2011 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI – Review and Test Drive
In 2010, the ratio of buyers who chose the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI versus the gasoline-powered variant was more than four to one. After spending a week with the JSW (as it’s often called), I quickly discovered why.
The Jetta SportWagen, known as the Golf Variant in its home market, Germany, and sharing only basic components with the completely redesigned Jetta, is updated for 2011, getting a new front end that includes a narrow double-bar grille, angled halogen headlamps in blacked-out housings, and a new lower front fascia. The rear remains the same, which is just fine as far as we are concerned.
The Jetta SportWagen is a five-passenger wagon and comes in S, SE, and TDI (diesel) variants. Standard equipment on the JSW TDI includes 16” alloy wheels, heated mirrors and windshield-washer nozzles, heated front seats (which have a power backrest but otherwise manual controls), 60/40 split-folding rear seat, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, and a 10-speaker stereo with a very nice touchscreen interface.
Options include a panoramic sunroof, an iPod interface, and navigation. Buyers also can choose between V-Tex and cloth upholstery.
Under the hood is a 2-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine that produces 140 hp and 236 pound-feet of torque. Regardless of transmission choice (manual or DSG, which stands for Direct-Shift Gearbox or Direkt-Schalt-Getriebe), the JSW uses only 5.6 l/100 km (42 mpg) on the highway (in city driving, it’s 7.8 l/100 km or 30 mpg). 0-60 performance isn’t bad for its class. While it’s rated at 9.5 seconds, some tests have reported 8.7 and 8.9 seconds.
The JSW TDI attracts buyers thanks to its unusual combination of cavernous cargo space (32.8 cubic feet with rear seats up, 66.9 with them down) and unsurpassed fuel economy for its class. Pass a Prius on the road and you may very well wonder, who needs hybrids?
Indeed, the new Prius v, which has a mere 34.3 cubic feet of cargo space, has an EPA highway rating of 44 mpg but takes over 10 seconds to get from 0 to 60.
In addition, in an age of SUVs of all shapes and sizes, a traditional wagon, believe it or not, still makes sense. Indeed, one thing I noticed immediately was the excellent visibility when backing out of a spot, something most SUVs can’t begin to offer.
The JSW is roomier inside than today’s popular compact crossovers (which include the Volkswagen Tiguan as well as the Chevy Equinox and Kia Sportage). Since it’s a wagon, it is lower to the ground and lighter than these models, making it far more fuel efficient and also more fun to drive.
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