Review by Jonathan Yarkony, photos by Jonathan Yarkony and Mike Schlee

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Long-Term Update 1: 2013 VW Golf Wagon TDI Diesel
Long-Term Arrival: VW Golf Wagon TDI
Used Vehicle Review: VW Golf/Jetta/New Beetle, 1999-2005
Final Drive: 2003 VW Jetta 1.8T Wagon

Photo Gallery: 2013 Volkswagen Golf Wagon
Photo Gallery: 2003 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T wagon

Odometer: 4,999 km
Observed Fuel Consumption: 6.9 L/100 km

Costs: $493.42 (Gas $337.54; Winter tire installation $155.88)

It hasn’t been long since our last update, so there’s not much to report on our Golf Wagon aside from the successful repair of the squeaky sunroof frame, covered under warranty, so no expenses incurred there. It continues on at the same thrifty efficiency, now in quiet serenity (well, aside from a measure of wind and road noise), and hasn’t seen a load it can’t handle.

2013 VW Golf Wagon TDI. Click image to enlarge

However, I thought I’d take this space to ruminate on the progress this vehicle has made over the years. Those of you familiar with this site might realize that my personal car is essentially the same model, but of a different vintage, a Mk IV 2003 Jetta Wagon, affectionately lambasted in one of Mike Schlee’s Final Drive columns. It has its flaws, but I went into ownership knowing full well the risks (reliability, expenses), and none of them have surprised or phased me. Okay, maybe I hate paying for premium gas.

When purchasing this vehicle, it came down to this very rare 1.8T Wagon vs the much more popular (and efficient) TDI, with higher mileage, of course. I guess I still hadn’t gotten all the youth out of my system in the GTI that preceded it, and wanted just a touch more sport, and the TDI was about three grand more pricey—VW diesels hold their value rather well, despite VW’s overall record for below-average reliability.

Anyhow, the 2003 Jetta Wagon makes an impressive 180 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque in 1.8T trim, very solid numbers for those days, and I’ve had a very reliable powertrain (knock on wood). Reliable, yes, but smooth, no. While the engine is a gem, the five-speed “Tiptronic” automatic transmission absolutely sabotages almost any smooth driving, with some of the most herky-jerky shifts (whether up, down, or manually prompted) this side of the original Smart Fortwo.

2013 VW Golf Wagon TDI. Click image to enlarge

With 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque on tap in the 2013 Golf Wagon TDI, it is an entirely different type of power on tap, but both feature generous helping of turbo lag before anything happens. Once that power hooks up, both will chirp their tires, but the 2013 TDI seems far more modestly tuned as far as throttle input goes. VW engineers know what kind of torque is on tap, so they keep it well reined in, but as you get into the mid-range of that diesel torque band, the car will leap ahead, with gear changes served far more smoothly and quickly by the six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG)—the pair of automated clutches ready to make quick switches.

The 1.8T and subsequent 2.0T were long-since dropped from the Jetta and Golf Wagon variants, much to the chagrin of sporty-wagon lovers everywhere. But let’s face it, wagon buyers are usually the more practical sort here in North America, and sporty types trend toward hatchbacks…. However, as mentioned in the Long-Term Arrival, Volswagen has released a Sportline edition that offers sporty equipment, but with a more stodgy powertrain—the 2.5L five-cylinder that very closely matches the 2003 1.8T, with 170 hp and 177 lb-ft, though nowhere near the character of the peaky but powerful turbo.

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