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#11

in 2009 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $8,628 - $12,431
Original MSRP: $17,515 - $23,540
MPG: 21 City / 30 Hwy
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2009 Volkswagen Jetta Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Reviews are overwhelmingly positive regarding the 2009 Jetta's power, acceleration and agility. Although the Jetta has been described as a strong performer, the new diesel TDI trim ups the car's fun-to-drive index with the same chassis complemented by a powerful, yet clean diesel engine.

  • "For most shoppers in this segment, a comfy ride matters more than simulating a track day on Main Street. By this measure, the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta is a fine companion in day-to-day driving. It swallows bumps and provides a relatively quiet cabin from which to endure the daily grind." -- Edmunds
  • "Volkswagen Jetta offers very crisp handling. While it isn't the fastest car in its class, it's now fast enough to nose its way past the pack when it has to. Highway ride is firm, while road, wind and engine noise are all perceptible but not unpleasant. And if your favorite leg of any journey is the twisty one, the Jetta delivers ample cornering ability complemented by quick, smooth manual Tiptronic downshifts and a satisfying exhaust note." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Compared with a docile Prius or Civic Hybrid, the Jetta is virtually a road warrior. The VW churns up all the passing power you'd want from 30, 50 or even 70 m.p.h. The steering is sporty and precise." -- The New York Times

Acceleration and Power

The Jetta's main engine is a 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, while the new TDI's power plant is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged clean diesel engine with 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Either option is a slam dunk for test drivers, but they especially recommend taking the clean diesel for a spin. According to most reviewers, the TDI's fine-tuned engine should put pre-conceived notions about diesel driving to rest. 

When it comes to fuel economy, the 2009 Jetta should achieve 21/31 mpg city/highway with the five-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission, 22/29 mpg with an automatic and a whopping 30/41 mpg or 29/40 mpg when the diesel engine is matched with a manual or automatic, respectively.

  • "Both the manual and automatic transmissions are slick and fun to use." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "With the automatic transmission, acceleration is adequate from a stop. As speed rises, the engine quickly runs out of steam. Thus, passing and merging require some planning. Its manual shift gage works well, too. ... Jetta TDI is rather sprightly with either transmission. It suffers from some turbo lag, but power comes on strong thereafter. On all Jetta models, the manual transmission is delightful to use, with smooth shift and clutch action. The automatics are prompt and responsive, with helpful manual shift gates." -- Consumer Guide
  • "At idle or working hard, the new 2.0L TDI was just as quiet as a regular gasoline powered car. There wasn't any rough idle associated with the diesel engine and maximum torque of 246-lbs-ft was available early in the power range." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "We achieved 36.4 miles per gallon with the Jetta TDI in a 181-mile mixed driving loop in and around the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. The test was comprised of approximately 70 percent highway driving, and 30 percent driving. The results puts this compact diesel ahead of most subcompact cars, and on par with many hybrids currently on the market." -- Hybrid Cars
  • "Most of the time the Jetta TDI feels not lazy, exactly, but sleepy." -- Los Angeles Times
  • "The diesel's prodigious low-end torque make it downright muscular around town, as it pulls away from traffic lights with authority." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

Jettas are praised for their sporty drive. All four trims feature four-wheel anti-lock brakes, Hydraulic Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force Distribution. Engine Braking Assist prevents the Jetta from going into a skid in the event of quick gear shifts, and Anti-Slip Regulation prevents wheel slippage at high speeds.

  • "This is the best-handling front-wheel-drive car Volkswagen has produced." -- Auto Mall USA
  • "Non-GLI Jettas are more than competent, even a bit sporty, including the wagon. They have fine steering feel. Body lean in corner is noticeable, but they never feel unstable. GLI is a class standout. It corners with confidence, exhibiting only modest body lean. Braking is strong and sure on all." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Though it corners and handles like a tightly laced European compact, you will not buy the Jetta TDI because you love the wriggle of adrenaline worms up your spine. Though it's loaded with cutting-edge technology, you won't buy it to impress your friends and neighbors - unless one is an automotive engineer." -- Los Angeles Times
  • "The Jetta's steering is nicely weighted and accurate, though body roll is significant in enthusiastic cornering. ... With the TDI models, expect a little more vibration, a tad more noise and noticeably less high-end kick when trying to charge up that highway on-ramp from a stop." -- Edmunds
  • "The anti-lock braking system works really well - with exemplary straight-line stability." -- Automobile Magazine

Next Steps: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta

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Used car average prices are provided by ClearBook™, a TrueCar™ product