• Jul 29th 2007 at 1:07PM
  • 38

As station wagon lovers ourselves, we were just as disappointed as many of you were when we heard the news that the new Jetta Sportwagen had been delayed due to a plant fire which destroyed 12,000 - 15,000 cylinder heads. After all, with nearly as much space as the average SUV or minivan but with much better fuel mileage and more sport to go with it, what's not to like? And those are just the practical considerations. What about how the car drives? That's an excellent question, so, when we got a chance to get some seat time in an '08 Jetta Sportwagen at the 2007 American Station Wagon Owners Association Convention, we jumped on it.

Here are a few quick details to keep you interested enough to keep reading after the break, which is where you'll find our driving impressions. The wagon (or... wagen) version of the Jetta has 32 cubic feet of cargo space with the back seat in place, and more than double that with the seat folded down at 66.9 cubic feet. Engine choices start with the 2.5 liter inline 5 cylinder with the 2.0T engine as an upgrade. If you're into saving gas with an oil-burner, the 2.0 TDI will be available too. That engine will give up to 60 miles per gallon on the highway..

Follow the jump for more.

The Jetta Sportwagen drives pretty darn good. This is not particularly surprising, since the vehicle is based on the same architecture that has been winning comparison tests left and right since its introduction. The version that I drove, which happened to be the only 2008 Jetta Sportwagen in the entire United States at the time (better not crash!), was equipped with the base engine and the six-speed automatic transmission. I found that the transmission was rather responsive when I gave the gas pedal the boot. That turned out to be a good thing, because that base engine is the 2.5 liter five cylinder that comes standard in the Rabbit and Jetta models. While the recently getting a bump from 150 to 170 horses, it still feels like anything but a powerhouse. Still, considering that it is the base engine in a vehicle costing less than $20,000, I don't have much bad to say about it. It powers the vehicle down the road adequately and goes about its duties mostly unobtrusively. Most enthusiasts would prefer the optional 2.0-liter turbo unit that powers many vehicles carrying the VW and Audi badges. This engine is much more to our liking, as it feels more like a good V6 than a small-displacement inline four. Of course, if mileage is your number one concern, we would recommend waiting a little while for the TDI. The bad news is that the date hgasn't been set for the release of that engine. The good news is that you'll be able to get it no matter what state you happen to live in.

The ride/handling compromise felt typically European. That is to say, you will most certainly feel the irregularities in the road surface, but it takes a large jolt to upset the structure. We think the tradeoff is well worth it, as the car feels much more connected to the road than many of its competitors. We'll get to its competitors a little later as well. The steering felt direct, with little play in between feeling reactions from the wheels to your requests. Stability control will be standard on the Sportwagen. The vehicle I drove had been fitted with non-standard wheels and rubber, so I can't comment too much on the handling, other than to say it should be similar to other Jettas.

One area in which we were pleasantly surprised was in how quiet the car is. Many wagons are penalized with booming sounds coming from the open rear of the vehicle. Not this one, as it was quite easy to carry on conversations between occupants in the front and the rear. Speaking of occupancy, if you are over six feet tall, as I am, don't expect to put another person of such height behind the driver's seat. Also, with the seat adjusted properly for myself, the rear seat could not be lowered to fold flat. As for the rear seat, when that is folded down, there is a vast expanse available for those frequent trips to Home Depot. Plus, if more room is required, the passenger seat also folds down for longer options. The rear seat is split 60/40, and also includes a pass-through for long, skinny items. The version we drove had the fake leather option, which was pretty convincing and almost certainly will hold up better than the real thing. For those who must have animal hides inside, they're available, of course, while cloth is standard.

Features include a very large, two-pane sunroof. There is a nifty button at the front it, behind the windshield which has detents which allow the glass to open to preset sizes. The driver can also press a button with forward and reversing arrows to perform that function manually.

We did not have proper seat time to make any mileage calculations, unfortunately. With a six-speed automatic, I am sure that the car will eek out the most from what it has, but be ready to put your foot in it with the base engine when you need to pass, which will undoubtedly have a negative effect on fuel consumption. You know the line: your mileage will vary.

All in all, we feel that the Jetta Sportwagen has quite a bit going for it at the base price of admission. The car should be available for less than $20,000 when it goes on sale. The price was not officially set yet, but VW claims it will be the least expensive Euro-wagon in America. That is easy to believe, being that the next cheapest is likely from Volvo, and comes in closer to $30 grand than $20,000. Other competitors to be considered are the outgoing Subaru Impreza wagon, Subaru Outback, Suzuki Forenza and possibly the Dodge Magnum, although it is quite a bit larger. The most likely vehicle which would have been competing for sales was the Mazda 6 Wagon, although it, like the Impreza wagon, won't be available much longer.

In conclusion, we think that the Jetta Sportwagen offers a pretty compelling package for the price. For you wagon or (Volks)wagen lovers, this one is likely to be a slam dunk. Judging from the reactions from the crowd at the station wagon convention, VW got their target market right. The real question worth asking is: how many members of the target market exist in America? We are about to find out, starting in early '08.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      keep away.
      • 8 Years Ago
      "...nearly as much space as the average SUV or minivan"

      Ummm, no. Nice car, I hope they sell a lot of them, but that is definitely not an accurate statement.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Cargo space with rear seats folded:
        Jetta Wagon: 66.9 c.f.
        Chevy Equinox: 67.1 c.f.
        VW Touareg: 71.0 c.f.

        The Jetta's not so far behind these "average" SUVs. And keep in mind the Touareg driver gets those 4 extra cubes only by driving a 5,000-pound beast. Ugh.

          • 8 Years Ago
          "Cargo space with rear seats folded:
          Jetta Wagon: 66.9 c.f.
          Chevy Equinox: 67.1 c.f.
          VW Touareg: 71.0 c.f."

          Two can play at the selective comparison game. Consider the following:

          Ford Explorer 86
          Buick Enclave 116
          Honda Odyssey 147
          Honda Pilot 88
          Kia Sedona 142 cu. ft.

          "The Jetta's not so far behind these "average" SUVs. And keep in mind the Touareg driver gets those 4 extra cubes only by driving a 5,000-pound beast. Ugh."

          Nonsense. Not all SUVS are efficiently packaged, but I scoff at the idea of a Jetta wagon replacing most midsize SUVs, or ANY minivan for that matter.

          Don't get me wrong, I like the Jetta, especially the 2.0T and the diesel. If it's sufficient for your needs, by all means go and buy one.
      • 8 Years Ago
      "Other competitors to be considered are the outgoing Subaru Impreza wagon, Subaru Outback, Suzuki Forenza and possibly the Dodge Magnum, although it is quite a bit larger."

      I almost bought a Jetta Sportwagen, but I just couldn't resist my urge to buy a Forenza. ROFL!
      • 8 Years Ago
      Station Wagon resurgence anyone?
        • 8 Years Ago
        just being pedantic:
        Golf/Rabbit/GTI is a hatchback,
        but this is a Jetta wagon, effectively a Golf with an extended cargo area.

        As far as a resurgence goes, wagons are popular all over Europe, that's why VW makes them. If it's utility, wagons make more sense than a sedan.
        They should have never gone away, but I guess people don't like the "Family Truckster" image.

        Wagon -> Minivan -> SUV -> Wagon(hopefully)
        • 8 Years Ago
        ...over here in Europe they did have a Jetta station wagon, better known as a Golf (Rabbit) Variant, starting with the MK III. The last one was based on the MK IV, which will be replaced by the 2008 model based on the MK V, and it definitely looks a lot better to me, especially the rear end:

        • 8 Years Ago
        ... because VW's been selling them for the last few decades?
        • 8 Years Ago
        right, and vw's always had the wagon a year or two after the sedan. I'll be more specific next time, my bad.
        • 8 Years Ago
        VW has not had a Jetta station wagon for the last few years. For people who have been waiting for them, this might be what they were waiting for.

        I am not so sure that this marks the beginning of a station wagon resurgence. On one hand, maybe so - carmakers are starting to reintroduce them these last few years. But, just as quickly as they show up, they disappear... Mazda 6 is a perfect example. Subaru has gone from traditional wagons to a wagonhatchback arrangement. Seems like wagons do better on the higher end, for some reason. Volvo, Mercedes and Audi spring to mind.

      • 8 Years Ago
      Wow, that interior is so lame. And people talk about Ford...
      • 8 Years Ago
      Just get a rabbit 4 door.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Would look a 100 times better if it was lowered a little bit. I'm anxious to see the pricing options with the tdi
      • 8 Years Ago
      The skin of this hideous thing is about as inspiring as a plate of boiled beef. It'll do well with the putzmobile crowd, though.

      I'd take a Mazda6 wagon any day over this, plus you won't be plagued with VW's piss-poor quality issues in about 30 months.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Never owned an Mk3 or higher? Two words: coil packs.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Our 03 eurovan mv has 62k on it and has never given us a hint of problems. period. none.
        • 8 Years Ago
        tbyron: It's not that your eurovan has been angelic.

        It's that lots of other people's VW's have been satanic... a disproportionately high number compared to other car companies.

        VW has quality control issues, especially in America... and nothing makes a hater like a bad car. It didn't help that a rash of problems caused VWUSA to tell their dealer network to be dicks with respect to warranty repair and lemon proceedings rather than go "oh crap, we need to put lots of money into fixing all these issues or people are gonna drag our name through the dirt for years to come."

        So here we are. Arguing that your good car doesn't get me back the money and time I spent on my bad car.
        • 8 Years Ago
        "I'd take a Mazda6 wagon any day over this,"

        No, you won't. The 6 Wagon was just canned.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Anybody citing reliability issues probably has never owned a MK3 or newer VW and if you have you should probably take a course in preventative maintenence.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Colby: I had a 2000 GTI GLX (MK IV). I bought it new and sold it after 40,000 miles. I followed the maintenance schedule to the letter. I can't remember all of the things that broke on the car, but here's what I can remember off the top of my head:

        - rear struts and shock top mounts twice (and they needed to be replaced for the third time when I sold the car).
        - rear brakes
        - AC condenser
        - MAF
        - spark plugs
        - plug wires
        - starter motor
        - coil pack
        - turn signal stalk
        - thermostat
        - countless rear light bulbs (running lights and brake lights)

        On the MK IV, the rear brake discs were prone to premature failure, and VW has known this for years. Similarly, the single coil pack on the 12-valve VR6 was known to crack over time. This was so well known that you can find on the web procedures to use JB Weld to try to fix the cracks. Similarly, the starter motor was prone to losing lubrication and having early failure. On the 2000 GTI, there are three different parts numbers for the rear shock top mounts, by serial number. In other words, it took VW three tries to get the design right.

        The MK IV VWs clearly had electrical issues, resulting in rear light bulbs burning out prematurely.

        I currently have a 2003 4Runner that I've put 60,000 miles on. In that time, I've done normal maintenance and had the brake disks replaced at about 50,000 miles. That's it. Unlike the GTI, I haven't replaced any light bulbs in 4Runner.

        Anyone who says that VW doesn't have a maintenance problem needs to take off their rose-colored glasses. Fortunately, VW of America sales chief Adrian Hallmark is more realistic than you, Colby. In 2006, he was quoted as saying ""The current customer satisfaction and dealer experience is as bad as it gets!"
        • 8 Years Ago
        Colby, the best preventative maintenance you can do with a VW is to never be so stupid as to buy one in the first place. They got great interiors, I admit, but I need to know my car is going to start each day.
        • 8 Years Ago
        colby: My mkIV golf had an ignition coil die at 40K, and an alternator that died at 60K.

        In the meantime, the locks and latches all had issues because the microswitches sucked.

        Whatever Bosche bits that VW was sourcing around that time were horribly expensive and unreliable pieces of crap and that's why there are always 1 out of 5 people willing to swear on their mother that VWs are horrible, horrible cars.
      • 8 Years Ago
      nice to see amber turn signals making a return on VWs in north america other than the t-reg and eos
      • 8 Years Ago
      I like Jeremey Clarkson's Jetta review much better...
      • 8 Years Ago
      My god, that beltline is ridiculously high.

      DO NOT WANT.
      • 8 Years Ago
      It's ok, not very sports looking. To Chrome covered for my taste. Mpg really is a matter of driving style too. One can take the exact same car and two different drivers will get vastly different mpg.Then there IS the reliablity issue. For every one person that is singing the hymn of how good they are there are three that are ready to tell you what a nightmare they have had. It will take many years for VW to regain the image of reliablity.
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