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Need help with new car decision! 2012 Honda CR-V or 2012 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI?

After driving and researching Honda Civic, Accord, CR-V, and Insight, Toyota Prius, Suburu Outback and Forrester, Ford Focus, Escape, and Edge, Hyundai Elantra Touring, 2013 Mazda CX-5 and VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI, the decision has come down to the CR-V and the Sportwagen. We have had our 1998 Honda Odyssey for almost 14 years and are pretty wedded to the Honda reliability. We like the mileage, the driving experience (torque!) and a lot of other features about the Jetta wagon, but keep getting scared off by the reports (from our usual mechanic and several others) of high maintenance costs, unreliability as the years go on, etc. We’d be getting the top models of either car. Any help would be appreciated!

If you look at Edmunds True Cost to Own feature, it shows that the Jetta will be both more expensive to repair and more expensive to maintain. Maintenance for a 2010 Jetta is estimated at $5215 and repairs at $2918 over 5 years, while they are estimated as $3755 and 1739, respectively, for the CR-V. I use 2 year old data to get out (mostly) of the warranty range. You will save money on fuel, but it will be eaten up in maintenance costs even before you consider repairs.

Thanks, jtsanders! Great info! That’s smart to look at 2-yr old data on that Edmunds feature.

People who choose the VW over the mainstream (in this case Honda), do it for a few reasons; handling, status symbol, obsession with European brands. Seems like you test drove a lot of cars and have educated yourself well. If none of these are a reason for you to have a VW, then get the Honda.

Common complaints to the CRV are lack of get up and go, esp on merging while on the ramps and also seat comfort (very subjective). I say take another long test drive in the CRV and see if you can live with it.

I own an older CR-V, so I’m a Honda fan too.

But it sounds like you really want the Sportwagen. As long as you’re willing to “pay to play”, I don’t think you need to fear. It seems to me that, although VW has had some reliability problems, they’ve upped their game and are getting more serious about the US market. So if you have your heart set on the Sportwagen, and can afford the somewhat higher maintenance cost, I say go for it. If it’s the car you really want, you’re going to have a twinge of regret every time you get into your 2012 CR-V.

Thanks, jesmed and galant. This discussion is really helping me clarify the dilemma. We are self-employed with two kids in college, so we want a car we’ll be really happy with, but also are very maintenance/repair cost conscious. I guess one could argue that the better mileage would help make up the difference between maintenance/repair costs, but my biggest fear is that the mechanics’ predictions will come true and we will have to pour money into the VW when electronics or whatever start to go as the vehicle ages.

There are things on both vehicles that we like and don’t like:

VW likes: mileage, driving experience, keyless entry, seat comfort, sunroof, nav, interior, reading lights in back, somewhat conservative styling, back seats fold completely flat (but you need a screwdriver to take off headrest).

VW don’t likes: reputation for high maintenance and repair costs, diesel (can’t just get gas anywhere), idling sound (bugs me, not my husband), no back-up camera (but not sure you need it, as visibility is pretty good)

CRV likes: reliability (this is huge for us), dual temp controls (this is big for my husband as we never agree on the temp), lever that automatically puts the back seats down (not critical, but kind of cool), back-up camera, color (blue)

CRV don’t likes: lack of torque (not the biggest deal, just pales in comparison to the VW), seat comfort (I’m okay with it, but my husband thinks the VW is much better), rear visibility (but there is the back-up camera), back seats don’t fold completely flat

Well, I’m not sure all that detail is going to help anyone help us, but it’s good to lay it all out there, and I would appreciate any comments about others’ experience with the various finer points.

With all the pros and cons, if VW had the Honda reputation, we probably would have already made the decision.

Thanks again for the help!

Well, another factor to consider is time…if you buy a new Sportwagen, even with lower reliability/higher maintenance costs, the first 5 years of ownership should be the most trouble-free, and the kids will be out of college by the time age starts to take its toll on the vehicle. And if you decided it was getting too expensive to keep, you could always sell it, but you would take a hit on depreciation.

It’s not like the Sportwagen is suddenly going to crumble into a heap of worthless rust. And it could be that you get lucky and your Sportwagen turns out to be more reliable than the doom- sayers told you it would be.

I think you’ll do fine with whichever vehicle you choose.

LOL, jesmed. You gave us all a good laugh. :slight_smile: My husband would have already bought the Jetta. I am the wishy-washy one here, as you can probably tell.


Who will drive the car most of the time? If hubby does, seat comfort in the Jetta is more important as are most of his preferences, MECindylou. If you do, then your preferences should get top billing.

My suggestion, despite probably being in the minority, would be to recommend the VW.
Seat comfort was a big priority for me, and that’s why I chose my CX-7, even if I don’t drive that many miles in a year.

My daughter and husband with 2 kids are on their second CRV. The first was vary reliable. They also had a Honda Odessey. I see you did not list a RAV. IMO it’s just personal preference between the two. In my experience, unreliable cars are very wearing and you tire of not having some (one) or thing you can’t depend upon. I find them mentally exhausting, worrying about using them. Cars in general need enough attention, no sense in buying one that needs more regardless of how much better it looks or attention we may think it draws.

Since you can’t make up your mind why not do something completly different. Go test the Chevy Equinox.
Drove one recently and was really impressed. Great mileage too.

I like Honda’s (own an '03 Civic and both my children have Fits) and I think the 2012 CR-V is really nice. But I don’t think the CR-V gets very good mpg. They have kind of “blown up” in size and weight and were already boxy shaped. The TDI wagons get awesome highway mpg and in this case I think I’d lean to the VW. I think VW has addressed their reliability issues, only time will tell. The TDI is more to maintain, expensive oil changes is one example. Yet, I think you might get 50 mpg on interstate highway trips and have room and comfort all at the same time.

For me the biggest difference between these choices is mpg, and the Honda will struggle to get 25 mpg on the highway and will get less than 20 mpg in town. Just not very fuel efficient compared to the TDI. Diesel fuel is not hard to find and buy at all, not an issue in my opinion.

Consumer Reports doesn’t think the VW reliability is much worse than average. They won’t recommend cars with below average reliability. The Golf and Jetta Sportwagen get high scores on their driving tests, so get recommended, especially the TDI versions. However… if you look at past VW model, their reliability is decent for the first few years, but pretty poor after that. If I were expecting to keep the car forever, I’d buy the Honda. But I really do like the VW better. Sigh. Oh, I know, I’ll buy an Acura TSX wagon. Classier and better equipped than the Honda, with the traditional wagon styling I prefer, like the VW. It does cost a bit more, but it’s nicer, too. Awful lot of cars out there.

A Diesel will make you cry,if you have a major breakdown-forget about breaking even if that ever happens,that torque rush will get old after a while-Kevin

@UncleTurbo; My 2011 CRV gets 28-29 MPG in 80% FWY driving. This California and when the road is open I do 80. The newer design is supposed to be getting better MPG. Also on the previous generation the computer MPG is off (I calculate mine the old school way), but I have read they have addressed that on the '12.

On a different note, if one could wait, the 2013 CRV might be out in September. They might have some improvements, since they rushed the production for the 2012 (tsunami).

Thanks, everyone! Dagosa, you have put my biggest worry into concise terms. bscar2, it’s primarily my car, but, as with the Honda Odyssey, it will be also the primary family car, especially since its mileage would be so much better than my husband’s Dodge Dakota.

I should probably say that last fall, I went to the Honda dealership fully expecting to buy the 2011 CRV. It seemed the logical step after the carefree maintenance of the Odyssey. Thought it was kind of awkward, styling-wise, but was ready to love its practicality. Rode in it and immediately noticed the road noise and “trucky” ride. (Road noise is a biggie for me because I’m a singer and don’t like to raise my voice to converse in the car. So, I started checking out other cars (listed above). Kept hearing that Honda and Toyota were the most reliable, can’t go wrong with either, etc. Tried the Venza, didn’t like the rear visibility, cost, and low(er) mileage. Came back to the Honda dealership and tried several models, really wanting to love one. I thought maybe I liked the 2012 CRV better, but when I was roadtesting it, was always chatting with the salesperson on short non-highway trips.

Cut to a couple days ago when I dragged the whole family to the VW dealership again for a more extended roadtrip. (“Mom, just decide, we don’t care which one you get…” Yeah, till they get into them and then I hear the comments…) We loved the quiet interior and the fairly decent ride, as well as a lot of the features (mentioned above).

Then I dragged them all out once more to borrow the neighbor’s 2012 CRV and take it for a similarly extensive roadtest. Immediately noticed the difference in road noise (a lot) and ride. Despite liking this and that about each car, our own positive Honda experience, and everyone else’s admonition to GET A HONDA, I knew I was not gonna be happy with this car.

Got ahold of the CR 2012 car issue and poured over it last night. I think I will look at the RAV4 (thx, dagosa, I had ruled it out because of lower mileage than CRV) and Prius V. I also briefly reconsidered the Subaru Outback, but feel like I just can’t go for that one due to the low(er) mileage/higher price. The only other thought I had was that the 2013 Ford Escape is supposed to have improved their mileage to slightly better than the CRV, so that one might merit a look.

Sorry to go on and on. I can only hope that my experiences and musings will be helpful to someone else going through this torturous process.

Thanks again!

Sorry to the page 2 posters! I only saw the page 1 responses. All very good points, which is why I’m having such a hard time. Kriley, I thought about the Equinox, but didn’t think the mileage was great. Will check it. I think the mileage on the CR-V is good for its class, it’s just that compared to the VW…MarkM, I will look into the Acura, but we’re pretty topped out with the loaded models of these two. Kmccune, you are voicing my biggest worry.

I would dearly love to find a car where I say to myself, “A ha, this is the one. I am comfortable with this purchase.” Not there yet, but getting closer!

If noise is an issue, you probably won’t be happy with any Prius. They’re nearly silent under electric power, but once the engine comes on, they aren’t good at all. The engine has an unpleasant growl and is often working at high RPMs. That’s necessary since the engines are smaller and lower powered than in those in other cars of similar size and weight. Good for the wallet, bad for the ears.

That is one of the things I hated about my old Civic; the road noise. Even on very quiet rated tires traveling over the chip’n’seal pavement(where they put just a patching of tar and pour stone chips over it) was an awful experience.
I wanted another Civic, but the test drive I took of one almost put me to sleep it was so boring. I wanted to like their lineup, but the vehicles that had legroom for me were too big(Odyssey, Pilot) or too impractical for Ohio(S2000). The Accord wasn’t much better than the Civic, I didn’t think.

Also, if it makes you feel any better, and this board can confirm my story, but I took a couple years to find what I thought was the right vehicle for me. I thought I would look while the old Civic was still in good running order rather than having to run to the dealership and make a very hasty and very expensive mistake. I checked out a wide array of vehicles from a Mini Cooper to an Escape hybrid to a Subaru Tribeca and a Ford Ranger and F-150. I spent the time in between learning how to deal with the salespeople and what scams to look out for.