Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Much More Mileage Than EPA Admits?

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2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen

2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen

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Volkswagen diesels have hard-core fans. One of them is our colleague (and "rabid diesel enthusiast") Colin Mathews, who was crazy enough to drive a 1982 Mercedes-Benz 300TD station wagon cross-country last fall--after converting it to run on biodiesel.

Recently he drove a 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen, fitted with the TDI turbodiesel engine and a six-speed manual, into the Georgia mountains (up about 1800 feet and then back down again), and averaged 41 mpg.

His results confirm consistent reports from actual drivers that the EPA's official mileage numbers for the Jetta TDI (29 mpg city / 40 mpg highway for the automatic, 30 / 41 for the manual) are far too low.

Last July, Volkswagen hired independent tester AMCI to test the Jetta TDI's "real world" mileage on the road. They came back with 38 city / 44 highway--or 24 percent and 10 percent higher respectively.

Colin says, "I blew them away!" On a 40-mile loop of flat highways, he actually logged 52.4 mpg. While he wasn't officially "hypermiling," he did stay 5 mph below the speed limit, accelerated gradually, and shifted at lower revs (1250 to 1500 rpm)--which, although counterintuitive, provided the most economical figures on the instant-mileage display. The TDI is "so torquey you can do a gradual start in first without pushing the throttle," Colin said, and the same applies through second and third as well.

Given the EPA ratings, he figured he might get 45 mpg at best, so he was shocked--and pleased!--at finishing above 50 mpg.

Reviewers have generally liked the 2009 Jetta Sportwagen TDI that Colin drove. While we're on Volkswagen diesels, the sixth-generation 2010 Golf TDI has already been unveiled for our friends north of the border. We'll see it in the States at April's New York Auto Show, along with the 2010 Volkswagen GTI.

By the way, you can read the eight episodes of Colin's biodiesel odyssey on his travel blog (in order) here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. His motto: "Diesel rocks."

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

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Comments (30)
  1. "EPA Conspiracy"

    It's one of the mysteries of our time the price of Diesel comes burdened with a huge penalty at the pumps.
    Now first reasonable alternative to getting better mpgs than the problem prone gas elecrtic Hybrids is the Jetta TDI and the EPA cooks the Diesel mpg numbers low, and hope no one notices...but then again they can post anything they want with the fine print saying "your mileage will vary"
    WE are all getting shafted again.

  2. The best explanation for the price is the rise of China as an economic power (have to move those goods with something) and the new diesel fuel which requires extra processing steps. That combination drives up the price of diesel fuel. People ask me about why I bought a diesel when the fuel is so much more expensive. I tell them a simple way of comparing what I pay per gallon of FUEL is to take the price of diesel and divide it in half. Compare that with their price of FUEL (gasoline). They get that. I don't know how the AMCI is getting their numbers, but they seem a little low to me. I consistently get 45 mpg AVERAGE (city and Highway) with my GOLF TDI.

  3. I'm not sure about China or extra steps in processing (a lot less refined than gasoline for sure).
    I drive in Europe every now and then and Diesel is cheaper there. It is the reason why diesel is so commun over there. You only mention to a dealer if you want a gasoline car. By default everyone assumes you want a diesel and if you don't specify that what you get. My understanding is that since most diesel in he US is used by professional drivers (trucks, etc..) it is taxed heavier than gasoline. Trucks and the likes can deduct their fuel as expense and get a tax break so it's no big deal to be heavy handed. Unfortunately with the recent deployment of more consumer diesel models than ever before nobody is addressing the issue.

  4. I'm very pleased with the 2010 VW Jetta TDI. I drive through the Kentucky hills to and from work plus around town. First two 13+ gal fillups of diesel averaged 41.6 and 41.8 mpg. Traded in an '04 Cadillac CTS, and can report that I am pleasantly surprised with the pickup, passing and hill climbing ability of the TDI with all that torque. The engine never acts like it is working hard at all. I can't wait for a long trip...

  5. I have 2009 Jetta TDI with 15,400 miles on it. This car is unbelievable. While it is so powerful, it still manages to deliver over 47 miles—city, highway driving. My best mileage is 59 miles/gal going at 62 mph. Thank you VW for bringing such high quality, high torque and equally thrifty clean diesel to North America

  6. the EPA figures are way off.
    My 2009 Jetta wagon averaged 50MPG driving 65 MPH on two trips to the midwest (1000 mi each way). The return trips averaged 44MPG, driving it hard (75MPH) with jack rabbit starts.

  7. This is why Volkswagen continue to soar in its volkswagen autoparts sales, its because it build quality cars that customers are left happy with their cars.

  8. I drive city an highway in nyc an nj a combo of 42mpg. I was going to buy another jap car never . The Germans get better mpg then a hybrid the body structure an suspension is superior. I owned a honda accord, an nissan altima an both had transmission and suspension problems.
    If you want a car with Great milage a car thats fun to drive with great handling/suspension an a safe car to drive for 25k then the VW TDI jetta is it.

  9. i just picked up my 2010 TDI jetta this weekend and I am loving it. it makes my 60 mile one way commute to work bearable again.

  10. I'm jealous. Have had a jetta tdi for 7 months now. Have an easy suburban commute of 24 miles round trip. Averaging 33-36 mpg. That's epa range. Is it my driving? We get 55 with our civic hybrid on the same run. Haven't had it on the road as yet. I notice lower mileage when it's cold out. Also, stops, even lights, really cut into gas mileage. Not the best city car. The longer the drive, the better the mileage.

  11. I have 2009 Jetta TDI with 66,500 miles on it. And I have never been able to achieve over 43.6 mpg. I question your 52 mpg, if you're driving at freeway speed limits and real road conditions. Please provide routes, weather conditions, types of roads traveled, etc... I have talked with many 2009 VW Jetta TDI owners who see these claims as false. The VW Dealerships are even bragging about the new 62 mpg. If this is true then show us what you really did to achieve the 62 mpg.

  12. We have over 61,000 on our 2009 Manual trans TDI and I can confirm getting over 50mpg but up to 60 is very difficult. I have logged every mile on this car (because I'm a numbers geek) and it has averaged 39.4mpg the entire time we've had it. We make a lot of long trips but also live and drive a lot in the city. One time I drove 300 miles from Chicago to St. Louis averaging 62mph and got 50.9mpg including about 30 mins of driving in the city on side streets. But most of the time we drive 70mph on the interstate. The best mileage comes at temperatures between 60 and 70F

  13. Refer to my other post #9, Posted: 3/18/2010 I have traded in my 2009 Jetta TDI with 66,500 miles on it and now have a 2010 Jetta TDI with 15,000 hmmmmm still the same mpg nothing over 43.6 it still seems to be a con to get consumers to buy VW's with the TDI engine. I drive an average of 10,000 per month all highway miles..... I'll restate my claim if this is true then show us what you really did to achieve the 62 mpg.

  14. I've driven my 2010 TDI Jetta for a total of 16,655 and keep a very detailed log of my mpg for work reimbursement purposes. I have been getting an average of 57.6 for the span of the 16,655 miles. I do also own a 2010 prius and have learned to accelerate slowly, and watch for when I'm pushing the gas too much. My commute is 120 miles a day 60 of it being freeway (driving at about 75 MPH), 36 streets (Lots of Stoplights), and 24 through a long winding canyon. I can definitely see others achieving the 62mpg if they closely watch how they drive. My Husband gets 5 to 6 more MPG then I do on a regular basis.

  15. My first VW Diesel was 82 Rabbit---I got my best mileage ever driving from California. I got 58 miles to a gallon. My next was a 90 Jetta---it averaged around 46- 48. My 99 Jetta is a turbo---it averages between 42 -45. Now when I got my first diesel the fuel was cheaper than gas--thats changed. Now that they have put the "cleaner"--"green" turbo to use---the mileage drops. Engines that use less fuel go farther because they burn it more efficiently--- less waste-----you know there is a method to this madness

  16. Too bad it is a VW and will simply fall apart. 2000 Jetta, visit the dealership at least every six months since new, dead at 60,000 miles due to burning old.
    No matter what else VW accomplishes, low quality makes them irrelevant.

  17. I do not know how the VW diesel engine would compare with other diesel engines, since you got that lemon. I have also seen poor ratings in VW safety tests. I was about to buy one. Now I am planning to buy Mazda Skyactiv-D soon. I just hope it will fare better.

  18. By the way, very old conversation about EPA numbers versus actual numbers. A complete waste of time. Any idiot can get higher numbers on a Prius, or TDI, or any other vehicle than the EPA. So what?
    The EPA has a consistent method for all vehicles that makes the numbers comparable. The fact that a few enthusiasts get higher numbers does not change the comparative nature of EPA MPG numbers.
    Once again John Voelcker proves that he is a "closeted petrol head" and has no real interest in green cars. He provides no balance to the story what-so-ever. An otherwise smart gentleman who loses his thought process whenever he hears the roar of a noisy engine.

  19. I sure was a turkey back in 2010.

    Fuelly data now clearly shows at VW TDI achieving 15% better than EPA numbers and Prius begin about 3% worse than epa numbers.

    Sorry John Voelcker.

  20. You know,the EPA is a joke for ratings. I challenge ANYONE with a Cobalt to get 37 mpg PERIOD. My Cobalt was rated at 37 mpg highway, and never once did I even break 30. Not even close. 25.5, 98% highway. No one I have spoken to, has done it.
    About your 2000 Jetta, I beg to differ. Sure you have a lemon, sorry, it happens. But I personally have a Golf with 220k on it (and it gets mid 30's) and know someone with 337k on their Jetta. My other VW has 140, and runs great. It is a great IF maintained well and properly. This doesn't mean taking it to a dealer, they are often idiots and crooked. This means having a real VW tech/guru, service it.

  21. Wow John Briggs, you've got a real hatred for VW. The topic though is about diesel fuel mileage and I do beleive there is pressure on the EPA to be ultra conservative with reporting numbers. Gasoline numbers on the other hand are hard to hit in real world scenarios. What you will hate to hear though is that my 1990 Jetta diesel has been getting 42 mpg(USA) and 50 mpg (Canada) for over 20 years now. The car has 450,000 kilometers on it today and still looks and drives spectacularly. I do agree that diesel fuel should be cheaper than gasoline as the costs to refine it are far less.

  22. I drive a 1984 Jetta diesel and get 56 mpg tank after tank during the summer.

  23. "after converting it to run on biodiesel" ? No conversion needed to run a diesel car on biodiesel! 100% biodiesel is safe to run in all diesel engines until the 2009 VW TDIs (emissions control system issues)

  24. @Morgan: That may be the case in moderate climates, but B100 often impedes starting in cold climates (depending on how you define "100% biodiesel") due to thickening of the fuel at low temperatures. It's got a very different viscosity rating than conventional diesel fuel.

    It is also NOT a recommended fuel for those cars, so any problems stemming from it will not be covered under warranty--and in fact may void your warranty. Once the warranty period has expired, of course, that concern is no longer valid.

  25. 40 years ago, I had a VW Rabbit diesel. I got 37 mpg in either 4th or 5th gear, fast or slow, uphill and down. Top speed 75 mph on level ground; 63 mph with AC on. This car was so underpowered that if you could see a car coming on an open highway, your life was endangered by the very slow acceleration if you pulled out in front of this on-coming traffic. The car vibrated so much the window fill out of the frame to the ground. I had to keep the battery wrapped in a heating tape to start it at below 10°F, and ultimately built a fuel filter heater using a 60 DC light bulb inside a plastic pipe so it did not freeze up at 10°F or below while driving down the road. It was truly the sorriest car I have ever owned, the new ones seem similar.

  26. My first car was the rabbit diesel. I agree underpowered unless you down shifted. This seems to be an art lost on people. The german built ones were solid cars, the ones they built in the US were crap. they cheaped it up by putting a diesel engine in a gas body. very bad idea from the getgo. My new diesel jetta is awesome.

  27. Not clear quite what you're getting at with the statement, "putting a diesel engine in a gas body." Volkswagen has never built a dedicated diesel--that is, a body style that has diesel only, and NOT gasoline.

    The original Rabbit diesel, your current Jetta TDI, and every VW diesel in between have used bodies sold BOTH with gasoline and diesel powertrains.

  28. I have a 2011 TDI Jetta Sportwagon and get an average 46.5mpg, That is daily driving mind you. I finally got it out for the first real road trip last summer, set the cruze at 70mph and enjoyed an average 51mpg!!! This was on the Ohio turnpike on through to New York. It will take a spaceship with some type of hyper warp fusion drive to get me out of my TDI.

  29. I just bought a 2014 Jetta TDI. On a family trip to the ocean (170 miles) the average fuel mileage was 55. That's 2 adults, 2 kids and a loaded trunk. Windows closed and A/C on. The engine only has 1100 miiles on it. I have the six speed manual transmission. My last car was a civic hybrid, it didn't do this well on trips.

  30. I have a 2014 Jetta TDI with 1200 miles. My overall mpg is 42.5 It seems like the AC cuts the mpg by four. I average 47 without the AC.

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