When our beloved but unreliable old Volvo sedan finally broke down for good, my husband and I decided to rent a compact car while we looked for a new family vehicle. We figured that, for the short amount of time we’d need it, we could make do with feeling a little cramped and uncomfortable if it meant significant savings. However, when we brought home the loaner Volkswagen Jetta, we were pleasantly surprised by how accommodating it was to our family of four.
The Volkswagen Jetta is relatively inexpensive, priced below $20,000 for many models, and averages 25 mpg. We were skeptical that a car this reasonably priced and efficient would scrimp on space and comfort. Surely it couldn’t conveniently accommodate a family with two small children. However, both car-seats installed quickly and easily in the back with plenty of room around them (though a particularly tall passenger in front might find leg-room lacking with a rear-facing car-seat behind him). It even comes equipped with rear window locks so our two year old couldn’t toss his toys out onto the highway as we traveled. The double stroller fit comfortably in the trunk with plenty of room for diaper bags and other gear. We even packed the trunk with a weekend’s worth of travel gear and had room to spare.
The Jetta accelerates easily and rides smoothly over bumps and through turns. Rarely in our old Volvo could I arrive home to find both children asleep, but nearly every car trip turned into nap time in this quiet car. If we preferred to keep the kids awake, we could crank up the ample volume on the crystal clear stereo system. The car even has rear vents to keep the kids cool on hot summer days – no more pulling sticky, sweaty babies from overly warm car-seats.
The only drawback to this efficient little car is the front driver and passenger seat design. The curvature of the seat and positioning of the headrest forces the occupant to hunch his shoulders and stick his head forward in a terribly uncomfortable manner. This problem is only exacerbated for a busy mom who likes to wear a ponytail. I managed to solve the problem somewhat satisfactorily by positioning a pillow behind my back, but my taller husband began to complain of a headache after 6 hours on the road.
Overall, however, the Volkswagen Jetta proves to be a surprisingly accommodating and economical vehicle for a family of four or smaller. I think I will feel some remorse in trading in this zippy little vehicle for a big, cumbersome minivan, but we’ll soon be needing that third row for car-seat number 3.