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2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI - Click above for high-res image gallery

If you had told us last year that this year's most controversial redesign would be the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta, we would've politely walked away and laughed at your outrageous claim behind your back. We're like that. But here we are, and the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta is, arguably, the most controversial redesign of the year.

The reason is not so much how the designer's hand has changed the car's look, but rather how the bean counters and product managers have completely changed what the Jetta is. It's no longer a premium compact sedan with a price to match. Now it's a near-mid-size four-door with an ultra-competitive base price.

Jetta fans and auto journalists have been less than enthused with the changes. Buyers, however, apparently disagree. Sales of the new Jetta through April are up 68.8 percent. So which camp is right?

After the untimely demise of our last long-term Jetta (follow the jump for the whole story), a 2010 model year TDI Cup Street Edition, we were offered a 2011 model to take its place. Driving these two diesel Jettas back-to-back will help us craft a before-and-after snapshot of what the car has gained and lost with this latest redesign.

Our particular long-term tester is a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI with Tempest Blue Metallic exterior and Titan Black Leatherete interior. We chose the six-speed manual transmission and added the optional navigation system, which raised our MSRP from a base of $22,995 to $24,195 (excluding a $770 destination charge). There's only one way to configure a more expensive 2011 Jetta TDI: add the six-speed DSG transmission, which raises the price to $25,295.

Since we'll be pointing out lots of differences between our old 2010 model year Jetta TDI and this 2011, let's start with price. Our 2010 long-term diesel Jetta had a higher initial base price of $24,990 and was loaded with every option except a nav system for a grand total of $31,113. It's a shocking difference, though let's not forget our last car was laden with the expensive Cup Street package, which isn't available on the new 2011 model (if it were, we would've definitely ordered it again – if only for the immensely comfortable, supportive and stylish plaid seats). Forget the Cup package and the price difference is still over $4,000 between last year's and this year's model.

The purpose of spending a year with the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is to find out if that $4,000 price cut has ruined a vehicle we were falling head over heels for. Keep your eyes locked on the official Autoblog Facebook page for the majority of our updates, as well as the official Autoblog Twitter account (@therealautoblog, look for the #ablongterm hashtag).

We're already piling on the miles, so let us know what questions you'd like answered in the comments.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI joins Autoblog's Long-Term Garage originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 31 May 2011
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