Full 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen is unchanged.
The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen occupies a unique space in the marketplace: it's the only non-luxury-branded European station wagon that's exported to the United States. With high-end interior touches, refined driving characteristics and a high-mileage diesel engine option, the Jetta Sportwagen is an excellent stand-in for the small crossovers and SUVs that you might otherwise consider in this price range.
Since it's actually a wagon version of the current-generation VW Golf rather than a direct relative of the Jetta sedan, the Jetta Sportwagen looks and feels like Volkswagen's hatchbacks on the inside. Its interior materials are noticeably higher in quality than those of the current Jetta sedan, and it has friendly touches like a height-adjustable center armrest and rear seat air vents. It also has a large cargo area and, with the rear seats folded, as much or more capacity as most compact crossovers.
Another key benefit to Jetta Sportwagen ownership is the driving experience itself. VW's wagon handles more securely than any crossover SUV you'll likely cross shop, and it has a truly refined ride quality that makes road trips a pleasure. Acceleration is acceptable with either of the two available engines, though our choice would be the turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel engine. Known as the TDI, it returns outstanding fuel economy: The EPA rates it 34 mpg in combined driving and 42 mpg for pure highway travel.
Small-to-medium-size wagons like the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen are a rarity these days. As an alternative, though, you might consider the redesigned 2014 Mazda 3 four-door hatchback. It doesn't have as much cargo capacity as the VW, but it, too, gets great mpg and handles exceptionally well around turns. If you want more space, vehicles like the Honda CR-V and 2014 Subaru Outback are worth a look, though they don't come close to the Sportwagen's mileage. If fuel economy is top priority, the Ford C-Max and Toyota Prius V are two solid options, but neither is as enjoyable to drive.
Ultimately, there's really nothing else quite like the 2014 VW Jetta Sportwagen available right now. From its spacious, well-trimmed interior to its smooth, controlled ride, this wagon really is in a class by itself.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen is a five-passenger wagon offered in S, SE and TDI trim levels. (The Jetta sedan, Jetta GLI and Jetta Hybrid are reviewed separately.)
The entry-level S model comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, roof rails, remote keyless entry, heated mirrors, heated windshield-washer nozzles, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, heated front seats with a power-adjustable backrest, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, an adjustable front armrest, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat with center pass-through, a trip computer, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The SE and TDI add 16-inch alloy wheels, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, upgraded gauges and a 10-speaker audio system with a touchscreen interface, satellite radio, HD radio and an iPod interface. Also included on the TDI (and unavailable on other trim levels) are a rearview camera and a 115-volt power outlet.
Both the SE and TDI can be equipped with an optional panoramic sunroof and 17-inch alloy wheel package. Jetta Sportwagen TDI buyers can also add a navigation system and keyless ignition/entry to this package.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive VW Jetta Sportwagen S and SE are powered by a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the S, while a six-speed automatic is optional on the S and standard on the SE. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 26 mpg combined (24 city/33 highway) with the manual transmission and 26 mpg combined (23 city/30 highway) with the automatic.
The Sportwagen TDI is powered by a turbocharged, 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder engine good for 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed automated manual transmission known as DSG is available as an option. The latter features a Sport mode that quickens shifts and performance.
Fuel economy on diesel Jetta Sportwagens is an impressive 34 mpg combined (30 city/42 highway) with the manual transmission and 33 combined (29 city/39 highway) with the automatic. In Edmunds performance testing, a Jetta Sportwagen TDI with the DSG transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds.
The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is standard on TDI models.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Sportwagen received the top score of "Good" in the moderate-overlap, side-impact and roof-strength tests. Standard on the TDI trim level is a rearview camera that is unavailable with the S and SE trim levels.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Sportwagen TDI with 16-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in 132 feet, which is longer than average for this class of vehicle.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the 2014 Jetta Sportwagen offers top-quality interior materials, plenty of soft-touch surfaces and friendly little details like an adjustable center console armrest and rear seat air vents that make the car feel a cut above other small hatchbacks and crossovers. The premium-vinyl "leatherette" upholstery in SE and TDI models looks and feels like real leather.
Apart from its premium feel, the Sportwagen offers voluminous passenger and cargo room, especially for front seat passengers. Rear seat passengers have a tighter squeeze, but only taller adults will find it objectionable. In addition, the Jetta wagon provides nearly 33 cubic feet of space with its rear seats up and a useful 67 cubes with the rear seats folded.
The cabin also gets high marks for its straightforward control layout. We especially like the clean, uncluttered optional touchscreen audio interface. The optional navigation system is also pretty easy to use, but loses points for functionality due to its small 5-inch screen.
You won't mistake the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen for a full-on sport wagon à la BMW's 3 Series wagon. Although the VW's steering is precise and predictable, the Sportwagen's suspension is a little too soft for max-attack driving on back roads. But that's OK; you don't buy the Sportwagen to go fast. Instead, you buy this Jetta wagon for its comfortable, controlled ride and relatively quiet interior.
The base 2.5-liter engine isn't the smoothest nor richest-sounding in its class, but it has enough power for normal driving, even if you tend to load up the cargo bay with lots of gear. One issue you might notice on 2.5 models equipped with the automatic transmission is a slight delay between pressing the gas pedal and getting the desired acceleration response from the car. Most owners get used to this behavior, but if it really bothers you, there's always the manual transmission (though it's offered only on base S versions).
Your other alternative is the diesel-powered TDI model, which offers impressive fuel economy and range -- 500 miles on a single tank isn't uncommon. The diesel engine generates a little more noise and vibration than the 2.5-liter engine, but we still think it's the better choice thanks to its snappier acceleration (both around town and when climbing mountain passes) and outstanding fuel economy.