What it is: The Golf SportWagen is the wagon form of VW’s worldwide-loved compact car, the Golf. It commands only a $1,700 premium over the four-door hatchback Golf, while adding 33 percent more cargo capacity. The Golf SportWagen replaced the Jetta SportWagen in 2015, and they made several key changes, such as reducing the weight while stretching the interior volume.
The result is what may be the most practical car I’ve driven in recent memory. I harped on the benefits of driving a wagon in a recent column, and the SportWagen is EXACTLY what I’m talking about. It drives and handles like a car, and with VW’s torque-y 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, it provides plenty of oomph for spirited driving. The SportWagen is nice and low to the ground, which provides better handling and gas mileage and ease when loading cargo.
Day to day driving is great. My test model came with zero options and the stereo was very good and the infotainment system was a 6.5-inch Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatible unit. This is not your father’s base VW from college, it comes with all of the modern niceties such as power windows/locks, Bluetooth Audio, alloy wheels, cruise control, and even a rear-view camera.
My test model came with a manual transmission, which I found delightful, but a six-speed automatic is available for $1,100 extra. If you’re going to go full Volkswagen, might as well learn to drive a manual transmission. You’ll be stammering about craft beer and fixie bicycles in no time.
The SportWagen handles bumpy roads, highways, and huge Costco trips without any hiccups. I don’t have any negative things to say except that with all turbocharged engines, don’t expect gas mileage numbers near the manufacturer’s numbers unless you drive it like grandma.
MPG: 28 combined/25 city/35 highway.
Price: $22,400 base price with destination as-tested.
Upsides: Immense value for the money. One of the few “base” cars I would be happy living with every day.
Downsides: Limited options available. Must pay $5,450 to upgrade to SE trim to get a sunroof, upgraded seating surfaces, etc.
Wrap-up: If you are only transporting two people, then just get a hatchback. But if you want the flexibility of transporting four adults and all of their gear, then I love the SportWagen. Frustratingly, dealers appear to have trouble moving them right now, so the potential of thousands off make the SportWagen even more of a desirable option. AWD is available for an extra $2,250 and if you want a slightly taller wagon, then the Golf Alltrack, which is nearly identical, is a $4,000 premium and includes AWD. I think the model to buy is the base model, which is one of the biggest bang for the bucks on the road. It handles everything well, it’s safe, and won’t break the bank.
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