In 2009, after about a two-year absence, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI re-entered the Canadian market. Utilizing a combination of turbo-charging, direct fuel injection, a nitrous oxide storage canister and a heavy-duty particulate filter, it achieved some of the best fuel economy numbers in Canada.
This generation of the TDI engine also met the tough new California Tier II, Bin 5 emission regulations and could manage on bio-diesel, no problem, according to VW.
The cast-iron inline-four-cylinder diesel engine in the third-generation Jetta TDI displaced 1,968 cc and featured a single overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder. It developed 140 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque. Considering its size, the torque output of this engine was exceptional, and you could choose from two six-speed transmissions; either a manual or TipTronic automatic.
One thing that made this particular engine so clean was its use of "pilot injection" – or pre-injection – with re-shaped air intake ports. Together, these two engineering features atomize the diesel fuel to a super-fine vapour that burns faster and cleaner than ever before, according to VW. As a result, this generation of the TDI was the cleanest diesel engine the company had put into production.
As well as the thriftiest. VW claimed fuel consumption of 6.8 litres/100 km in town and 4.8 litres/100 km on the highway for the manual six-speed, with the automatic only a smidgeon less thrifty. This meant you could theoretically travel 1,100 kilometres on a full tank, which would take you, oh, from Rimouski, Que., to Toronto, or from Vancouver to Calgary, non-stop, with fuel left over.
Standard equipment on the base Trendline version included a climate control system, cruise control, remote central locking, CD player with MP3 capability, 60/40-split folding rear seat and power heated mirrors. Safety equipment included four-wheel discs with ABS, a traction control system, and front and side airbags. The top-of-the-range Highline offered leather interior, the automatic transmission, heated front seats, larger 16-inch wheels and tires and a power sunroof. You could also order Sirius satellite radio with this model.
This generation of the Jetta TDI was surprisingly pleasant to drive, although performance was uneven. That said, it was far from sluggish and the diesel engine was quiet in operation, rock steady on the highway and, in the morning, started up like a regular car. No waiting for glow plugs to warm themselves up, and no clattering valve train, or billows of black smoke. The '09 Jetta TDI sat five in relative comfort, despite being categorized as a compact sedan, and was the biggest Jetta yet. And for those who needed even more cargo area, there was also a station wagon version.
There are two safety recalls on file with Transport Canada for the '09 Jetta TDI. One concerns the fuel line, which, in Transport Canada's words, could crack, and "diesel fuel leakage may ignite on a hot engine surface and cause a fire, which could result in property damage and/or personal injury." The second, meanwhile, concerns the automatic transmission, which could experience shifting issues and put itself into Neutral without warning. To this, we can add a caution from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding possibly improperly torqued bolts on the driveshaft cover that could cause a knocking sound.
NHTSA also has some 32 technical service bulletins out there for this iteration of the Jetta. The majority of these concern non-TDI models, but others, such as problems with the HVAC system in cold weather, fuel pressure issues and headlights that may dim at idle, concern all models.
Consumer Reports likes the 2009 Jetta TDI – to a point. It receives a "better-than-average" used-car prediction and scores well in most areas. According to the magazine, there can be problems with engine cooling and the fuel system, but the overall verdict is a favourable one. Comments from owners: "terrible corporate support," "fuel mileage not as stated" and "solid interior comfort."
From a base price of $24,200 in 2009, a Jetta TDI has dropped in value by $5,000 to $10,000, depending upon the trim level. The base Trendline, for example, is valued in the mid to high teens, while a well-equipped Highline is in the high-teens, low-$20,000 neighbourhood.
Tech specs: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI sedan
Original Base Price: $24,275; Black Book: $17,400-$20,400; Red Book: $13,875-$16,875
Engine: 2.0-litre, turbo-diesel, four-cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 140 hp/235 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual and automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 6.8 city/4.8 highway (manual transmission); diesel fuel
Alternatives: Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Saturn Aura Greenline, Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, Mercedes E320 BlueTec