Best Used Green Car To Buy: Volkswagen Jetta TDI

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2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Street Edition

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Street Edition

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Last week we started a series of the Five Best Used Green Cars To Buy.

We've already looked at two of the best-known green cars, the 2004-2009 Toyota Prius and the 2006-2011 Honda Civic Hybrid. Now it's the turn of a car known for its fuel, rather than its drivetrain--the Volkswagen Jetta TDI.

Where hybrids major on low emissions, the assistance of electric motors and high city MPG, diesels tackle fuel efficiency in a different way. Higher energy density of the fuel and more thermal efficiency in combustion means you can essentially do more, with less fuel. That means plenty of torque, and great economy--two reasons for the Jetta TDI's popularity.


Volkswagen has sold several generations of Jetta in the U.S, and TDI diesel models have become increasingly popular throughout that time.

While the Jetta TDI briefly disappeared from the market in 2007 and 2008 due to emissions regulations, a redesign for 2009 cleaned up its act and the model has been popular ever since.

The Jetta TDI uses a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder, and puts 140 horsepower to the front wheels. More significantly, it also puts 236 pounds-feet of torque through the wheels--and it's this torque that TDI owners have come to love.

Driving experience, economy

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Street Edition

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Street Edition

Enlarge Photo
It's probably fair to say that many hybrids ask you to sacrifice a little fun in your driving for the good of fuel efficiency--neither the Prius nor the Civic Hybrid we've covered so far are particularly fun to drive.

The Jetta TDI is different. With strong torque available from low revs thanks to the turbocharged diesel engine, it really punches through the gears, and even at freeway speeds it has plenty of shove for quick overtaking. It's also a lot more fun when you get to the corners, so even without considering economy the Jetta TDI has plenty of merits.

Also see: review of the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta / Used Volkswagen Jettas

When you aren't using all the available power, keeping the revs low to save fuel and relying on all that low-down torque means some impressive economy figures are possible--more than the EPA figures suggest.

While the manual Jetta TDI is rated 30 mpg city, 41 mpg highway by the EPA for an average of 34 mpg, many owners are achieving comfortably more--an average of 43.5 mpg, on the site, based on 16 vehicles. Some owners are even getting as much as 52 mpg.

Unlike hybrids, which excel in the city, the Jetta TDI is at its best on the highway. Here, it's punchy, quiet--no traditional diesel "rattle" here--and very fuel-efficient indeed.

For fans of automatics, the Jetta TDI is also available with Volkswagen's excellent dual-clutch DSG transmission. It's slick, easy to use and adds 1 mpg to the car's highway rating.

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Comments (4)
  1. Yeah... if you can find one. People don't get TDIs just to trade them in a few years later. People buy diesels so that they can wring 300,000 miles out of their cars.

  2. I kept logs on my TDI Jettas. All were manual transmissions except a '09, which got the worst city/highway combined mpg, 45. The 2000 TDI manual: avg 50mpg. '06: avg 49mpg. I am not a hypermiler, but do drive as the article recommends. My wife gets about 45mpg on her '10 manual TDI Golf. I get around 47mpg.

  3. Yes, it is a fun car to drive. I purchased new a 2010 Jetta TDI Diesel. It handles wonderfully at all speeds and is an extreme pleasure to drive. It feels very safe and very under control in corners and braking. 14 gallon gas tank goes approx 600miles. Top mileage of 46mpg was achieved with most of driving at 60mph. Typical drive for me is 70mph and 42-43mpg. I drove 50M miles last year at the usual 5-6mph over the posted speed limits. There is noooooooooo diesel odor.

  4. Love my 03 TDI and my 2010 TDI! these cars hold their value better than hybrids, and you dont have to replace batteries.

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