Pros: Fuel economy, roomy, comfy, build quality, fun to drive.
Cons: Diesel fuel required, slight idle diesel noise. parts availability??
I purchased a 2006 Jetta TDI to save fuel. My previous vehicle (an F150 pickup) was consuming about $600.00 gas per month. I also considered and drove the Prius, Accord hybrid and Civic hybrid. While I liked all the hybrids, the Jetta was substantially less money. I paid $21,300 plus tax tag etc. The hybrids are going for a premium here.
The Jetta has one advantage over those wonky feeling hybrids I drove. It (the Jetta) drives well. By that I mean, it is very responsive, does not lean in corners, and the brakes feel fantastic. As a sports car driver and racer, I feel the Jetta is a good choice for the enthusiastic driver. However, the diesel engine is a limiting factor in the fun department. It is powerful enough for everyday driving and has great low end torque. There is a slight delay (1/2 second) in take off when accelerating from a stop. This is typical of VW TDI powered cars. The low end grunt of the diesel allows easy and fairly rapid acceleration after that. No problem passing cars either.
The 6 speed DSG automatic transmission is pure magic. It is always in the correct gear and is well suited to the low end power of the diesel engine. The DSG transmission gets similar fuel economy to the manual (the window sticker says the DSG gets 1 MPG more!). The reason for this is that the transmission is directly coupled to the engine in the very same was a typical manual trans is. This is done with computer controlled clutches. There is no torque converter to absorb power! By the way, the DSG has been a high end option on Audi and VW cars for years overseas. It is well proven.
I am getting between 35 and 40 MPG with generally spirited driving. I make no serious attempt to save fuel. While some are getting near 50MPG with careful driving. By the way, this car likes to cruise quite fast. It clearly shows it's German design in the driving. I am able to get over 500 miles per tank of fuel! Highest MPG so far 42! Most miles per tank, 625!
I ordered a package 0 with no options. If I were to do it again, I would probably pick a package 1 or 2 option. While the sound system is good and has built in woofers, midranges and tweeters on my package 0. The higher options have XM or Sirrius radio built in, and the sound system is quite a bit better on the package 1 or 2 options.
The Package 0 TDI seats are leatherette and very comfortable. The passenger seat tracks back quite far and reclines quite far. This is important on long trips, as it is easy for the passenger to sleep. The rear seating is adequate for adults and is also comfortable. However anyone over about 5 foot 11 would probably touch the top.
The trunk is HUGE! It came with a very cool grocery bag hangar. My Siberian Husky walks through the rear seat pass through and sleeps in the trunk on road trips!
This car is fun to drive, gets good fuel economy and is bigger and cheaper than the prius.
About the only minor complaint I have is with the car is the steering. It is electric power steering. It is very responsive (a good thing) and is designed to compensate for crosswinds or road crown. That way the driver does not tug on the wheel during a strong crosswind. However this system is set too sensitive. On the highway, the car is difficult to drive straight if there is a road crown caused by trucks. There is a simple fix for this, as it is adjustable. However my local dealer will not adjust the level from a "5" to a "3". Which is the cure, according to those in the know.
I like it!
Update May 26, 2006: Steering issue became intolerable. It wandered L+R in windy conditions, or when passing a truck. My local dealer refused to fix it (again), they claim this is the way the car is designed. SO, I enlisted the good folks on the TDI forums. There is an easy fix for the steering issue. Hook up a lap top with the proper connector and software (there is a list of folks nationwide with this setup, mine was done for free) and change the steering compensation setting from "5" to a setting of "1". This reduces the influence the computer has on the electric steering. It works wonders. The car steers normally now.
I have been getting about 41MPG in all around driving. MPG is improving all the time.
I have discovered that the TDI works unusually well in the mountains, as the low end torque + turbo allows hill climbs in 5th or 6th gear without breaking a sweat. Even with a heavy load. Very few downshifts and plenty of torque to accelerate quickly out of hilly corners. Very fun in the mountains!
I have really grown to love this car! (steering issue aside)
UPDATE JULY 19, 2006:
The transmission valve body failed at 9400 miles while on a road trip. The car lurched, clunked and would not move. In fact, it was stuck in the middle of the road for a while. VW roadside service brought a flatbed and it took us about an hour to get to the nearest dealer.
To make matters worse, no parts in stock here in USA. They get ordered from overseas (Germany)? From what I understand, it is easy to fix once we have the parts. Once again, the TDI forums were helpful in understanding the problem. Some on the TDI forums have gotten their money back!
I have really come to love this car, so it is with sadness that I posted this update. I cannot wait to get it back!!
UPDATE: Aug 3rd, 2006. The valve body was replaced but did not fix the problem right away. In fact, the computer needed to be reprogrammed for the new parts to function. There is a calibration that occurs for proper shifting. It is now working just fine!
UPDATE: Sep 5th, 2006 VW of america made a car payment for me, as a way to compensate me for the trouble. and fixed the car properly. NOTE: the problem I had was quite unusual, it was a failed electrical solenoid valve on the valve body. This has not been a common problem with these cars. Still in love with the car!
I have come up with a name for my car, Bladder Buster!
Update May 08. 50K miles now. I am still in love with this car. I get 42MPG regularly! I thought about replacing it, until (again) I drove the competition. It simply drives better than any Honda or Toyota (except the S2000). I did a hyper-mileage experiment and got 64.4MPG! Yes, it can do that when driven with the hypermilage method. Last week on a road trip, I was forced to detour around Florida forest fires. An extra 2 hours! No problem, plenty of range and fuel. No additonal mechanical problems to report.
Update Oct 08: 60k miles now. The Jetta is still running and driving great. I have had no mechanical failures. However, the rear brake pads have worn out and I installed new tires. I drove a 2009 Jetta TDI and the newer 2.0L 140HP engine's additional power is noticable. If I purchase another car, it will be a new TDI. By the way, the 2009 is the very same car as mine with a new environmentally friendly, more powerful engine. Time will tell if it is as reliable as mine.