2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI SE

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI SE Review

Sensible in every sense.

By: Andrew Krok

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: November 27th, 2014

2015 marks the introduction of the EA288 two-liter diesel engine, and with it, a moderately refreshed mid-cycle 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. The Jetta remains mostly the same at a quick glance, but upon further inspection, you'll likely take notice of the new Jetta's front and rear fascia, along with the fact that wheel covers have gone the way of the dodo bird. The interior, too, has received a good deal of freshening, in order to reduce some of the drabness of the outgoing model.

Clearly, Volkswagen is attempting to take its Jetta a little upmarket while still keeping it an affordable way to experience the fabled "German engineering." The Jetta, while fairly anonymous, has always been a good car, but in a segment filled with great cars, it needed something more to help it stand alone as a competitive model. The 2015 model year addresses nearly every one of those issues, and with the increased efficiency from its diesel engine, the Jetta TDI should be on the short list for every eco-conscious buyer.

  • Interior

    The interior on the 2014 Jetta was a practice in embracing flat expanses of hard plastic without much variation in texture, color, or shape. For 2015, Volkswagen realized that people do care about a car's interior, and so a number of updates have given it a much more appealing look. The gauges have tunneling that adds some visual depth, and the piano-black trim surrounding the infotainment system breaks up the monotony; in general, the driver has less of a seat and more of a cockpit now. Sure, the hard plastic is still there, but when you're spending in the mid-$20,000 range, you can't reasonably expect Alcantara and deviated-color hand-stitched leather armrests.

    The seats are firm, yet supportive, exactly how we'd expect a German nanny to act. For a car that can go hundreds and hundreds of miles without stopping for gas, you'd hope that your seats wouldn't be so soft that your vertebrae turn to Jell-O after a five-hour stint behind the wheel.

  • Exterior

    It's a car. That's about it, frankly; the Jetta has never been known for off-the-wall styling, and we've always admired VW's adherence to the notion that the Jetta should always be blending in with traffic. The lines are crisp, and it is very much a 21st-century design, but the general shape isn't much more than what you think of when you hear the word "car." The updates for 2015 do add a bit of flair - for example, the front fascia now focuses on horizontal lines to emphasize visual width - but in general, the car remains the choice buy for those who prefer to stay under the radar (be it metaphorical radar or police radar).

  • On the Road

    If you want to be sensible, you can be. If you want to drive like a jerk, you can. The Jetta TDI allows you to stay efficient without sacrificing the fun factor. As you'd expect from a German sedan, the body is solid, and the car doesn't have any nervous jitters as it clamors over bumps or zips around a corner. It's not pillow-soft when you start turning in at higher rates of speed, so it's rewarding in that sense. And, with all that lovely torque coming from the EA288 diesel engine, there's never a bad time to give 'er some gas and send the speedo needle a little higher.

    But make no mistake; the TDI is about efficiency first and foremost. It's rated at 31 mpg city and 45 mpg highway, numbers that are super-easy to achieve (and even beat), so long as you're judicious with your throttle inputs. If you want to hyper-mile it, throw the six-speed DSG dual-clutch into manual mode and upshift no later than 1,750 rpm. If you want to keep it simple, the transmission shifts plenty fine on its own.

    Diesel engines have become much quieter of late, and Volkswagen puts plenty of sound-mitigating materials into the engine bay to keep the car from sounding like an onomatopoeia factory that specializes in Clank, Rattle, and Rumble. Even during operation, the car is mostly quiet; however, when driving down city streets with cars parked on either side, the typical diesel noises reverberate and become much more apparent.

  • Final Thoughts

    I think the biggest complaint with the 2015 Jetta TDI is one that's been a complaint with every Volkswagen-family car for many years now - the reluctance to eschew a VW-family-specific cable in favor of a traditional USB port. Thankfully, Volkswagen told me at the last press event I attended that USB ports will be arriving with the next generation of VW cars, and for that, I couldn't be happier.

    However, if you don't mind shelling out a few handfuls of coin for a fancy cable, and the very-occasional diesel sounds don't really bother you all that much, there's no reason not to buy the Jetta TDI. It's more practical than a mirror in a bathroom, it gets amazing mileage that's easy to achieve, and the interior is no longer wholly boring. What's not to like?

  • Specs & Price

    Engine: 2.0-liter, direct-injected, turbodiesel inline-four

    Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch automatic

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 150 horsepower / 236 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 31 city / 45 highway

    Base Price: $25,175

    As Tested: $25,995 (incl. $820 destination)

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