In my eyes, the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon is essentially the perfect appliance.
One of our editors is a huge believer in the #WagonMafia movement. This is an unofficial “movement” inspired by a series of enthusiasts across the Internet, essentially attempting to preserve the existence of the station wagon. As we’ve seen, the automotive industry in North America is very rapidly growing towards crossovers and sport-utility-vehicles, which is leading to a steady decline in station wagon sales. As such, manufacturers are ceasing production of their wagon lineups. There’s no station wagon offering from the big three American automakers, and Subaru has done away with both their Legacy and Impreza wagons.
The Germans are a stubborn bunch – in spite of the decline in North American sales, they insist on manufacturing a wagon to satisfy the customers that continue to buy them. The 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI is the perfect example of a truly functional and trendy machine. Sharing its platform with the bestselling (worldwide) Golf, the Sportwagon gives buyers the utility they so crave without having to sacrifice fuel economy or the attractive style of the station wagon. Full disclosure here – I am of the belief that wagons are cool, and my weekly commute requires me to carry a bunch of stuff that’s a tight fit in most sedans.
It’s not just me either; the entire week I had the Silk Blue Metallic tester, people consistently dropped complements towards it. I then understood what was happening. When wagons were plentiful in the market, with mainstream entries such as the Ford Taurus and Toyota Camry offering this body style, they were lame. Now that they’re slowly becoming extinct, people are suddenly beginning to appreciate what they have to offer. It’s classic human nature – want what you can’t have. Thankfully, Volkswagen will happily sell it to you, in a variety of configurations that will definitely cater to the masses.
The underpinnings of the Golf Sportwagon are the same MQB platform that’s also used by the current Golf as well as the Audi A3/S3 and upcoming TT. The result is impeccable ride quality and a chassis that’s one of the most modern and advanced in its segment. The A3 and S3 obviously use more aggressive dampers and unique chassis tweaking, and are a little bit firmer because of this. The Golf Sportwagon feels a bit more rigid to me than the regular hatchback, but this could easily be my brain and body playing tricks on me. Regardless, buyers will undoubtedly be extremely happy at how it drives, absorbing road imperfections flawlessly without letting you feel isolated from the road in the slightest.
Volkswagen offers the Sportwagon with a series of different motors around the world, but Canada gets only two choices; a 1.8L turbocharged 4-cylinder (TSI) and a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel option. My pick of the litter is the latter one, which is why I opted to test this model. The practicality aspect of this Golf becomes more obvious when you realize just how frugal this motor is without any of the downsides of a diesel engine. You see, the world perceives diesels as being clattery, stinky, and smoky. VW’s TDI system is none of these things, and delivers unmatched torque levels as well as excellent transmissions. Plus, it’s considered a clean diesel and uses a diesel exhaust fluid to minimize carbon emissions.
This four-cylinder turbodiesel is good for 150 horsepower between 3500 and 4000RPM, and 236 lb-ft of torque available between 1750 and 3500RPM. This is one of the highest torque numbers in the compact segment. Of course, the Sportwagon is essentially in a segment of its own, because the only other mainstream compact that offered a diesel was the Chevrolet Cruze, which has dropped the diesel model after this year. The motor is torquey and responsive, with excellent shifts from the six-speed dual-clutch Direct Shift Gearbox.
There are “Sport” and manual shift modes available on this transmission, but Volkswagen’s dual-clutch units have been perfected to an art by this point. Shifts are predictable and efficient, with “Sport” mode holding gears a bit longer to stay in the powerband if quick passing power is required. Regardless though, the Golf doesn’t feel slow or held back under any circumstances, and putters along without the slightest complaint in all conditions. The current Golf Sportwagon is front-wheel-drive only, but an AllTrack version is coming next summer. What’s an AllTrack, you might ask? Think Subaru Outback or Audi Allroad – a slightly raised station wagon with all-wheel-drive and the ability to tread lightly off the beaten path.
Fuel consumption is where diesels really prove their worth, and the Golf Sportwagon exceeded all expectations after my week with it. To solve most arguments between hybrids and diesels, I’ll put in my two cents. It’s all about the type of commute – hybrids excel in stop-and-go and city traffic, while diesels are unquestionably superior for longer highway drives. Appropriately, my week with the Golf consisted of 80% highway driving, where I achieved an average of 5.1L/100km. This is better than most hybrids I have tested, and definitely better than any conventional gasoline-powered car. The closest vehicle to the Sportwagon that I have previously tested is the Subaru Outback. While its 2.5L boxer four is efficient in its own way, the numbers aren’t anywhere close to these results.
Not only is the Sportwagon efficient, it comes packing all of the features we expect in a compact, and then some more. Volkswagen has recently been pushing their higher trim levels a little bit further upmarket, towards the premium category. As such, our Highline tester came equipped with the eight-speaker Fender stereo, a leather-wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel, intelligent key system, LED lighting on the inside, a panoramic sunroof, and of course, the 5.8” touchscreen that has become a staple in Volkswagen products. Adding to the $34,195 base price of the Highline model is a $2,220 Multimedia Package. This adds the Fender audio, navigation system, HID headlights, and LED daytime-running lights. The total sticker just breaks the $36,000 mark.
In my eyes, the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon is essentially the perfect appliance. It packs enough room for four adults to travel in reasonable comfort (though a Passat TDI has the same motor and a more cavernous interior) and sips fuel at an alarmingly low rate. The only thing it’s really lacking is passion or any sort of driver feedback. Everything is responsive enough, but the steering is a bit on the numb side for my liking and feels almost Audi-levels of technical. That’s not to say it’s imprecise; it’s just very lifeless. This steering setup makes an otherwise excellent car feel a bit lifeless and boring in operation, and becomes a reminder of what a Toyota Camry Wagon would feel like today if it still existed, and was offered with a diesel engine.
Putting my own thoughts aside for a second, I realize that the majority of Sportwagon buyers aren’t looking for a passionate driving experience or racecar-like steering. Buyers who prioritize these factors can find their match in Volkswagen’s own GTI or even the Golf R. What these customers are looking for is a frugal station wagon that boasts best-in-class utility, the reputation of a well-known automaker, and a plethora of standard features that make you forget about wanting to step up to a BMW 328d Touring or an Audi Allroad. Suffice to say, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon outperforms at all of these factors, all squeezed onto a chassis that has won countless awards worldwide.
2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon Gallery