Road Tripping with the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI [Review]

2015 volkswagen jetta tdi

600 miles, 3 states, 2 photographers, and 1 tank of fuel

Updated: 7/5/2015
What vehicle to take on an extended weekend road trip from the concrete maze of New York, to the green rolling hills of Pennsylvania, and back? How about this red chariot? It is the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI and it proved itself be a frugal travel companion.


Engine Power Torque Transmission MSRP Price As-Tested Rating
2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel 150 hp @ 3500 rpm 236 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm 6-speed DSG automatic $24,895 $25,995 Buy it!


The VW Jetta was freshened for 2015 with a new fascia, content upgrades, and a new turbodiesel engine that boasts higher fuel economy and a small power boost over the previous model year. The folks at Volkswagen were kind enough to loan me a 2015 Jetta TDI SE with a 6-speed DSG automatic, the middle of the pack of the three trim levels offered. The base S starts at $22,460, the SE at $24,895, and the SEL at $27,230. Regardless of the package, a six-speed manual is standard on all TDI models and the 6-speed DSG® dual-clutch automatic is an $1,100 option.

The 2015 Jetta TDI comes standard with push-button start, but it requires the glow plug inside the turbo-diesel engine to heat up before it actually starts. A quick push of the start-stop button only turns on the ignition and electrical systems. I had to learn to keep the button depressed until the engine started or push the start-stop button a second time. New owners may find this somewhat of an annoyance until they learn to hold and wait for the engine to start. Those who are familiar with diesel engines know that glow plugs are a necessary aid to ignite the fuel under cold conditions and require a few seconds to warm up.

2015 VW Jetta TDI

Once the engine turns over, the distinctive diesel rumble is low in volume, but disappears when driving. Volkswagen’s all-new 2.0L turbocharged and intercooled clean diesel engine cranks out 150 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque that kicks-in at a low 1,750 rpm. Our test car was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, which translates to an EPA estimated mpg of 31 city / 45 highway / 36 combined. After 800 miles of mostly driving Pennsylvania freeways and some slogging through New York traffic, I recorded 43 mpg. On one leg of my journey the Jetta TDI recorded 52 mpg after 120 miles cruising almost non-stop on highway and rural roads. Sweet!

When called upon, the Jetta TDI has instant, push-you-back-in-your-seat torque that brings a big grin to your face. The torque delivery is smooth at any speed and delivers exactly as expected when in the lower gears. If you want to pass and need to jump from 65 to 75 mph or higher, just mash the accelerator and the Jetta, with hardly any effort, gets you where you want to be. It is such a marvelous feeling that you will find yourself on open stretches of road doing it just for the fun of it.

2015 VW Jetta TDI

On the open road the stiff chassis does a wonderful job of damping bumps and taking direction. VW’s compact sedan feels settled at any speed and the electric-powered steering has just the right amount of weight and feedback.

After driving many hours, I can faithfully say that the Jetta’s interior is comfortable for all passengers, with plenty of headroom and legroom to go around.

Today’s Jetta is 182.2 inches long—nearly three inches longer than its predecessor—with a 104-inch wheelbase, which puts it well ahead on the size scale over entries like the Ford Focus. Because its interior is arranged more favorably, the Jetta has more backseat space and even more trunk space than some mid-sizers, such as the Hyundai Sonata.

2015 VW Jetta TDI interior

The back seat benefits from most of that length increase, and it’s capably roomy, even for tall passengers. The doors open wide for easy access, and the seats are canted at an agreeable angle—though there’s some contact with the headliner for six-footers, regardless of slouching.

Inside the cabin, the Jetta provides a moderate amount of small-item storage. The glovebox is roomy, and the center console found on most Jettas now houses the iPod port. There’s a small bin that sits in front of the shifter, and the cupholders between the front seats are complemented by molded-in water-bottle holders in the door panels. What I missed having were USB ports. It would have been nice to have kept our phones charged during the long drives instead of worrying about Bluetooth and navigation apps draining the batteries.

All Jetta sedans have a 60/40 folding rear seat, which extends the storage capacity of the trunk. The fold-down mechanism isn’t found inside in the car–the pull-style levers are inside the trunk. A logical place if you are loading the trunk and decide that more space is needed beyond what VW claims is the largest in any compact car (15.7 cubic feet).

2015 VW Jetta TDI trunk

One advantage to the Jetta’s upright sedan profile is good outward visibility. The rear roof pillars are tall, the rear-seat headrests are low, and the glass area is large—all of it adding up to better rear and three-quarter visibility than in, say, the more elongated Kia Forte compact sedan.

Starting at $21,640, the base Jetta TDI diesel S has a standard equipment list that includes an AM/FM/Sirius XM satellite radio/CD player with an auxiliary jack; power windows, locks, and mirrors; the new multifunction steering wheel; and air conditioning) plus heated seats, a chrome grille, and iPod input.

The Jetta TDI’s big price leap is from S to SE trim ($24,075), which buys you a sunroof and a lot of electronic conveniences such as rain-sensing wipers, heated seats, and a rearview camera. The seats remain “leatherette,” but it’s very nice leatherette. Automatic dual-zone climate control, touchscreen navigation, power driver’s seat, and the Fender premium sound system come standard with the SEL trim, which has an MSRP of $26,410. Only the SEL trim has the optional Driver Assistance package (Forward Collision Warning and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert) for an additional $695.

The diesel’s thrift comes at a price, however. The premium for the TDI over a gasoline TSI engine in our tested SE trim with Connectivity and DSG automatic transmission, is $2,030. Those who prefer to row their own gears with a 6-speed manual transmission will save you $1,100.

Ultimately, with VW’s diesel-engine surcharge and U.S. diesel-fuel prices being generally the same or higher than gasoline, you may want to view the 500-mile cruising range of the TDI as you would a convenience option, such as a sunroof, sport package, or fancy stereo. Unless you routinely drive long distances, it’s going to take quite a while for the TDI to earn back its premium, so don’t buy one thinking you’ll necessarily save money.

Want to learn more about VW’s popular turbodiesel engine? Check out Nathan’s extended length review video of the 2015 VW Golf SportWagen TDI and let us know what you think.

Specifications: 2015 VW Jetta TDI SE w/Connectivity

  • MSRP Base Price: $24,895
  • Price as Tested: $25,175
  • Engine: 2.0L turbocharged inline-4 cylinder diesel
  • Power: 150 hp @ 3,500 rpm
  • Torque: 236 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic (DSG)
  • EPA Estimated Fuel Economy (MPG): 31 city / 45 hwy / 36 combined
  • Fuel tank size: 14.5 gallons
  • Drivetrain Layout: FWD
  • Front Suspension: Independent strut
  • Rear Suspension: Independent multi-link
  • Length / Width / Height: 183.3 in. / 70.0 in. / 57.2 in.
  • Wheelbase: 104.4 in.
  • Curb Weight: 3,296 lb.

Other cars in its class:
Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, Ford Focus, Dodge Dart, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic