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Thread: Test Drove a Jetta TDi

  1. #1
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    Test Drove a Jetta TDi

    Just wanted to share my brief experience with the Jetta TDi a few weeks ago. I had no intention (or means) to buy the car, but I lied and snagged a test drive. (Is that bad?)

    This particular car was as much of a base model as you can get in the US. It had the familiar 2,0l TDi four and a 6-speed manual, cloth seats, and the only option listed was the floor mat set.

    Initial impressions: The Jetta is more conservatively styled than perhaps ever. The front fascia is extremely generic, though the side and rear styling reveal more of the understated classiness that VW is famous for. IMHO it still does not meet the styling benchmarks set by VW in the Jetta and Passat around the turn of the millennium. Build quality was high, no excessive gaps or exposed screw heads. But the materials, though low-gloss, were disappointing. More on this later.

    Driving impressions: Pretty good. I stalled it out on the first try - in all fairness, I haven't driven a manual in quite some time, and diesels are less tolerant of user error. After that, all went pretty swimmingly. VW's turbodiesel is smooth, quiet, and brawny. It's at its best after the turbo spools, but even without full boost, it makes a lot of its 236 lb-ft peak felt. It feels quicker and stronger than its 140hp might suggest. Sadly, the transmission itself was very vague and featured rubbery medium-short shifts, and the clutch lacks the feedback which VW's used to have. Handling, however, is quite good. Its lengthened wheelbase provides ride quality which is on the firm side of comfortable, and decent-but-better-than-average steering makes it a pretty responsive car. The rear suspension has been lowered in capabilities to widen the Jetta's appeal with a much lower base price, but this will be hardly noticible to the average drive.

    Other stuff: As mentioned, the interior materials were disappointing. Again, the visual queues are pretty good, low gloss materials abound. In the tactile arena, however, hard plastics are the order of the day. This is a regrettable compromise for lowering its base price. Room is compact-average up front, but the longer wheelbase makes itself felt "im fond", where your back seat passengers have generous legroom. The trunk, though, seemed well-finished with nice materials and attention to detail, plus it has plenty of room with a good trunk opening and not-too-intrusive shock towers. 60/40 split/fold seats are standard.

    Overall: The Jetta's sacrifices for its volume pricing - mainly in interior quality - make it comparable with cars in the price range. By the time you get to the TDi's significantly higher price level, however, it's a lot harder to justify. If you're in the market for a compact-segment car, the Hyundai Elantra offers more for less with good economy and a great warrantee. Sorry VW, as much a fan of diesel engines as I am, the value just isn't there this time around.
    Last edited by jcp123; 10-07-2012 at 03:07 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcp123 View Post
    Just wanted to share my brief experience with the Jetta TDi a few weeks ago. I had no intention (or means) to buy the car, but I lied and snagged a test drive. (Is that bad?)
    It isn't. I do it all the time. This weekend I've had a CitroŽn DS4.

    It's also good when some one around wants to change his/her car. This way you can test a lot of new cars easily.
    Lack of charisma can be fatal.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ferrer View Post
    It isn't. I do it all the time. This weekend I've had a CitroŽn DS4.

    It's also good when some one around wants to change his/her car. This way you can test a lot of new cars easily.
    That's one thing I miss about working for a rental car company. Free test drives. Everything from a Fiat 500, Chevrolet Aveo, and Smart Cars to Escalades, M35s, Cadillac CTS, Lincoln Town Cars, and Ford Mustangs.
    An it harm none, do as ye will

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    Working in a rental car company must be great (for a petrolhead that is).

    Driving lots of different cars gives you a good perspective over the automotive world. It also helps you form an opinion on cars.
    Lack of charisma can be fatal.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcp123 View Post
    .... the Hyundai Elantra offers more for less with good economy and a great warrantee. Sorry VW, as much a fan of diesel engines as I am, the value just isn't there this time around.
    I am a meh on Hyundai. They promise a lot, gives a lot of incentive, and always under deliver both in third party bench testing or real world MPG...

    In this segment if you want a diesel you'll end up with a VW, until Mazda start selling their's I'd imagine. If you are looking for a non-diesel the regular 2.5 Jetta's pricing is probably not that far off from the other competitors from GM, Ford, or the Japanese. For a gutless 4 banger thats not a diesel, I'd probably go with a Skyactiv Mazda 3...
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    Quote Originally Posted by RacingManiac View Post
    I am a meh on Hyundai. They promise a lot, gives a lot of incentive, and always under deliver both in third party bench testing or real world MPG...
    Excellent handling and value for money though!
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    I agree, the Koreans are not quite world beaters, but for the money they are as good as anyone. I have driven several Hyundai products and have generally been quite impressed.

    the Jetta S (base model) has their ancient 8v four. It's not really a bad engine, but not made to power car car of the modern Jetta's bulk. The Beetle I drove in driving school was thus equipped and even for a n00b to driving like me seemed distinctly underpowered. As you say, depending on the trim level, the 2,5l may not be a terribly bad deal.

    The TDi's powertrain was pretty decent, could use some upgrades in the clutch/trans department, I just felt that overall the car felt cheaper than the TDi's sticker price demanded. You won't make it up in fuel costs. Heck, the Prius C seems to be stickering for a similar amount right here.
    Last edited by jcp123; 10-07-2012 at 04:34 PM.
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    No alternative vehicle these days really can make up the fuel cost, especially now with quite a lot of the normal engine car with fuel economy special trim....gas price is not expensive enough for that...

    Interesting you say that Ferrer about the handling, Hyundai is pretty much criticized to have relatively mature powertrain(still under delivering) but lacking in ride/handling to match...maybe they have more competent EU ride and handling tuning...
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    Quote Originally Posted by RacingManiac View Post
    Interesting you say that Ferrer about the handling, Hyundai is pretty much criticized to have relatively mature powertrain(still under delivering) but lacking in ride/handling to match...maybe they have more competent EU ride and handling tuning...
    Well, we have an 1st generation i30 and it is pretty excellent. It feels alive, agile and even playful I'd say. There's not much understeer and the back even helps you if you are so inclined. It also has a good ride. A very good chassis indeed. I was impressed.

    Only donwside is the steering really, artificial and light; sometime you just have to believe the wheels are there...
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    I love diesels. I think they offer a great alternative to today's gassers. But with a clutch like that, VW won't have many enthusiast takers, and with shitty plastic as it has, there won't be many TDi takers either. VW needs to focus - target the mid-price segment alone, or try to build volume with watered-down stuff like this? I am all for a VW which is in the lower cost segment, but I feel they made too many sacrifices to be there. How about introducing the Polo to our market?
    Last edited by jcp123; 10-08-2012 at 05:18 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcp123 View Post
    I love diesels. I think they offer a great alternative to today's gassers. But with a clutch like that, VW won't have many enthusiast takers, and with shitty plastic as it has, there won't be many takers either. VW needs to focus - target the mid-price segment alone, or try to build volume with crap like this? I am all for a VW which is in the lower cost segment, but I feel they made too many sacrifices to be there. How about introducing the Polo to our market?
    You say that, but VWs are breaking sales record....
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    True...then again, most buyers are getting the automatic trans, at least here in the states, so they don't necessarily have a beef with the clutch. I also can't recall seeing so few of the sporty models like the GLI driving around. I wouldn't imagine the average person is quite as concerned with the hardness of the plastic, either.

    Still...I kind of wish VW would pursue lower price segments by using a different (smaller?)model rather than watering down a good product. Maybe I was too hard on it, but I was just really disappointed. A Jetta S is fine, I suppose, it is after all priced more in accordance with its quality. Much over $20 large is pushing it for a Jetta in its current state. This TDi stickered for $23k and I sadly didn't feel like I would be getting $23k worth of car.
    Last edited by jcp123; 10-08-2012 at 05:21 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcp123 View Post
    True...then again, most buyers are getting the automatic trans, at least here in the states, so they don't necessarily have a beef with the clutch. I also can't recall seeing so few of the sporty models like the GLI driving around. I wouldn't imagine the average person is quite as concerned with the hardness of the plastic, either.
    In terms of handling most people can't tell about different types of suspension, if the steering is informative or not, understeer, oversteer or anything really. As long as it stops before a corner or at the lights and it turns when there's a corners it's fine by them...

    Also, fully independent rear suspension does not necessarily mean better handling over a torsion beam suspension; it has to be setup properly.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ferrer View Post
    In terms of handling most people can't tell about different types of suspension, if the steering is informative or not, understeer, oversteer or anything really. As long as it stops before a corner or at the lights and it turns when there's a corners it's fine by them...

    Also, fully independent rear suspension does not necessarily mean better handling over a torsion beam suspension; it has to be setup properly.

    That's true. My wife's Kia Rio is pretty sharp and it has a similar setup; look over some of my old posts and I am not a blind advocate of IRS; but the cost-cutting worries me. VW's reputation on this side of the pond is built on a bit more sophistication than the average car, and I think it holds a strong position there. I can't think of another company in the mid-price segment which occupies VW's niche here. It would just be a shame for VW to be just anothe car company.

    I guess for the price I had simply expected...more.
    Last edited by jcp123; 10-09-2012 at 01:09 PM.
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    Oh, I hate cost cutting as well. I hate it when manufacturers take us as idiots. The problem is we are. Not we as in you and me, we as in the general public. People do not want a good car, people prefer cars with buttons and screens and lower prices. It a battle we lost time ago for mainstream cars.

    iCar: New Study Finds that Gen Y Consumers want Hybrids with Tablets and Smartphone-Like Functions - Carscoop

    Fortunately, while there are plenty of those iCars, there are still real gems to be found among mainstream cars. Cars like the newer i-series Hyundais or the (admiteddly long in the tooth) Volvo C30.
    Lack of charisma can be fatal.
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