2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI SE: Fun and gas miserly

29 Apr 2015 | 935 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds If I was to take  road trip back to my hometown under the Gateway Arch--St. Louis--I'd want the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI SE as my four wheeled companion. 2015_jetta_tdi_4218 (1) Why?  Phenomenal gas mileage. We'd hit the St. Louis riverfront with tons of gas to spare--from Pittsburgh, almost 600 miles behind us.  It's an incredibly comfortable car with lots of room, so we would arrive there with the family intact with no battle scars from being too close together. The Jetta TDI SE also is a whole bunch of fun to drive with quick steering, handling and cornering of a true sports car, and brakes that stop on a dime. Volkswagen is of course, rather in demand for its diesel products and no wonder: They are well made, sturdy as all get out, outrageously economical, smoke and fume free, and they are fun to drive as well. At  least in these parts, they have been notoriously hard to find, whether new or used, until VW dramatically increased the production of new diesel products, and expanded the choice of its diesel cars substantially across the board, with new diesel models available in just about all its products. Diesel powered used VWs used to  disappear from lots as quickly as they arrive, and so do new ones, at least in our neck of the woods. So trust us, VW will sell every new diesel ppowered Jetta TDIs that they pump out of the factory. And there are plenty of Jetta loyalists and diesel enthusiasts who will take to the new Jetta in no time. But nowadays, there are plenty of competitors that can come close to the 45 highway miles per gallon that the Jetta offers, and do so on much cheaper regular gasoline as opposed to the roughly $3.50 a gallon that people are paying across the U.S. for diesel. And the exterior of the Jetta,  though pleasant, is nothing to write home about.  It certainly doesn't hold its own against the Hyundai Elantra, Chevy Cruze or Ford Focus in the appearance department. And those competitors simply present themselves as being more exciting than the Jetta does to look at it. We suspect that as a result, VW will lose some conquest sales from comparison style-minded shoppers who don't carry the VW loyalty characteristic with them. They may make the decision to purchase something looking more exciting and fun, and that soon will be a growing challenge to VW.  The product is an excellent one, but these days high style sells, except to those brand loyalists who have purchased Jettas before. The interior has thankfully been updated and looks a lot better and more expensive  than it used to, with higher quality materials and more imaginative designs. It adds quite a bit of class to the new Jetta, and allows the car to look as though it costs a couple of upmarket segments more than it actually does. Prices for the 2015 Jetta TDI start at $25,726. The gas mileage rating has gone up--couple of years ago we tested a  new one rated at 30/42--today, the 2015 version, powered by a 2 liter, TDI clean diesel four cylinder engine with common rail direct injection, is rated at 31 city, 45 highway and 36 combined. The government says you can save $3,250 in fuel cost over five years, compared to other new vehicles, and it only takes 2.8 gallons of diesel fuel to go 100 miles in the Jetta TDI SE. Annual fuel costs is $1,550 based on a price of $3.75 a gallon diesel fuel, and driving 15,000 miles a year for five years. Power for the Jetta TDI comes from  a 2.0-liter, 140 horsepower  turbodiesel four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual or Volkswagen's  DSG dual-clutch automated manual transmission are available. The engine is legally acceptable in all 50 states. You also get as standard equipment such items as  rear disc brakes and trip computer, an optional navigation system is optional if you want it, as well, which brings you foglamps, exterior chrome trim, keyless  ignition/entry, manual front seat lumbar adjustment and the touchscreen  navigation/stereo interface. The Jetta does have a long list of wonderful qualities, as we mentioned earlier.  First and foremost, it still handles like a Volkswagen, and anyone who's driven a VW knows what means--   strong, secure confidence-building handling and steering are still the hallmarks of the Jetta. And not the least of those things we loved about the Jetta is the roomy interior.  There's stretch-out room front and back, a far cry from the days when Jettas seemed small and cramped by comparison to other cars competing in its class. We also liked the way the audio system was set up. Though it takes some time to get used to the audio system's graphics and controls, it seemed more informative and clearer than other audio systems we've seen. The navigation system was wonderfully easy to use. And the new Fender audio system is, needless to say, terrific. It sounds very much like you're in a concert hall.  And given the boxy shape of the Jetta, visibility on all sides is excellent-- a plus especially for shorter drivers. 2015_jetta_tdi_4229 The 15.5 cubic foot trunk is absolutely huge, bigger than some intermediates like Honda Accord, and lowering the rear seats provides even more room for carrying long, narrow items. But we couldn't understand for the life of us why the controls for lowering the rear seats were located in the trunk instead of a simple latch at the top of the seat. Lowering the seats thus becomes a two person operation, with one person standing in the back pulling the lever out and somebody on the side of the car lowering the seats, although it could be a one person process if you didn't mind stepping to the side of the car where the seat is located. Other niggles?  The pointy bottom of the front fascia which looks like a parking lot ramp scrape just waiting to happen was one of the niggles. Other standard equipment on the TDI model included 16-inch steel  wheels, cruise control, a front center armrest and storage compartment, a  rear-seat center armrest, a trunk pass-through and premium vinyl upholstery. The SE Convenience package adds 16-inch alloy wheels, heated windshield washer  nozzles, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth and a  six-speaker sound system with satellite radio and an iPod interface. A sunroof  can be added to the Convenience package and with it comes a premium six-speaker  sound system with a touchscreen interface, SD memory card reader and a six-CD  changer. If you can get over the rather plain, utilitarian appearance of the Jetta, you'll find that you've got a car that runs rings around its competitors when it comes to fuel economy, performance, handling, and often interior room as well.

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