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Buying a Dog Car: How I Ended Up with a VW Jetta SportWagen TDI

31 Aug

Buying a new car was a challenge. On the one hand I had my desire for a handsome car that’s fun to drive (like a VW GTI or Audi A3). On the other hand I was determined to get better gas mileage and preferred to do so with a hybrid (like a Lexus CT200H). The final deciding factor, however, was, will it work with dogs?

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2009 VW Jetta SportWagen TDI

In the end I had to find something that met all of these requirements:

  • Is there enough cargo space to fit two Border Terrier-sized crates in the back without having to put the backseat down? I don’t want to drive around with the backseat laid down all the time; I only have the dogs in the car about 5% of the time. Also, if we travel (say to Portland) we would need space for luggage. Or maybe even people.
  • Does the backseat fold down flat? One day I will get a big dog (like a Doberman) and, even though that event will prompt an upgrade to a bigger car, I will want space for its crate until I can afford to upgrade. A slanted seat back just won’t cut it.
  • Does it feel luxurious? Heated leather seats were required, and power everything was a given, but I wanted my new car to truly feel like an upgrade from my 1997 Honda Accord. I WANT BELLS AND WHISTLES.
  • Is it fun to drive? This mainly means handling, but it also needed enough power to allow for a bit more aggressive handling when I feel like letting loose.
  • Does it get better than 30mpg, preferably 40mpg?
  • Is it sexy? And, importantly, it couldn’t be super popular. I don’t like having the same thing as everyone else, I like to be a little different.
  • Obviously budget was a factor, but it isn’t really relevant to this discussion.

In light of these things, I was immediately able to narrow it down to an SUV, hatchback, or wagon.

I checked out the following and here is my personal evaluation

  • Volvo XC60: very nice interior and exterior, lots of luxury, drove kind of boring (but does drive like a car and not a truck), lots of cargo space, overall the MPG was too low for the price, decided that the Lexus RX 400H would be the better buy for that price range but ultimately both were too $$$
  • VW Toureg: nice interior/exterior and cargo space but drove like a truck and was HUGE, also $$
  • VW Tiguan: this car is built on the VW GTI platform which means the for an SUV it is tiny on the inside, very little backseat or cargo space, also seemed kind of cheap
  • Subaru Outback: didn’t like the build quality, styling, or handling, but it did have cargo space and AWD is nice
  • Audi A3: sexy and luxurious and super fun to drive, unfortunately the back seat doesn’t fold down flat and the cargo area is too small for crates (even BT-size ones!)
  • VW GTI: I love this car and so badly wanted it to work; it’s super fun to drive and feels like a luxury car, but unfortunately it suffers the same problem as the A3: lack of cargo space and seats don’t fold down flat. Le sigh.
  • Lexus CT 200H: loved this car too, it’s fun to drive, lots of bells and whistles, sexy, great MPG (it’s a hybrid); ended up being tiny in the cargo area and also out of budget so I had to pass

As you can see, initially I wasn’t even looking at the VW Jetta SportWagen, which is what I ended up with. After driving all these vehicles I was still trying to find a way to make the VW GTI work, and in that endeavor I stumbled upon the VW JSW. So why did I pick this car?

  1. It’s a clean diesel so it gets an average of 42mpg. Plus, if I wanted, I could convert it to biodiesel and pay even less for gas.
  2. It has plenty of space in the back for crates, even with the backseat up, and the backseat folds down flat. This turned out to be important when I was transporting cases of champagne to my sister’s wedding.
  3. It has all the bells and whistles I wanted, plus more! Heated leather seats of course, but also a HUGE panoramic sunroof, every kind of power doo-dad, and an AUX-in (which isn’t really all that fancy, but I wanted one). It does things I don’t even know about.
  4. It has excellent safety ratings. I didn’t ever care about this before, but the last year has given me a new perspective on injuries.
  5. It looks pretty dang sexy, especially in red with dark tinted windows. Now I just need black wheels and I’m set!
  6. It’s fun to drive! Way more fun than my Honda. Sure, it’s not as fun as a GTI, but in the end I still enjoy driving it to work every day and occasionally getting an adrenaline rush when I take a few (calculated) risks.
  7. I can afford it! I got so much for my money; there is a ton of value in this purchase.

I love my car! It’s everything I wanted and more than I thought I would be able to get, plus it’s perfect for the dogs. Should you get a VW JSW TDI? I think you should consider it when you’re looking for a new dog car. It might be just the thing for you.

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