2009 Volkswagen Jetta
European wagons – they’re the chosen mode of transport for the utilitarian sophisticate, a stereotype so upper-class it comes off as a borderline compliment. But that stereotype also comes at a price. Euro wagons have been called a lot of things, from boring to luxurious to urbane depending on what circle you associate yourself with, but they’ve never been accused of being affordable. That is, aside from wagon variants of the Volkswagen Jetta. For the last few years, however, the Jetta wagon has been missing from the North American market. But that’s all changed with the introduction of the 2009 Jetta Sportwagen
, and it’s coming back packing the goods. With a choice of four- and five-cylinder engines and advanced technology like an optional dual-clutch gearbox and navigation with premium sound, the Jetta Sportwagen presents a welcome alternative to its more expensive European brethren.
What's to Like
The buzzy five-cylinder engine offers an ideal blend of performance and fuel economy, benefitting from a broader powerband than most large-displacement four-cylinders of equal size. All 2009 VWs come with free scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles and roadside assistance for four years or 50,000 miles.
What's Not to Like
With all the technology VW has on offer, we were disappointed by the overly basic standard audio display. While rear-end cargo space is big-wagon large, rear legroom isn’t.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
At first, the Jetta delivers a somewhat mundane drive – a bit soft in the corners, the auto gearbox quick to shift in the interest of fuel economy. Dig a bit deeper however, and you’ll discover the Jetta’s got some character. Popping the automatic transmission into sport mode will keep the buzzy five-cylinder within its usable midrange, and the suspension is well-judged, offering up a confident stance in corners yet still managing to soak up imperfections in the road with ease. As with most Volkswagens, the steering is rock-solid and accurate. Brakes are a bit too squidgy to engage excessively solid stopping power, though emergency braking is sufficiently quick.
Engine and Drivetrain
The front-wheel drive Jetta S and SE models are powered by a 170 horsepower, 177 lb-ft 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine that can be mated to either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. The SEL gets the same 2.0-liter turbocharged engine found in the GTI, which puts out 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. It is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or fast-shifting six-speed DSG dual clutch automatic.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
Features focused on comfort are abound in this compact car. Standard are heated, eight-way adjustable seats (hello, lumbar support), leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and brake handle, auxiliary input jack and power windows and locks. A trip computer returns stats like average mpg – there’s no easier segue to blatant gloating to your hybrid driving friends.
Key Technology Evaluation
VW’s premium audio system kept us grooving with its MP3 readable six-disc changer, 10 speakers and satellite radio. It can be controlled via the navigation system’s touch screen display. The iPod interface can’t be used via the touch screen like all other audio functions though. Navigation menus are easy to maneuver and never seem too fussy. Other tech involves more under-the-radar systems like standard Electronic Stability Control (ESP), Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR), Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Differential Lock (EDL). All help to keep the Jetta between the painted lines – where a trustworthy car should be.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Mileage becomes complex with so many different automatic and manual drivetrains on offer, but the Jetta Sportwagen 2.5 six-speed automatic (the most common model) gets 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. The manual manages 1 mpg higher on the freeway. Four-cylinder autos return 22/29, with the manual version rated at 21/31. Both engines are rated ULEV by the EPA, but a super-clean SULEV version is also available.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The Jetta Sportwagen prides itself on a modern and comfortable interior space. Room is tight in the back for heads hovering over the six-foot mark, but all five cloth or ‘leatherette’ seats have enough breathing room and bolstering for long trips. The large trunk can be extended with the ski pass-through or by folding down the rear seats.
The wagon features rounded lines and a signature VW grille to lead things off. In the options department, the only upgrades are found on the four legs: you can bump the wheel size from the standard 16-inch alloys to 17s and 18s.
Market Segment and Pricing
Starting with an MSRP of $18,999, the Jetta Sportwagen promises good value for the price, but SEL models weigh in at $25,990, so if you’re looking for a few extras with your car, prepare to pay for them. The Jetta Sportwagen has a number of competitors: the Subaru Impreza 2.5i
5-door ($17,995), Mazda 3
5-door ($18,325) and even sister company Audi’s A3 2.0T
($26,920) to name a few.
What We Think
The Jetta Sportwagen offers up a whole lot to like without the steep price of the typical European wagon. It might not be the most stylish of its kind, but it remains as versatile as higher-end wagons and is remarkably economical compared to all but the most frugal of SUVs. Suddenly, the label of utilitarian sophisticate isn’t so exclusive anymore.