Both engines can be had with a 6-speed manual gearbox, while a conventional 6-speed automatic is available on the gasoline engine and Volkswagen's DSG dual-clutch automatic is offered on the TDI. While either of the automatic options include Tiptronic manual control, the DSG is somewhat quicker-shifting and sportier in feel.
Across the Sportwagen lineup, this model lives up to its name, with an eager, nimble driving experience, including a responsive yet light electromechanical steering system and a fully independent front strut, rear multi-link suspension that's tuned on the firm side, yet with just enough ride comfort to keep passengers content. Four-wheel disc brakes provide solid stopping power, while electronic stability control, an electronic differential lock, and engine braking assist are included, as are front side airbags and side-curtain bags that cover front and rear occupants.
The 2012 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen is based on the previous, pre-2011 version of the Volkswagen Jetta Sedan, and actually has a nicer, more lavishly trimmed interior than the newer, somewhat cost-cut Jetta Sedan. Most will prefer the interior of the Sportwagen, which has nice cloth upholstery on the base S or leatherette on the SE and TDI models, plus plenty of nice detailing and soft-touch surfaces.
In addition to seating that's supremely comfortable, there's impressive versatility and flexible cargo space in the Sportwagen. Adults will find enough space in front or in back, and the rear seatbacks are split 60/40 and fold forward flat for more space--in addition to the 32.8 cubic feet with the seats up in place. The cargo area also includes a cargo tray just below the main cargo floor, large enough for a laptop or several small items, and the rear hatch opens wide with a very low cargo floor.
Jetta Sportwagen S models come with quite an impressive lot of standard equipment, including Bluetooth hands-free calling, heated front seats, power windows and locks, cruise control, a trip computer and an 8-speaker sound system with auxiliary input. SE models step up to 15-inch alloy wheels, leatherette upholstery, an upgraded multi-function steering wheel and some upgraded trims. TDI models are equipped virtually the same as SE models.
Optional on both the SE and TDI models is a large panoramic sunroof and when packaged with navigation it's paired with 17-inch Porto alloy wheels and keyless start. The navigation system itself has a 5-inch touch screen with 2D and 3D views.