By on July 28, 2014

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Reader Phil Brown shares his experiences with his Jetta Wagon

Volkswagen still has the temerity to sell a compact station wagon in an American market scarfing up CUVs, and bless them for it. I should have been in the heart of the CUV market when looking for a new vehicle in 2010, but I ended up in a MkVI Jetta Sportwagen. It isn’t brown and it doesn’t burn diesel, but after four years and 51K miles of ownership I can understand some of the fervor of wagon fans here on TTAC. There is just something so fundamentally sound and good about the way this car drives, the way it goes down the road, and the surprising utility it offers. With the recent ascension of the Volkswagen Golf to the MQB platform and the 1.8TSI engine on North American shores, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share my longer-term ownership experience of the outgoing platform.

The VW replaced a second-hand 1996 “champagne” beige Camry (how appropriate, for what better title could you give a 1996 Camry than the Champagne of Beiges?) which I had owned for 8 responsible years. Despite being the crème de la crème of 1990s sedans and exhibiting a build quality rarely seen in a Toyota showroom since, it was completely lifeless from behind the wheel and falling badly behind on safety features. Kids were coming. ABS, side airbags, and LATCH anchors were suddenly a priority, and I wanted at least a whiff of driver involvement. Time in a Focus ZX5 and the joker-faced Mazda 3 had opened my eyes to affordable driving enjoyment, and I wanted some of that in a package that could haul a couple of kids and their accompanying detritus.

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Turns out that was a lot to ask from a $21K budget when a hatchback/wagon body style was mandatory. Lightly used CUVs were ruled out after realizing they were as dull as the Camry despite acing the functional criteria. It’s hard to swallow 4 years of payments on a used vehicle when you don’t actually like it. Every other hatchback or wagon had a fatal flaw, whether too small in the cargo area (xB & Soul), too small in the backseat (Mazda3), or too cheap and nasty to warrant the asking price (Matrix). The Jetta Sportwagen was about the only offering left, and poking around one at an auto show left a really good impression. Subsequent test drives only improved on that.

I never thought I’d walk into a VW dealership after seeing the pages of Consumer Reports splattered like a crime scene with black dots from the infamous Mk IV days, but once those Mk Vs landed in 2005 the dots turned to white and red. So I put aside brand bias and worked with a very professional and low-pressure sales manager to order a base S model with the 5 cylinder engine and 5 speed manual from the factory. Five weeks later, the Mexican-assembled wagon arrived wrapped in bug-splattered plastic.

Most will openly wonder why on God’s Green Earth one would special order a gas Sportwagen instead of picking a TDI already on the lot. The answer is $4500, the price difference between the cheapest TDI with its obligatory bundled options and an already well-equipped base 2.5S. Being trendy and undersupplied, TDI Sportwagen inventories were low in my area that year and the dealers weren’t about to budge a nickel on them. I wasn’t seeing $4500 worth of value there, but time will tell if the higher depreciation and fuel costs wash out the initial price savings.

Regardless of engine choice, this car treats both the driver and passengers well. It provides some feedback and involvement without beating up or cramping passengers, and provides class-atypical levels comfort and refinement without completely anesthetizing the driving experience. The suspension and structure absorb broken pavement, potholes, and jarring ripples with poise and composure that no Civic or Elantra can manage, yet the handling is still responsive. The steering provides respectable feel and precision at speed, with no center dead zone and none of the tiring dartiness some quick ratio systems provide. The driving position is excellent and seat comfort is superb. It is hushed, stable and confident on the highway and just eats up miles for hours on end without fatiguing you. I’m six feet tall and can still find a good driving position with twin rear-facing toddler seats behind me, although anyone taller will have trouble. An SUV’s worth of cargo capacity resides behind the backseat so I can haul both kids and gear. Without the family aboard, I can turn off the traction control and dump-n-ride the clutch to shriek the tires across half an intersection if I’m feeling like an abusive imbecile. That is a smile you cannot get from a CR-V.

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The interior of this generation of Golf/Jetta received unanimous praise in the media, and it is well-deserved because the materials quality is closer to an entry-level luxury car than a $20K compact. Happy little details are hidden everywhere, from the glovebox lined in faux felt to the brilliant tilt-and-telescope center armrest to the standard heated seats to the real metal door pulls that release the latch with such a satisfying feel and sound. The speedometer is absolute genius, marked in 10 mph increments until 80 and in 20 mph increments beyond, so you can have your stupid obligatory 160 mph speedometer and not sacrifice legibility in the 0-80 mph range. The interior shows no wear on the touch points, so whatever shoddy craftsmanship plagued the MkIV interiors is not present here.

The interior and solid structure can perhaps be cheerfully compared to Audi, but several things remind you this car was built to a low price. The HVAC fan roars like a tornado and the air conditioning is a bit tepid. There is no modern infotainment technology to speak of. No trip computer. No Bluetooth. No USB integration. You get AUX and a CD slot with a stereo head unit that is laughably basic even if the sound that it routes through the eight speakers isn’t bad. My biggest complaint involves the brakes, which are mushy and require a surprisingly good stomp to extract all of the mediocre performance despite being four-wheel disc. The unparalleled bitching about the 2011 Jetta’s rear drums was amusing considering it stops in a shorter distance than my car.

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The engine won’t fool an Audi owner either, but for $20K why should it? VW’s 2.5 liter 5 cylinder is controversial, I believe it deserves a final defense. The 5 cylinder was never going to engender anything but irritation from journalists narrowly focused on acceleration stats or how vigorously the needle swings to redline. Well, ignore their regurgitated groupthink because this is an affordable workhorse that is more relaxed and well-suited to everyday driving than most C-segment engines it competed with. The oft-quoted torque peak occurs above 4000 rpm, but 90% of that is available at 2000 rpm, so it pulls better at those engine speeds than a GLI with its sleeping turbo. Going for a hole in traffic doesn’t usually require a downshift. You can move out nicely in 3rd gear at 30mph and that gives you an advantage against a lot of other average cars that need to wake up and downshift before they can provide much thrust. In Everyday Car and Driver Land, this is more important than a 0-60 sprint.

If those sprints still interest you, the tires will chirp going into second but the engine doesn’t really rev eagerly and feels pretty much done by 5000 rpm. Expect an automatic Sonata to keep pace with you. Expect the GLI to flatten you. You’re just not going to win many stoplight races. Rest in peace anyway, noble 5-cylinder. You were a decent effort considering VW has approximately zero interest in normally aspirated engines.

I find the notorious fuel economy of this engine to be…adequate, but getting less so each year, as the industry extracts more power from the same amount of fuel. I get 28-34 mpg on the highway depending on whatever. It’s a 3200 pound car with 170hp so I wasn’t expecting 40 mpg, but cars of this weight and power should be getting 10-15% better. A section of the brain fixates on that, even if it doesn’t really dent the pocketbook.

I suppose we need to discuss reliability. No VW review is complete without stories of hellacious repair records, preferably of experiences 10, 20, or 30 years ago extrapolated far beyond the proper scope of inference to every VW model and powertrain produced today. Look, either you believe data collected by Consumer Reports and TrueDelta or you don’t. Those sources show the MkV Golf/Jetta far outperforming the MkIV and achieving parity or better with the rest of the industry, particularly for 5-cylinder cars. This is my personal experience: in 51K miles I’ve had one repair stop, a faulty ignition coil at 15K miles that didn’t leave me stranded or make me late to anything. The rear seat ski pass-through likes to jam as well and I have had that addressed 3 times during oil changes. Apparently it is a model-wide design flaw, but it’s not as if the window is dropping into the door. Otherwise, the car has been flawless. I don’t expect an easy 200K, but if I can run it for 10 years and 150K miles without headache you won’t ever see me criticizing this model’s reliability on the comment boards. Bulletproof reliability beyond 200K is something for the second owner to worry about, as the Camry taught me that 15 years of perfect operation is a critical asset only if you want to keep the car for 15 years.

I’ll probably pay for that reliability gap when I try to sell this thing in a world where used Civics fetch such high prices, and I’m fairly certain the manual transmission will be a resale hurdle as well. That’s OK. The modest gain in resale at the tail end of the depreciation curve is not worth driving a car I do not enjoy for a full decade. Volkswagen converted a skeptic here, and should this wagon not implode on me in the next 100K miles and render me an embittered hater of all budget German metal, I may just move into a GTI.

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164 Comments on “Reader Review: 2010 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen...”


  • avatar
    johnhowington

    you will regret not getting the TDI. otherwise, enjoy.

    • 0 avatar
      FractureCritical

      you will NOT regret not getting the TDI. I had one of these in 2010 flavor, and it was hands-down the worst car I’ve ever owned, and I’ve owned cars that came from the factory with cardboard glovebox liners.

      I’m a firm believer that 95% of TDI owners will never see the return on investment, and if they do, it will be a wash, at best after servicing the diesel particulate filter, the dual EGR system, the $2000 fuel pump that likes to explode when exposed to “contaminated” fuel, the fuel injectors that require harmonic dampers, and specialized engine oil that you can buy as about as easily Doc. Brown gets Plutonium for his Delorean if you don’t get it from the dealer. Nevermind the urea tank on some models.
      It’s a hateful little motor that’s dead slow and should be killed with fire and possibly military munitions. – that’s my unbiased opinion on the TDI.

      the best VW’s are the simplest. mostly becuase they just have less to break.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I agree with this. As someone who owned four MKV Jettas/Golfs the 5-cylinder engine with the 5 speed was the most reliable of the four. It is the only one I would keep long term. The 2.0T fills with carbon, the 3.2L V6 vaporlocks, and the DSG transmission is an expensive maintinance item at best. The 2006 MKV with ye olde TDI engine also did well.

        The 2.5L/5 speed combo is not sexy, but It also wasn’t full of carbon build up on the intakes when I got rid of it.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        That’s affirmative.

        The 2.5 5 cylinder VW motor, whether shoved into a Golf/Rabbit, Jetta, this Sportwagen (which I could’ve sworn was hecho en Germany – just the wagon), or even the B7 North American only Passat, has been the most reliable VW motor, and by a wide margin, according to Consumer Reports (and VW peeps I know) in…well….forever maybe.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          As far as US VW MKVs go:

          Golf: Germany
          Jetta: Mexico
          Jetta Sportwagen: Mexico
          R32: Hell

          The 2.5L will probably remain the most reliable VW engine ever scored by Consumer Reports.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Wasn’t it the only VW engine to achieve an average or better reliability rating? Ford’s naturally aspirated V6 in certain F150s was the only Ford engine to achieve average reliability across their entire product range, so VW isn’t alone in this level of engineering quality.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        My brother’s 2013 TDI Sportswagon blew its turbo at @8k.

        Warranty covered it, but it won’t be under warranty forever.

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      Agreed. You may not save anything on fuel costs, but when it comes time to sell, the perceived superiority of the TDI will come back to bite you.

      Very few people want a Jetta Sportwagon, and even fewer want one with a manual. Almost all those who do want one, want the TDI.

      On the plus side, these cars have a solid feel that you just can’t get anywhere else for $21k.

      • 0 avatar

        “Very few people want a Jetta Sportwagon, and even fewer want one with a manual. Almost all those who do want one, want the TDI.”

        That’s true. I got a TDI SportWagen this weekend. Based on what I’ve read, 9/10 people that buy the SportWagen go for the TDI.

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          It’s now Monday. Have your coil packs exploded already? How many times has the car been towed to a dealer so far?

          Because based on comments around here, I don’t think you’ll make it to next weekend without a catastrophic failure.

          • 0 avatar

            As a matter of fact, it did give me one issue. On the test-drive, I opened the panoramic sunroof, and when I tried to close it, it kept getting to the almost-shut point, and then re-opening itself, as if the wind-deflector was in the way. The saleswoman remarked that it was, in fact, the wind-deflector being out of alignment, and she had it sorted while I was in the finance office. But when I got home, 230 miles away, it did the same thing again. I finally got it to close by pressing down on the wind-deflector. So now I have a service appointment at the VW dealer tomorrow to have it looked at, and will probably have to trade it for a loaner for a couple of days….

          • 0 avatar
            319583076

            D’oh!

          • 0 avatar
            segfault

            Be sure to mention the botched repair when you get the survey from VW. They shouldn’t have sent the car out without thoroughly testing it.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I doubt that was the response th009 was looking for. Reality bites people that reject common sense.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          When I was looking at a Jetta Sportwagon with the TDI, you couldn’t even find one on a lot in Mpls/St. Paul. You put your name on a wait list. That was back around 2010.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        The author plans on keeping his car 10 years and driving it 150,000 miles. TDI or gasoline I-5, its resale value is going to be low.

        If you’re going to drive a car for 10 years you should get what you want, resale value is not that important.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          I disagree. 10 years old with 200K the gasser Sportwagon will be worth next to nothing. I’ll bet a TDI would fetch at a minimum another $1K to $1.5K and be a LOT easier to sell.

          • 0 avatar
            FormerFF

            I checked Edmunds on 10 year old/150K Jetta wagons, the price difference was $1800 gas vs. diesel. Considering that the author said that the diesel would have been $4500 more, I’d say he made the right choice.

          • 0 avatar
            brettc

            Can confirm. Sold a 2000 Jetta TDI with the failure prone 01M automatic for $4300 2 months ago. I didn’t believe I could get that much, but it happened. If it was a gas automatic it might have sold for $2000.

        • 0 avatar
          johnhowington

          “The author plans on keeping his car 10 years and driving it 150,000 miles”

          interesting in theory, fantasy in practice.

          • 0 avatar
            FormerFF

            I’m curious why you say that. I had my last car for 12 years, drove it 128,000 miles. The one previous to that I had for 10 years, drove 116,000 miles. My brother in law has a 16 year old 4Runner with 180,000 miles. My neighbor just got rid of a Rodeo he had for 11 years, it had 240,000 miles. Another neighbor down the street just traded a Camry that he’s had for 14 years. My neighbor on the other side… eh, I’m tired of typing and you get the picture.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I will be in year 9 of my ownership of a vehicle purchased new in October (with 108,000 miles in the odometer).

            It’s been such a fantastic vehicle that I literally can’t find a new one I’d be willing to replace it with yet, and I’ve driven at least 18 vehicles (test drives or rentals) ranging in price from 75% of the price I paid for it to 2x the price I paid for it, over the last 3 1/2 years or so.

            Here’s the kicker: It was an impulse/random sort of purchase. I had gone to a large, multi-brand dealer with the intent purchasing a completely different type of vehicle, and test drove it on a complete whim partly b/c I had some extra time to kill.

          • 0 avatar
            FormerFF

            @DeadWeight, good for you, it’s funny how that works out some times.

            I wanted to add one more owner and car to my list. My wife’s cousin has an old Saturn (I have forgotten the year) that he bought new, it is now approaching 430,000 miles.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            FF, I have a mechanically inclined uncle who buys nothing but used Saturns for his three kids. He absolutely swears by them, claiming they are as reliable as similarly sized Hondas @ 25% to 40% of the price of similarly aged/mileaged Hondas.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            @ FormerFF

            I think the odds of hanging onto a car for 10 years greatly depend on the utility of what you buy. Needs change over time. The B-segment car that worked great living in the city with no kids doesn’t work as well if you move to the ‘burbs and need to stuff rear-facing child seats in it. It can be other simple things too. Maybe you pick up a new hobby and need a larger trunk to support it. Maybe you had a large highway cruiser, but moved closer to work and now that car is a pita to park and maneuver. You get the idea.

            I believe DeadWeight is referring to a RX8. While an RX8 is not useless (especially for something that sporty), I bet being able to hang on to a car that size for nine years is somewhat unusual. Besides, car enthusiasts get bored and like to try different cars. DeadWeight might still have it 9 years later because there is nothing better out there, but he has had the itch for the past 3.5 years.

      • 0 avatar
        onyxtape

        The TDI halo effect is certainly true. A coworker just bought a Jetta TDI with 80k miles for $18,000, and was grinning about it.

      • 0 avatar
        FractureCritical

        yes, the TDI will be worth more when it comes time to sell it, perhaps by thousands of dollars. but those thousands of dollars at resale time need to overcome the thousands of dollars at initial purchase time, and of you actually keep a car with one of the most complex engines ever made by VW for more than 100k miles, you’ll likely be paying thousands of dollars in maintenance, repair, and lost wages waiting for the car to be fixed. There is no win scenario with a TDI. you just lose.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Very nice writeup, thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.

    I think reviews like this, where an owner has had time to live with the car, are much more valuable than ones of newly purchased cars.

  • avatar
    Eiriksmal

    This was a great review. I enjoyed your level-headed writeup! It’s interesting that I commented to my wife last night that her 2007 Camry is sort of the antithesis of the Golf/Beetle. After tooling around in her dad’s 2000 TDI Beetle all day, her Camry drove like a skittish horse. EVERYTHING is opposite from the tiny VW! The brakes are 1000x stronger, the steering 100x more sensitive (in an unsettling way, after driving the heavy VW steering), the Camry 10x quieter, the handling inspires half the confidence, and so on. Apparently you found similar sentiments in your newer VW.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    An ignition coil at 15k, however trivial it may sound to you, would make me livid. I fully expect a modern mainstream sedan to go 100k miles and about 7 years, with only fluids/filters, a brake job, and tires. Anything other than that I’d consider unreliable.

    I do love the shape of these sportwagens, and having spent some time in a mkV jetta, will agree they feel much more substantial than a Civic/Corolla/Elantra.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Even the Camry averages about 15-30 repair trips per 100 cars. If you look at the numbers, I don’t think any car manages to get to 7 years and 100k miles without a problem for the majority of owners.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      I think being “livid” over a single minor repair that doesn’t leave you stranded is a bit of a high standard. Even if it wasn’t covered under warranty, the part is about $40 and takes about 30 seconds to install. Hardly a deal-breaker.

      Even Toyota parts sometimes break before the warranty is up.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      gtem – You would have turned into the lead character from ‘Falling Down’ (William Foster) had you owned a circa-2001 to 2005 VAG 1.8T given your rage against coil pack failures.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Hah! You know when I saw that it was a coil pack that failed the first thought was “really? Still battling those same old demons?” But yes I would be Michael Douglas with a rocket launcher on my shoulder.

        And I really don’t think it’d be unreasonable to go 7 years and 100k without a single powertrain/accessory failure, plenty of people experience just that. In fact I’ll be very disappointed if my 2012 Civic doesn’t achieve that.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          A friend was just freaked out about a death rattle in her new CRV. Turns out to be a loose heat shield. How would you classify that problem?

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Good question, for me that straddles the middle ground of a rattle/squeak type of issue and a serious mechanical one. Coincidentally, the heat shield on my dad’s 45k mile 2007 Fit is starting to make a bit of noise, the only issue he’s experienced with the car, in addition to an upper dash rattle that’s persisted since the first winter.

          • 0 avatar

            Sadly a common Honda-Acura issue. My MDX made a horrible rattle, and the cause turned out to be the heat shields on the front and rear warmup cats. Honda cheaps out on the small bolts to hold the shields on, and but for saving a tiny amount of money, the shields then rattle when the cheap bolts (NOT stainless) rust a bit. The fix is easy and cheap if you know it…hose clamps around the whole operation. A bit of a hack but “forum tested and approved”. Mine started up out of warranty and generated a $600 quote. Until I figured it out it was one heck of a puzzler !!! The sound is like a power buzz saw and it is really disconcerting-and it comes and goes with resonance.

            I second the review on the interior-good quality and great ergos for six footers. I love my 2012. Diesel is both economy and power…the torque makes it a different ride, and at least in diesel trim, the soundproofing is almost S Class. I do worry about the super-expensive bits under hood, but have almost 60k of zero issue driving. I do use a cetane boost (power stroke or Amsoil) but otherwise do nothing more than follow the maintenance minder. I have the manual.

            The base versions of the Golf are the deal of the class. You also get a huge aftermarket, and can mod suspension and such without too much hassle or money. BTW, there is guy who makes an intake manifold for the 2.5 with a big HP increase…. All German cars need to be driven hard to live a long life, in my experience. Somewhere there is an open road, maybe an uphill, with no cross streets…use it.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheatridger

            Not so bad as the creak from the passenger door that I heard every time I accelerated my cousin’s late-model CRV. Got chassis flex, Honda? But they do make fine lawn mowers.

  • avatar
    TCragg

    Nicely done. As a long-time VW owner who is well aware of their less-than-stellar reputation for quality and positive dealer experiences, I’ve heard it all. My own experience with VW purchases in the past 10 years has been overwhelmingly positive (for the record: 2004 Passat 4motion 1.8T wagon, 2005 Jetta TDI Wagon, two 2006 Jetta TDIs, 2009 Eos, 2010 Passat Wagon, 2010 Routan). Much of an ownership experience is how the car is maintained. I take care of mine, and they tend to take care of me. I have also had very positive dealer experiences. as always, YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      Slave2anMG

      Ditto. 2005 TDI Mk IV Golf (wife drives it, 77K now), my 2002 1.8T Beetle and the company-provided cars: 2004 1.8T Passat wagon, 2007 2.0T Passat wagon, 2010 JSW TDI Wagon, and the current 2013 CC 2.0T. All have been maintained to the book by the local dealer (Leith VW in Cary NC). Leith has never failed to be courtesy, prompt, fair, and to provide exceptional service. And I can be bitchy. The 2010 JSW was a great car…43-44 mpg highway which was most of my driving for work. Handled well, built better than any of the German-built cars in terms of rattles, and the TDI was fabulous. The wife’s TDI needs some suspension work due to tired bushings; the other cars I drove and drove hard were excellent.

      Oh, and an ’04 Passat TDI that I bought 18 months before changing jobs. Current gig has the company cars; when I sold the Passat the TDI put me above water. I paid off the loan and had $1800 left over – the TDI was worth $4200 more than a gasser. Crazy as hell but hey, I was happy because when I bought it the TDI was a few hundred bucks more.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Double ditto. 2007 GTI: flawless. 2010 GTI: one minor issue with the master door lock, repaired cheerfully under warranty. 2012 Touareg: flawless. 2008 R32: chronic check-engine light, but no other driveability issues. I loved that car. All US R 32s were recalled for the same issue with the evaporative emissions tank and N-80 valve, but unfortunately mine bedeviled the local and regional mechanics before I traded it in on the Mark VI GTI. It happens.

      I also haven’t experienced any of the dealer horror stories so often repeated on various car fora. My VW dealer treated me with politeness and respect no better or worse than the Ford, Nissan, BMW, Honda, and Mitsubishi dealerships (all the other cars in my stable) I have dealt with in the past ten years. Even during the R32 problems, I got loaner cars from Enterprise without hesitation, even for a week at a time while they tried to diagnose the issue with the master mechanic flown in by VW.

      • 0 avatar
        zerofoo

        That’s a lot of cars in a short time period. How long do you keep your VWs?

        I’ve found after owning 3 different VWs, the expenses rack up 2-3 years out of warranty. Things like slipping transmissions or engines fouled with carbon don’t usually show up in the warranty period.

        For VWs, these types of problems are bank account breakers, and these problems occur while Toyotas and Hondas keep on going with minimal maintenance.

        A 10 year old VW at 150k with simple fluid changes, brakes and tires is the exception – not the rule.

  • avatar
    bortlicenseplate

    Great review – really well-written.

  • avatar
    Andy

    “The modest gain in resale at the tail end of the depreciation curve is not worth driving a car I do not enjoy for a full decade.”

    Truth.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Great write-up. Without a doubt, you made the right call on the diesel. Even assuming no difference in repair costs (probably a dubious assumption), I doubt seriously that you’re going to save $4,500 in fuel costs over the time you owned the vehicle . . . and the other stuff that’s bundled with the diesel is, apparently, of no value to you. So, good call.

    As long was we keep expressing fuel economy in miles/gallon rather than in gallons/mile, people will continue to overstate the value of a 10 mpg increase in fuel economy over, say, 30 mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Over 100K miles it’s the difference between 2500 gallons vs 3300 gallons. Depending on your fuel price assumptions that’s between $2400 and $3200.

      That simplistic calculation ignores any difference in the per-gallon cost of fuel, and any difference in repair/maintenance cost and any difference in remaining resale value.

      The point is simply that over 100K miles even small differences add up to quite a lot.

      • 0 avatar
        Hillman

        So to break even on the $4,500 premium he would have had to drive around 150,000 miles? Of course that does not count the discounts that made the $4,500 premium larger and any increased maintenance costs. Not saying your point is not valid but in this case it may be the right call.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      If you trust the EPA’s numbers, the average driver would spend about $2100 a year fuelling a 2.5, compared to $1750/$1800 (manual/auto) on a TDI. Admittedly, they do purportedly rate diesels a little conservative, but unless you’re a road warrior, you might be hitting the break-even point at the 10 year mark, if you’re lucky.

      At that point, it’s up to the extra maintenance costs to not run in excess of the extra resale at that point (which, as mentioned above, aren’t trivial).

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      It’s not entirely about the money. I would buy the diesel because I prefer how they drive. Any economy benefits are a bonus.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        Bingo.

        • 0 avatar
          brettc

          Agreed. I love the TDI, that’s why I bought a 2012 TDI wagon with DSG. Maybe it’ll cost me a fortune to keep it running, but I doubt it. People on the TDI forums have over 200000 miles on Sportwagens with routine minimal maintenance expenses. That being said, the TDIs are meant for frequent highway driving. If all you do is mosey around the city at low speed, you will likely have DPF problems – especially if you’re constantly interrupting regens by turning the car off. However, there is a way to check the ash loading in VCDS to check the health of the DPF. (if someone was looking to buy used)

          My 2012 wagon has been okay so far. Almost at 30000 miles. Love the way the car drives and handles, the only problem so far is a rattle somewhere on the front passenger’s side that I’m having checked soon at the 30000 mile service. And the driver’s side seat is cracking even though I keep my seats clean and don’t weigh 400 lbs. So I’m guessing they’ll be replacing the seat since it’s still under warranty. No powertrain or engine problems so far, just stupid things. I plan to keep it long term (10-15 years) but I’m pretty sure whenever I do list it on Craigslist, I’ll still get a decent amount of money for it since it’s a TDI DSG.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            I hope they fix your seat. On my 2008, I was informed that the warranty doesn’t cover “appearance” problems. So in my example, the rubberized coating flaking off the shifter surround was not covered, but the sunglass holder door that wouldn’t stay closed was covered. Not sure how they would address leather cracking. But perhaps the warranty is better on the 2012 too.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Thank you for taking the time to write up your review. It’s logical and reasonable. Well done.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Nice write up. I have a couple coworkers who have the diesel and love it. According to Fuelly and my math skillz, the diesel pays for itself in fuel savings after 115,000 miles. Of course, there’s interest on that $4500 and I don’t know how maintenance on the diesel compares to the gasser. But you’ll get more when you sell the diesel. It seems to be pretty much a wash if you keep it a long time. Although I’d lean diesel, I wouldn’t shy away from a deal on a gas wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      During that period of time, gas SportWagens usually had better interest rates and more discounts. A two door Golf with the 2.5L and manual transmission could be had for under $17K. The lowest I could find a TDI was over $23K.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        My niece bought a new 2009 or 2010 2.5 liter gasser model of this car, and her dad exhausted the dealer down to just about 16.4k on it, before TTL.

        They have nicer interiors and a more refined ride than other cars in their class.

        I don’t get the bitchin’ so many people have about the 2.5. It’s as powerful as the competition or more so, it’s relatively reliable (especially for a VW)…it could get slightly better fuel economy, I guess.

        But what the hey…this is an Audi in terms of refinement…better than an A3 in terms of suspension & build quality IMO…for less than 17k.

        WTF peoples who are bitchin’.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          At that time they were one of the best buys out there. I haven’t checked to see if the VW dealers will still deal on price.

          When I lived in Tucson, I would have to go up to Phoenix to buy VWs. The dealer in Tucson was the only VW dealership between Las Cruces and Phoenix. They sold everything at MSRP.

        • 0 avatar
          Slave2anMG

          My personal opinion and experience here…when I’ve driven the 2.5 motored cars, I’ve found them…agricultural. The engine is not as refined as the 1.8T and 2.0T gassers. I’ve put a lot of miles in VWs with the four cylinders…

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The 5-pot is very tractory. I don’t disagree at all. It’s an odd engine. Remember, its like half a Gallardo V10.

            I’ve put more miles on 2.0T VW engines as well. I would say that they are clattery at idle. While driving though, they are very refined.

      • 0 avatar

        I would have considered a gas SportWagen if they’d used the 1.8-liter turbo (which is great in the Jetta sedan and Passat) instead of the old 2.5-liter. But the Mk5/Mk6 SportWagen is on its way out, so VW made no mechanical upgrades to it and few electronic ones for MY2014. I didn’t find out that the SportWagen wasn’t available with VW’s new “Car Net” service until I test drove it. The only thing that changed for MY2014 was that a rearview camera became standard on TDI models, which is nice because otherwise I would have had to retrofit it and it would have been a pain (involving surgery on the dashboard and fusebox).

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I have some seat time in a 2011 Jetta 2.5SE (sedan), and I’m honestly less than impressed. It’s an okay car to drive, but the owner is of the “anything I own will automatically be better than anything you own and I’m going to make sure you know it” type. The clutch feels non-existant, and the vinyl seats blow herpetic goats. It’s kind of soured me on the whole VW thing.

    His has been in and out of the shop for trivial things pretty much quarterly since new. He used to have to borrow my 16 year old Blazer when his went into the shop.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      The interior of the Jetta/Sportwagen from the 2009ish period that I saw/felt was significantly better than 2011 era (decontented/cheapness) one by a wide margin, IMO.

      I can’t speak for upcoming/refreshed VWs, but the interior quality of the NA only Passat & Jetta (at least before the hurried VW refresh in the wake of CR’s & others’ complaints) was pretty Mich two steps back versus prior VAs.

      VW and, to a lesser extent, Mazda, always seemed to NAIL interior design, switchgear, and interior quality respective of all popularly priced makes.

      The Golf/GTI that I was familiar with in 2009-2010 literally had a better interior feel/finish than a 2014 Audi A4/A3, IMO.

      I sat in a leather trimmed high content hardtop Miata with baseball glove/Brooklyn brownish-orange leather in 2010 and thought to myself that ONLY VW or Mazda could pullover that excellence in terms of dash design, switchgear, gauges and fit and finish at anywhere within even twice the asking price. It was literally better looking and feeling than a Porsche Cayman.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        If only sound insulation was part of the package with Mazda.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Mazda isn’t 50% worse than Honda in this regard (maybe 25% worse, though), and while it’s often stated, tires do make a huge difference much of the time.

          When I put the winter tires on my 8, it’s literally twice as quiet as when I’m running summer UHP rubber.

          If I keep the 8 long enough, I may just go with something like Conti DWs on 17″ wheels for a 3 season tire since I rarely even use 7/10ths of the handling the 8 is capable of on public roads, MI roads are in an awful state of disrepair, and the Contis are quiet and comfy.

          Even on Summer UHP rubber and 18″ wheels, my 8 drives like a Lexus in terms of ride quality and noise relative to the brutal Scion FR-S I test drove.

  • avatar
    laphoneuser

    I really loved this review, as it was so well-written and thought out. Probably the most informative car review I’ve read in a long time.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    Very nice writeup. And I hate to say this but at 51K you’re still 9K away from when the issues start. I suppose I could be wrong, it looks like a desertish area where you live, in Phoenix cars last a long time. But I live VW.

  • avatar
    blppt

    “The oft-quoted torque peak occurs above 4000 rpm, but 90% of that is available at 2000 rpm, so it pulls better at those engine speeds than a GLI with its sleeping turbo.”

    Erm, you do know that the 2.0T has its torque peak at 1750rpm, right? And at least the TSI version in my CC, it is difficult to catch it “off boost” above 1500rpm.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      I was about to say, the GLI’s turbo isn’t sleeping above 1,200 rpm or so. There’s barely any lag at all, certainly much less than the first-gen 1.8T.

      • 0 avatar
        blppt

        I wonder if they were still using the older 2.0T for 2010—but even so, I think that motor’s torque peak was pretty low as well. Not sure on boost lag.

        • 0 avatar
          segfault

          I had the older 2.0T in an Audi A4 and it also had very little turbo lag. That car felt a tad underpowered with the Quattro system and a six-speed automatic, though.

  • avatar

    Damn! I just bought a new 2014 Jetta SportWagen TDI w/DSG and sunroof on Saturday. I was going to put my car up for a reader review…but you beat me to it.

    And I have whoever wrote that “Car-Buying App” story to thank for it. The article mentioned a dealer group called Autonation, which I had never heard of. The nearest one to me was Autonation Volkswagen Park Cities in Dallas. When I looked up their prices, they wanted $3000 less than my local dealerships. And the saleswoman they put me with was so nice. She had just the right mix of “I care about you as a customer, but no sweat if you don’t buy the car”…and she knew plenty about the product. It was such a painless and pleasant process. I would definitely buy from Autonation again.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      I bought my Acura wagon from Autonation in League City, TX they were easy to deal with. Helped that the car had been on their lot for 6 months with nobody showing an interest in it.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Do a review anyways. Especially if you are comparing to another car you currently own.

      Looks like the Sportwagen holds the floor space over the Tiguan:

      “The SportWagen, meanwhile, offers significantly more cargo space than VW’s own Tiguan compact SUV — 18 more cubic feet with the seats up, 10 more with them folded.” — Edmunds”

      But if you want AWD the CUV is the only way to go?

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      A courteous VW dealer? Hell must be freezing over, LOL

    • 0 avatar
      Hillman

      I have known a good number of people who end up buying from a mega dealer a few hundred miles away to save major money. They have had great experience and not had the typical upsale after the “agreement” was made.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Please write the review, Kyree. You always have a level-headed and thoughtful approach to the industry which is refreshing considering the histrionics often seen here, particularly regarding anything German or Volkswagen.

    • 0 avatar
      turboprius

      AutoNation has been around for a very long time. My parents bought a Grand Caravan from an AutoNation dealership before I was born, and I came to be in the late-90’s.

      I knew the experience at AutoNation dealerships was going to be a lot better, and I’m glad I now have proof. The Rogue came from an AutoNation dealership, and the experience was awful. Nine year old self started to cry when my dad wanted to flip over the dealer plate bracket, since he didn’t want to show off the dealership in any way. He kept that and the badge on, but the cool “Team” badge with the green leaf disappeared when the rear had to be replaced (collision) back in December.

      We may be considering a TDI vehicle for my dad next year. A Tiguan TDI under 30 grand would hit the nail on the head.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I considered the VW wagon. It did remind me of my 2007 Audi A3 only just a bit “cheaper.” To be honest my AC couldn’t keep up with Houston’s summer and the fan was loud. It might help you to know that at 95,000 miles I got $10,000 for it on trade in for the Acura wagon.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah. I didn’t buy the highest trim, which is the TDI w/DSG, sunroof, nav and KESSY (smart-key). Mine is the second-highest, which is the TDI w/sunroof (and DSG, which is still an option at that point). Still, you can’t get automatic headlamps or fog lamps on even the nicest Jetta SportWagen. I’m pretty sure that neither of those things would be a problem on an Audi…

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        From what I know of the new A3, fog lights aren’t available at any price. Black, plastic inserts in the front facia are standard though.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        Kyree

        I own the exact model reviewed in the article (13 model year so different feature set), but have made a lot of changes to mine. The foglights are available third party (ECStuning has a kit) and can be wired in directly so long as you buy a $50 headlight switch that has the fog symbol. Super easy job. The other option is to find or buy a “highline” trim CECM/lighting control module to avoid wiring it in via relay. Not a big deal either way.

        There are some must dos for Sportwagen owners that cost basically nothing. Since VW bundles all software for every version of the Golf on all the ECU’s you can electronically upgrade your car with GTI or GOlf R settings. Any tuning shop will do it for basically nothing or beer in mere minutes so no need to go and buy a VAG-COM cable.
        The XDS system can be activated on any of them (stability control masquerading as a limited slip), it’s not as good as a gear system but a damn sight better than a purely open diff. There are two settings besides off, GTI and Golf R, I’d stick to the GTI setting unless you are putting down serious power.
        Power steering assist levels are adjustable too. There are three settings and the wagon comes standard on the highest/worst. Fix that with a mouse click, this is a tremendous improvement.
        This is where you’d activate fogs if you installed them with a CECM as well.
        Rev hang…not as much an issue on the TDI as the 2.5 but there are three settings for this as well. It helps to select the lowest setting but the only way to eradicate this flaw entirely is an aftermarket tune. VW pretends this NOx reduction technique is a feature and call it engine brake assist, I think that is a true insult to our intelligence.

        There’s a ton of other options out there as well that revolve around hardware. GTI rear sway bar retains a rubber bushing and bolts right in. Dieselgeek makes a fantastic front skid plate. Passat control arms bolt in and are aluminum. Wheels can be lifted from any reasonably recent VW, Audi or Mercedes and be found on craigslist anywhere. The list goes on…

        I love the hell out of my car, especially now that it handles better than a stock GTI. Remember, that rear overhang does add weight but it also gives you better weight distribution.

        • 0 avatar

          Thanks for the detailed write-up. I thought it handled pretty well to begin with; I didn’t know it could get better. I was definitely planning on retrofitting some fog lamps, but I’ll probably do the bypass route instead of swapping out the CECM. The skid plate and sway bar also sound like great ideas. And as much crap as I’ve talked about VW’s head units, I still want factory nav…so I will probably swap out my RCD-510 for an RNS-510. I just need to remember to have the dealer retrieve the radio code before I remove it, since apparently they no longer supply that with the car…

          • 0 avatar
            tedward

            Kyree. I liked the stock suspension but all the gti/golf options apply to this car as well. They are typically good enough that I wouldn’t recommend anyone replacing worn springs and struts with OEM parts (except for the person who eventually buys my stock suspension from me).

            TT parts are usually the choicest OEM path. I’d recommend a lowering spring along with the koni fsd’s or coils with rebound adjustability. Preferably the rear spring would be paired with a collared perch because otherwise rear spring height could be a problem under load.

        • 0 avatar
          dantes_inferno

          I concur with the Dieselgeek Panzerplate. I have one on my 2003 Wolfsburg Jetta 1.8T. It’s solid insurance for the aluminum oil pan alone, much less the other engine components underneath.

          • 0 avatar
            tedward

            Also buy these. Anytime the front subframe is having bolts loosened is a good time.

            http://www.tyrolsport.com/volkswagen%20audi%20gti%20jetta%20a3%20TT%20TTS%20TTRS%20subframe%20clunk%20repair%20rigid%20collar%20bolt%20kit

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I was in a similar position after moving down to NC. Wifey and I hadn’t owned a car for 3 years (living in NYC) and we were both working from home. I had my motorcycle, but we needed something with a roof, and a larger than conventional trunk, for about $10K. “Wants” were decent performance and fuel economy, ride and NVH quality somewhat above “penalty box”, and interior/exterior looks that wouldn’t make me wince. Also had to be auto for wifey. Final 3 were the Escape Hybrid, Matrix and Rabbit 2.5. First two lost because they just felt crude and downmarket to the point that I couldn’t rationalize ownership as a dazzling urbanite. So we got the Rabbit.

    1 yr and 15K miles in, no complaints really. We did have to replace the cooling fan because of a broken mount, and the sunroof likes to crack itself open on occasion, but other than that, basic maintenance and no problems. There are things I wish were better- the 2.5 doesn’t have the low end torque to justify ~2500 RPM at 80 MPH, and if you meet any kind of incline it’s better to shift for yourself and play with 5th. The brakes suck. And my other two rides are a Z and motorcycle, so relatively speaking the handling sucks too. And I don’t think we plan to keep this long enough to warrant investing into it. But for basic transport with a little flair it’s fine. Runs solid.

    I work in energy efficiency and wifey works for a power company so I’m thinking next ride will be a grab at a little more green cred….. I’m liking the Volt… but that’s for another day….

    • 0 avatar

      The Volt is a really neat product, but I’d wait on the next one.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      “There are things I wish were better- the 2.5 doesn’t have the low end torque to justify ~2500 RPM at 80 MPH, and if you meet any kind of incline it’s better to shift for yourself and play with 5th.”

      One of the reasons I would never buy the car with that motor. My number one pet peeve(s) with my recent (automatic) cars before the CC was their super-tall overdrive gears attached to a motor that doesnt make enough torque to maintain speed on highway grades without a downshift.

      The TDI/DSG is awesome, and to a lesser extent, the 2.0T/DSG in my CC, in this regard. ~2,000 rpm @ 65mph, and plenty of hill conquering torque at that rpm.

  • avatar
    Dingleberrypiez_Returns

    Best written reader review yet. This should set a standard for future contributions.

  • avatar
    jvossman

    2010 Jetta Wagon SE 6M TDI. 92k miles. Only non normal service I have done is the a/c compressor (just like my 95 GTI) and now the rear seatbelt retractor thingie (just like my 01 S4 avant and 07 GTI. Average 41mpg on highway. Friend has 2.5 and 6A, gets about 27. Keep loving yoru car, jealous of those low miles. :)
    John Voss
    Miami FL

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I have a 2011 JSW TDI with 91,000 miles on it in less than 3 years , so far so good ( and I am pass the 60K death mark I guess) have I had issues , yeah not many but 2 in 91K, VW fixed the first no issues ( Hppf pump many $$$ to repair) and the 2 I had done for about 150 bucks ( AC Valve) , not to bad for 91K, I have the DSG so I pay about 300 bucks every 40K, I knew it going in , no need to butch about, I needed the DSG as to many of my miles are in NY metro gridlock, A TDI cost more as mentioned about 4500 bucks , you do get some more features for that but a good chuck in the motor, oil changes are not cheap but you get 10,000 according to the book and I had the oil checked and it was not toast , the AC is ok but I have the Pano sunroof which makes it work harder, I love the space and the amount per tank about 550-600 miles which is great for a road warrior, my fuel is about about 10% more the RUG but I get about 42 MPG in my driving , 85% highway. Is it an Accord no but it fits my needs very well and I expect better resale when it is time for it to go. I will say no one else likes to drive it as you have to learn to drive it, the DSG takes some getting use to. I looked at an A3 but it would have been 7K more with the same trim level. Good luck with yours.

    • 0 avatar

      I wish the panoramic sunroof didn’t have a sheer cover on my SportWagen. One of our other cars (a 2012 Hyundai Sonata Limited) also has a panoramic sunroof, but the cover is completely opaque. And I have noticed that the air conditioning in the JSW doesn’t cool things down for a couple of minutes (although it was 105 degrees in Dallas and 98 degrees in Oklahoma City). Hopefully, especially with it being a diesel, it warms up the cabin in the winter much better than it cools it in the summer.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        Just the opposite I think. I was looking pretty seriously at buying a TDI and one of the complaints from owners in the colder climates was that they took forever to warm up the inside of the car during the winter. But that may be something VW has addressed as that was 4-5 years ago.

        • 0 avatar
          tedward

          carlson fan

          Diesel doesn’t produce as much heat as quickly as a gasoline motor which explains the slow heat issue. Contributes to engine durability but at a slight price.

        • 0 avatar
          brettc

          You can buy winter fronts from idparts.com for the new cars now. The new TDIs do have an auxiliary heater that makes instant cabin heat even if it’s frigid out, which is a huge improvement over the old bone chilling TDIs.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            If you’re in a super-cold environment (upper plains or Canada) I thought plug in block heater was essentially a must have with the TDIs ?

            Wouldn’t that help the cabin heat/warm-up issue with the diesel (and glow plugs)?

      • 0 avatar
        seth1065

        Hate to say it but your sol, I have found if I crank the vent on the roof that helps with the heat build up, in the winter , you need the heated seats, it takes a good ten minutes of solid driving to get good heat, the engine has to heat up first.

      • 0 avatar
        1998redwagon

        diesels take longer to warm up a cabin in winter than a gasoline engine does. some have installed frostheaters (frostheater.com), others block airflow in front of the radiator.

        more recently vw has installed an electric heater for cabin air on my 2013 passat tdi. it works automatically below a certain temp. i get outrageous mileage compared to the gasser but i have a 6mt and drive conservatively.

        two things i think about regarding diesels. #1 most diesels will easily beat the epa mileage estimate. (mine gets 48-52 mpg @ 62mph when the epa says it should pull down 43.) #2 i view the diesel as an option, not necessarily a way to save money. some people want a sunroof, or navigation, or leather seats – no exceptions. to get that option(s) you often buy more car than you need. that’s also a cost. i just happened to want a diesel but not nav, sunroof, leather, or auto.

      • 0 avatar

        Seat heaters are included :)

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    To the Author: I assume that you bought your VW in 2009 or 2010. Did you consider a used Mazda6 wagon?

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    I too shopped one in 2010, I too had a baby on the way. Drove it and liked it but found the engine coarse and the load area a bit small. Ditto the V50 Volvo.

    I was shopping used, a year old with under 20,000 miles. In the end i paid some $8K less than the V50 or the jetta and went with a 9-3. There’s simply no comparing the engines, the Saab 2T is a gem, very smoothe and lots or torque. I have also filled the Saab with lumber, paintings, carpet, furniture blah blah blah to within millimetres of the objects not fitting so the jetta and the V50 would have simply been too small.

    The jetta was the best for ride/handling and the Saab the worse it must be said.

    So far so good reliability wise and i am surrounded by three Saab indy shops so no worries there, YMMV.

    • 0 avatar

      Once I realized I wanted a wagon (which I previously had thought was an overrated body-style), I did look at some lightly-used 9-3 examples, since I’ve always thought it was a handsome and capable vehicle, and no worse than the crapshoot that is VW longevity. But they wanted too much for them and my bank won’t even finance Saab (or any other orphan brands, however recent…)

    • 0 avatar

      @Alfisti-
      Wow! Somebody brought up the Saab 93 SportCombi Wagon? On TTAC that hates Saabs? Ive got a 2.0T, 6MT with over 200K now and have driven 1.9 TiDs (diesels) in EU. How or why thousands of these, as opposed to dozens, didnt make it here is GM genius. Truly one of the best GM cars ever and never recalled? If you (or Kyree) have a chance to drive one…DO! Youll see what a difference few thousand make. And wonder why GM didnt get the Cruze diesel in these. Its NO Buick, Caddy, Chevy or VW.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        TTAC hates Saab?

        I always had the impression that at least the B&B gave Saab credit for doing turbocharged petrol engines properly, and being decades ahead of the competition in doing so?

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    These a nice cars and I looked hard at both the Jetta & Passat wagons in 2010. For me the Jetta was a bit too small. A Passat with the TDI would have been perfect if it had been available. Justified or not, I just wasn’t comfortable with a VW over the long haul from a reliability standpoint. I’m old school in that I pay cash for my cars and drive them at least 10 years.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The poor Elantra Touring didn’t even get a cross-shop mention.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I have been giving a lot of thought lately to the whole thing about VW reliability and resale value, trying to sell my GTI and talking to various potential buyers, dealers, friends in the business, etc.

    I don’t think he is going to have trouble driving it for 10 yrs, 150k miles or even 200k miles. I think the car will last that long with minimal mechanical problems, probably more annoyances than anything else. These cars, especially in the 2.5/manual version are mechanically pretty sound, and if he does have problems they shouldn’t be too terribly expensive. My bet is that the cosmetics will be the worst thing… plan on replacing the headliner and probably the door panels, the soft touch plastic will start to flake or get scratched (or melt), trim pieces will get dry and brittle, bushings will wear out and be very expensive to fix, etc. And in the end the 10yo VW with 150k+ will be worth about $2k if its in really nice shape, less if he lets it go like the majority of owners. And some people are OK with that, they expect to use the car up in that much time and throw it away. The real problem comes if his life plan changes, and he wants to sell his VW at anything past the 6yr or 80k miles. The market is strong for a Honda or Toyota at that point, no one wants a VW at that point no matter how nice it is.

    A Honda at 10yrs and 150k is still worth keeping, driving, and usually proves to be more hardy and more valuable.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Great review. When i sold my 2009 TDI sedan in 2012 i broke even. Yes drove 45,000 miles and sold the car for what it cost me. I finally retired and did not need a car with Stellar mileage. Car was solid as a rock and i got approx 44 miles to the gallon doing 75-80 MPH. I did miss the great torque of that engine but very happy with my GTI. For the record i have driven VW’s for over 35 years and never had a lemon. Some were brought new and many were used.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Kyree,
    Sometimes w the pano it will not close all the way < stops at vent if it thinks it is to hot in the car, has happen twice to me in summer 5 minutes later it closes all the way. I would suggest you google Freds TDI forum very useful for TDI info

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Great review, Phil! This is one of the best reader reviews ever posted here at TTAC, in my opinion.

  • avatar
    randomdriver

    Nice review that mirrors my experience. I have a 2012 silver jetta sw S 5 speed 2.5 with 49k miles and absolutely no problems. Weak brakes but all else is good and the car is the best I have owned. Hoping not to have any future issues but I think the 2.5 is strongly reliable and an under-rated power train with the 5 mt. I get 28-34 mpg depending on the driving mix and don’t regret not getting the TDI.

  • avatar
    turboprius

    Great review man. These are nice cars, but you mentioned that these aren’t good for people over six foot. That basically means my dad and I need to scratch this off.

    The only thing that drove us away from looking at Volkswagen was the fact that the Tiguan used premium fuel. The Touraeg was too expensive, and sedans/hatchbacks/wagons are a no-no for the parents.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      It’s not that you can’t be tall and drive it, it’s just not going to be great over 6′ in front of a long rear facing child seat. My father in law is 6’5″-ish and it was one of the few cars on his list he could drive comfortably. My wife and I are both 6’2″ and we bought ours largely due to it’s ability to car seat, i.e. we can put up with it no problem during the rear facing period.

      There are only two currently available wagons for sale that aren’t from luxury brands…the JSW and the Outback. The Subaru wins by offering AWD at every price point, the VW wins at literally everything else. I do love the brand but I didn’t put my finger on the scales during the shopping process and it was a no contest when it was all said and done.

      The really sad thing is that there are only two wagons with stick shifts available, and the only non VW is a CTS-V.

  • avatar
    peeryog

    Is this 2.5 motor related to the one Audi put in the TTRS? Or the one they used in the original S cars?

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Same block, probably different everything else. The VW 2.5 is MASSIVELY intake restricted. The Audi also sports twin turbos and likely forged everything.

      • 0 avatar
        dantes_inferno

        The TTRS is a single-turbo. But the internals are definitely forged (crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons).

        • 0 avatar
          tedward

          Dante

          Thanks for the correction. I should have known that I guess…It being transverse etc. To respond to your integrated post below, that company is one of the reasons I wanted to try a 2.5, they have literally built up a product line that let’s you take that engine as far as anyone would ever want to. I would consider a six speed swap to be mandatory on the drivetrains of anyone is serous about converting it to a performance drivetrain.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Something about these just really works for me – it’s sort of right-sized (for me at least), feels solid and engaging, and seems like it could fit my needs long enough to justify shelling out for a new car (not hurt by the fact that VW is now getting to the point where they’re trying to rush these off lots before the MkVII wagon shows up). Plus, a 5-cylinder wagon with three pedals is, for a mass-market product, weird, and I respect that (it sounds decent too, with the right aftermarket exhaust).

    Glad to hear it holds up reasonably well.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I know I’ve been all over this one already but what the hell…I’ve already gone full rain man on this car.

    I’m just under 50k miles on mine and I’ve had one issue that I can attribute to VW. It was a early check engine light at around 40k that ended up being a faulty N80 valve. Part cost was under $20 bucks and it was warranty covered. The service manager insisted that a full evap system vacuum test was needed but really, out of warranty, I would have just thrown it on and cleared the code.

    This is common enough that the valve is on top of the engine, front and center. It’s not solely a VW issue by any means but they seem to have a particularly tough time with this one. Time for a new supplier or material specification perhaps? The other common check engine light is related to the crankcase ventilation system in the engine valve cover. VW replaces the whole cover at too high a cost, there are third party $20 solutions that involve simply replacing the torn plastic diaphragm. If you must buy a new valve cover jump up to the Integrated Engineering billet jewelry piece…it costs the same as the OEM black plastic unit.

    • 0 avatar
      dantes_inferno

      Integrated Engineering rocks! I have their manual timing belt tensioner kit in my Mk4 1.8t and ordered another kit and their forged connecting rods for my other 1.8t engine which will reside in my 1997 Mk3 Jetta this fall. I’m looking forward to driving a 1.8t in a chassis which weighs close to 400 lbs. less than the Mk4.

  • avatar
    MAGICGTI

    “Bulletproof reliability beyond 200K is something for the second owner to worry about, as the Camry taught me that 15 years of perfect operation is a critical asset only if you want to keep the car for 15 years.”

    So true. On the internet, it’s ridiculous how many people are like this. It’s refreshing to read about an owner who didn’t flip out over the faulty ignition coil at 15k.

    You’re likely not into modifying the JSW, but you can get an RCD-310 radio that will be much-improved in looks. Seems like you found a set of cheap used OEM alloys, which you can easily find on Craigslist or eBay. A short-ram or cold-air intake will provide very real gains on this car due to the insane factory design, FYI.

    My girlfriend bought a new 2011 Golf 2.5 manual, now at 40k miles. Only issue was a driver’s window switch pack failed to operate passenger window. It’s been a great car and she’s happy with it, as long as she stops dreaming of Evoques and GLAs she will keep it for another decade. No doubt that it will do 200k. Every time I drive it I am floored that it was under $20k.

  • avatar
    lightbulb

    I personally don’t know one person that has had any luck owning a VW. Family, friends, co-workers they all have major issues with their cars. My moms 2004 Passat, while a good car to drive, became more unreliable as the mileage added up. It developed an engine oil leak that would have required the entire engine to be rebuilt, she finally dumped it last year for a 2013 Altima, which she has had no issues. She also had a 1998 Passat which was also problematic. Another friend had a 06 Passat and it developed a transmission problem that VW refused to fix, she finally got rid of it. I could go on by but you get the point. The Passats seem to be the least reliable, while the Golfs besides the GTI seem the most. I see a lot of low mileage nearly new TDI cars in the used market in Massachusetts usually at non VW dealerships, which means people realize the mistake they made in buying a VW and then dump them for another make. They are just not well made cars. The TDIs are also too complicated and expensive to fix when something does go wrong outside of the warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      lightbulb

      I have to add that of all the people people that I have know who owned VW, all loved their cars regardless of the problems they had. My GF had a 2006 Beetle that she still fondly reminiscences about even though the electrical and transmission problems nearly lead her into the poor house. VW owners are very loyal to the brand. The problem remains on how VW will attract new buyers when they can’t make cars as reliable as other brands. People have become accustomed to cars being dead reliable, and they don’t have the patience to deal issues. If the Japanese can make reliable, and practical cars, why can’t VW? Until they address that issue, VW will stay a bit player in the market.
      BTW, in case people think that I have some kind of anti-vw bias, well my family were VW owners for most of my life. We had several VWs and Audis over the years. My Mom was the last hold out, my father swore off VW cars, in the mid 80s then again in the mid 90s after a short affair that made him never want another one.

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    “Until they address that issue, VW will stay a bit player in the market.”

    Global vehicle sales for 2013 (top 3 automakers) –

    Toyota: 9.9 million
    GM: 9.1 million
    VW: 9.0 million

    Not very far behind the other 2 “bit players”.

    • 0 avatar
      lightbulb

      They are a bit player in the North American market. They have maybe 4% market share and it’s decreasing. While GM and Toyota have a combined 35% market share.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        “If the Japanese can make reliable, and practical cars, why can’t VW? Until they address that issue, VW will stay a bit player in the market.”

        There are several reasons for VW’s small US market share – an almost non-existent presence in the massive truck/SUV/CUV market among them – but historical reliability in the aggregate is probably no worse than GM’s.

        For those who don’t like or are afraid of VWs, here’s my advice: don’t buy one. But continuing to drag out 10 year old reliability data and personal anecdotes about your sister’s husband’s cousin’s friend’s horrible VW is literally getting old.

        For anyone who’s paying attention, VW AND GM have clearly stepped up their QA game in recent years.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “For those who don’t like or are afraid of VWs, here’s my advice: don’t buy one.”

          Americans are following that advice. VW would prefer that they didn’t

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            An awful lot of people here seem to be ignoring the fact that >60% of US vehicle sales are light truck/SUV/CUV – a segment dominated by what we used to call the “big 3″ (and Toyota), and one that VW barely competes in. The 2 models they do offer benefit (not) from zero brand loyalty among Americans.

            Sure there are other headwinds for VOA, but to chalk it all up to reliability issues is an oversimplification at best.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The Japanese gained market share in the 1970s because they used a new method of production (lean) to produce a more reliable product.

            Hyundai saved itself from failure because it began to take lean seriously, and used it to greatly improve the reliability of its vehicles. Hiring John Krafcik was a reflection of how serious they were about making quality improvements.

            Ford turned itself around in the 80s by emphasizing product quality. Ford has a tendency to lose momentum with its quality initiatives, but the effort was successful under Don Petersen.

            The Germans have never fully taken to lean, and that hurts them in the US where low maintenance is considered to be a virtue. This is less important in their primary home market, which has caused the company to be complacent.

            Hyundai provides the model for mounting a turnaround. Reliability is critical for gaining and maintaining share in the US. Those who believe otherwise do so at their own peril, and that would include VW’s unwillingness to figure out what Americans really want.

        • 0 avatar
          lightbulb

          You make a lot of excuses for VW’s poor reliability, and then you wonder why they have such a small market share. They are the third largest auto manufacture in the world, yet they can not compete in the US against the Japanese or Koreans. Heck the Koreans are newer to the market yet they have surpassed VW in market share. I wonder why? Maybe because they know what Americans value while the arrogant Germans likes to blame dumb Americans for not buying there superior cars.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Aside for the yuppies in training, it hardly makes sense to pay Toyota/Honda prices upfront, just to get Porsche/BMW reliability and insane repair bills, down the road.

      I just feel sorry for the single mothers and folks on fixed incomes, spending what little they have on a VW, not knowing any better. They end up signing over the title to the repair shop, and walk away with bus fare.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        Good God man, think of the children… the CHILDREN!

        Oh the humanity…

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        “Reliability is critical for gaining and maintaining share in the US. Those who believe otherwise do so at their own peril, and that would include VW’s unwillingness to figure out what Americans really want.”

        And that’s assuming VW hasn’t made improving reliability a priority in recent years. Show me some data that indicates that and I’ll concede the point.

        As to the larger issue of market share, you make some valid points, but it is an America-centric argument. No doubt VW wants to gain US market share, but globally they are a giant compared to Hyundai, and well ahead of Ford. China is the fastest growing consumer market right now, and VW is doing very well there. They would like to sell more cars in the US, but they frankly don’t need to.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “Show me some data that indicates that and I’ll concede the point.”

          Consumer Reports and JD Power should do the trick.

          The Jetta and Passat, VW’s mainstay products, consistently get bottom rankings on JD Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study. (They get two stars out of five on a scale doesn’t award one star.)

          “As to the larger issue of market share, you make some valid points, but it is an America-centric argument.”

          Of course it’s Americentric. We’re talking about US market share here.

          If VW wants substantial US market share, then it needs to give Americans what Americans want. If not, then they have to settle for crumbs. They can’t have it both ways.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            You praised Ford and Hyundai earlier. Guess who fares worse (as a brand) than VW according to CR? That’s right, Ford and Hyundai, along with Dodge, Cadillac, and Nissan. All WORSE than VW.

            http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2013/10/29/consumer-reports-worst-cars/3304413/

            As to JD Power, sure, more buyers hated the cupholders therefore the vehicle is deemed unreliable – plz…

            “Of course it’s Americentric. We’re talking about US market share here.”

            Yeah, funny how the discussion suddenly became specifically about the US market AFTER I mentioned VAG’s global standing.

            That’s called moving the goalpost to fit your argument (lightbulb actually did that, you just happened to fall in line with it).

  • avatar
    tedward

    Denvermike

    Cmon that’s ridiculous. The stats don’t support that assertion. Especially not the stats on their lower priced cars. Seriously, if a single mom bought a touareg it would be one thing, but a lower trim jetta or golf? I owned one of the problem era late 90s cars and even those mainly had annoyance issues. I’d feel far sorrier for someone who spent $20+k on a car they don’t like that much because some guy has a hard on for the Germans and told then to buy a Toyota.

    VW is a funny subject. People who know a little about them like to trott out attacks on the brand because it makes them feel like part of a group knows a lot (mechanics who only know old ones or who tried to use their domestic skill set on one and pissed off a customer are the likely source in my experience.) Meanwhile the smart money evaluates each car independently, brand loyalty or antipathy is for suckers who seem to enjoy having fewer choices. I have literally met consumers from every brand who say some version of “not with a ten foot pole.” They are all wrong when they aren’t being model and drivetrain specific.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It’s not just the constant annoying gremlins of German cars. Hilarious, but if VWs were as mechanically reliable as Toyotas, Hondas etc, and on a case per case basis, VW repairs are just too expensive for a cheap car. Cheap cars should have cheap repairs, at least in theory. The general pop hasn’t a clue until it’s too late.

      Yes you roll the dice with anything on wheels. But if you can honestly recommend a used Passat, Golf, Jetta, etc, with over 100K miles, over a Camry, Accord, etc, to anyone on that cannot afford expensive repairs, after you been hanging around repair shops the last 20+ years, go for it. I’ll see ya in hell…

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      “…brand loyalty or antipathy is for suckers who seem to enjoy having fewer choices.”

      Well put.

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    The tricky part about sourcing one’s knowledge about cars (or anything else) from the internet is differentiating fanboi hyperbole from actual data. Most of what you read on sites like this one constitutes the former. You will need to read something besides just blogs and discussion forums to find the latter.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      “You will need to read something besides just blogs and discussion forums…”

      Better yet, forget about what you read. Go outside and talk to those in the car biz. The random mechanic will do. Ask what used car he would send his daughter off to college in. His choice, not her’s.

      I’m not knocking your choice. Or anyone’s right to choose from as many OEMs as possible. But at least you know what you’re getting yourself into.

      Or do you???

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        “Go outside and talk to those in the car biz. The random mechanic will do. Ask what used car he would send his daughter off to college in.”

        Oh I have asked a similar question many times over the years. IME ask 10 different mechanics and you’ll just as likely get 10 different answers.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          OK, I should have stated that different. Ask if he’d buy her a Passat/Jetta/Golf with 100K+ miles and watch him spit out his coffee!

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            I don’t need to ask a mechanic that question – the list of cars I wouldn’t buy with 100K on them is a VERY long list.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            If you don’t want to know the answer about a specific car, that’s fine, don’t ask. You’re gonna buy what you want regardless.

            And I won’t ask a doctor about the Monsters I drink either. I’m gonna drink them anyways. But I won’t pretend Monsters aren’t a bad idea, nor recommend them to others.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            FWIW, I researched the crap out of my car before I bought it – read everything I could find from a wide variety of sources, and talked to anyone with knowledge of the car(s). I’m a very careful, risk-averse person by nature. On top of all that, I’ve never been a VW fan, never wanted one. I did want a turbo diesel, but not necessarily at any cost.
            The upshot of my research regarding late model TDIs was overwhelmingly positive – and I read hundreds of customer reviews/comments.
            So I’m not a VW apologist by any means, but this wholesale condemnation of the brand just strikes me as childishly and overly simplistic.

            According to this article –
            http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/americas-10-best-selling-cars-july-2014/#more-879866

            5 of the 10 are from brands that Consumer Reports in 2013 declared to be worse than VW for reliability.

            Haters gonna hate I guess…

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            When I hear “Hey, 5 out of 10 scored worse reliability…”, that’s someone that doesn’t make reliability a top priority. They’re more concerned with awesome Korean engineering, handling and ride, for example. Well good for them!

            But you can only get so much from surveys, reviews and forums. Most put zero emphasis on how reliable you can expect the car to be. You’re dealing with an OEM’s past history, especially if it’s a new model. And if it’s a poor (reliability) performer, here’s to hoping the OEM has them sorted out on the new ones.

            At least with used cars, mechanics can give you a better idea of what you can expect, vs other makes/models. And I’ve been known to go for what I want regardless of what I’m told by mechanics. And hey, all that hearsay and forum chatter is for the other guy. It don’t apply to me…

            So I’m dealing with a Power Stroke diesel right now that’s a bad actor.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            Mike, my point in citing that was to counter the argument that VW’s small US market share is due primarily to their poor reliability – that’s clearly just not the case. You weren’t necessarily arguing that point but (and I hate this expression) it is what it is.

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            Way to stand your ground, hybridkiller.

            You’ve made the most informed and clearheaded choice you could and I hope it turns out golden for you.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            Thanks Pete, so far my Golf has met or exceeded expectations, and even if I do have to deal with some unexpected repairs at some point, I’m not going to throw a tantrum and suddenly decide that VW is the evil empire.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    As my kids say Haters gonna hate, at the end of the day do you feel you got your money out of it , or in my case are you still ok making the payment . VW is not for everyone but neither is Ford or Honda or who ever and there is nothing wrong with that. The same people who say US cars suck because they had a crap one in 77 say the same thing about a VW from 77.


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