Volkswagen Jetta SportsWagon and Sedan: Diesel and Gas


The Car Family

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For a base price under $20,000 you can acquire ownership in one of the best station wagons available providing you don’t mind a stiff legged ride and highly dentable side panels. We tired to like the Jetta SportsWagon equipped with the 2.5 liter 5 cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission but even with gas mileage consistently in mid 20 mpg range, the hard seats, intrusive transmission tunnel, and the deplorable reception of the stereo told us wait for the diesel model to test. The reason is simple, why not pay a little extra and get over 10 mpg more, have less costly maintenance, and a higher resale that would make all the other items disappear at you pass yet another service station on your way to 500 miles or more on a full tank of diesel? We are talking love here. You know, the kind of love that comes with knowing that things might not be perfect, but dependability and charm can salve a lot of door dings.


We highly recommend the optional six-speed automatic with Tiptronic over the manual transmission mainly because the clutch on the stick shift has such a high take up point that it makes it more difficult to shift if you have shorter legs. Besides, there is virtually nothing to favor the standard transmission in terms of gas mileage and resale will be less with the manual.

Dad’s view: The 170-hp 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine with the five speed manual transmission had just enough energy to carry the family with some frisk and the gas mileage was about 23 mpg in mixed driving. You can also order the optional 2.0 liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes 200 hp and is much more willing to be playful. However, I would go with the TDI version and its 2.0 liter turbocharged diesel engine that provides 140hp and a useful 236lb.ft. of torque. These engines can be ordered with a five-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic.

The suspension is all independent suspension with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link rear. The rack and pinion steering is nicely weighted for town or highway. The ride is very sporty and works well with the Jetta’s disc brakes measuring 12.2 inches and 11.6 inches in back respectively.

Except for the hard seats, questionable air conditioning performance, and the expensive optional stereo and GPS, this would be a good choice for a family or for anyone who wants both a sporty ride and an economical one.

Mom’s view: Not a bad looking station wagon with exceptional visibility and maneuverability. I’m not sure about some of the options such as the overly complicated stereo and GPS and the panoramic sunroof isn’t something I would order in a Jetta. However, it is well engineered and has an Eos convertible type of mechanism that lets it open and raise in part. The electric sunshade remained closed during most of our rain filled days with the surefooted wagon. The rear hatch is very easy to open, but someone didn’t ask the ladies where to put the opening latch. The designers decided that the dirtiest place on a wagon would be best, right above the rear bumper. I can’t imagine any women living in the snow belt who is going to appreciate that location.

Safety wise the Volkswagen Jetta wagon has ABS, traction control, electronic stability control, front passenger front airbag, side airbags, and side curtain protection for front and rear riders. The Jetta also has daytime running lamps and directional signal lights on the side-mirrors. The car feels heavier then it is and you aren’t going to find a better handling wagon outside of the BMW, and that costs at least twenty thousand dollars more.

Driving the Jetta takes time to adjust to as it has quick steering, a sturdy suspension, and a bit of wind noise that can get a bit tiring. I like the the GLI’s turbo 4-cylinder most, but the diesel is a sweetheart. It uses urea to clean the exhaust and you only hear a bit of diesel chatter at idle. The controls are handy, but the radio is in need of a rethink. The navigation system is very weak and we were unable to find a restaurant by name. The system also works slowly. Night lighting is very good and the interior lighting adequate. On the sedan, the trunk opens perfectly when you use the remote. I couldn’t find a place to open it with just the key, but that could just be me and often is.


I would find owning a diesel Jetta quite easy to validate. It is well priced and the resale on the diesel should be excellent. Pretty, perky, and poised when challenged by curves and tight city parking situations, it certainly deserves a long test drive.

Young working male’s view: Order the 140hp diesel version. It is easy to get well over 40 mpg and the range can be in excess of 500 miles. Plenty of low end pep, but don’t count on it being frisky past 80 mph. The turbocharged, four-cylinder, gas engine is much quicker and the turbo lag is almost non-existent. The automatic transmission has a manual shift gate, which is easy to use and a real plus in the mountains. The diesel model can be a bit rude when just starting out as it tends to lurch at times. This may be an anomaly so we are testing another model later this year.

The visibility is good in all directions, but it is much better if you take down the rear headrests when they are not in use. and it has a fairly tight, 35.8 ft., turning radius so it is easy to park.

The stereo is adequate, with poor radio reception. I would replace it or get a high end model if you really want that new car sound. It is clearly better then the competition in the form of the Subaru, Hyundai Elantra, Audi, and Mazda wagons when it comes to combining both economy, room, and handling.

In terms of comfort, the front seats need to be made larger and softer. There is a good amount of travel on the seating tracks and the steering wheel both telescopes and tilts.

The backseats are fine for most everyone, but getting three adults in would be a challenge. Not my type of vehicle, but certainly one that would be interesting if I traveled more. For the same price I can get a new Toyota Prius that gets better in-town fuel mileage and I can also drive in the high occupancy lanes.

Working woman’s view: Very much my kind of car. The wagon has nearly 68 cubic ft. of cargo space and there are a lot of small storage areas for change and a clutch-bag. The center arm rest contains a place for a cell phone and there is even a small, pizza box sized storage area under the wagon’s rear floor covering. The wagon’s back seats don’t really fold flat, but it really wasn’t much of a concern especially since the front-passenger seatback folds down to provide even more room for longer packages.

The Jetta looks modern and feels tight. My only possible worry would be the lack of high customer satisfaction scores and the high prices of some of the options. The latter can be alleviated by just sticking to the basics and the Jetta has plenty. This VW comes standard with air conditioning, a pollen filter, heated outside mirrors, speed adjustable wipers, a AM-FM-MP3, CD player, cruise-control, a handy 12-volt power outlet, keyless entry, power windows and a central locking system, self-dimming rear-view mirror, and grab handles at each door. I would like to own the Jetta diesel wagon without the Sport option. It is an ideal touring vehicle and commuter car.

Family conference: Easily the best new station wagon considering the versatility, pricing, and fuel economy. A station wagon makes great sense for a family and shouldn’t be overlooked by those who like to have a little fun with their economy.

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