Volkswagen is expanding its lineup with its newest ride, the Golf Sportwagen. As you can guess, it’s a Golf, and it’s a wagon. And that right there pretty much tells you all you need to know. The Golf itself is so iconic, the phrase “it’s a Golf with more space” is a more-than-adequate review for 98% of the world’s population. But for those who don’t worship at the temple of Golf, let’s dig in a bit deeper.
VW is positioning the Golf Sportwagen as a fun-to-drive alternative to small SUVs, but is citing wagon-esque vehicles like the Subaru Outback as its main competition. With 66.5 cu ft of cargo space (with the rear seats folded flat), the Sportwagen offers a little less room than said Outback, but this VeeDub can definitely swallow more gear than, say, a Crosstrek XV.
The Golf Sportwagen is priced similarly to the Crosstrek as well, with a starting price of $21,395. And while a ton of features are available – like heated front seats, a 5.8-in. touchscreen infotainment center, and a premium Fender audio package – VW views this big Golf as more of a value package. For example, you can get any seating surface you want as long as its V-tex leatherette – or as the non-marketing types call it, vinyl. In typical VW fashion, things feel well put-together, but for the time being the GTI and Golf R remain the “plushest” of the Golf family.
Thanks to the Golf Sportwagen being built atop VW’s MQB platform, this wagon is available with two solid powerplants. The base Sportwagen S comes standard with the 1.8-liter turbocharged four, rated at 170 horsepower. Transmission choices are a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual. And in a move to make a certain subset of car enthusiast leave a happy mess inside their trousers, VW also offers a 150-horsepower turbo diesel (the TDI) mated to a six-speed manual. Diesel fans too lazy to shift can also opt for the well-loved DSG six-speed.
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While we’d love to say we flung all variants of the Golf Sportwagen through twisty, country roads, we spent our brief time in the VW trudging through heavy downpours, so the fun was kept to a minimum. That said, this sport-tuned wagon proved to be a solid, capable ride that was easy to manage despite the terrible weather.
We sampled both the gas and diesel versions of this car, and this writer prefers the gas-powered Golf to the diesel. It feels like more of an enthusiast’s engine – it’s happy to rev, and thanks to that turbo, has a flat torque curve for plenty of passing power. The diesel has plenty of grunt, sure, but power is delivered in such a way that the Golf Sportwagen TDI sometimes feels like it’s dragging a boat anchor behind it. Some will love the diesel’s slower pace – and the 43 highway mpg that comes along with it – but it’s just hard for this writer to get excited about.
And if this Golf really wants to put the “sport” in “Sportwagen,” it could do with more aggressive brakes. All Sportwagens come with four-wheel disc brakes – plus the requisite ABS, stability control, etc. – but this VW doesn’t feel eager to stop. Driving through the back roads surrounding Austin, Texas, we had to deal with hordes of suicidal deer – plus a few suicidal Texans who felt it was a great idea to suddenly pull out and do 30 mph on a 70 mph road. And despite early and aggressive application of the brakes, we couldn’t help but feel that we weren’t going to stop in time. Both we and our Sportwagen testers made it through the day unscathed, of course, but with this shortcoming, we’re not sure we can feel fully confident behind the wheel of the Sportwagen.
The solution, then, is to hold out and hope that VW offers a GTI-esque package for the Golf Sportwagen. VW did it before – its old Jetta Sportwagen GLI remains a favorite of this writer – and with the modular MQB underpinnings, there’s no reason why VW can’t do it again. Not only would this move help VW appeal to every wagon enthusiast, it would cement the Golf Sportwagen as the sports wagon to rule them all.