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2003 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon

Trim: TDI GLS
by BigBadThor on 02-05-2013
Perfect blend of economy, utility and fun
There aren't a lot of cars that can be everything to everyone, but my 2003 Jetta Wagon TDI diesel comes pretty close. It's cavernous inside for its footprint, yet is easy to park. Even in stock tune, there is plenty of torque underfoot to power you up hills without having to gear down even fully loaded with the AC on, yet returns mileage that can shame a hybrid, especially on the highway. And how much can a Prius tow?

One great thing about this particular model year is the ALH version of the VW TDI engine. It isn't as refined or clean as the PD and CR engines that followed it starting in 2004, but it is more fuel efficient, less complex, and has proven to be quite reliable (properly maintained). But what I like best about it is how much more power you can easily attain from it with a few simple modifications, without sacrificing reliability or - amazingly - fuel economy. As parts wear out I've been replacing them with upgrades, and as of this writing I have installed bigger nozzles, had the ECU re-tuned by a noted TDI tuner and upgraded the clutch to handle the extra torque. The original power numbers were 90 HP and 155lbs-ft of torque, and with these mods I'm now making roughly 122 and 228. This has transformed the personality of this car, obviously, and I'm still averaging 5.5 L/100KMs without trying.

With any European car you'll have a variety of quirky issues, but these are minor annoyances that don't affect my happiness with this car. I am going to try to keep this thing forever; at 320,000 KMs, it's still young for a diesel, which also means that I don't mind spending money to keep everything in top condition.

Also make sure you find a reputable mechanic (a TDI specialist) near you. And spend time on the forums at TDIClub.com. Not everyone is qualified to work on these engines and even VW dealerships are not known for their expertise, or their ability to save you money on repairs like a good "guru" can.
Overall
4.5
Comfort
4/5
Performance
5/5
Fuel Economy
5/5
Interior Design
4/5
Exterior Styling
5/5
Reliability
4/5
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