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First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0L TDI SEL (Manual)

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI SEL

In the past, our opinion of the Volkswagen Jetta has been relatively a mute one. The past generation has lacked any sense of personality or driver enthusiasm. Not to say it was a bad car, but more so a car for people that couldn’t be bothered looking elsewhere. Now though, Volkswagen has made some subtle changes for its mid-cycle 2015 refresh that gives an even more business-like, grown up attitude.

This new refresh puts the Jetta in a new perspective for us. VW cleaned up the Jetta’s lines giving a more attractive grille, a slightly new front bumper, and finished off with a good looking set of taillights. Our sampled Jetta was the top trim SEL TDI model that offered attractive 17” alloy wheels that gave it a sharp stance against its rather generic Reflex Silver Metallic paint.

To keep more with the times of rapid advancing technology, Volkswagen is now offering a Driver Assistance and Lighting Package ($1,690). This package adds a premium touch of swiveling Adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights and new advance safety features like Blind Spot Detection, Forward Collision Alert, and Rear-Cross Traffic Alert. This puts the Jetta in a new league of compact sedans since not many on the market offer these kinds of options.

In the past decade, diesels have been slowing working their way back into the American market proving to be greener and much more efficient. Included in this mid-cycle update is the re-engineered 2.0-liter turbo diesel four-cylinder engine. And when you start reading down the mechanical specifications on the Jetta TDI, it sounds just as entertaining as a Tax Auditors day at the office. But like any Auditor, after a few wine coolers, they suddenly become the life of the party. This should give you a little insight to what the Jetta TDI is all about.

Back in October, we took a quick look at the 2015 Jetta TDI, and when we spoke to Volkswagen, they quoted “you buy horsepower, but drive torque” – that’s the key word there “torque”. The Jetta’s re-engineered 2.0-liter engine produces 10 more horsepower over the previous engine for 150 horsepower but maintains the same 236lb-ft of torque – that’s a lot! The torque now comes in sooner at roughly 1,750 RPM’s which then carries you to 60 mph in just under 8 seconds through a silky smooth six-speed manual transmission. With a diesel of this caliper, the manual is the best way to go optimizing the most thrills, while maximizing efficiency. A six-speed automatic is available for those that lack all sorts of enthusiasm.

From the looks of things, you would never guess the Jetta is an enjoyable car to drive. The handling is decently firm, giving you a good feel through the corners and the road. The leather wrapped steering is receptive with a good range of feedback. And the eager to please suspension is relatively smooth. Engineers have been working desperately hard to tone down the robust, farmyard sounds that diesels used to emit. This new diesel is relatively quiet, yet still noticeable from inside the cabin and with the going gets quick, the vibrations are quite loud from behind the dash.

Sitting in a previous Jetta was about as enjoyable as sitting in the IRS’s lobby – no life, no energy. Volkswagen, responded to this negativity by fitting more attractive trim, like the faux carbon fiber, piano black and silver garnish fitted to our tester – it’s a handsome touch and makes living with the Jetta a little more tolerable. VW also added “tunnel” gauges to the instrument cluster and a new multi-functional steering wheel. These subtle but drastic changes give the Jetta a more upscale premium Audi-esc feel. The new steering wheel is much more user friendly and is well laid out for functionality.

The overall interior hasn’t changed. The Jetta is still offered with a black leatherette interior that is comfortable for long distance hauls and continues to offer best in class rear leg room. Our top trimmed SEL model bumped up the comfort amenities with heated seats, power adjustable driver seat, dual-zone climate control, premium Fender audio system, back-up Camera and Navigation. If we were to nip-pick; that Navigation is in dire need of updating – the interface is difficult to use and bit old fashion – to top it off the voice activation comes of barbaric in its responses.

One of the positive features to a diesel is its fuel efficiency. VW fitted automatic shutters to optimize the most fuel efficiency and the results are staggering. Of course, VW is a little conservative with their numbers, rating the Jetta TDI at 31/46/36 (city/highway/combined). We averaged much better with 42 city and 49 highway with a hefty fuel range of 600 miles.

At an as tested cost nearing the 29-grand mark, the Jetta TDI is quite expensive. But so is a standard hybrid, and their fuel numbers don’t quite match up to what the Jetta TDI can do. So we’ll let you be the judge of its value for cost.

Price (As Tested):
2015 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0L TDI SEL (Manual): $26,410
Destination: $820
Featured Options:
Driver Assistance and Lighting Package: $1,690
Grand Total: $28,920


  1. Multilink at the rear or torsion beam? I think the new Golf has moved to a torsion beam due to some kind of packaging change, cannot recall what this Jetta has. I like the TDI’s because of the MPG, just the price of diesel in Cali means what you make in MPG you often lose at the pump. If the diesel was the same as regular would be very nice. Nicer still if VW ever bring the GTD to the US.

      • Many thanks. Yep the MkVII is something else. As a MkVI GTI owner I sorely tempted to trade up but thinking of going for a RWD car next time, mostly likely used. Suspect once I do sell the GTI I will regret it, it has been a great car, swiss army knife and very comfortable.

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