2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Review

Best Reason Not to Buy a Crossover

Volkswagen has always been a little different.

While everyone else has gone crossover crazy, Volkswagen remains ever committed to wagons. Even if the Passat wagon is no more, the Jetta SportWagen, a car actually based on the Golf, kept the “wagen” tradition alive for the past few years.

But it’s time for that car to bow out. With the introduction of the seventh generation Golf in North America, a new wagon variant is ready to roll for 2015. And thankfully, VW has decided to include it in the Golf family this time around, even if the cheesy SportWagen moniker lives on.

Looks Like a Wagon

At first glance the new car is easily recognizable as both a traditional wagon and a seventh-generation Golf. Minor details like the new Golf’s slanted C-pillar have been incorporated to the rear cargo area.

The SportWagen rides on the same length wheelbase as the Golf four-door hatchback. The new wagon stretches overall length by just over a foot to measure 179.6 inches in total. That puts the new wagon a few fractions of an inch longer than the outgoing Jetta SportWagen. Overall height of the new Golf wagon is lower by nearly an inch compared to the old Jetta, a move supposedly made in the name of offering easier roof rack access.

Equipped Like a Golf

2015-Volkswagen-Golf-SportWagen-13The same choice of engines that are available in the regular Golf hatchback are available in the SportWagen. The base unit is a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 170 HP, and 184 lb-ft of torque when paired to the five-speed manual transmission or 199 lb-ft. of torque with the six-speed automatic.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Volkswagen Golf Review

In the past, the choice of which SportWagen to buy was an easy one: get the TDI. The old 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine was a forgettable lump delivering mediocre power and even less impressive fuel economy. But the new 1.8-liter turbo is a great engine. With loads of low-end torque, it’s a substantial improvement over the old five-banger in every way.

Power, efficiency, noise levels and refinement are all vastly improved. It makes the base Golf SportWagen S, starting at $22,215 after destination charges, a very compelling product.

But don’t write off the TDI just yet. Powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine, it is improved this year. Making 150 HP and 236 lb-ft. of torque, the specifications may sound familiar, but this engine is new for 2015 and not a carryover unit from past models.

Drives Like a Golf

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Besides the minor bump in horsepower, the new diesel engine is now officially rated at 31 MPG in the city and 43 MPG on the highway when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission. After a day of driving a fully loaded Golf SportWagen TDI SEL, I observed an average fuel consumption of 38.9 MPG during mixed driving.

The new engine is quiet enough that at times, I forgot it was even a diesel. Power delivery is great at the low end, but falls flat on its face around 5,000 RPM, which is 400 rpm before redline, but honestly 500 rpm higher than the diesel should be wrung out. The manual shifter is smooth and the clutch uptake point easy to find. With so much torque available at such low rpms, gear changes occur smoothly even if you miss the optimal engine speed. Don’t worry if you prefer self-sufficient transmissions because the six-speed dual-clutch automatic is still available for TDI models.

Rides Like a Golf

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It’s rare these days, but the Golf SportWagen actually weighs less than the car it replaces, thanks a lot due to its lightweight MQB platform roots. Despite the weight savings, it does add roughly 100 lbs. over an equivalent Golf four-door hatchback model, ranging between 3,063 lbs and 3,246 lbs. But don’t think Volkswagen used cheap materials in the SportWagen to save weight.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Mazda3 vs 2015 Volkswagen Golf

2015-Volkswagen-Golf-SportWagen-05The Golf family of vehicles has always been known for their refinement and the new SportWagen continues the tradition. It features a near-perfect balance between sportiness and comfort for a compact car. Driving the patch-worked, imperfect roads outside Austin, Texas, the Golf always felt composed and comfortable over broken pavement.

Where the roads twisted and bent in a smooth flow of asphalt, the Golf SportWagen acted just as I’ve come to expect from a seventh generation Golf. Body motions are controlled, steering is accurate with just the right amount of effort and corners are dispatched with serene confidence. It makes me wonder just how great the Golf R Variant will be.

Hauls Like a Wagon

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The added length of the SportWagen is all found in the rear cargo that expands by 7.6 cubic feet to a total of 30.4. Impressive for a compact car, that’s less than cubic foot off what the Chevrolet Equinox offers behind the rear seats.  What’s more, with the rear seats folded, total cargo room grows to 66.5 cubic feet, more than the Mazda CX-5. If this still isn’t enough, there is more storage space available under the cargo floor on top of the spare tire.

2015-Volkswagen-Golf-SportWagen-12As nice as this storage cave is, I wish Volkswagen had sacrificed a bit of the cargo room in the SportWagen and given it to rear passengers. With a mere 35.6 inches of legroom, rear seat space is the same as the regular hatchback and a bit on the tight side for the compact class.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Volkswagen Golf Consumer Review

And it’s not just the second row that’s familiar inside the SportWagen. The interior is recognizable to anyone who’s been in a new Golf, featuring a nice mix of premium materials with a driver focused center stack. The thin steering wheel is perfectly contoured for hand placement at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions and I’m a big fan of the passenger seat being height adjustable.

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The Verdict:

There’s a reason that 2015 Golf made it as an AutoGuide Car of the Year finalist: it’s a brilliantly executed car. Thankfully, with the SportWagen, Volkswagen took the Golf, added a foot to the rear and called it day. Rationalists rejoice! This isn’t just any wagon, this is the wagon.

  • Rickers

    Where’s the R version?

  • Jamal

    How does it makes 184-199 lb-ft of torque. I’m confused.

  • Mike Schlee

    Torque is limited to 184 lb-ft. with the manual as it can’t handle any more power.

  • Mike Schlee

    We’re all waiting and hoping

  • mfed

    VW must meet their numbers within their target market. What else could explain the lack of AWD and more power in a vehicle which has the potential to compete so successfully against other brands in the small SUV/CUV category? Wish the US market was a bit smarter about wagons vs. SUVs. In general, wagons are smaller, more fuel efficient and much more fun to drive than most SUVs. I second @Rickers appeal for the “R”, but I’d “settle” for a GTI version with AWD (live in New England). Anyway, more power to the wagon!

  • Guest

    Asher . I agree that Roger `s postlng is something, last tuesday I got BMW M3 after earning $5264 this past 4 weeks and more than ten k this past month . it’s by-far the most financially rewarding Ive ever done . I started this four months/ago and right away startad bringin in over $81 per-hour . you could try this outⓌⓄⓇⓀⓇⒾⓅⓅⓁⒺ.ⒸⓄⓂ

  • wiley

    AWD is coming, actually. I don’t recall whether it’s coming in the year 2016 or in the model year 2016, but VW has confirmed that AWD and an AllTrack version are in the works.

  • Jamal

    Wow. That sounds like some seriously half-assed engineering. Thanks for answering though.

  • John E

    We are still clinging to our 2001 B5 generation Passat wagon, which has the best size and configuration of any car ever built.

    One of the Passat wagon’s endearing features is the flip-forward / easily removable rear seat cushions, to create a flat load space. The prototype Sportwagen at the San Diego auto show had this, but the sales rep. did not know whether the final version would. Standard? Option? Not available?

    Because of size inflation, the Golf will eventually reach the old Passat’s size. At least now we have a reasonable candidate if we unexpectedly need to replace our car.

  • Mark S

    Glad to see VW doubling down on the wagon (estate) in the US. MPG numbers maybe key. Not sure how VW will play the Cross Blue vs the wagon though – they do need a home run SUV, to show that they can be big in China and the US at the same time.

  • Ol Headz

    I’m glad to see the wagon live on, but the lack of AWD is going to hurt its numbers. VW should ditch the Tiguan, which has zero cargo capacity, and give us the AWD option that is available in other countries.

  • Ol Headz

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I owned a B5 wagon and a B5.5 wagon with the 1.8t and a manual trans. Awesome cars.

  • Ol Headz

    This isn’t the same basic manual that is offered in the mk6 and mk7 GTI? I have a mk6 GTI that puts out more than 199 ft/lbs in stock trim. The manuals hold up fine. They probably limit the hp/torque numbers as not to overshadow the 2.0. Either one of these third generation engines are phenomenal when a tune is applied to them. The 1.8 puts out more power tuned than the mk6 2.0. 🙁

  • Karl

    I agree with you, but sadly VW doesn’t see it selling well in the US. Those of us who want an AWD sportwagen are a huge minority compared to the rest of the auto consumers.

  • moldcore

    I like it but still have problems with the looks of the front end on all the latest VWs. They just look too bloated. From the sides and the back the look pretty cool.
    Just sold my 08 Passat that I loved and now I ‘m stuck driving a new F150 that really sucks not only gas but is like driving a bus around town. If I didn’t need it for work there is no way I’d ever own one these over sized POS. Now if VW would bring back their little diesel pick up I’d be in heaven again.

  • Max M

    TDI with 4 Motion – I am ready to buy!

  • MarkVITDIMan

    Same here!! TDI Golf Sportwagon 4Motion and I am buying a new Golf!!

  • D.V.

    If the Mk7 is like the Mk6, then the Sportwagen will have the flip forward rear seat cushions.

  • Thomas McCaleb

    I traded a 2011 TDI Sportswagen for the 2015 TDI,SEL,Sportswagen .I find it a much more sophisticated car.Dual climate control,great Navi with multi colored screen,power seats,that are much more supportive .Those should have memory.I love the xenon lighting package.Ride is much better and tighter.Handling is much better. Gas mileage looks like its going to be better than the 2011.I’m already getting close to 40 MPG with mixed driving with 300 miles on the odometer.

  • Giancarlo Rosselli

    Yes, we are!!!!!

  • Giancarlo Rosselli

    BRING THE R WAGON TO THE USA, PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!