2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen Review

Consumer Reviews
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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 14, 2008

It's been a long time coming back, but the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen gives crossover buyers something else to consider―and diesel power is on the way.

The automotive enthusiasts and experts at TheCarConnection.com have read all the competitive reviews on the new 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen to produce this conclusive review, and to give our enthusiastic approval of the new Jetta Sportwagen. TheCarConnection.com’s editors have also driven the 2009 Jetta Sportwagen to be able to give you an expert opinion and to help you figure out the truth where other reviews might differ.

It's been a few years since Volkswagen offered a compact station wagon in the United States, but the new 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen debuts just in time to capitalize on rising fuel prices and the arrival of the new Volkswagen diesel engine―the first clean diesel engine in its lineup since emissions rules changed in 2007.

The new Jetta Sportwagen is the sleekest edition of the Volkswagen station wagon yet. In profile, it's more like an Audi―and VW's interior styling that bowed on the 2006 Jetta has worn well with time.

The Sportwagen offers either a 2.5-liter inline-five with a five-speed manual or automatic, or a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and either a six-speed manual or a six-speed Tiptronic automatic. The diesel engine TDI will arrive at the end of the summer with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic, which eliminates the clutch pedal but allows manual shifting.

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In 2015, Volkswagen admitted diesel engines in this model illegally cheated federal tests and polluted beyond allowable limits. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle. To determine eligibility for all affected Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models, Volkswagen set up VWDieselInfo.com for owners. (Owners of affected vehicles can enter their VIN numbers to see if their cars are eligible for buyback.)

Handling is typically Germanic, with firm steering and not too much body roll. The Jetta's brakes feel well balanced, too. It's not a large vehicle, but with the second-row seats folded forward, the Jetta Sportwagen boasts a big cargo hold, albeit without clever cargo organizers or anything that shows an influence from small sport-utility vehicles.

A huge panoramic sunroof is an option on the 2009 VW Jetta Sportwagen, as are Sirius Satellite Radio and a navigation system. Pricing ranges from about $19,000 to nearly $26,000, which neatly overlaps the small crossovers from Saturn, Ford, and Subaru—but the Jetta Sportwagen isn't offered with all-wheel drive like those vehicles.

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2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen

Styling

Distinctly European exterior styling opens up to a class-leading interior on the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen.

The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen makes its U.S. debut to mixed reviews, though the positive impressions outnumber the negative ones. Starting with a standard 2009 Volkswagen Jetta sedan, the Volkswagen designers extend the roofline to allow a lot more cargo space in back.

The styling is similar to that of the Volkswagen Jetta sedan, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com love the exterior differences that distinguish the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen. The Washington Times reports that “the lines of the Jetta Sportwagen are curvy, and the high beltline gives the car a low-slung appearance,” and they go on to declare that the Sportwagen Jetta “embodies the best of the current trend toward aerodynamic styling that all VWs enjoy.” Edmunds says that the “new Sportwagen features a more tapered roof line” than its predecessor, which helps liven up the profile, and “from an all-purpose standpoint, there’s little to complain about.” In terms of overall dimensions, Autoblog notes that “the new Sportwagen has grown since the previous model was retired and is now nearly as big as the last-gen Passat wagon.” Motor Trend reviewers are particularly taken, calling the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen a “sleek, nicely sized package.”

One of the more prominent criticisms of the exterior on the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen comes from Cars.com, which feels that “it looks like every other car on the road, not something unique,” though most other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com disagree with that opinion.

Few reviewers find fault with the interior of the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen, however. Interior styling on the Jetta Sportwagen comes across as deliberate and is thoroughly well conceived. The Washington Times approves, noting that "all knobs, switches and gauges are where they should be, and very easy to use." Edmunds expresses their love of “the cool blue lights used for the instruments and radio display.”

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2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen

Performance

Excellent handling and a fun, capable turbo engine make this 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen a joy to drive.

The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen might have “Sport” in its name, but the standard five-cylinder engine doesn't quite deserve the moniker. Fortunately, an available turbocharged four-cylinder steps in to provide some punch to the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen lineup.

There are two available engines on the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen, which The Washington Times lists as “a 2.0-liter turbo four making 200 horsepower, or a 2.5-liter five cylinder with 170 horsepower.” Reviews of the standard five-cylinder engine are less than impressive, but TheCarConnection.com’s experts and the rest of the automotive press love the turbo on the Sportwagen Jetta. Beginning from the bottom, ConsumerGuide finds that with the five-cylinder engine, “acceleration is adequate from a stop,” though “as speed rises, the engine quickly runs out of steam,” which means “passing and merging require some planning.” The Washington Post finds that the five-cylinder is “smooth and powerful,” though that opinion is definitely in the minority, and they also praise the engine for exhibiting “no nasty torque steer behavior under hard acceleration.” The turbocharged four-cylinder engine is the standout option on the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen, and Edmunds says it will propel the Sportwagen Jetta “from zero to 60 mph in the 7-second range,” compared with the “8.6 seconds” posted by the five-cylinder. ConsumerGuide runs the benchmark 0-60 test even quicker than the Edmunds estimates and posts their results of “6.8 seconds in testing.”

According to The Washington Times, the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen is available only in “front-wheel drive,” though there are quite a few different transmission choices. Edmunds says the “standard transmission is a five-speed manual” on the five-cylinder engine, “while a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic automanual capability is optional.” Edmunds adds that the turbocharged engine gets “a six-speed manual” as standard fare and “VW’s slick dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission is optional.” All the transmissions go over well in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, with ConsumerGuide reporting that the “automatic transmission provides smooth, timely shifts” and the “manual shift gate works well, too,” with the five-cylinder engine. Autoblog agrees, finding that “the easy-shifting 5-speed manual box manages to make the most it can out of the available power.” Furthermore, ConsumerGuide proclaims that the six-speed “manual transmission is a delight to use.”

One of the main appeals of a wagon like the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen is that it combines utility with decent fuel economy. For the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen, ConsumerGuide reports fuel economy is typical for the class, and they “averaged a frugal 26.1 mpg with more highway miles” in a turbocharged Jetta. The five-cylinder engine will return 21 mpg city and 29 mpg on the highway with either tranny, according to EPA estimates, while the turbocharged engine gets 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with the six-speed manual, shifting to 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway with the DSG automatic.

While the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen’s acceleration might not place it at the head of the pack, it does offer superb handling. ConsumerGuide finds that the Jetta Sportwagen is "more than competent, even a bit sporty," and boasts "fine steering feel." Reviewers at Autoblog aren’t huge fans of the base engine, but they love the chassis of the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen, which they say “clearly outclasses the standard five-cylinder engine” and comes mated with a “well-articulated” suspension that does “a decent job of absorbing the road contours.” Motor Trend is suitably impressed and claims that the Jetta Sportwagen offers “steering feel [that] would embarrass a few far pricier sports sedans.” Edmunds contends that “a comfy ride matters more than simulating a track day” to most Jetta Sportwagen buyers; in that regard, the Sportwagen “is a fine companion in day-to-day driving,” though aggressive maneuvers reveal “significant” body roll. Stopping the 2009 Jetta Sportwagen is a snap thanks to what ConsumerGuide describes as “strong and sure” braking.

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8

2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen provides all the cargo room you can expect from a car of this size, along with a beautiful interior and comfortable seats.

The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen features plenty of cargo space with the seats folded and the high-quality interior appointments that TheCarConnection.com has come to expect from Volkswagen.

The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen is able to seat five passengers in decent comfort, according to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. The front bucket seats go over particularly well with reviewers, and ConsumerGuide gushes over the “great legroom from ultra-long seat tracks”; with the optional glass sunroof installed, “only the tallest riders will notice intrusion from the sunroof housing,” they note. Autoblog also raves about the seats in the Sportwagen Jetta, observing that, “in typical German fashion,” they are “comfortable and supportive—if somewhat confusing to adjust.” Motor Trend finds additional aspects of the front seating arrangement to praise, including the “tilt-telescoping wheel, and a perfectly placed dead pedal” that help the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen deliver “all the driver’s-car essentials.” Rear occupants haven’t been ignored by the VW designers either, and ConsumerGuide is pleased that there is “sufficient headroom and legroom for smaller adults, but six-footers will feel cramped.” Edmunds agrees, stating that “there’s an adequate amount of legroom in back, particularly compared to past Jettas.”

Most anyone who buys a station wagon such as the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen does so for the additional cargo room that the extended roof offers. So how does the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen compare when it comes to storage space? To put it simply, you won't be disappointed, at least not when the seats are folded. In full cargo-carrying mode, with the rear seats folded, Edmunds states that cargo volume in the Sportwagen Jetta measures “66.9 cubic feet,” though that figure drops to “32.8 cubic feet with the 60/40 rear seat up.” Car and Driver reviewers “like the great combination of hatchback practicality and responsible small-displacement fuel economy,” while ConsumerGuide raves that “Sportwagens rival many larger wagons and some SUVs for cargo space” and note that “in-cabin small-item storage is also good.”

Also receiving high praise from reviewers is the interior build and materials quality found on the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen, easily belying its sub-$20,000 starting price. Automobile reviewers mention the “nicely finished interior” as one of the reasons they name the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen a “good value in the small world of small station wagons.” ConsumerGuide also bestows high praise on the interior, proclaiming it is “among the best in class” and the “high-quality interior has many soft-touch surfaces and pleasing-looking plastics.” Edmunds points out that “the vinyl ‘leatherette’ upholstery found in most Jettas is finely stitched and does a good impression of real cowhide, with the added bonus of being easier to clean.” Volkswagen doesn't skimp on build quality on the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen either, which Motor Trend notices when they “detected not a squeak or shimmy from the rear quarters.”

High build quality on the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen has the added benefit of providing a generally quiet ride. However, ConsumerGuide reviewers note that “some wind rush from the front pillars and side windows is noticeable at highway speeds,” and Autoblog mentions that the five-cylinder engine suffers from a “rather coarse sound.”

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2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen

Safety

The 2009 Volkwagen Jetta Sportwagen is one of the safest vehicles of its size and has several safety features not always found in its price class.

Volkswagen has long highlighted the safety record of its vehicles as a major selling point, and that boast comes across loud and clear on the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen. Not only does the Sportwagen Jetta fare very well in government crash tests, it also offers a long list of standard safety features, as well as a few optional airbags.

The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen has not yet been tested by the IIHS, but in NHTSA’s frontal impact assessment, the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen earns four of a possible five stars. Furthermore, in the side impact category, the NHTSA sees fit to award the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen a perfect five-star rating in both driver- and passenger-side collisions. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com consider both those ratings impressive, and while the two vehicles aren’t identical, Edmunds finds it worth noting that “in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Jetta sedan received the highest rating of 'Good' for frontal offset and side crash protection.”

VW engineers include a myriad of safety features on the Sportwagen Jetta. The Washington Times states that station wagons “are cars, and are required to have a higher level of safety than SUVs,” including “a full compliment of airbags” and “traction control” as standard features. Edmunds adds that “standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes” and “stability control.” For those looking for further peace of mind, ConsumerGuide notes that Volkswagen offers optional “rear side airbags” on the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen for only $350.

On many wagons, the extra sheetmetal in back can obscure visibility, and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show this to be true on the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen. ConsumerGuide is quick to point out that “aft visibility on all models is hindered a bit by the rear headrests,” though The Washington Times mentions that a “rear view camera is an optional feature.”

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2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen

Features

A well-equipped base model of the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen contains features aplenty, but for those with fatter wallets, the available moonroof and navigation system await.

The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen is very well equipped, even in its most basic trim, but for those who want more from their VW wagon, the Sportwagen Jetta offers a long list of options too.

Consumer Guide says that the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen is “available in S, SE, and SEL trim levels.” The standard features on the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen lineup vary across trim and price levels, but even the most basic Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen S is loaded with appealing features. Edmunds reports that all 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagens come “standard with 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors and washer nozzles,” along with “cruise control” and a “keyless entry” system. ConsumerGuide reviewers add “heated front bucket seats w/height and lumbar adjustment” and an “AM/FM/CD/MP3 player” to that list. Moving up to the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen SE, ConsumerGuide finds a “leather-wrapped steering wheel” and “AM/FM radio w/in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer” joining the standard features list, and the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen SEL gets an “upgraded sound system, steering wheel radio controls,” and a “trip computer.”

Edmunds notes that the “stereo and climate controls are straightforward and easy to use.” Furthermore, ConsumerGuide loves how the “clear gauges complement mostly handy, intuitive controls,” though they criticize the optional nav system for “[incorporating] most audio functions, complicating what should be simple adjustments.”

While the Sportwagen Jetta is essentially just a new bodystyle for the standard Jetta, there are some Jetta features omitted and others that are unique to the Sportwagen. Most notably absent from the Sportwagen are the sedan's automatic headlamps. However, you won't find the Sportwagen's optional panoramic sunroof on the sedan. Autoblog appreciates that optional sunroof, which "replaces almost the entire roof with glass."

Other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the available options on the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen can push the price “into the mid- to high-20s” range “as option boxes are checked,” according to Car and Driver, but that money will get you some pretty high-end features. Among the available options on the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen are a “touchscreen navigation system with data stored on hard drive” that Motor Trend says you can use to “upload MP3s to the drive” and “the aforementioned, gigantic moonroof.”

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February 21, 2016
2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen 4-Door DSG TDI

A Good Car With a Terrible Problem

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The car delivers the fuel economy promised, I get about 37mpg, but at a terrible price, the amount of pollution which is intolerable. As a small station wagon it is very versatile and can carry an amazing... + More »
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