A Shiftless Diesel Delight
Clean Fleet Report recently compared the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid (with a DSG automatic) and Jetta TDI, (with the six-speed manual transmission) in this story. To close-out the head-to-head-to-head on this model, we had the opportunity to drive the 2014 VW Jetta TDI with the DSG Automatic with Tiptronic.
Excellent fuel economy is the most common thread between the two diesel-powered Jetta models. Both cars were fun to drive with plenty of power—which is what VW delivers in all their diesel models—including the Touareg TDI, reviewed here.
The Driving Experience: On the Road
The Clean Fleet Report front-wheel drive 2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI had the six-speed DSG Automatic with Tiptronic, which included paddle shifters and a “S” Sport setting. It was powered by a 2.0-liter, 16-valve inline four-cylinder, clean diesel engine, delivering 140 hp with 236 lb-ft of torque. The very distinctive, low-volume diesel rumble is something you can easily live with as it is mostly noticeable only when standing outside the car.
Our Jetta was the Premium model with 17-inch wheels and all-season tires, which provided spirited handling via the strut-type front suspension with coil springs and anti-roll bar, and the multi-link, coil springs and anti-roll bar on the rear. Throw in the standard ESC (Electronic Stability Control) and body roll was almost non-existent, even when pushed above the recommended corner speed limits on some twisties I found in the SoCal mountains.
The DSG Tiptronic transmission and “S” Sport setting provide the option to manually shift and it worked like it should: holding the gears when accelerating and blipping the paddles when reducing speed. It was smooth with very little lag between shifts, offering the opportunity to get as sporty as desired. Combine the Tiptronic with the high torque of the diesel and the 17-inch tires and this is a very fun car to drive.
A good handling car of course is nothing without good brakes. The Jetta comes standard with four-wheel ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) and power-assisted discs all around, with 11.3-inch vented fronts and 10.7-inch solids in the rear. I experienced no fade with straight stops and a predictability in their performance that gave confidence when entering a corner.
Volkswagen has designed the Jetta TDI to get maximum fuel economy, which means at times you will be in 6th gear at relatively slow speeds. Nothing wrong with being in that high gear, especially when at freeway speeds, but I found shifting into the “S” mode was the better, and safer, place to be for around-town driving. Volkswagen rates the car at 30 City/42 Highway with a 34 combined mpg average. In my 530 miles of 1/3 city and 2/3 highway driving, I averaged 39.0 mpg and did not drain the 14.5-gallon fuel tank. Had I not used the Sport transmission setting or kept my active fingers off the paddle shifters, I am sure that average would have been higher.
The 2014 VW Jetta TDI exterior styling has clean lines and no useless cladding or body panels. VW calls this “class-up appeal” in which they offer more for less.
The Driving Experience: Interior
Our 2014 VW Jetta TDI Premium with Navigation had a listed price of $28,235 including the $820 Destination Charge. The interior fit and finish were German tight, with a good mix of soft and hard plastics and no unnecessary fake woods or plastic chrome pieces. The Jetta TDI Premium had all the expected features such as power windows, power and heated exterior mirrors, A/C with pollen filter, 12-volt power outlets and remote key fobs for the doors and trunk. The
heated leatherette (nicer than it sounds) front seats, which included a 6-way powered driver’s seat, were comfortable. This seating comfort, along with the adjustable steering wheel and telescoping column, power moonroof/sunroof and rearview camera, led to a pleasant experience behind the wheel.
The seven-inch color touch-screen controls the navigation, climate and entertainment settings. The eight-speaker (with subwoofer) Fender sound system developed with Panasonic sounded great with
CD, HD Radio, Bluetooth, MDI (Media Device Interface) with iPod cable and the Sirius/XM option. The touch-screen system took some time to get used, as do most entertainment systems we test, but it all worked well and is positioned conveniently to operate without taking your eyes off the road.
The 60/40 rear folding seat with a long item pass-through opening provides a large storage capacity and the multiple cup holders make it possible to go long distances fully hydrated.
Driver comfort can only be as good as driver confidence in the vehicle’s safety equipment. The 2014 Jetta TDI comes with front and side curtain and rear side curtain airbags, 3-point seatbelts, deformable and collapsible steering wheel upon impact, cruise control, and the previously mentioned power disc brakes with ABS, and electronic stability control.
Volkswagen has 75 percent of the diesel passenger vehicle sales in the USA and is #1 in total diesel sales versus all competitors. Little on the competitive horizon is likely to knock VW off that perch, especially since they will have a new TDI engine and additional diesel models being launched during 2014.
• 3-year/36,000 miles New Vehicle
• 5-year/60,000 miles Powertrain
• 3-year/36,000 miles Roadside Assistance
• 2-year/24,000 miles No-Charge Scheduled Carefree Maintenance Program
• 12-year/unlimited miles Corrosion Perforation
Observations: 2014 VW Jetta TDI Premium with Navigation and DSG Automatic with Tiptronic
I am a big fan of manual transmissions and feel it is a shame that pretty much everyone under the age of forty has never driven one. With that said, the Volkswagen Group has nearly perfected its DSG Tiptronic automatic transmission with paddle shifters to the point I would never feel guilty about not ordering a new car with a manual. To demonstrate their confidence in this point, the 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo (part of the VW Group) cannot even be ordered with a manual transmission.
While both TDIs are very nice cars and equally worth owning, I lean towards the Jetta TDI with the automatic versus the manual. Why? Living here in SoCal (and I assume this goes for anywhere there are more people on the road than the road can handle), the freeways can be brutal on your left leg when stuck in rush hour traffic. But what about mountain roads where only the car’s ability and your common sense are the restrictions to how fast you can go? I felt the Jetta TDI equipped with the DSG Tiptronic was quicker through the twisties as it allowed both hands to remain on the steering wheel, raising awareness and enhancing concentration to the road ahead.
If you do mostly open freeway driving, then either Jetta TDI version will deliver 40+ mpg and more than 600 miles to a tank. I thoroughly enjoyed driving all three Jetta variants: Hybrid, TDI manual and TDI automatic. I highly recommend you go to your local dealer and take one for a spirited test drive.
You will not go wrong with either decision and of course…Happy Driving!
Related stories you might enjoy:
Road Test: 2013 VW Jetta Hybrid vs. Jetta TDI
Road Test: 2014 VW Touareg TDI
First Drive: 2014 VW Tiguan TDI Euro Spec
Road Test: 2014 Chevy Cruze Turbo Diesel