Home » The Best Of Slim Pickings: 2009 Subaru Legacy vs 2013 VW Jetta

The Best Of Slim Pickings: 2009 Subaru Legacy vs 2013 VW Jetta

Sbsd 2 19 2024
ADVERTISEMENT

Good morning! Today was supposed to have been spent helping a reader out, but it sounds like he found a car already. Good thing, too, because there is almost nothing worth looking at in his area. But since I was already there, I decided to stay in that area for today, and look at the two best reasonably-priced used cars I could find.

Friday’s eight-way death match ended in a virtual tie between two of the cars, the 928 and the Ranger. Honestly, that’s a pretty damn good two-car garage, if you think about it. And I’m surprised that 928 hasn’t sold yet; it must be because it’s in the middle of nowhere.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

By the way, I know some of you mentioned ranked voting for a multi-car poll like this; I don’t think it’s possible with our current poll plug-in. However, you can always list them off in the comments in order of preference. And really, I prefer that; I like to get a discussion going if possible. I want to know why you vote the way you do.

Screenshot From 2024 02 18 11 37 11

Now then: You’ve all noticed by now, I’m sure, that I tend to favor western and southern locales when choosing cars. There’s a reason for that: It’s where the interesting cars are listed. Every time I try looking in other parts of the country, especially this time of year, all I find are the same utilitarian cars that may be a good deal, but they’re not any fun to write about. I just can’t bring myself to keep writing about the same SUVs over and over again, even though I know others love doing just that.

ADVERTISEMENT

However, over the weekend, reader Mr Sarcastic asked for help finding a cheap car, and requested that I take a look in west-central Pennsylvania. No problem; I don’t want to turn this into a regular “what car should I buy?” feature, but I’m happy to help out here and there. The trouble is, there is nothing cheap available in that area. Even going as far west as Pittsburgh, I wasn’t finding much. By upping the price a little bit, I was able to finally find a pair of manual-transmission sedans that should at least not put me to sleep while writing about them. Here they are.

2009 Subaru Legacy – $5,995

00j0j Kg66kqldbkt 0ak07k 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 2.5 liter overhead cam flat 4, five-speed manual, AWD

Location: Altoona, PA

Odometer reading: 114,000 miles

ADVERTISEMENT

Operational status: Runs and drives well

It’s no secret that I’m not a particular fan of Subaru. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that they’re so common in my neck of the woods, and they all look so similar. Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say. However, most of the Subarus around here are wagons of various types. I don’t see the Legacy sedans too often, and sedans with manual gearboxes even less often. If – if – I were ever to consider a Subaru, this is the configuration I would choose.

00b0b 1hzcemu0xhw 0ak07k 1200x900

Like all Subaru cars sold in the US since the Justy, this Legacy sedan features a horizontally-opposed engine. These engines make for a nice low hood, and a low center of gravity, but they are notorious for leaks, particularly from the head gaskets – the one place you really don’t want an engine to leak. Subaru loyalists (or is that Loyale-ists?) have been making excuses for this issue for years, though it’s certainly not something I’d tolerate unless a “fix” really well and truly fixed it.

00b0b 1mqly2qyxgr 07k0ak 1200x900

ADVERTISEMENT

This generation of Subaru Legacy also introduced that most soul-sucking of all transmission types: the CVT. To Subaru’s credit, this awful box of mush was an option; you could still avoid it by ordering a proper manual transmission. The specs I found say that this should be a six-speed, but that shift pattern looks like a standard five-speed double-H pattern. Maybe the six-speed was an option.

00m0m 5cb8hcj9ku0 0ak07k 1200x900

Condition-wise, it looks pretty good, though in this part of the country, I’d be on the lookout for rust. The aftermarket wheels are also a bit of a yellow flag, but not a deal-breaker. At least it’s a real color; way too many Legacy sedans came out of the factory painted silver.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta – $5,995

00v0v 9xtgkdiqomm 0ci0t2 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD

ADVERTISEMENT

Location: Coalport, PA

Odometer reading: 127,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives well

I was astonished, when I started researching this car, to discover that Volkswagen’s sturdy but anemic “two-point-slow” four-cylinder engine lasted all the way into the sixth-generation Jetta. A 2.5 liter inline five was also avalable, but this looks like the most basic of base models, so I’m assuming it’s the 2.0 liter four. This is not a bad thing; it’s a good durable engine. Coupled to a basic five-speed manual transaxle, this car should last a good long time, and its maintenance costs will make you the envy of many 1.8t and TDI owners.

00t0t 3p8rj97ebx3 0lm0t2 1200x900

ADVERTISEMENT

This generation of Jetta took a step back from VW’s luxury aspirations, and it shows – this looks more like the VW interiors of my youth.  Again, this is a good thing; honest, hard-wearing plastic and cloth were good enough for my family’s ’80 Dasher and ’85 Golf, and they should serve well here.

00u0u 1s0aivticre 0ci0t2 1200x900

It looks nice outside, despite the fact that it’s silver. We generally prefer bolder colors around here, but German cars traditionally pull off silver quite well. The Pep Boys plastic wheel covers aren’t doing it any favors; frankly, I would almost rather see the bare black steelies, if the stock wheel covers aren’t an option anymore.

00w0w 5ahnueqpwzb 0pj0t2 1200x900

This car is sort of the oppsite of the sort of German cars we typically talk about, complicated high-performance luxury machines with low purchase prices but stratospheric repair costs. This base-model Jetta is much more my type of car: simple, well-engineered, and low-maintenance. But it should still have that solid roadholding and high-speed stability that good German cars are known for.

ADVERTISEMENT

Both of these cars feel overpriced to me, but I think I’m spoiled by cheap Pacific Northwest car prices. But I’m intrigued by them, and I think I’m going to spend the rest of this week looking for good honest used cars in smaller markets like this rather than seeking out weird cars in familiar places. So if you’ve ever wanted to see cars for sale in your area, here’s your chance: Comment on where I should be looking, and I’ll pick the best two options I can find there.

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
76 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bleeder
Bleeder
1 month ago

Hmmm…
And I’m surprised that 928 hasn’t sold yet; it must be because it’s in the middle of nowhere.”

There’s a decent chance that I’ll be in Silver City, NM mid-April… intriguing…

Huja Shaw
Huja Shaw
1 month ago

My 2009 Outback (Gen 3) has the 4-speed automatic transmission. Are you sure this ’09 Legacy Sedan has the CVT?

Steve Schwinghammer
Steve Schwinghammer
1 month ago
Reply to  Huja Shaw

100% no. This was the last legacy with the 4EAT. The CVT was introduced in the 2010 model.

Baja_Engineer
Baja_Engineer
1 month ago

My vote goes to the Jetta.

Actually my in laws owned a 2011 Outback (last year of the EJ25) while my wife owns a Jetta, same color, same powertrain, same trim except for the alloy wheels. That car did circles around the Outback in reliability and my wife appreciates that she only needs to put fuel in it (I take care of the maintenance schedule).

Yes the 2.slow / 5spd does 0-60 in 10s flat, but I’d take that tried and true powertrain over the EJ25 with any transmission you want any day of the week. Bonus points, the VW is roomier, has more cargo room and the parts are cheaper and easy to come by.
The Subaru went through a head gasket set, 1 radiator and one thermostat set in 4 years. When the 2nd HG to start leaking it was time to part ways. No more Subarus for them

Last edited 1 month ago by Baja_Engineer
Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
1 month ago

I live in the Northeast, AWD has some real value here. Plus I feel that VW reliability, or lack thereof is more so than the Subaru. I’ll take a Chan. Eon the head gaskets. It would be my first head gasket job on a non diesel, but I’ll give it a shot.

Jj
Jj
1 month ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

First and Second. These things have 2 headgaskets because of Subaru’s stupid devotion to horizontal engines in six foot tall vehicles with panoramic sunroofs.

At least you don’t have to remove the valves when you have the heads milled….

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago

Jetta for the sole reason that the older Subaru Legacy suspension / chassis was far too soft and squidgy. The VW should drive like a proper car, despite being so poorly kitted.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
1 month ago

A lot of people love Subarus. And it’s probably an outstanding choice.

I am not a lot of people.

Make mine the VeeDub, and find me some Mk5 GTI wheels to replace … whatever’s going on there.

Here4thecars
Here4thecars
1 month ago

At 114k the Subaru is due for a head gasket change. If the seller has the service records showing it was done I would happily go with the Legacy sedan. Otherwise I’d keep looking. I voted Subie.

Jj
Jj
1 month ago
Reply to  Here4thecars

Depending on its service history, it could be due for its 5th throwout bearing also. May as well just pull the engine and do both. Efficiency!

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

Subaru
Because red paint and frameless glass doors.
(Just gotta paint those gawdawful-black wheels silver)

Last edited 1 month ago by Urban Runabout
Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Frameless doors in the winter are less than desirable. Getting a good ice seal on the window seal just makes your morning.

Gene1969
Gene1969
1 month ago

Thank you for trying to help a friend. In this challenge, I’d take the Subie. My first and only new car was a Subaru Legacy L with a manual and that shifter looks just like it.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
1 month ago

I’ve owned two FWD Subaru station wagon 5MTs (pre-Loyale and a Legacy). I liked them both and would easily own another Subaru. I’ve actually owned more VW than Subaru, and they are great fun when they are running. Subaru is more reliable than VW and has AWD. Subie gets my vote today.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago

Subaru…I used to have an 84 Jetta that was fun to drive and would pick over this newer gen of VW’s I’ve always heard bad things about

Angular Banjoes
Angular Banjoes
1 month ago

I don’t want either of them, but like Mark, I live in Portland, and as he points out, Subarus are everywhere. I’m sick of the sight of them, and I certainly don’t want one in my garage. I don’t want that poverty spec Jetta either, but it still gets my vote just because it’s not a Subaru.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago

Subaru for me. Even with the headgasket risk, even a VW with the 2.slow can still have a lot of little things that will break… and break your wallet.

Geoffrey Reuther
Geoffrey Reuther
1 month ago

“Abstain” based on where these cars are from. but…

though it’s certainly not something I’d tolerate unless a “fix” really well and truly fixed it.

You mean the redesigned Six Star MLS gasket that has been available for 20 years now?

There’s a reason that savvy Subaru owners/shoppers prefer Indie Subaru shop maintained vehicles to dealer maintained vehicles. That reason being that an Indie shop will actually permanently fix the head gaskets. Dealers will only use the half-ass redesigned regular gasket.

Mrbrown89
Mrbrown89
1 month ago

That engine-transmission combo from the VW is pretty damn reliable. Used in so many cars during the 90s and early 00s, parts are cheap and they usually have high mileage with no issues. Its on par with the 1.9 TDI Engine for reliability.

FuzzyPlushroom
FuzzyPlushroom
1 month ago

If I lived there and needed to get out, make mine the Jetta in a heartbeat.

As someone visiting from elsewhere, pending a three-quarter-assed looking over, Subaru.

JDE
JDE
1 month ago

Had the VW been a 2.5 SEL Passat I would have gone VW, but the perennial new sorority girl gift of a car called the Jetta is just not great, add in the color and the fact that literally nobody sees those cars in the daylight make me think the much nicer and luxurious Legacy is the winner here. IT would be the winner here even if it had the CVT though, even though I loathe Nissan and just about every other newer car with one, the old subie CVT’s were wholely adequate for regular daily driving use.

World24
World24
1 month ago

I’ve been wanting a Legacy from around that time, even though I ridicule every Subaru for head gasket issues.
It was my choice here, as the only VW’s I’d buy would break both the bank and itself really quickly, me thinks.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago

Thanks for the effort. I saw the Suburu but couldn’t get a response from the seller. That dealer in Coalport usually has a few nice vehicles on the lot.
You want interesting try jimbabishmotors. The dude is a king 9n finding low mileage rate cars. But I didn’t want a rare expensive gem

76
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x