May 7, 2012

Musings: 2012 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen

The Volkswagen Group really takes to heart the "Reduce, Re-use, Recycle" slogan. Just look at how, in 2011, Volkswagen Reduced drastically the number of work-related E-mails their employees have to endure outside of regular working hours, in the name of work-life balance.

In 2009, in response to sales that had slowed down considerably in the financial crisis, Volkswagen chose to Reduce work hours for its assembly staff rather than laying them off. Sounds civilised to me.

The group states that eventual Recycling of its vehicles is part of its design process, and claims a 95% material recovery rate for end-of-life vehicles.

But where they really shine is at Re-use. In the last few decade or so, the Volkswagen Group have really perfected the art of developing a vehicle platform that appeals to a broad audience, and then using that same platform for a spate of models across the four brands under their umbrella: Audi, Volkswagen, SEAT, Škoda.

For instance, the A5 platform, also known as PQ35, is the basis for some twenty models in the family. Its range include such familiars as the Audi TT, Audi A3 and the VW Beetle, as well as models that haven't (yet) made it to the US, such as the feisty but frugal Audi Q3, the newly re-introduced VW Scirocco, and the sensible Škoda Octavia, as well as several good-looking models in the SEAT lineup.

One of the models with this platform is the VW Jetta Sportwagen, which itself is a paragon of Re-use: a model that works across the planet. It is variously known as the Golf Variant in continental Europe, the Golf Estate in the UK, the Golf Sportwagen (formerly the Bora Sportwagen) in Mexico, and the Jetta Variant in Brazil and the Vento Variant in Argentina.

"Vento"? -- Well, you see, "vento" is Italian for "wind", which is in line with the Volkswagen custom of naming its cars after prevailing winds. Never mind that they speak Spanish in Argentina.

Maybe they ran out of appropriate winds for naming their vehicles, which has to be done with great care. It won't do to name a car "Zephyr", unless maybe you plan to market it to a super-laid-back audience. And my own guess is that we will not soon see a German car named after the Ghibli, the Saharan wind that brings dry and hot air to Lybia.

[I culled that last name from a fascinating list of named winds at Wikipedia. The Dutch page, that is. Those who originally used windmills to make half their land area habitable would be interested in wind.]

But back to the Jetta Sportwagen: what can I say? It's just like the Golf, only longer in the back by about 14 inches. It comes with the same range of engines. It even has pretty much the same front as the Golf.

I put the cello in the back, and saw that the trunk was cavernous. Could easily hold two cellos; now that I have started taking cello lessons myself, a second cello in the house (and in the car) is a distinct possibility. When you fold down part of the back seat I would guess you could move a string bass in this thing.

But then I closed the hatch. No test drive for me: In the US, if you want the Jetta Sportwagen with the 2.0 TDI diesel engine (rather than the 2.5L gasoline engine), you get to buy it with seats that have something on them called "V-tex leatherette". VW calls it an upgrade from the cloth upholstery. I suppose it looks sort of like leather. I have no idea what it is exactly, but it exuded a "new car smell" that was overwhelming.

Pity: this car would have worked rather gloriously with leather seating (available for the Golf Variant in Europe). It would even have worked with the presumably less expensive cloth upholstery that comes in the regular Golf. But the smelly fake leather? No thanks. Not even a test drive.


  1. I loved the test drive, except for the part where I bacame nauseated after the first few minutes. That smell is just awful! I'd love it with cloth seats...

    1. Wow, that just says it all. If you can live with a smaller trunk, you might try the Golf, a hatchback with cloth seats. Alternatively, the Audi A3 (same platform) comes with optional leather seats, and is sized between Golf and Jetta Sportwagon.


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