Volkswagen Jetta Wagon GLS TDI Diesel
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.
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
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.