The Jetta SportWagen is a curious creation. Essentially a stretched Golf five-door, based on the previous-generation Golf, built in Mexico and sold under the Jetta name. If this is too much to wrap your mind around, Volkswagen asks you to just drive it. The SportWagen (with its peculiar German nomenclature) combines the Golf’s best driving attributes with the practicality of the Jetta, only amplified. Popular in diesel form, the SportWagen comes with a 2.5-liter five-cylinder shared with the Jetta and Golf, as well as its 2.0-liter TDI diesel that gets up to 42 mpg on the highway.
The SportWagen actually has more room than the Tiguan, if not the latter’s aggressive looks or soft-roader capabilities. It can hold up to 66.9 cubic feet of space with the seats folded, in a well-appointed interior that can be optioned up with touch-screen navigation, a premium sound system with a 6-CD changer, a power panoramic sunroof that stretches the entire length of the roof, and keyless entry.
Competitively priced at $19,995, the SportWagen drops its GLI sport model, which rang the registers at an eye-watering $35,000. But unlike the wagons of yore, the SportWagen attempts to still live up to the "Sport" half of its name, and can even be ordered with a six-speed manual, like the GTI.
Transmissions: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic
Engines: 2.5-liter inline-5, 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel
Models: S, SE, TDI
The Jetta SportWagen gets a facelift to mimic the new Golf and Jetta siblings. It drops the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder shared with the GTI, as well as the base five-speed manual and the DSG gearbox that once could even be ordered with the diesel. The inside gets an upgrade as well, to match that of the Golf.
The SportWagen’s Golf-inspired shape holds up well to its lengthening. The front grille tones down the SportWagen’s bulbous shape, but still retains its huge headlights. Rear taillights give a hint of European trendiness, and a sloping hatch cuts on cargo space but looks sleek.
Inside, the Jetta SportWagen shares its interior with the Golf, with excellent fit and finish. The seats can only be ordered in base V-Tex leatherette, but soft-touch materials across the dashboard impart a level of refinement. A touch-screen radio system is standard, and navigation is an option on all models. A 115-volt power outlet adds to the practicality.
Performance & Handling
The TDI with a six-speed manual is surprising, frugal fun—its readily available torque makes launching from stoplights quick and effortless. Excellent steering and a suspension that balances ride and handling define the SportWagen’s driving experience. The base five-cylinder engine sounds rough, but has a good amount of power.
Like its Jetta and Golf siblings, the SportWagen is one of the IIHS’s Top Safety Picks. Front, side, and curtain airbags are standard for front and rear passengers. Traction and electronic stability control are also standard equipment. The rear windows have an anti-pinch feature that prevents squishing the fingers of tykes in back.
EPA Fuel Economy
S, SE: 23 mpg city/44 mpg highway (manual); 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway (automatic)
TDI: 30 mpg city/41 mpg highway
- Frugal, yet punchy, TDI engine
Lives up to its “Sport” name
Tight, finely-tuned chassis
More practical than Golf, Tiguan
You Won't Like
- Panoramic sunroof option is pricy, noisy
TDI performance comes at a premium
17-inch wheels not available on all models
European compact style, bargain price
If You Like This Vehicle
- Ford Focus five-door