Vital Stats

Base price: $21,190 (includes destination)
This car’s price: $26,605 (includes destination)
EPA fuel economy: 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway with 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, six-speed manual transmission
Standard safety features: Six airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control
High tech: Bluetooth connectivity, Premium VIII touchscreen radio with six-CD changer; multifunction trip computer
Best qualities: 600-mile range on one tank; impressive load-carrying ability of 32.8 cubic feet with rear seat up, 66.9 cubic feet with rear seats forward
Chief competitors: Toyota Matrix, Hyundai Elantra GT, Mini Cooper Clubman (but none of them come with a diesel engine!)

Key Points

• This is not the top-end model; the Jetta SportWagen TDI with sunroof and navigation system starts at $28,905, including destination
• Base SportWagen TDI costs $5,486 more than the base 2013 Jetta SportWagen S with gasoline engine
• The gasoline-engined base model with 170-hp 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission gets 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway
• Diesel fuel prices have been higher than gasoline prices since 2004, mainly because of high worldwide demand as well as a transition to less polluting lower-sulfur diesel fuels in the U.S.; the transition affected production and distribution cost, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration
• This car boasts a 600-mile range on one tank
• While overall safety is not yet rated, NHTSA gives this Jetta four out of five stars for rollover safety
• Insurance Institute for Highway Safety names it a Top Safety Pick
• At 140 hp, the TDI is nice and torquey but has less horsepower than the gasoline-engined version
• Upscale cabin looks like a German luxury car; Euro styling is practical and engaging
• This is a good choice if an SUV or crossover is not for you