I’m a wagon nerd, so the VW Golf Sportwagon stood a pretty good chance at winning me over. It succeeded.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
Pricing: 2015 VW Golf Sportwagon
Base price (Highline trim): $31,895
Options: $2,220 multi-media package
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $35,720
While it’s a nice-looking automobile, the Golf Sportwagon’s smooth, understated styling is relatively bland and unexciting. VW seems to be aiming for the most boring-looking cars they can muster. And for the most part, they’ve found great success. Because their corporate styling language isn’t going to net them many second looks on the street. My review vehicle’s Blue Silk metallic paint didn’t help either – it just blends in more.
Anyway, I’m not bashing the looks, they’re just not very interesting. What is interesting however is the Sportwagon’s nifty LED driving light signature as it’s coming down the street toward you. By the way, the bi-xenon HID headlights are exceptionally bright – I was very impressed.
VW finishes the whole package off with lovely 17-inch rims and 225/45-sized tires.
Inside, the Sportwagon is spacious with plenty of head room. VW uses excellent materials – there are lots of soft-touch plastics and nice additions – for example, the inside of the door bins is carpeted. Nothing feels entry-level in this car. The interior is pretty dark – everything is black with the exception of a few little silver trim pieces. There’s also some glossy piano black trim which gets dusty and fingerprint-y very quickly. Like instantly. The fit and finish is outstanding, with tight gaps to be found anywhere you look.
The comfortable sport seats, upholstered in real leather, offer a surprisingly awesome amount of support and bolstering, which really encourages spirited driving. The driver’s side is power adjustable, and both seats are heated. The crisp gauges and the clear, easy to read driver information screen between them make it simple to get the information you need. A steering wheel with fantastic shaping and edges to it is a joy to hold, and the button ergonomics on it were well thought out.
In the centre of the dash is a full-featured but smallish 5.8-inch touchscreen that takes care of all the media, navigation and phone things you need to do in your car. I thought the system was a bit slow to react. The 400-watt, 8-speaker Fender sound system is quite good, and there’s also a dual-zone automatic climate control system.
My review car’s trim came with a few nice touches – convenient keyless entry, a back-up camera and the massive panoramic sunroof overhead that made a big difference in this dark cockpit. Its front panel tilts and slides, and there’s a sunshade for the entire thing if it gets too bright for you.
I found the Sportwagon to be a bit short in the driver assistance technology department – there’s only a forward collision warning system.
There are three seats in the back. While roomy for two adults, there’s quite a large tunnel on the floor and the centre console goes back pretty far. That means the centre position is not comfortable for adults, though it all worked fine for our three kids. The centre seatback folds down to become an armrest with two cupholders, and there are two sets of LATCH anchors for your kids’ seats.
The Sportwagon offers lots of places to store your goodies. Underneath the centre stack (at the front of the console) you’ll find a deep rubberized bin that also has connections for VW’s proprietary cables (annoying!) to connect. C’mon VW, it’s time to move to USB plugs already!
Additionally, you get a small compartment under the armrest lid (there’s a 12V plug under there too) and a handy storage bin on the left underside of the dash. One little feature I loved was the card slot in the centre console – this is perfect for me as I swipe in and out of a parkade a number of times each day and I love knowing exactly where my parking card is going to be.
The wagon’s 860 litre trunk is simply enormous and the load height is perfect. Need more? Fold the rear seats down (they split 60/40) and you’re looking at an SUV-like 1880 litre cargo capacity. VW throws in a retractable and removable tonneau cover, a convenient 115V household plug and a 12V plug too.
Under the Hood
The front-wheel drive only Golf has VW’s new 1.8-litre 4-cylinder engine, and it’s terrific. Output is 170 HP at 4800 RPM and 185 lb.ft of torque at 1600 RPM, which makes its way through a 6-speed automatic. Fuel efficiency is definitely one of this car’s selling features. VW’s ratings are 9.6 L/100 km (25 US mpg) in town and 6.7 L/100 km (35 US mpg) on the highway. We averaged an outstanding 8.5 L/100 km (28 US mpg) – outstanding because it was nearly all city driving with a fairly heavy foot.
The turbo 4’s acceleration is quite impressive, especially in Sport mode – the car feels faster than it really is, thanks to the torque pouring on at very low RPMs. VW’s transmission is smooth and quick overall, but I found it to be lurchy on occasion. Gears can be shifted manually using the gear selector and the shifts are quick enough to be satisfying.
Although the electronic steering feels quite numb at times, the car’s handling is outstanding. There’s a bit of lean into corners, but it handles more like a sports car than anything else you’ll find in this class. By the way, that’s a bit of a misleading statement. Because there is literally no other competitor in the compact wagon category here. You need to move into Audi allroad or Volvo V60 territory to get anything like it.
The Sportwagon’s ride also sits firmly in the premium category – it is refined, quiet and plush while remaining firm enough to feel sporty. In other words, it’s nearly perfect and frankly, surprising for a car in this price range.
When it comes to highway cruising, the Golf Sportwagon does so effortlessly. It feels as though it’s not working at all, even at high speeds, and it feels completely stable there. In addition, VW has done a great job with sound dampening – the Golf Sportwagon is an impressively quiet car, with just the right amount of snarl from the engine when you step on it. Outward visibility is excellent, including shoulder checking.
The push-start ignition is on the centre console rather than the dash, and that took me a few days to get used to.
I really wish this car would be available in all-wheel drive. That wish will sort of come true next year, but it will be in the form of the Sportwagon Alltrak which will be a jacked up all-wheel drive version of this car with off-road styling. Unnecessary and goofy. Just give us the option in this car – that’s all most of us would want.
Seriously, what’s not to like here? A practical, enjoyable wagon. It’s easy to drive, efficient and spacious. While the pricing is still reasonable, I found this car to be hitting the higher end of what I’d be willing to pay for this amount of kit.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was quite high. While she said it looked a bit boring, she said it drives much nicer than some more expensive cars we’ve had, and “everything feels like an expensive car”.
The VW Golf Sportwagon makes a lot of sense to me, and if we North Americans could just get over the stigma of buying a wagon, we should be buying boatloads of these. Because it should make sense for a lot of folks. Check it out – it might just be the right car for your family. And you’ll be welcomed with open arms into the wagon nerd club. There’s a reason most of Europe drives wagons and hatchbacks. They just make sense.
UPDATE: I received updated information from VW Canada (outstanding work from their PR team!) in response to my review, and I found out that VW is, in fact, tackling a number of issues that stood out with my 2015 review vehicle. Here are the changes for the 2016 model year, in no particular order:
- the infotainment screen grows (base is 6.33″ and optional upgrade is 8″), it’s 4x as sharp and significantly more responsive
- it comes with App Connect, which means direct access to Apple Car Play and Android Auto
- yes! A USB port!
- rim and tire sizes go up by 1″ in each of the trims, starting at 16″ and up to 18″
- best of all, VW will offer 4MOTION as a standalone option for this vehicle next September for the 2017 model year – YES! As noted earlier, you can step up to the Alltrack which is a more outdoorsy, off-road-ish looking thing with higher ride height and body cladding, but I wouldn’t. This car would be approaching perfection for me with the all-wheel drive added in.
Great changes, VW! Sounds like you are listening to the consumer, and that’s what makes these vehicles resonate with us.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by VW Canada.
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