For those that may have missed the first installment, “Second Opinion” is a new AutoGuide.com feature where we give my wife a vehicle to evaluate. With an avid interest in cars from a wholly practical standpoint, Amanda is the perfect antitheses to our mostly enthusiast-biased staff.
|Engine: 2.0L turbo four cylinder diesel makes 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Fuel Economy: is officially rated at 29 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway.
Price: Base gasoline models cost $21,815. A Fully-loaded diesel model costs $31,085.
First up we gave her the 2014 AutoGuide.com Car of the Year, a 2014 Mazda3. As a surprise to everyone including Amanda, she came away not overly impressed with the compact hatchback. Now it is time for round two and we have given her a vehicle in the middle of the young family demographic: the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI. As her first experience with both a diesel engine and a wagon body-style, there was a lot of uncharted territory to explore.
Last of the Breed
Having been around since 2010, the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen is beginning to get on in years. Based on the Mk V Golf platform (but looking like a Mk VI), the Jetta is one of the few compact wagons left in the U.S. market. Power for the TDI model comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder diesel that makes 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. Transmission choices include a traditional six-speed manual and Volkswagen’s six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic.
Sticking with the more popular consumer choice, our test vehicle came equipped with the DSG. Amanda found the response from the gas and brake pedals were a little quicker than she was used to, but became accustomed to them after a few minutes of driving. She appreciated the high levels of torque from the diesel engine in both morning commutes and highway driving.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen Review
Immediately she fell in love with the way the car drove. Being somewhat of a particular driver, this is not a common occurrence and speaks volumes to Volkswagen’s engineering efforts in making a car that is both predictable to operate and easy to drive. A highlight for her was how narrow the car felt, especially the front-end, as it was so easy to pull in and out of tight parking spaces. As mentioned, this was her first experience driving a proper wagon and despite the ample cargo space from the extended rear section, the SportWagen didn’t strike her as an unruly road barge.
Cold Weather Testing
A popular myth against diesel engines is poor cold weather performance. We had this car during the fabled polar vortex that saw temperatures dip down to -20 Fahrenheit at night. Although the car did take a while to warm up, the auxiliary cabin heater made the drive bearable after a few minutes. A remote starter would be a huge factory-optioned plus for a car like this on extremely cold days.
The extreme cold weather caused problems with the TDI’s gas gauge. It reported a quarter-tank of fuel even though it had just been filled. Later in the week as the temperatures started to warm up, the indicator returned a proper reading. Amanda appreciated the ample range one tank of diesel provides as she didn’t have to stand outside and fill the car up once during the bitter cold week.
Inside, she found the front seat easy to adjust and found her proper position quickly, without having to re-adjust through the week. With nearly a one-foot height difference between me and my wife, there aren’t many cars that fit both of us properly but the Jetta SportWagen does. The panoramic sunroof is set too far back for Amanda to use, but that’s true with most cars. Still, it let a lot of light in that made the Jetta seem spacious. Plus, the large panel is a nice touch for passengers in the back seat.
Everything else inside was placed logically and within reach. She found the dash and steering wheel buttons easy to use and was able to figure everything out right away. The leather on the seating surface felt more premium than the SportWagen’s price point, but the driver’s seat was only partially powered in our test vehicle.
Fuel efficiency is a key factor in people choosing diesel-powered vehicles like the Jetta SportWagen TDI. Officially rated at 29 mpg city and 39 mpg highway, not many compact cars can touch this VW’s real world economy results. Even with the Polar Vortex robbing us of precise fuel economy, Amanda still returned an impressive average of 32.3 mpg during our week with the car.
In the end Amanda became quite fond of the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI. But this car will not be finding a home in our driveway anytime soon. One main issue would ultimately prevent her from plunking down our hard earned cash: the price.
Starting at $21,815, the Jetta SportWagen seems like quite a bargain. At that price however, it uses the less efficient five-cylinder gasoline engine and is missing many options found on compact hatchbacks of the same price. To get a vehicle optioned out like our test vehicle, the price escalates rather dramatically to $31,085. For a vehicle that doesn’t offer anything more than its competitors other than some extra cargo room, that is a lot of money for a compact wagon regardless of how well it drives.