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#11

in 2010 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $10,061 - $14,888
Original MSRP: $17,605 - $26,090
MPG: 22 City / 30 Hwy
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2010 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 2010 VW Jetta's power, acceleration and handling. Although the Jetta in previous years had 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 efficient engine.

  • "Solid structure, precise steering, and a willing chassis yield a sporty feel. Diesel is very fuel-efficient, but suffers from some turbo lag." -- Car and Driver
  • "Surprisingly, the TDI sedan is the quietest Jetta model we've tested. Some engine clatter at idle and while accelerating never lets you forget you're driving a diesel. Still, it shows a high degree of refinement that's far removed from diesel engines of the past." -- Consumer Guide
  • "For most shoppers in this segment, a comfy ride matters more than razor-sharp moves. By this measure, the 2010 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
  • "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 standard engine is a 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 170 horsepower, while the TDI's powerplant is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged clean diesel engine making 140 horsepower. 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 offers plenty of power because of its high torque level. 

According to the EPA, the Jetta’s five-cylinder engine should achieve 22/30 mpg city/highway with the five-speed manual transmission or 23/30 mpg with the six-speed automatic transmission. These figures aren’t as impressive as many other cars in the class. The Mazda3 and Honda Civic earn better fuel economy ratings of 25/33 mpg and 25/36 mpg, respectively.

However, neither of these can hold a candle to the Jetta’s diesel engine, which improves fuel economy dramatically. It's rated at 30/41 mpg with the manual transmission and 30/42 mpg with the automatic. 

  • “Jetta TDI is surprisingly strong with either transmission. It suffers from some turbo lag. 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
  • "With the TDI models, expect a little more vibration, a tad more noise and less high-end kick when trying to charge up that highway on-ramp from a stop. However, the diesel's prodigious low-end torque makes it feel downright muscular around town, as it pulls away from traffic lights with authority." -- Edmunds
  • "You would think that all that torque, combined with VW's super-smart DSG gearbox, would make for some lively performance in such a small car. It might, but the engine and transmission programming has been calibrated for maximum economy. Most of the time the Jetta TDI feels not lazy, exactly, but sleepy." -- Los Angeles Times

Handling and Braking

The Jetta boasts an especially sporty ride for its class. However, some test drivers criticize its long braking distances.

  • "In Edmunds brake testing, a Jetta SE sedan came to a stop from 60 mph in 134 feet, while the TDI stopped in 130. These are below-average distances, and pedal feel is notably nebulous at best." -- Edmunds
  • "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." -- Los Angeles Times
  • "The anti-lock braking system works really well -- with exemplary straight-line stability." -- Automobile Magazine

Next Steps: 2010 Volkswagen Jetta

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