2009 Volkswagent Jetta SportWagen

This Jetta wagon is a breed rarely seen in press fleets: it's a stripper. Wearing optional 16-inch wheels ($450) and the unavoidable destination charge ($650), its sticker price is just a hair over $20,000. The Jetta SportWagen is very nearly the cheapest station wagon you can buy - near as I can figure, only the Suzuki Forenza costs less (although it depends somewhat on where you draw the line between wagons and hatchbacks).

Despite the low price, this doesn't feel like poverty. VW's inline five is nothing to get excited about, but with 170 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, it does get the job done, and the Jetta's five-speed stick is pleasant to use. So, too, is the power steering despite its electric assist; and the chassis tuning is agreeable as well. There are no glaring omissions on the standard equipment list, and the cloth seats are even pretty decent.

None of the current Volkswagens are as handsome as the previous-generation cars, and the Jetta is certainly no exception, but the wagon is, to my eyes, better-looking than the sedan.

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