Expert Reviews

Day-by-Day Review: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Day 1

Everyone in Canada loves a diesel, right? I guess we will see how much the love continues with an engine that now requires a fuel that is 30–40 percent more expensive than regular gasoline; it certainly can make the diesel argument a little tough to swallow, especially when you also have to spring for the AdBlue UREA additive on top of the fuel difference.

But here we have the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta in Highline trim powered by a 2.0L TDI engine. My tester is also mated to Volkswagen's six-speed dual-clutch (DSG) transmission. In Highline trim with the Technology package this is the most expensive Jetta you can currently buy.

Although my tester is loaded it comes in at what I consider to be a reasonable price in this category -- especially when you consider the diesel engine and DSG transmission -- under $34,000 including delivery.

Features included in the price are: dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, navigation, heated leather seating, bi-xenon headlamps, back-up camera, cooling glovebox, Fender audio system and much more.

Pricing: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Highline TDI
Base price: $29,690
Options: Technology Package $2,495
Freight: $1,395
A/C Tax: $100
Price As Tested: $33,680

Cruze Diesel
Ford Focus
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Hyundai Sonata
Kia Optima
Mazda 6
Toyota Corolla


Day 2

According to the fellow on the radio this morning it was -26 degrees, -37 with the wind chill. That's a little chilly, but according to the onboard temperature display on the Jetta it was a balmy -24 degrees Celsius. Why am I telling you this? For a few reasons, and the first is the false stigma about diesel vehicles in cold weather.

The Jetta started without a hitch this morning, I hit the start button and the engine fired right up, nearly instantly. In fact it started faster than many gas engines do in these temperatures and sounded less clunky than the new direct injection gas engines that sound like they are going to fall apart on cold starts.

The other reason I'm talking temperature (besides reminding those in the GTA and Vancouver that it gets cold in the rest of Canada) is the curious behaviour of the onboard entertainment system. You see, when I started the Jetta the radio came on and my tunes started playing, but the screen did not turn on. I tried to remember if perhaps I turned the screen off the night before, but I do not think I did and touching the screen and hitting the setup button did nothing.

After about 10 minutes of driving the display finally came to life and displayed "System Temperature outside operating range, Shutting system down." I quickly pulled my phone out to snap a photo of this message before the system shut down. Despite the warning, I made it to my destination and the system never did shut down. But it could not be used -- I've not seen this on any other vehicle with a touchscreen entertainment system; I realize it's cold but surely VW did cold weather testing up north?

At least I was able to listen to the radio and didn't have to sit in frozen silence the entire way to work. And that brings me to the interior comfort -- the Jetta feels solid and more expensive than it is, as is typical of Volkswagen. The Highline trim is loaded, and as a result the cost-cutting measures that Volkswagen employed on the Jetta a few years ago are undetectable in this model.

Of course I can't leave out the curling broom test. The Jetta competes in the compact segment as Volkswagen's smallest sedan, but the trunk is massive -- I've included a photo for scale, and I didn't even have to try this week to get the broom in quickly before jumping into the frozen driver's seat.


Day 3

If I've noticed one thing about the 2015 Jetta TDI, it's that it hums along on the highway without a care in the world. As a result, in typical German car fashion, you do not realize how fast you are going and one second you think you are going 100 km/h and the next you are actually going 140 km/h.

It's too bad we have such low speed limits in Canada because cars like these really feel better the faster you go. This is down to a solid road feel and a great suspension design that offers excellent stability and predictability while still delivering optimum comfort.

The TDI engine aids in this regard as it supplies ample low end torque, reducing the amount of downshifts needed to accelerate or maintain speed up grades. Because the torque is so abundant, at times you do not realize you have sped up.

As much as I typically praise the DSG transmission, this application (at least in the cold weather), is not ideal. On cold mornings the transmission is really abrupt and it has a hard time deciding between first and second gear at low speeds. It seems owners get used to it and drive around it, but expect a different experience from a typical automatic that dulls this mechanical feel via the torque converter.

I'm having a hard time deciding if the Jetta is quiet on the road or not; it seems as though there is some wind noise, but it manifests itself less sharply for some reason. The loudest thing about driving the Jettta has been the HVAC fan, which is basically on full speed at all times due to the cold weather -- and that fan is certainly on the loud side.


Day 4

Despite diesel prices being about 20-30 percent higher than gasoline prices at the moment the Jetta TDI still is compelling. The fact that I averaged just 6.8 L/100 km in frigid temperatures is impressive, when you do the math that is equivalent to about 8.5 L/100 km accounting for the difference between regular gasoline prices.

Unfortunately you still have to pay more for the engine in the first place and oil changes and maintenance could prove to be more costly. But you do get the advantage of the torque and long range which are extra bonuses to note with the TDI engine. If you want a 1.8T Jetta you'll be saving a little at the current prices as it does use regular fuel.

The Jetta feels larger and more substantial than it's measurements and class might suggest. It feels solid and comfortable on the highway. If you do a lot of highway driving and do not need a larger mid-sized sedan the Jetta may do the trick for you as a small economical vehicle, available with premium features and a quality ride.