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2004 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon GLS TDI  Diesel

 The Good:  Gas Mileage is great at 44 mpg highway.  Great drive train, smooth and free flowing up to triple digits.  Very functional interior with cargo room to carry taller items.  Fun to drive with great road feel. 

The Bad:  Boxy and dated exterior look.  Basic trim level looks and feels cheap.

             In the age of high gas prices many of us are looking toward high gas mileage vehicles.  While the hybrids are appearing from manufacturers slowly and are priced high, VW has always been offering some great diesel engines that deliver amazing gas mileage.  When compared to its higher priced German rivals, the Jetta is a bargain waiting to explode in the US market.  And when compared to US and Asian models, the Jetta GLS TDI is not only economical, but it's also a better handling vehicle.

            A few minor changes have taken place for the 2004 model year.  Changes outside include new chrome treatments for the front grille and bumpers, aluminum side body moldings, redesigned taillights, and a sportier trunk-lid edge. Inside, the Jetta's instrument cluster is ringed in aluminum as well.

On the exterior the Jetta Wagon looks a bit aged when compared to its sedan sibling.  The boxy design is typical of a car that you would easily pass by, not noticing it at all.  In this case, the Jetta Wagon appears too boxy; it lacks basic design cues that give other German wagons some panache, specifically, the Mercedes C-class and the BMW 3-series wagons or even the Audi A4 Avant.  The only modern touch appears up front where the headlights are clear and raked back for a sleek look.  Our deep blue exterior and black colored interior made the overall Jetta look small and compact.  Order it in lighter colors and the interior will certainly look nicer.  Wheels are designed nicely with large five spoke design in 15-inch size wrapped in all season tires. 

            The engine is simply the greatest feature of the Jetta TDI.  The 1.9-liter turbo direct injection diesel creates only 100 horsepower with four cylinders.  This engine delivers 177 lbs.-ft. of torque, which is what gets the car going so quickly to triple digits.  Yes we did say triple digits!  The Jetta moves so freely that you would never guess that only 100 horses were under the hood.  The transmission together with the engine makes the Jetta a great car to drive easily and smoothly.  Cruising up to triple digits is easy and effortless.  The Jetta is no supercar but it is very smooth, much like a BMW sedan.

            The connection between the driver and the road is excellent.  Road feel is great through the steering wheel.  The diesel does make a 'clutter' noise but it's only noticeable on the outside of the vehicle.  We suppose that the noise will at least let everyone know you have arrived.  If VW could do something to lower the sound it would really be great because at times you do feel like you are driving an old car from the 1930's.  Inside however it is very quiet, even at high speeds, which is where the Germans strut their stuff so well. 

The suspension of the Jetta is set for a more comfortable ride, and so in hard turns it is soft and the body does lean more than we would like it to.  VW's engineers could have done a better job keeping body roll under control, some models offer a sport package that will stiffen up this ride but the TDI model does not offer this option package and we would like it to be offered soon.  Touch the gas hard on turns and you will hear a slight screech from the rear wheels.  We suggest the Electronic Stabilization Program that is available as an option for only $280.

            The automatic transmission with Tiptronic mode was equally smooth and quick.  Gear shifts are controlled very well and jerkiness is eliminated more so than the Jetta's competitors.  There is even a kick down feature on the gas pedal to push this little engine to its limits for passing power.  The Jetta accelerates quickly with a good amount of push from the 170 pounds of torque generated by the TDI engine.  The Tiptronic mode allows you to shift gears manually without a clutch.  We liked its smoothness and the extra sporty feeling it gave to the driver.

The interior is typical VW with simple a simple instrument cluster and center console.  VW's emphasis is on functionality rather than sophistication when it comes to automobile interiors.  Parts fit well and there are no squeaks or cracks to be heard.  Our model had velour trim seats that were comfortable but very hard to keep clean.  Almost anything will cling to the fabric, which makes routine vacuuming necessary.  We highly suggest VW find an alternative material, as anyone with a pet will tell you what a nightmare it is trying to clean the hair off the fabric seats.  A leather package is essential to order in this model we feel. 

Everything in our model was monochromatic in a dark color, making the overall interior look small.  While most trim pieces such as the upper dash and door grab handles have texture, they still feel like plastic.  The steering wheel and the shift knob have a hollow and lightweight feeling of cheap plastic.  The center console holds easy to use dials for climate control and the single CD stereo system.  The three simple dials for the ventilation system were very easy to use but did start to look dated.  The system is CFC-free and has a pollen and dust filter.  We highly suggest the leather package in which you will also get a steering wheel with controls for stereo which will come in handy while driving as well as a better feeling interior throughout.

A power glass sunroof with tilt and slide features is standard in the Jetta GLS.  An Anti-theft alarm system for the vehicle and the Monsoon stereo is also standard.  Power windows with pinch protection are standard as well.  Seatbelts in the front are height adjustable, as are the seats, which can be manually adjusted in six basic ways.  The passenger front seat was also height adjustable, a great feature we always ask for in other models.  Both front seats were heated on our model that included the Cold Weather Package.  Powered outside rearview mirrors are heated as well.  Another great feature is that floor mats are included with the car, so watch out for the slippery salesman who tries to charge you $100 for a set! 

The rear bench seat is split folding which allows you to enlarge the cargo area easily.  The power locking system did create a small nuisance for us in that it would not unlock both the trunk and the doors at the same time.  The trunk also would not unlock by simply touching the rear hatch lever.  You have to go and unlock it inside the driver's door or on the keychain to get it to open.  The same thing happens on the doors all around, they do not automatically unlock when the driver's door is opened.  While it is a safety feature, we think that if the driver's door is opened all doors should unlock as well.

The Leather Package is available as a option for $1,050.  This package includes the items in the Cold Weather Package such as heated seats as well as a thicker leather steering wheel with multi-function controls, leather shift knob and brake, lumbar support as well as better contoured seats.  We highly suggest this option.  We would not add the CD changer in the cargo area for $500 as an IPod with FM tuner will be much more enjoyable.

The Jetta TDI is offered in GL or GLS trim levels.  The GLS adds about $1810 to the price of the GL.  For this you get a sunroof, a better monsoon stereo system and the ability to order the Leather package.  It is not very clear on the VW web site what is exactly different in the GL or GLS models and this does cause some confusion. 

            Safety is an important issue to VW and the Jetta is complete with dual front, side, and curtain air bags for the front and rear.  Daytime running lights are standard as well without any way to turn them off.  Power disc brakes on all four wheels provide good stopping power.  

            The Jetta offers a four year 50,000 mile basic warranty with a five year powertrain and 12 year corrosion warranty.  Roadside assistance is also included for four years. 

            Some features that VW could add to make the Jetta more competitive in this jam-packed segment would be a large infotainment screen with navigation in the center console as the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima offer.  We would like to see Bluetooth hands free cell phone compatibility.  Xenon lights that turn with the car should also be offered as an option. 

            Overall the Jetta is one fun car to drive daily.  It is a great workhorse delivering such high gas mileage that you will be saying wow each time you fill up.  You will actually have to fill up about half as much as you did in your regular car.  This saves time, money and gives you a special feeling that you are driving something unique on the road.  The Jetta is also a superbly balanced vehicle with great road feel and a smooth free flowing transmission that the American automakers cannot match.  Most importantly, the Jetta makes you a better driver on the road.


Base Pricing 21,115 22,555
Destination 575 575
Cold Weather Pkg  Heated Front Seats & Heated W/S Washer Nozzles 133 150
Leather Pkg  Leather Surfaced Bucket Seats, Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel w/Touch Controls (ex GLI) & Cold Weather Pkg 928 1,050
Communication System, OnStar Telematics • GL Wagons, GLS & GLI 617 699
Radio Equipment, 6-Disc CD Changer in Trunk 323 499
Stabilization Program, Electronic • GL, GLS 247 280


COMPARISONS 2004 Volkswagen Jetta
GLS TDI 4dr Wagon (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5A)
2004 Mazda MAZDA6
s 4dr Sport Wagon (3.0L 6cyl 5M)
2005 Dodge Magnum
SE Rwd 4dr Wagon (2.7L 6cyl 4A)
2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback
Ralliart 4dr Wagon (2.4L 4cyl 4A)
2004 Subaru Impreza
2.5 TS AWD 4dr Sport Wagon (2.5L 4cyl 4A)
MSRP $22,555 $22,525 $21,870 $19,319 $18,820
Invoice $21,115 $20,770 $20,353 $18,119 $17,327
Basic 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 5 yr. / 60000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi.
Base Engine Displacement 1.9 liters 3.0 liters 2.7 liters 2.4 liters 2.5 liters
Valvetrain 8 Valves
single overhead cam (SOHC)
24 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
24 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
16 Valves
single overhead cam (SOHC)
16 Valves
single overhead cam (SOHC)
Compressor turbodiesel Not Available Not Available Not Available Not Available
Horsepower 100 hp @ 4000 rpm 220 hp @ 6300 rpm 190 hp @ 6400 rpm 162 hp @ 5750 rpm 165 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque 177 ft-lbs. @ 1800 rpm 192 ft-lbs. @ 5000 rpm 190 ft-lbs. @ 4000 rpm 162 ft-lbs. @ 4000 rpm 166 ft-lbs. @ 4000 rpm
Tires P195/65HR15
all season
all season
all season
all season
all season
City 33 mpg. 19 mpg. 21 mpg. 22 mpg. 22 mpg.
Highway 44 mpg. 26 mpg. 28 mpg. 28 mpg. 28 mpg.
Length 173.6 in. 187.8 in. 197.7 in. 181.3 in. 173.4 in.
Width 68.3 in. 70.1 in. 74.1 in. 66.8 in. 66.7 in.
Height 58.5 in. 57.3 in. 58.4 in. 57.1 in. 58.5 in.
Weight 3212 lbs. 3389 lbs. 3855 lbs. 3042 lbs. 3100 lbs.
Wheel Base 99 in. 105.3 in. 120 in. 102.4 in. 99.4 in.
Ground Clearance 5.2 in. 5.1 in. 5.6 in. 4.5 in. 5.9 in.
Front Headroom 37.6 in. 38.7 in. 38.4 in. 39.4 in. 39.7 in.
Rear Headroom 37 in. 38.6 in. 38.1 in. 37.2 in. 37.3 in.
Front Shoulder Room 53.7 in. 56.1 in. 58.7 in. 54.1 in. 52.7 in.
Rear Shoulder Room 52.5 in. 54.9 in. 57.6 in. 53.3 in. 52.9 in.
Front Leg Room 41.5 in. 42.3 in. 41.8 in. 43.2 in. 42.9 in.
Rear Leg Room 33.5 in. 36.5 in. 40.2 in. 36.6 in. 33.7 in.
Maximum Luggage Capacity 34 cu.ft. 33.7 cu.ft. 27.2 cu.ft. 24.9 cu.ft. 27.9 cu.ft.


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