I dont like station wagons, but the new VW SportWagen is a fun one to drive. I really enjoyed the last Jetta I drove (an 08 Jetta SE), so I was looking forward to testing the 2010 Jetta wagon. I test drove the new SportWagon TDI, which is the turbo diesel version. This is the way Europe drives. Compact, maneuverable, roomy enough for the average family, and they drive diesels. More than half of all new cars sold in Europe are diesels. The reason?, because of the excellent fuel mileage and performance.
The new Jetta SportWagon TDI ($24,310) gets 30mpg city/42mpg highway, which is better than some hybrids, and without all the mechanical complexity. I was able to go 400 miles on one tank of fuel. The Jetta TDI doesnt rattle at idle, emit clouds of black smoke, and doesnt crawl like a turtle when you put your foot into the throttle. In fact, the Jetta TDI utterly destroys any negative images that diesels have. It is clean, quiet, and quick enough to outrun most sports sedans. Check the Jetta TDIs horsepower output of 140, and you think its not going to be able to get out of its own way, but diesels are motivated by torque, which they possess in massive numbers; 236 lbs/ft at 1800 rpm in the Jettas case. There is loads of acceleration when you need it, and the SportWagon drives much like a high-dollar German car costing twice the price.
And all this comes from a 2 liter 4 cylinder engine. TDI marks the return of Volkswagen diesels to the U.S. and this four-cylinder is a derivative of the best-selling diesel in Volkswagens and Audis sold in Germany where they demand performance and fuel economy. The problem with the TDI is that you dont realize the power it has and you often find yourself cruising along at speeds more appropriate for the Autobahn than the Interstate. As long as you dont mind the smell of diesel when you fill up, the TDI makes no special requestsit started quickly even in the sub zero cold this week, is quieter than you would expect, and the extra noise it does make disappears into the background at speed and my wife would never have know if I hadnt told her. Other positives are that the Jetta TDI does not need fuel additives at refueling or more frequent maintenance intervals that some diesels require, and it qualifies for IRS tax credits. In the snow, Jetta's anti-slip regulation (ASR) and electronic differential control (EDL) team up to make the best of available traction. I had no difficulty driving in icy conditions this week near Denver heading up I-70 into the mountains. And that was with regular all-season tires; with a good set of winter tires all-wheel drive is not needed.
As wagons go, the Jetta SportWagen seems to hit all the high points, with a big roomy cargo area that stows 32.8 cubic feet. Folding the rear seats doubles that to 66.9 cubic feet. The Jetta TDI can accommodate two adults and three small children. The cargo area is well designed for carrying a number of different items. In the rear cargo area is a four-inch deep bin for stowing extra washer fluid or loose items, and under the floor is a three-inch deep, almost one foot well behind the seats. Two cargo loops at the front are complemented by two much stouter steel loops at the back. In addition, are a pair of pop-up D-clips for cargo that invert to clips for holding grocery bags. Ive always liked Volkswagen and Audi interiors as they are often the benchmark for other manufacturers because their designers combine expensive-looking materials with simple, attractive styling and excellent ergonomics. The result tends to be inviting cabins that are pleasant for spending lots of time.
The Volkswagen Jetta SportsWagon blends German engineering and technology, good materials and build quality, and solid performance in a value-priced package. The diesel delivers the power of a V6 with fuel economy near that of hybrids. I would recommend the Jetta TDI to anyone who doesnt need the carrying capacity of a small bus and would prefer to save their wallet and the environment. If you need a wagon, and want the sporty characteristics of a sports sedan, the Jetta SportWagen TDI is as good a choice as you will find.