Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI Review

By Eva Leonard on 24 July 2010
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The Jetta SportWagen TDI is a clean, green money-saving machine, with plenty of cargo space, all in a sporty, stylish package. Featuring the award-winning 2.0 –liter clean diesel TDI engine—the same engine that snagged Volkswagen a Guinness World Record for Lowest Fuel Consumption—the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI SportWagen runs on ultra low-sulfur diesel, offers excellent fuel economy, lots of room for cargo and looks a great deal pricier than it is.

For 2010, the  front of the Jetta SportWagen (known as the Golf Variant in other parts of the globe) was fitted with the new design language which replaces the older headlights and somewhat glitzy, vertical chrome grill with a sleek, cleaner front end and horizontal lines.  With V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces, leather-wrapped steering wheel, brake handle, and shift knob, the interior (which comes straight from the Golf VI) gives the Sportwagen the appearance, and to a degree, the feel of a much more expensive car.

These luxurious accents were complemented by the following, all standard: Sirius satellite radio (including six months of service), a ten-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo which can read MP3 CDs, a Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity with voice control, a 115V power outlet, an integrated roof rack, and a power sunroof. The 2010 Jetta models also come standard with a three-year/36,000 mile warranty which includes all scheduled maintenance as well as 24-hour roadside assistance for the warranty period.

My SportWagen came with the six-speed DSG transmission with Tiptronic, a dual-clutch transmission that uses direct shifting , automatically engaging and disengaging gears without the need for a clutch pedal.  The DSG transmission’s default mode is fully-automatic operation, but manual (and clutchless) shifting is also an option for drivers.

When it came to acceleration, however, the SportWagen’s pickup was a bit sluggish, which did not inspire confidence, for example, when attempting to enter highway on-ramps at speed.  
Volkswagen publishes a 0-60 mph figure of 9.5 seconds (the  Jetta sedan, which is a different car altogether, does the same run a full second faster).  At times acceleration felt delayed and abrupt when it did kick in, but once the car picked up speed, the ride and handling were smooth, whether on highways or suburban streets.

Fuel economy was superb: After a very busy week, including two roundtrips between Atlanta airport and my parents’ home 45 miles away, as well as numerous daily, shorter trips around Atlanta’s sprawling suburbs, I still had more than half a tank of fuel left when I dropped the car off at the airport. [While EPA estimates put city/highway fuel economy at 30/42 mpg (7.8 l/100 km/5.6 l/100 km), third-party certifier AMCI achieved 38/44 mpg (6.2 l/100 km/5.3 l/100 km) when testing the Jetta TDI in real-world conditions.]

The SportWagen offered plenty of storage space at 32.8 cubic feet in normal seating conditions and 66.9 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down, but upon closing the trunk after stowing my luggage, the cargo-area flap did not flip back down automatically—it had a habit of staying up and blocking the rear window. At first, I didn’t realize this until after I was back in the driver’s seat and looked in the rear-view mirror. After getting back out of the car and pushing it down manually a few times, I finally got into the habit of putting the flap back down before I returned to the driver’s seat.

The Jetta SportWagen TDI comes with over 40 active and passive safety features including front, thorax, and side curtain airbags for both the driver and front passenger, as well as side curtain airbags for rear passengers, as well as anti-lock braking (ABS), anti-slip regulation (ASR), electronic differential lock (EDL), and Electronic Stability Program (ESP).. Blinkers are built right into side mirrors, and nighttime visibility was enhanced by dual reflector headlamps. It’s saying a lot that my mother, who is accustomed to the greater height, space and girth of family vans, felt completely safe and comfortable in the SportWagen.

Despite the slow acceleration, the VW Jetta SportWagen TDI offers great value in an attractive, fuel-efficient package.  Best of all, it’s eligible for a $650 U.S. federal income tax credit in 2010.

2010 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI
Base price/price-as-tested ­­$24,615
Drivetrain Front-wheel drive
Engine 2.0-liter/140 hp/I-8
Transmission 6-speed DSG automatic
Curb weight (lbs) 3,228
Wheelbase (inches) 101.5
Length x width x height (inches) 179.4 x 70.1 x 59.2
0-60 mph (seconds) 9.5
City/highway fuel economy (mpg) 30/42 (with DSG)

Eva Leonard is a contributor to The Diesel Driver and editor-in-chief of Business Traveler magazine.-