The Bottom Line
I'm a big fan of station wagons, and I really enjoyed the last two Jettas I drove (an '08 Jetta SE and an '07 Jetta GLI) -- so I was really looking forward to testing the new-for-2009 Jetta wagon. As wagons go, the Jetta SportWagen (yes, it's spelled with an "e") seems to hit all the high points, with a big, boxy cargo bay that stows 32.8 cubic feet (just 3 cubes less than its bigger sister, the Passat wagon). Folding the rear seats doubles that to 66.9 cubic feet. So is the Jetta SportWagen the wagen -- er, wagon -- of my dreams? Read on.
- Excellent utility
- Plenty of power for heavy hauling
- Thick cargo-bay carpeting and plastics resist scratches and scuffs
- Available diesel engine
- Lots of standard safety equipment, including electronic stability control
- Base engine returns disappointing fuel economy
- Lousy navigation system
- Automatic transmission really puts a damper on the fun-to-drive factor
- Expensive options
- New station wagon variant of the familiar Jetta sedan
- Price range (including destination charge and options): $17,649 - $31,679
- Price as tested: $26,899
- EPA fuel economy ratings: 21 MPG city/29 MPG highway/24 MPG combined
- Observed fuel economy: 20.8 MPG
Guide Review - 2009 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
The new Jetta wagon has a familiar face but an unfamiliar rump. I expected the taillights to use the same circular motif found in the Jetta sedan, but the SportWagen's back end looks more like my '96 Honda wagon than anything else.
Pricing starts at $17,649 for the base-model Jetta S, which includes A/C, power everything and lots of safety gear, including electronic stability control. I tested the $21,999 Jetta SE; options -- including a huge sunroof ($1300) and the world's worst navigation system ($1800) -- brought the price to nearly $27k.
My test car had VW's familiar 2.5 liter 5-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission. We loaded the Jetta to the gills while helping a friend move, and the 170 hp engine simply shrugged off the weight. But fuel economy was lousy: 18 MPG during our moving run and just 20.8 MPG overall. Even a freeway trip with the cruise set at 65 yielded only 27.2 MPG. And the automatic transmission completely quashed the fun-to-drive factor.
The top-of-the-line Jetta SEL gets the 200 hp turbo engine from the Jetta GLI, a great engine that doesn't use much more fuel than the 2.5. VW also offers the diesel-powered Jetta TDI; it gets terrific fuel economy but costs $2200 more than the SE.
I admire the Jetta SportWagen for its utility, but didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as the Jetta SE sedan I drove not long ago. That Jetta had a stick-shift and fewer options, so it was a lot more fun to drive and a much better value.
Would I consider buying a Jetta wagon? I'm not sure -- if I'm only going to get 21 MPG, I might as well buy a small CUV like a Honda CR-V or a Toyota RAV4. Mini-wagons like the Pontiac Vibe don't haul as much, though the Hyundai Elantra Touring comes close. Until more automakers introduce small wagons, the Jetta SportWagen is as good as it's going to get. -- Aaron Gold