CleanMPG Reviews the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by xcel, Oct 24, 2009.

  1. xcel

    xcel Guest

    [​IMG] The most fuel efficient wagon available in North America... By far!

    [fimg=left][/fimg]Mike Sefton and Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Oct. 24, 2009

    2009 VW Jetta TDI Sportwagen - $23,870 to start and 34 mpg combined on the 08 EPA.

    After a two-year hiatus from the North American market, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI has returned. With the new TDI, VW knew that they would not be contending for the fuel efficiency title, so they left it for other cars to fight over. Instead, those fun-loving German engineers went with the “drivers wanted” mantra. The result is a car that delivers almost as much fun as its GTI cousin, while still providing excellent fuel economy.

    Volkswagen introduced North Americans to its TDI technology in the mid 1990’s, with their 1.9L TDI. The engine underwent several power increases and emissions improvements over the years, culminating in the 100 HP unit injector engine which was last sold here in the 2006 Jetta TDI. The 1.9L TDI earned a reputation as an efficient powerplant and it was relatively smooth and quiet compared to other diesels when it was launched. As it neared the end of its run though, the 1.9L began to show its age. VW could not bring the nearly 15 year old design up to the noise and smoothness benchmarks set by newer engines from its competition. In addition, meeting the new American emissions regulations required for the 2007 model year was not possible with the 1.9L TDI without significant modifications and investment. It was time for a new TDI engine.

    Enter the new 2.0L common rail TDI. Based on the 2.0L TDI PD, the new North American 2.0L TDI CR sports a common rail fuel delivery system with piezo injectors delivering up to 6 injection events per stroke at up to 26,000 psi. BorgWarner supplies a turbocharger with third generation variable turbine geometry technology, providing up to 22 psi of boost. This all adds up to 140 HP and 236 Lb-ft of torque, while at the same time meeting the EPA’s stringent emissions standards.

    2009 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI – Emission details

    Unlike other clean diesels released into the US marketplace to date, the VW Jetta 2.0L TDI does not use a SCR based urea injection system to reduce NOx emissions. Emissions reduction within the engine is accomplished through the use of high pressure and cooled low pressure EGR systems and close monitoring of combustion pressures and fueling rates. Exhaust leaving the engine flows through a diesel oxidation catalyst, particulate filter, de-NOx catalyst, and an H2S catalyst before finally leaving the tailpipe. Features unique to the North American TDI not found in European cars include the de-NOx catalyst, low pressure EGR system, slightly smaller 0.117 micron fuel injector nozzles, and a different turbocharger.

    The Jetta TDI's emissions system and regeneration cycles.

    2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI Specifications

    The Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI's pricing and specifications can be viewed in the CleanMPG - New Fuel Efficient Automobile Specifications forum in the following: 2009 VW Jetta TDI Sportwagen Specifications.

    2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI – Safety Equipment and Crash Test Ratings

    The Jetta Sportwagen TDI comes with a wide array of safety features. The standard airbag system includes driver and front passenger dual-stage front airbags, side curtain airbags, and driver and front passenger side airbags. Rear side airbags are optional. Front and rear outboard seatbelts are equipped with pre-tensioners and load limiters, and the front seats have active head restraints.

    On the active safety front, the Sportwagen is equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR), Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP), and Engine Braking Assist (EBA), which prevents compression-induced skidding in slippery conditions.

    IIHS Crash test ratings: An IIHS 2009 top safety pick.
    One Marginal rating, and the best rating of Good for the rest of the tests.

    NHTSA Crash test ratings: 4 - 4 - 5 - 5 - 4 Stars.

    2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI Comfort, Amenities and Ergonomics

    [fimg=left][/fimg]2009 VW Jetta TDI Sportwagen absolutely loaded with people adn gear...

    The Jetta’s front driver’s seat offers an 8-way adjustment which combined with the tilt and telescoping steering wheel, makes it possible for drivers of many different shapes and sizes to find a comfortable driving position. Pedal feel and placement was good for all drivers. The clutch tended to be a little grabby with a scant little travel between engaged and disengaged resulting in most drivers stalling the car at some point. The seats were covered in Volkswagen’s V-TEX leatherette, which felt durable and provided a good imitation of real leather.

    The rear seat offers good head, shoulder and hip room. A 115V power outlet in the rear of the center console gives rear seat passengers easy access to power their electrical devices.

    As with other wagons, one area where the Sportwagen excels is cargo hauling. Cargo capacity with the rear seats in place is 33 cubic feet, which left room to spare when loaded up with a weekend’s worth of cargo for four people. Folding the rear seats down doubles cargo capacity to 67 cubic feet.

    The well finished interior is instantly recognizable as German with its dark color scheme and straightforward layout. Splashes of silver trim throughout the cabin brighten up the otherwise plain but functional interior. Materials and control feedback have a quality feel. Controls are within easy reach and are well illuminated at night with an attractive red and blue glow. Like the BMW 335d, the Jetta TDI comes with a supplemental electric heater to provide heat to the cabin while the engine warms up. Without a supplemental heater, the low heat output from the diesel engine means that little heat would be available for the first part of a trip on a cold day.

    Instrumentation was simple and easy to read, with four analog gauges and a multi-function display (MFD) with a trip computer, where the fuel consumption displays were accessible. The appearance of the MFD felt straight out of the 90’s however with its red monochrome color scheme.

    The Sportwagen offers two cupholders in the center console for front occupants. In the rear, two cupholders pop out of the rear armrest and they worked well to grab oddly sized beverage cups. While all cupholders did a good job with smaller drinks, it would be difficult for them to hold a Big Gulp or something of similar size securely. Storage compartments in the cabin were fair, but the car could use a few more and they could be larger.

    Our Sportwagen TDI came equipped with the optional DVD navigation system, which combines the navigation and audio controls into one unit. While it did reliably get us to our destinations, the VDO-Siemens designed system was not without its quirks. There were longer than average delays as the system loaded its navigation data while a destination was being entered, and simple tasks such as tuning the radio or switching through the menu also had longer than expected response times. It would be a wise move for VW to upgrade to a better radio and navigation system. One useful touch is that after a FAS, the navigation system comes right back up to where it left off. Other features included with the navigation system include an SD card reader, USB stick reader, and support for MP3 and WMA. DVD-video playback is supported while the car is stationary.

    The car also came with the optional panoramic sunroof, which was huge and allowed both the front and rear seat occupants a view of the sky above. The rear half of the sunroof was fixed in place, while the front half was able to open and close. The large sunroof gives the cabin an open feeling and brightens it up, but can be a bane as well by allowing too much heat and light to enter on sunny days. A shade is included, but it is highly perforated and still allows some light and heat to enter.

    Changes for 2010

    The Jetta Sportwagen is known as the Golf Variant overseas, so it will be receiving some cosmetic updates for 2010 to bring its appearance more in line with the new Mk6 Golf. There are no significant mechanical changes for the new car although the DSG AT equipped Sportwagen offers 1 more mpg on the highway while the 6-speed MT offers 1 more mpg in both the city and on the highway.

    The most notable exterior change is a new front end similar to that on the 2010 Golf. Inside, the door panels, instrument cluster, multi-function display, and climate controls have been revised to be similar to those in the new Golf. Bluetooth and a multifunction steering wheel, which was not available in the 2009 Sportwagen TDI, is now standard equipment. Good stuff indeed!

    2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen – Competitive Comparison

    YearManufacturerModelPassenger Volume (cu. ft.)Cargo Capacity (cu. ft.)MSRPTotal Cost Of Ownership*
    2009VWJetta TDI Sportwagen – 6-speed MT91.732.8$23,870$28,970
    2009VWJetta TDI Sportwagen – 6-speed AT91.732.8$24,970$30,128

    * Intellichoice over 5-years of ownership.

    2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI Performance

    While the Jetta Sportwagen TDI’s 0 to 60 time of approximately 9 seconds will not set the road on fire, it is more than capable of keeping up with traffic in any major city or on highways. With 236 lb-ft of torque available at just 1750 rpm, the driver simply needs to press into the accelerator for quick bursts of thrust. Downshifts are rarely needed for passing maneuvers or hill climbing, making the car feel faster than its acceleration times suggest. Driving in city or suburban traffic was a breeze; the available torque moved the car right along with minimal throttle. The 6-speed manual transmission was a pleasure to operate, with a smooth mechanism and positive feedback on positioning.

    Braking from 60 to 0 mph is accomplished in approximately 135 feet with little fade. Road holding around a 300-ft skidpad is approximately 0.8g.

    The Jetta Sportwagen’s front MacPherson struts and rear multilink suspension contribute to give it a solid and nimble driving feel. The car feels stable and well planted at highway speeds. During cornering maneuvers, the car remained composed, although some body lean was seen - this is after all a station wagon with a rather heavy glass roof and was fully loaded.

    The Sportwagen’s nimble feel and manual transmission keep the driver involved and help to give the car a fun-to-drive character that is absent in its direct competition, namely the Toyota and Honda Hybrids. The car gives off the feeling that it is meant to be driven, as opposed to simply filling duties as a basic transportation vessel. Driving the Sportwagen shows that there is some truth to the saying that it can be more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow.

    While its combined fuel economy rating of 34 mpgUS may not look impressive next to some hybrids, the rating places the Sportwagen among the 10 most fuel efficient vehicles sold in America. As diesels traditionally do well in highway driving, we thought it would be a good test to load the car up with people and cargo for a long highway drive. The car did not disappoint, returning 66.6 mpgUS over 1920 miles and this was achieved with well over 1,250 pounds of individuals and gear loaded to the ceiling!

    2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI Fuel Economy FCD and Actual results

    Final top off at a Speedway in Itasca, IL

    1012.1 miles on 14.704 gallons = 68.83 mpgUS. aFCD shows 71.9 mpgUS for the tank.​

    Loaded with people and luggage, we topped off in Chicago before driving down to South Carolina. A fill and top off of the first tank in Mooresville, SC showed 64.19 mpgUS. We then drove back to Chicago and topped off again, this time after 1012 miles on the tank. Fuel economy for the return trip was 68.83 mpgUS.

    As the ECU closely monitors and calibrates fuel consumption to keep emissions in check, the iFCD generally showed good accuracy, to within 1 mpgUS in most cases. A discrepancy was found in the aFCD, where it was off by up to 3 mpgUS. We concluded that it arose because when restarting after a FAS, a glitch with the iFCD would sometimes show 100+ mpgUS for a second or two when actual fuel economy for that period of time was nowhere near that high. Over time, those discrepancies slowly pulled the aFCD up to a higher than expected value. When no FAS’ing was employed, the difference between the calculated and indicated fuel economy was within the expected range.

    2009 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI 6MT EPA FE ratings
    UnitsCityHighwayCombinedCleanMPG Observed Fuel Economy
    US30 (mpgUS)41 (mpgUS)34 (mpgUS)66.6 (mpgUS)
    Imperial36 (mpgIMP)49.2 (mpgIMP)40.8 (mpgIMP)79.9 (mpgIMP)
    Metric7.8 L/100 km5.7 L/100 km6.9 L/100 km3.5 (L/100 km)

    Review data: 1920.6 miles on 28.857 gallons = 66.56 mpgUS

    Detailed fuel consumption logs for individual segments can be found in the 2009 Jetta Sportwagen TDI Review Blog.

    2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI Impressions and Conclusion

    [fimg=right][/fimg]Overhead Sunroof/Sunshade and lighting controls.

    When the Sportwagen first arrived, its FCD read 41.7 mpg over the previous 700 miles. Who knows how many non-trained journalists and car handlers drove this Sportwagen and did so to well above its EPA. It was obvious we had something special in our hands. As seen in its fuel economy figures above, special is an understatement. Additionally, forget what you know about noise, vibration, and emissions from past TDI’s. The new TDI engine is in a completely different league and is among the best diesels we’ve driven. There is still a slightly gruff note to the engine at idle and lower speeds, but driving around town or on the highway, the engine is smooth and quiet. Most passengers won’t realize that there is something different under the hood. The familiar diesel aroma has been greatly reduced compared to previous versions as well, to a point where it can be difficult to detect. Road and wind noise are also well muted.

    No discussion about a Volkswagen TDI would be complete without touching on reliability and servicing. Volkswagen’s reliability rating as a brand is below average; however the Jetta is one of their bright spots. Consumer Reports rates the Jetta TDI as 17% better than average for predicted reliability. Not all Volkswagen dealers will be familiar with the TDI engine and its requirements, so it is important to ensure that the dealer service shop is competent with TDI’s and is aware of its specific oil, fuel, and servicing requirements.

    Some larger drivers may find the front seats narrower than they what they are generally are used to but given the multitude of seat and steering wheel adjustments, most will find the seats comfortable over longer trips. Passenger room in the rear is a bit tight if a full-sized adult is sitting directly in front but proved comfortable over this long trip. Seating for three across the rear seat however is tight. Fortunately, the rear seat was found to be a comfortable place for a nap when needed.

    The “grabby” clutch takes some getting used to but once accustomed to its on/off ways, that too is something you can place behind you.

    Due to the lack of steering wheel controls on the Sportwagen (the 09 Jetta TDI Sedans come equipped with this feature standard) a single multitasking stalk is all that was available. Controlling and cycling through the multitude of MFD functions, NAVI and Radio was accomplished with a small button on the end of the stalk. A frustrating experience to put it lightly. Fortunately for 2010, this oversight has been corrected and the Sportwagen includes steering wheel controls just like the sedan.

    The Jetta Sportwagen TDI uses an overhead lighting and sun shade control on those vehicles equipped with a sunroof. The sunshade is operated by a somewhat out of place Asian feeling control panel rolling out from the rear to the front in a track. The sunshade operation works fine moving from a closed to open and closed again position but the shade itself is perforated and does not allow a non-lighted interior on a sunny day. A more solid and opaque shade would be welcome and for those in the back seat trying to rest, sunglasses are highly recommended.

    Overall, the Jetta Sportwagen TDI surprised and impressed us. It may not match the fuel efficient hybrids in city driving but is more than a match for most hybrids on the highway and no car available in North America offers its combination of cargo hauling ability and fuel efficiency. The Jetta’s fun driving character makes it a car that one looks forward to getting into and driving. This, combined with its comfortable driving experience and excellent fuel economy, will put smiles on the faces of many future owners.

    We would be remiss if we did not thank Sean Maynard, VW’s Press Fleet Manager and my friends at STI who not only supplied a missing NAVI disc overnight but always supply a clean and road ready vehicle for us to review every time they visit.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 17, 2011
  2. wokwithm

    wokwithm Well-Known Member

    This is my kind of sports car. And when will the Japanese bring in their diesel cars? Will we ever get the Subaru diesel in the US?
  3. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Super Moderator Staff Member

    You*, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, need to buy efficient station wagons instead of SUVs.

    As much as all the sporty crap annoys me it's worth the sacrifice of 1 or 2 mpg if it's enough to make people buy it over a sporty gas guzzler.

    * Alien.
  4. brick

    brick Answers to "that guy."

    That's definitely my kind of family hauler. Let's see about the reliability.
  5. seftonm

    seftonm Veteran Staff Member

    Hi Tim, the Jetta is rated about average for reliability. From what I understand, the new TDI engine has been well engineered with fewer question marks about it than the previous engines. The big unknown is the emissions system, which is largely specific to North America. Would I buy one? Absolutely. But I would be careful to stick with trusted fluids and servicing requirements to keep things running smoothly.
  6. WriConsult

    WriConsult Super Moderator

    Great review!

    Um, vinyl seats are back? Eeew. This is standard equipment? (And since I don't like leather, a good imitation is faint praise). Oh well, as usual my choices are limited by the tastes of the masses.

    As for reliability, tthe Jetta may indeed be getting better for reliability ... but once you get past the warranty period holy $*#&$! are those replacement parts expensive, even compared to Japanese cars.

    That said, I'd go for a 2010 Jetta Wagon in a heartbeat (parts costs and icky-sticky seats notwithstanding) if I had the money. For the cargo space, nothing even comes close on mpg, and they're a blast to drive. Sure a slightly larger Escape Hybrid can come close in city driving, but on the highway fuhgeddaboudit. And roadtrips - either with the whole family or a ton of outdoor gear - are precisely why you buy a car with more cargo capacity than a sedan.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2009
  7. FSUspectra

    FSUspectra Practicing true conservatism!

    I've been secretly coveting this car for a while, but I may have to let that go with the many awesome new choices! C'est la vie. :rolleyes:

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