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Because of the massive popularity of compact SUVs, few automakers bother offering a compact wagon these days. But Volkswagen has one exception with its popular Jetta Sportwagen. Just like the Jetta sedan, the Sportwagen offers classy European design, an upscale cabin and a sophisticated ride quality. And being a wagon, this Volkswagen can carry plenty of stuff. With about 67 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity, the Sportwagen is even roomier in that respect than some bulkier compact crossovers. Beyond all those perks, the Jetta Sportwagen also offers the availability of fuel-sipping diesel power, resulting in real-world fuel economy approaching 40 mpg.
Note that with the following generation of this car, Volkswagen technically retired the Jetta Sportwagen nameplate and replaced it with the new Golf Sportwagen. But the Jetta Sportwagen has long been one of our favorite cars through the years -- wagon or not -- and we certainly recommend it as a used-car choice.
Used Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen Models
The Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen was produced for the 2009-'14 model years and was commonly available in S, SE and TDI trim levels. The S and SE models were powered by a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder. A five-speed manual was standard with this engine, while a six-speed automatic was optional.
The Jetta TDI featured a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine that produced 140 hp and a healthy 236 pound-feet of torque. A choice of a six-speed manual or VW's DSG dual-clutch automated manual were offered for the TDI. The Sportwagen TDI earned an impressive EPA estimated 34 mpg for combined driving, and in real-world driving often yielded even higher numbers. Unless you're completely adverse to diesel, we recommend getting this engine over the gasoline five-cylinder.
The Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen set itself apart from comparable domestic and Japanese wagons or crossovers by offering a distinctly European interior and feel to the driving experience. Not only did this Jetta provide better handling, but its cargo space was generally on par or better.
Note that for the Jetta Sportwagen's debut year of 2009, it was most closely related to that year's Jetta sedan. For 2010, the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen received many of the same changes carried out that year to the Golf. The Sportwagen's body shape, interior volume and powertrains were essentially carried over, but VW improved the interior, retuned the suspension and made minor exterior styling changes.
For 2009 only, VW offered an SEL trim that featured a variety of luxury items like a fully powered driver seat with lumbar adjustment and memory functions, dual-zone automatic climate control and upgraded speakers. It also came with a 200-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the GTI and could be had with a manual transmission or the DSG. If you want the most sport from your Sportwagen, try to find one of these rare '09 SEL models.
The fourth-generation Volkswagen Jetta was available in a wagon body style from 2001-'05, though it wasn't known by the Sportwagen moniker. It was an entertaining car to drive and had top-notch materials quality and ample safety features. Scant rear-seat legroom was its major shortcoming.
As the base 2.0-liter engine offered weak acceleration and mediocre fuel economy, we recommend getting a fourth-generation Jetta with the turbocharged 1.8T four-cylinder introduced to the wagon for 2002 that produced 180 hp. The diesel-powered Jetta TDI was also offered in all but the first model year and provided mileage in the 40s. The 1.9-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder initially produced 90 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque and was upgraded to 100 hp and 177 lb-ft for 2004.