Review: 2011 Clean Diesel VW Jetta and Golf

Nowadays, if you want a car that has great fuel economy, the obvious choice would be a hybrid – they make them in all shapes and sizes, and you can even still get a tax credit on some of them.

But what if you don’t like the idea of driving around in a laptop-on-wheels? (remember, a hybrid needs NASA-grade computers in order to work)

Well, there are other options – Namely clean-diesel powered vehicles.

Two of these options come from Volkswagen. And contrary to popular belief, these diesel cars are very, very enticing.

The 2011 Jetta TDI and the 2011 Golf TDI are two compacts with sharp, European looks that both feel very well made.

But the real story is under the hood.

Open it, and you’ll find the one of the “greenest” diesel engines ever produced; the 2.0 liter TDI with common-rail (direct) injection, and a nice, big turbo.

Unlike most clean diesel engines, VW’s 2.0 TDI ditches the urea injector (urea is injected into the exhaust to convert the NOx gasses into nitrogen, then water), in favor of a storage canister, which stores the gasses, until they can be re-burned by the engine.

This system is 50-state legal, and it emits just 0.07 grams of CO2 per mile. By comparison, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata 4-cyl emits exactly the same amount of CO2.

In fact, this motor won Volkswagen entry to the Guinness Book of World Records for the Lowest Fuel Consumption Across 48-States. Thanks to the efforts of hyper-milers John & Helen Taylor.

On an economy run in 2009, the couple achieved an incredible average of 58.86 MPG behind the wheel of their bone-stock 2009 VW Jetta TDI.

During their record-setting trip, the Taylor’s traveled 9,419 miles in 20 days, and saw 60+ mpg’s on several occasions. And while Shell provided the fuel free of charge, it’s estimated that the trip cost just $0.069 per mile, for a total cost of just $653!

But there’s a lot more to these cars than just great fuel economy.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI clean diesel car

Introduced at the recent Detroit Auto Show, the Jetta was completely redesigned for 2011.

This new, Mexican-made Jetta is 1-inch wider & 3.5 inches longer than its predecessor, allowing for an extra 2-inches of rear legroom, without sacrificing trunk space.

Even though the new Jetta is larger than the old one, they actually managed to shave 80lbs from the curb weight,which will help both handling and fuel economy.

Thankfully, VW designers avoided the whole “dramatic curve” theme that seems to be so popular these days. Instead, the outside is handsomely styled, using crisp lines that won’t look dated in a year. Plus, the front fascia and mildly bulging wheel arches give the new Jetta an (appealingly) menacing appearance.

Inside, the 2011 Jetta has a very upscale interior, with plenty of soft-touch plastic and high quality materials. And since the Jetta TDI is the top-of-the line model, you get all sorts of standard equipment, including: 12v power-outlets front and rear, satellite radio with a USB & iPod interface, side and side curtain airbags, 4-wheel disk brakes with stability and traction control, and of course, power everything.

As a competitor to the Toyota Corolla & Honda Civic then, the 2011 Jetta comes off as more upscale, and grown-up. But it gets even better.

Remember that diesel under the hood? Well, it churns out 140-hp, and 236 ft-lb of torque. In layman’s terms, torque is the measure of “wheel-twist” produced by the engine. Thus, the higher the torque figure, the more “grunt” the car will have from a dead stop, or when you go to pass someone.

Thanks to the diesel’s generous torque figure, the 2011 Jetta TDI can manage a very respectable 0-60 time of 8.7 seconds. And since all of that torque is available at a very low 1,750 rpm, the 2011 Jetta TDI feels more powerful than you’d expect.

Why choose the Jetta TDI?

Resale value: Diesel cars enjoy much lower depreciation than their gas-powered equivalents.

Fuel economy: The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is rated at 30 mpg city / 42 mpg highway. And that figure stays the same with either the standard 6-speed manual, or the optional 6-speed DSG.

Size/quality: This is a roomy car, that’s well made and full of luxury-grade equipment.

2011 Volkswagen Golf TDI clean diesel car

The Volkswagen Golf TDI is arguably one of the nicest cars in its class. It features an upscale interior, with top-notch materials and excellent build quality. Plus, it’s loaded with plenty of useful features, and a ton of standard equipment.

Available as a 3-door hatch or a 5-door hatch, the 2011 VW Golf TDI offers ample room for 4 adults (you could fit 5 in a pinch, but that poor soul had better be skinny).

Where the Golf really excels is in the cargo department. Leave the rear seats up, and you have 12.4 cubic feet of room. Fold the 60/40 split (with a pass-through slot behind the armrest for long skinny items…like a fishing pole) seats down and the cargo hold swells to 46 cubic feet. Or, about the size of a 1-bedroom Manhattan apartment.

One of the Golf’s many useful features is the Cargo Protection System. This is a collection of small L-shaped plastic pieces with Velcro on the bottom. You can secure them to the floor around stuff that you don’t want rolling around. Like bottles…or bowling balls.

Some of the Golf TDI’s standard equipment includes: power everything, satellite radio with touchscreen controls, steering wheel controls, Bluetooth, USB and iPod connectivity, 17-inch wheels, sport suspension, fog lights, heated mirrors, a full complement of airbags, and 4-wheel disk brakes with ABS, ESC, ASR, EBD, HBD…etc, etc.

Under the hood, you get the same 2.0 TDI found in the Jetta TDI. It gets 30 mpg city / 41 mpg highway, comparable to the Jetta. But where the two differ is in their 0-60 times: the Jetta TDI takes 8.7 seconds, and the Golf TDI takes just 8.6 seconds!

Sure, we know that’s not much of a difference. But the Golf is (slightly) lighter than the Jetta, so it feels more “lively”. Plus, the optional 6-speed DSG’s steering wheel paddles add to the fun-factor even more.

Federal Tax Credits for Clean Diesels

To encourage clean diesel sales, the Federal Government offered tax credits called Advanced Lean Burn Technology Motor Vehicle Tax Credit.

These credits applied to the 2009-2010 Jetta TDI & 2009-2010 Golf TDI, and they started at $1,300. With the sales limit set at 60,000 vehicles, the credit dropped to $650 once 30,000 TDI’s were sold.

The credit was fully phased out on December 31 2010. But don’t worry – when you take into account the money you’re going to save on fuel, plus the higher than average resale value, you’re still coming out ahead with either of these clean diesel vehicles.

Do you own a 2011 diesel Jetta or Golf? Leave a comment and let us know about your experience with it!

Teddy Field got his start in the auto industry at the age of 17. He is a recognized car dealer sales & management consultant, an automotive journalist, and a regular contributor to

omar June 5, 2011 at 1:18 pm

how many the golf jetta 2011

Vad March 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Own a 2012 golf TDI. So far put 13K on it in 5 months. Get 550 miles to a tank full, with very aggressive driving. Love the torque. If this car hols up, it will be the best car I’ve ever owned.

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