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GREEN | 8 out of 10
2012 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0-liter: 24/34 mpg (manual), 24/32 mpg (auto)
2012 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5-liter: 24/31 mpg (auto, sedan or wagon); 23/33 mpg (manual, sedan or wagon)
2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI: 23/29 mpg (DSG), 23/33 mpg (manual)
2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: 30/42 mpg (manual sedan and wagon; auto sedan), 29/39 mpg (auto wagon)
Gas-powered versions are below average by the numbers, but the turbodiesel engine available in the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta gives it hybrid-like fuel economy that's more often attainable by everyday drivers.
The basic Jetta this year comes with VW's 2.0-liter four--the "two-point-slow," as fans know it. Its primary virtue is gas mileage: the EPA rates it at 24/34 mpg when it's teamed with a five-speed manual gearbox; and it's only offered in the sedan body style.
Next up is the 2.5-liter in-line five-cylinder engine. In either wagon or sedan Jettas, it's pegged at 24/31 mpg with the six-speed automatic, or at 23/33 mpg with the five-speed manual. These numbers are at the low end of the compact class, and even mid-sizers like the Hyundai Sonata and the new Toyota Camry are rated at about 35 mpg on the highway.
The GLI is the newest Jetta, a sedan with the 200-horsepower turbocharged four well-known to VW fans. With a six-speed manual, it's rated at 23/33 mpg.
Our favorite Jetta, the turbodiesel TDI, earns the best mileage for 2012. The sedan and wagon versions with the manual transmission get 30/42-mpg ratings, and so does the automatic-equipped sedan. With the automatic, the wagon earns EPA-rated mileage of 29/39 mpg. The sedan can cover more than 600 miles on a single tank of diesel, and in our experience, it's much easier to get close to the maximum 42-mpg rating in the diesel, than it can be to hit the 40-mpg ratings of some hybrid sedans.
The turbodiesel TDI gives the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta its best gas mileage; other models are below average.