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2009 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI Review

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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

It would take a mighty wagon to rethink my addiction to the Subaru – and that wagon is the Jetta SportWagen TDI.

I drove a five-door (including liftgate), five-passenger 2009 Jetta SportWagen TDI (Turbo Diesel Injection) with a 140-horsepower 2.0-liter engine and a Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) transmission. Extras included the panoramic sunroof, a navigation screen, and the 5-speed tiptronics transmission for a total price of $29,410.

I spent a lot of time with the Jetta SportsWagen, rallying from San Francisco up to Eureka (a 500-mile roundtrip journey) and am immensely impressed on a multitude of accounts, from its soundless diesel engine to being a Cash for Clunkers trade-in gem. I'm calling the 2009 Jetta SportsWagen my Heels on Wheels Car of the Year. If I was in the market to buy, this is what I would get.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The panoramic sunroof gives the SportWagen an absolute edge for drivers in both the sedan and CUV market segment: 54 inches long and 34 inches wide with various stages of opening and closing (like the advertising states, it blurs the line between sunroof and convertible top). You've got more cargo space than the Subaru Outback. The Multi-function Indicator located in dash doesn't just beep when something is wrong; a digital picture and words tell you the trouble (ie. a second-row left car door is open; E-brake has been left on). There are no steering wheel audio controls, but it comes as an acceptable tradeoff. Love the 3-D navigation screen. The seat's leatherette material is a fine comprise with easier upkeep in the long run. The overall look is more "urban versatile" than the Subaru (whereas the Outback translates "outdoorsy" all the time). The Jetta wagon can mesh into city life easier: its shape is more aerodynamic and slick (the slanted window design achieves such a look).

Reliability & Safety Factor: While it's true VWs do not get the same press endorsement as Toyotas, Hondas or even Subarus get, the 2009 is receiving rave reviews – even by those unimpressed with the vehicle in the past. However, if you take J.D. Powers advice, which bases vehicles on a three-year vehicle history, it predicts the vehicle to have mediocre reliability. Moving on, the NHTSA's New Car Assessment Program does give it 4 stars in frontal crash testing for both driver and front passenger and 5-stars (the Agency’s highest rating) for side-impact on both the front and rear seat occupants. Like most cars, the SportWagen is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile basic limited warranty; but all new for 2009 is Volkswagen’s carefree maintenance program, which includes a no-charge scheduled maintenance under the life of the above warranty.

Cost Issues: There isn’t a cost issue upfront. I paid $30 bucks to fill up the tank and it took me close to 500 miles, which I found completely refreshing. You do need to get the sunroof ($1,300) and the automatic transmission with Tiptronics ($1,100); but if you have a your own GPS, a $4,500 Cash for Clunkers, you're looking at getting the SportWagen for $25k easily.

Activity & Performance Ability: In a nutshell, the SportWagen TDI is great on gas, has lots of nice turbo power, and is a very quite diesel. It offered consistently smooth driving. Journeying through northern California requires jockeying single-lane winding mountain roads that climb or descend at high speeds with little warning alongside logging trucks. The 140-horsepower engine felt like it delivered about double of that (the turbo response)

The Green Concern: The SportWagen is a clean-burning diesel delivering 35-mpg. It's one of the top recommended cars in the Cash for Clunkers program.

A spacious clean diesel with turbo power garnering an average of 35-mpg – what's more to love than that? Okay, the panoramic sunroof and a price under $30k.VW impressed even the toughest critics with the Jetta Sportwagen TDI.

Katrina's Car Tips For Women Drivers
Katrina's 2010 and 2009 Model Reviews For Women Drivers
Katrina's 2008 Model Reviews For Women Drivers

2009 Katrina Ramser