Weekend Athlete: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen

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For starters, while the interior was tan, the cargo area was black — all the better to hide dirt and stains. With other cars I’ve tested, if you want the dark cargo area you have to get the dark interior — which usually restricts what exterior color you can have. This is just such a simple combination that I don’t understand why more automakers don’t do the same thing.

There’s also a ton of room in that dark cargo area with the backseats upright. I fit all my camping gear in easily. Another surprise was the cargo shade. Normally I find those things annoying – always getting in the way, not doing what I want them to do. With the Jetta wagon, there was so much room back there I could use the shade to actually cover my gear.

If there’s an area where the Jetta doesn’t exactly excel, it’s the bike round. It’s not bad, but the seats don’t fold completely flat without folding the seat bottoms forward, which can make it a tiny bit harder to load the bike in a hurry. Also, the cargo area isn’t the widest. I didn’t have a problem getting my bike in, and I ride a 58-cm frame (which is on the large-ish side), but there wasn’t a lot of extra room, either. Taller folks, or those who ride mountain bikes, are going to want to do some measuring before they consider this vehicle.

Also, I tend to prefer vehicles that don’t have interiors like the Jetta wagon did. In other words, I don’t score cars highly if I think I’m going to be nervous sitting in them while muddy and sweaty.

Finally, the Jetta SportWagen starts at around $19,000 and tops out at around $26,000. That puts it in the ballpark of small SUVs and Subaru wagons that have all-wheel drive. The Jetta wagon doesn’t offer AWD, but I’d still consider it if it were my money.

Weekend Athlete Scores (out of 10)

Ease of loading gear – 9: Being able to chuck all the camping stuff under the cargo shade is a nice feature.

Ease of seat operation – 8: Nice and simple.

Bike hauling – 7: You’ll need to check its size if you’re the taller sort, but at least shorter athletes don’t have to worry about a high load floor.

Locker-room cred – 7: Wagons rule in my book, but there is the fancy interior to consider.

All-around – 8: It’s worth a test drive if you play outside.

More VW Jetta News (KickingTires)

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Former assistant managing editor Bill Jackson manages the Research section, and he enjoys triathlons and cross-country skiing. Email Bill Jackson

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