2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Diesel: Review Roundup

2012 Volkswagen Jetta Diesel Reviews
photo courtesy of Volkswagen of America

Shopping for a 2012 clean diesel car and thinking about the Volkswagen Jetta TDI? Here’s a summary of major reviews of the vehicle to help you decide. Be sure to leave a comment at the bottom if you have questions, or something to add!

The Jetta experienced a redesign for the 2011 model year.  The 2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Diesel is powered by a 2.0-liter diesel inline 4-cylinder that generates 140 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission. VW also offers an optional six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It has an EPA fuel economy rating of 30 MPG in the city and 42 MPG on the highway. Standard equipment includes a navigation system, Bluetooth, iPod input, Satellite Radio, side and curtain air bags, and stability and traction control. MSRP starts at $22,775.

Car and Driver — 2012 Volkswagen Jetta Sedan TDI Diesel

Car and Driver noted that the Jetta is larger since its redesign in the 2011 model year and that the base price of the car was reduced. They mark the highs as a roomy back seat, good fuel economy, efficient diesel engine, a good base price, and a sports-sedan handling and feel. They identify low to be the interior, which they say lacks the “richness” of the previous version.

They conclude, “Despite cost cutting, the Jetta is still a solid-feeling sedan with good steering and handling.”

Cars.com — 2012 Volkswagen Jetta

Cars.com reported that the standard manual transmission features stiffer clutch pedals than any other compact car they have driven. They also cautioned that they stalled more than once, but not from a standstill: “Every stall happened at low speeds when I thought 2nd gear was called for, but the engine bogged and stalled. Once I started keeping it in 1st gear longer, the stalls stopped.”

They found the car to be “punchy” after driving it.  “The Jetta TDI moves away from lights and passes quickly. There wasn’t lag at any point, and it always felt like there was more power on tap,” they said. They also said that the car’s performance made it fun to drive. This is because the car has more torque than other cars in its classification due to the diesel engine.

They liked the steering too. However, they did comment that it required more effort. “The payoff is that it also gives you more feedback and you feel more connected to what the car is doing… It’s my favorite steering in this car class.”

Handling also passed muster with them. “It feels planted to the road, and the suspension and chassis are well-tuned. The Jetta doesn’t squat or roll as much as others in this segment do, so it feels level going through turns. The suspension absorbs bumps very well for a small car, and that gives you a sense of security at high speeds. The road doesn’t beat up and toss the car around,” they said.

They noted that the car is not as “light and sprightly” as the previous version.

C&D concluded, “To my mind, the new Jetta isn’t a dilution of the previous model, it’s simply a slightly different take on the car — but the spirit of the machine remains.”

Edmunds.com — 2012 Volkswagen Jetta

What jumped out to Edmunds was the roomy interior and that the car was more affordable.

Their review identified the pros to be a spacious interior and trunk, that the car was well-equipped and featured a smart electronics interface, and that the diesel engine was fuel efficient.

They defined the cons to be “lackluster interior materials, sluggish throttle with automatic, and numb steering.”

They cautioned that the newly designed Jetta may be lacking in what it had in the previous models because the German manufacturer wants to attract more entry-level buyers. The car has been downgraded somewhat and the price has been reduced substantially. “The Volkswagen Jetta once presented a good middle ground between Japanese compact sedans and entry-level German luxury. It offered a sturdy chassis, tasteful interior materials and enough sport to make the package lively around town. Most buyers felt the premium quality was worth the extra price of admission. But Volkswagen thought the premium price discouraged an even greater amount of shoppers. So last year it made its redesigned Jetta a centerpiece of an aggressive new pricing strategy,” they reported.

On interior design and special features, Edmunds wrote, “ We particularly like the available touchscreen stereo interface and its redundant dial knob that’s ideal for controlling an iPod. The associated navigation system, however, is a bit of a letdown due to the small screen and limited amount of displayed information.”

Their driving impressions were pretty good. “Though it’s notably more expensive than the 2.5-equipped SE and SEL, the TDI is a keen choice thanks to its meaty low-end torque and frugal fuel economy. The manual would again be a preferred choice, though the [automatic], with its automated and manual modes, works well as a best-of-both-worlds choice,” they said.

2012 Volkswagen Jetta Clean Diesel TDI Review Summary

In conclusion, the consensus appears to be:


  • Roomy back seat
  • Good fuel economy
  • Efficient diesel engine
  • Good base price
  • Sports-sedan handling and feel
  • Good steering
  • Punchy
  • Great torque
  • Cruising range


  • Interior not as rich
  • Stiff clutch pedals
  • Stalling problems with manual transmission
  • Handling not as light and sprightly

Do you own this car, or have you driven one? What’s your take?

Leave a comment and help out the people who are researching this car!