2011 Volkswagen Jetta Long-Term Road Test - Introduction
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2011 Volkswagen Jetta Long-Term Road Test

Introduction

The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta got off to an inauspicious start. When we first drove the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta SEL we said, "The reason it's hard to love and fully recommend the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta is because it's a step backward in a number of ways. The cost-cutting scissors were out in force this time around and it's all too obvious where money was saved."

And while that's a bad thing in our eyes and, perhaps, for owners of the last generation of Volkswagen's Euro-feel midsize sedan, this cost-cutting means that now the Jetta starts at just $14,995. This low price is expected to bring thousands of new buyers into the VW fold, while returning Jetta buyers can always step up to the higher trim levels to get stuff found in the previous models.

Given the shaky nature of the strategy, we figured it was a good time to revisit the Jetta. And with gas prices soaring to nearly $5/gallon again and memories of our 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI still swirling in the back of our brains, we waited until the diesel hit our shores and ordered a 2011 Jetta TDI.

What We Got
Our Volkswagen 2011 Jetta TDI is equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder TDI clean diesel engine rumbling out 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Routing the power to the front wheels is a six-speed dual-clutch (DSG) gearbox. Controlling the torque on the ground are a set of Hankook Optimo H725A tires sized 205/55 R16.

As features and options go, the TDI comes standard with a power tilt/slide sunroof, intermittent wipers, heated power side mirrors, Bluetooth hands-free calling, Media Device Interface (MDI) with iPod, Sirius (3 months), aux-in, V-Tex leatherette with leather shift knob and steering wheel, six-way heated manual seats, ABS (with rear discs) and hill hold. Think of the TDI as a Jetta SE with the Sunroof and Convenience package.

As such, don't expect the TDI to be priced around the $15,000 mark. Instead, this car starts at $22,995. The only option available is the TDI Clean Diesel With Navigation package. It runs $1,200 and includes a navigation system with a 5-inch color touchscreen, SD memory card reader, keyless access with push-button start, halogen foglights, adjustable lumbar on the driver seat and chrome grille and window trim.

Do the math and include the $770 destination and handling fee, and you're looking at a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI that stickers for $26,065, though this car was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of this test.

Why We Got It
Car guys are constantly complaining that new cars are all wrong. They're too heavy, they're too complicated and they have too many luxury features. Compared with our 2009, the 2011 Jetta TDI is nearly 200 pounds lighter. That should mean better fuel economy and more enthusiast-friendly handling, right?

According to the EPA, our new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI returns an estimated 32 city and 42 highway mpg. Normally the price premium of diesel engines and the price premium of diesel fuel greatly reduces the benefit of oil burners. But as the price of 91 (the highest fuel grade available in California) and diesel are reaching parity here, now is the precise time that a diesel could show returns — in more than just torque-derived smiles — in the States.

We've got 12 months and 20,000 miles with the new Volkswagen Jetta to see not only if the new one is as good as the premium-focused last-gen Jetta, but to see if now is finally the time for a diesel sedan in America.

Current Odometer: 1,947
Best Fuel Economy: 27.8
Worst Fuel Economy: 25.5
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 27.2

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.


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