Presenting The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta SportWafen

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I’m a big fan of station wagons, and that i really enjoyed the last two Jettas I drove (an ’08 Jetta SE and an ’07 Jetta GLI) — therefore i was really eager for testing the new-for-2009 Jetta wagon. As wagons go, the Jetta SportWagen (yes, it’s spelled by having an “e”) generally seems to hit each of 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.

Larger photos: Front – rear – all photos

Pros

Excellent utility

A lot of power for heavy hauling

Thick cargo-bay plastics and carpeting resist scratches and scuffs

Available diesel engine

A great deal of standard safety equipment, including electronic stability control

Cons

Base engine returns disappointing fuel economy

Lousy navigation system

Automatic transmission really puts a damper in the fun-to-drive factor

Expensive options

Description

New station wagon variant in the familiar Jetta sedan

Range of prices (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 brand new Jetta wagon has a familiar face but an unfamiliar rump. The SportWagen’s back end looks more like my ’96 Honda wagon than anything else, though i expected the taillights to use the same circular motif based in the Jetta sedan.

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) along with the world’s worst navigation system ($1800) — brought the purchase 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 merely 20.8 MPG overall. Even a freeway trip together with the cruise set at 65 yielded only 27.2 MPG. Along with the automatic transmission completely quashed the fun-to-drive factor.

The top-of-the-line Jetta SEL will get the 200 hp turbo engine from the Jetta GLI, a fantastic 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 up to the Jetta SE sedan I drove not long ago. That Jetta enjoyed a stick-shift and much less options, therefore it was far more fun to get and a much better value.

Would I consider buying a Jetta wagon? If I’m only getting 21 MPG, I might as well buy a small CUV similar to a Honda CR-V or a Toyota RAV4, I’m not sure –. Mini-wagons like the Pontiac Vibe don’t haul all the, 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.


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