November 20, 2012

Quick Drive- 2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Volkswagen has stated that they want to be the #1 car brand in the world.  They are trying to follow the Toyota model of automotive world domination.  VW owns Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, SEAT, Skoda, Ducati, and Porsche.  The best part is they want all of their brands to compete against their other brands.  That means that eventually we’ll get better cars and hopefully a Lamborghini Urus SUV.         

Almost all of the cars I drive are top of the line models.  It’s great to get to play with all the knobs, buttons, touch screens, navigation units, Sirius/XM radio, but this time I asked for a base vehicle.  I wanted to know what I could get for a base price.  Crown Volkswagen kindly obliged.  I drove a 2013 VW Jetta TDI that only had splash guards, Monster Mats, and a first aid kit on the options list.  The automatic transmission, Candy White paint, and Cornsilk Leatherette interior were all included in the base price for the trim level.
The front end shares many of the same styling cues with the Passat

Base Price: $22,990, the 6 Speed Manual TDI
As Driven: $25,275
Engine: 2.0L 4-cyliner Turbo Diesel, 140hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Automated Manual
Wheelbase: 104.4 inches
Curb Weight: 3210lbs.
MPG Rating: 30 city/42 highway

This was a quick test drive.  I had spent the previous week driving a Fiat 500 Abarth and made a special trip out to drive the Jetta.  Perspective is relative, right?  If you spend a week driving the 2nd smallest car in the U.S. and then get in a Jetta; the Jetta then feels enormous. 

The ride of the Jetta was impressively smooth.  The wheelbase is much longer than the Abarth’s so all of the usual bumps were smoothed out giving the Jetta a relaxed feeling.  I drove quite a ways to test the Jetta and the ride in the Abarth had tired me.  The adjustable seats in the Jetta were a welcome relief.

The turbo diesel engine makes an unimpressive 140 horsepower.  The same engine makes 236 ft-lbs. of torque(how quickly the car accelerates) at 1,750rpm.  That’s a great amount of torque for a car that weighs just a little over three thousand pounds.  It isn’t the fastest off the line, but it isn’t slow.  The TDI Jetta is more of a cruiser than an athletic sedan.   If you’re in the market for athletic, VW does make a Jetta GLI.

There is rubber padding under the plastic cover to cut down on vibration noise.
The range for this turbo diesel is A-mazing.  The tank carries 14.5 gallons of diesel fuel.  At highway speeds, that’s over 600 miles on just one tank.  Even in the city, that’s still over 425 miles on a single fill-up.  My daily driver has a 32 gallon tank and can go over 400 miles, but it costs 2.5x more than 14.5 gallons of diesel… 
Lots of room for cases of be.. Diapers and strollers.

Now for some fun Math.   The Fiat 500 Abarth gets 28 city and 34 highway and has a 10.5 gallon tank.  That adds up to about $30 for a full tank, but at the most that tank is only getting you 340 miles on the highway and 280 in town.  The Jetta’s 30 city/42 highway extends the ranger out to a maximum of 600 miles, but only costs ~$25 dollars more to fill.  For the 500 to attain the same kind of range you would have to fill the tank again, for $30.  The Jetta saves you around $5 a tank for the max range.    Even if you’re traveling in the city with the Jetta, you’re still travelling farther on one tank than the Fiat.  The best part is that the 500 Abarth is $1,700 more expensive than the Jetta as tested.  That’s an immediate savings of $1,700, plus you get a usable backseat/trunk, and then save ~$5 a tank for the life of the vehicle.  No one is cross shopping the 500 Abarth and the Jetta TDI, but the 500 is known as a great commuter vehicle which is why I’m using it here.  I really like the Jetta as a commuter vehicle.  It would be great for long road trips with small families (2 or less kids).
The rear seat is very usable in the Jetta.  The measurement is 38.1 inches, which could hold at least two gorillas and a medium-sized orangutan in the back.  Okay that’s hyperbole, but the Jetta has only an inch less legroom than the much larger Dodge Charger.  The Jetta has by far the most rear legroom of any compact sedan.  The 2013 Ford Fusion has 38.3 inches of legroom in the rear, but has eight more inches in the wheelbase.  The backseat is very functional.  The trunk has more than enough room for a double stroller.

Rolls Royce should know the Jetta's coming for it!
The infotainment system is the standard VW system.  Satellite radio is included with the base radio.  It isn’t an upgrade to get Sirius/XM.  The unit comes with a single CD (Name the last CD you put in a vehicle.), AM/FM, auxiliary input, and 6 speakers.  The rest of the interior includes what VW calls leatherette.  It’s like leather, but not.  If you have kids, this material will be easier to wipe down than any cloth seats. 

Overall, I loved the little bit of time I spent with the TDI Jetta.  This was a very quick test drive.  If you’re interested in a TDI Jetta, I know a guy.  Contact Rob Weiner at Crown VW in Lawrence.  I’ve known Rob for years.  He is not your average car salesman.  He’s a good person and doesn’t smoke.  Yes, I realized I just called all other car salesmen “not good people”.  Too bad, I like Rob.  Go try a Jetta; you might be surprised.

If you get bored, check out Rob’s photography at Antilles Treasures!

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