Volkswagen has always been a little different.
Engine: 1.8 L turbocharged four-cylinder, 170 HP, 184-199 lb-ft., 2.0 L turbocharged diesel four-cylinder, 150 HP, 236 lb-ft.
Transmission: Five-speed manual, six-speed manual, six-speed dual-clutch automatic, six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (US, Diesel, Manual): 31 MPG city, 43 MPG highway, 38.9 MPG observed
Fuel Economy (CDN, Diesel, Manual): 7.7 L/100 km city, 5.4 L/100 km highway, 6.0 L/100 km observed
Pricing (US): Golf SportWagen 1.8T S Manual begins at $22,215 after destination charges, $32,265 for Golf SportWagen TDI SEL Automatic.
Pricing (CDN): Golf SportWagon Tredline Manual begins at $23,890 after destination charges, $35,590 for Golf SportWagon Highline TDI Automatic.
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
The 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
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
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
The 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
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.
As 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.
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.