Key features on the SportWagen include standard heated seats and electronic stability control, an optional touchscreen navigation system with data stored on hard drive (you can also upload MP3s to the drive), and the aforementioned, gigantic moonroof. Six airbags (including front/rear curtains) are also standard, with rear side-impact bags optional.

VW hasn't yet announced final pricing, but expect a base, five-cylinder SportWagen S with manual trans to go for about $19,000. The high-volume, higher-contented SE with the same engine will sticker at about $21,500. Add every option, including the turbo gas four, DSG, sunroof, and nav, and you're looking at about $26,500 for a loaded SEL. Diesel pricing estimates aren't yet available.

My day behind the wheel of two 2.5-liter SportWagens, one with five-speed manual, one with six-speed Tiptronic, was pleasant indeed. The engine revs with a typical five-cylinder thrum -- not the sexiest exhaust note on the planet -- but it pulls smartly (the extra 20 hp over the 2007 Jetta is most appreciated). Chassis poise is excellent, and steering feel would embarrass a few far pricier sports sedans. Add firm, supportive seats, good front-seat headroom (even with the added bulk of the sunroof), a tilt-telescoping wheel, and a perfectly placed dead pedal, and the SportWagen delivers all the driver's-car essentials. What's more, I detected not a squeak or shimmy from the rear quarters; there the Jetta has it all over its station wagon forebears.

This is a sleek, nicely sized package. Given that the Passat Wagon offers only a few extra cubic feet of cargo room, one has to wonder whether the SportWagen will cannibalize some of it's larger sibling's sales. For sure, this new Jetta should cannibalize some of its crossover competition. Why roll from up high when you can swing low?

2009 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen 2.5L SE
Base Price $21,500 (est)
Vehicle layout Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 5-door wagon
Engine 2.5L/170-hp/177-lb-ft inline 5-cylinder
Transmission 5-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (dist f/r) 3250-3300 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 105.1 in
Length x width x height 179.4 x 70.1 x 59.2 in
0-60 mph 8.4 sec (manual, mfr)
EPA city/hwy econ 21/29 mpg
CO2 emmisions 0.81 lb/mile
On sale in U.S. June 2008