Just when you thought there wasn’t a 40-plus-mpg nonhybrid car available for near $20K other than the pipsqueak Smart Fortwo, the 2009 Jetta TDI has been officially rated at 30 mpg city, 41 mpg highway for the six-speed-manual model and 29 city, 40 highway when equipped with the six-speed DSG dual-clutch automated manual.

The previous 2006 Jetta TDI was rated at 30/37 for the five-speed manual and 30/38 for the six-speed DSG (according to the EPA’s new methods), which means the ’09 model improves its highway figure roughly 10 percent while at the same time boosting horsepower by 40 to 140, bumping torque by 59 lb-ft to 236, and making the oil burner clean enough to be sold in all 50 states.

VW is quick to suggest that it expects the new Jetta TDI to outperform the EPA’s figures—it cites a third-party, AMCI, as rating the car at 38/44—a diesel phenomenon we don’t totally discredit due to real-world economy as high as 25 mpg in our long-term Mercedes-Benz GL320 CDI (rated at 18/24). And even though diesel prices are currently hovering about 20 percent higher than regular gas, the Jetta TDI’s ratings out-thrift gas-powered Jettas by about 40 percent.

The 2009 Jetta TDI will be available starting in August as both a sedan and a wagon (SportWagen in VW-speak). It was originally scheduled to go on sale this spring but it had to go through a second round of emissions testing and validation after fixing an emissions-related issue. The Jetta TDI sedan will sticker at $22,640, or about $2000 over the basic 170-hp, 2.5-liter inline-five models. That makes the TDI one of the cheapest in the 40-mpg sedan club; less expensive than the Honda Civic hybrid and about the same as the Toyota Prius. The SportWagen starts at $24,240.

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