you're still gonna save money in the long run. And you'll probably pay less for a car like this than you would for the average hybrid. Now diesel cars in the eighties and nineties were pathetically slow. We're talking zero to 60 in like 20 seconds. Seriously, this is a little different. This is a turbo diesel. It has less horsepower than the gas engine, but more torque. And that makes for a really robust launch. (engine whirring) Now with the choice of a six speed manual or six speed automatic, this really gives up nothing to a four cylinder gas engine. And in fact, because it's a small diesel, you don't even have to add any additional fluid to it, which is now the case with some of the larger clean diesels. Now there's no doubt, diesel filling stations are less common than gas. You can find them though, go online. You can put in a zip code, click on diesel and find filling stations within a certain radius that have diesel fuel. Now it looks pretty much like most of these conceptions about diesels are misconceptions, now. Overall, the modern diesel in the form of the Jetta TDI is very impressive. <v Announcer>For additional information on this car or any other, go to cars.com and our blog Kicking Tires.