Road Test: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta diesel

So often it seems German-made cars have dark exteriors with even darker interiors, black in most cases.

I’m not about to contemplate why, other than to say I was greatly pleased to find this week’s tester painted in Moonrock Silver Metallic offset with a Cornsilk Beige Vienna Leather interior. Hmmm, Moonrock and Cornsilk? Maybe I’m the problem.

Regardless, the 2014 VW Jetta is a good-looking conservatively styled 4-door sedan offering the choice between two gas engines and a turbocharged diesel power plant.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI close up view od headlight.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI close up view od headlight.
PNG Merlin Archive,

My choice

I chose to give the diesel-powered Jetta a week of hard running over that of its gas-fired counterparts due mainly to my recent seat-time in both the diesel-powered Chevrolet Cruze and the diesel-burning BMW 328d. With memories of their attributes and detractions rattling about my right hemisphere, I thought it would be interesting to contrast the clutter with VW’s long-serving turbo-diesel 4-banger.

While displacing 2.0-litres, the TDI beneath the Jetta’s hood develops 140 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque. Full torque is on-tap at just 1,750 rpm. Those are impressive numbers, and so is the TDI’s fuel economy rating of 6.7L/100km city and 4.7L/100km highway.

Impressive, yes, but practical? Yes.

According to the tester’s on-board computer, my city-based fuel-economy was in the 6-7L/100km range. And for the record, I was neither trying to sip nor gulp fuel. I did, however, enjoy diving into the Jetta’s deep pool of torque. For the most part, I drove the way I most often do, which is to say that time is not generally on my side.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI interior - dash.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI interior – dash.
PNG Merlin Archive,

Behind the Wheel

I don’t mean to belittle BMW in any manner, but I’m convinced that Volkswagen is building a more polished 4-cylinder diesel engine. While the 328d I tested had more gun under its hood than this week’s first steer — and more gears in its transmission — it wasn’t quite as quiet and refined as the Jetta, especially when cold. Not a wide chasm here, but counter-intuitive and noteworthy nonetheless.

While I was fond of the light, airy feel of the Jetta’s cabin, I wasn’t enamoured by its small audio/navigation screen and related interface programming. This is not a particularly easy or intuitive setup to work with. On the positive side though, sound quality of the optionalFender audio goes a long way to making up for the mild user frustration I experienced.

On the road

The Jetta is surprisingly spacious inside, especially in the rear where legroom is limousine-like. There’s no doubt that occupants will enjoy the comfort they’re afforded as the miles roll by. And from the driver’s seat, those miles will be some of the easiest one could hope for thanks to the Jetta’s smooth ride, structural solidity, and competent handling characteristics.

Its large sheets of glass provide refreshingly good visibility in an era when so many vehicles seek flair over function with sleek roof lines and vision-limiting side cuts. Volkswagen has always resisted that fad, the latest Jetta standing as an example of their common sense approach to styling.

Once underway, the 2014 Jetta TDI is quiet. Very little road or wind noises seep into its sturdy cabin, which contributes to a relaxed driving environment in which to enjoy the willingness of the TDI’s substantial torque. Never does the diesel power plant struggle in propelling the Jetta ahead of slower traffic or bringing it up to speed on a freeway on-ramp.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI left side view.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI left side view.
PNG Merlin Archive,

Wrapping the thrifty Jetta TDI

The delight of “driving diesel” is enhanced by the Jetta’s road manners and its lively handling characteristics. All facets of this car come together to deliver a most enjoyable — and economical — driving experience, and one that I’m certain will reward its owners with less money spent at the pumps. Those visits will be few and far between. Volkswagen claims that the Jetta TDI is capable of clocking 1,190 km between fill-ups.

Diesel is becoming more entrenched into the Canadian automotive landscape, and that simplifies the task of locating it in urban areas where its existence was once sparse. The benefits of owning a diesel car continue to grow while the challenges diminish, not the least of which is a former reputation for pollution. Thanks to ultra-low-sulphur fuel and improved engine technology, today’s diesel-powered cars no longer merit disdain.

The base Jetta TDI is tagged at $22,490 with a 6-speed manual gearbox. I find that to be reasonable for a spacious diesel-powered European sedan but disappointing that it’s considerably greater than a gas-powered Jetta. My upscale Highline tester rang-in at $30,760 due in part to its optional $1,570 Technology Package, which includes premium Fender audio, a rear-view camera and navigation, plus a single CD slot.
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The Jetta TDI is available with either an automatic transmission or a manual gearbox, the latter of which is becoming unusual as manual gearboxes fade into history.

The Jetta TDI is available with either an automatic transmission or a manual gearbox, the latter of which is becoming unusual as manual gearboxes fade into history.
PNG Merlin Archive,

The specs

Type of vehicle: Spacious mid-size 4-door diesel-powered European sedan
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel
Power: 140 hp & 236 lbs.-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG automatic
Fuel economy: 6.7 / 4.7 L/100km city / highway (automatic)
MSRP: Base $22,490; as tested $30,760

About Rob Rothwell