2015 Volkwagen Golf Sportwagon: The SUV Antidote

Strong points
  • Large cargo area
  • More passenger space than previous Sportwagon
  • Frugal TDI option
  • Powerful turbocharged base motor
  • Comfortable ride
  • Affordable starting price
Weak points
  • TDI's extra cost not justified by fuel savings
  • No all-wheel drive model... yet
  • Top trim levels not competitively priced against compact SUVs
  • Minimal active safety equipment
Full report

Have you ever looked at the Volkswagen Golf hatchback and thought 'it's simply not practical enough?' Probably not - but just in case, you'll be happy to learn that the redesigned Golf has gained an all-new wagon model that pushes its hauling possibilities past those of most compact SUVs. The 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon provides flat-roof fiends with their family fix without changing the pleasingly petite proportions of the heavily-lauded Golf hatch, and it maintains the same comfortable character behind the wheel that has made the all-new Golf such a popular small car choice.

Familiar, But Bigger

Part of the 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon's appeal is the fact that it shares its entire MQB platform with the hatchback edition of the car. The new Sportwagon is somewhat larger than the previous-generation edition, but only eagle eyes will be able to spot the dimensional increase in length and width (and almost no one will pick up on its slightly lower height).

What's much easier to notice is the fact that the Golf Sportwagon is significantly more gifted in the cargo compartment as compared to the five-door flavour of the Golf hatchback. The 1,868 litres of total cargo space available in the Sportwagon is a full 376 litres greater than what the hatch has to offer, and you can still use almost half of that figure even when the car is loaded up with passengers.

As impressive as those numbers are, keeners will no doubt point out that the 2015 Golf Sportwagon hasn't really put any distance between itself and the older model (in fact, it's very slightly smaller). That lack of growth is more than balanced out by an interior that is bigger overall than ever before, thanks to the MQB platform's more effective use of space. There's additional passenger room to be found at almost every position, and the flatter load floor and lower liftover at the rear of the Sportwagon make it easier to load.

Identical (Mechanical) Twins

Don't look for any differentiation between the standard Golf and the Golf Sportwagon under the hood, however. Entry-level Sportwagon models are outfitted with the same 1.8-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder found in the hatch, which produces a respectable 170 horsepower and between 185 lb-ft or 200 lb-ft of torque (depending on which transmission is installed). The TDI edition makes use of a 2.0-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder unit that churns out 150 horses and 236 lb-ft of twist. A five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission stirs the pot for the gas motor (with the auto unit gaining the extra torque mentioned above), while the diesel graduates to the choice between either a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox.

From an efficiency perspective, the difference between the turbodiesel and the stout 1.8-litre turbo is a little murky. Officially, the TDI's 5.4 l/100 km on the highway and 7.7 l/100 km in the city over-rule the 6.6 / 9.5 figures posted by the gasser, but in the real world a lot of that advantage is nullified by the higher cost of diesel fuel as well as the price premium you have to pay to get behind the wheel of the Sportwagon TDI. I'd recommend sticking with the 1.8-litre edition of the Golf unless you find yourself regularly roaring down the highway, as it'll be tough to make up the cost differential through any potential savings at the pump.

A Pleasant SUV Alternative

One of the most compelling reasons to consider the 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon is because it's not an SUV. While the market for crossovers might seem infinite, the buying habits of a significant number of Canadians indicate a thirst for small, practical vehicles that sticker at an affordable price.

Starting at $22,495 (cheaper than the previous generation's point of entry), the Golf Sportwagon offers SUV-levels of hauling capacity without the fuel mileage penalty of all-wheel drive or the boring driving dynamics of a too-tall ride height. It would be a stretch to say that the Sportwagon lives up to the first word in its compound name, but it's certainly more pleasant to drive than the majority of sport-utility vehicles at its price point, and it's definitely easier to park. When ordered in range-topping Highline trim it also happens to be fairly comfortable, what with its heated leather seats, 5.8-inch navigation and infotainment touchscreen, and well-executed interior.

I've always been a wagon fan, but even when evaluating the 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon on its merits alone it emerges as a responsible family choice for anyone who's outgrown a hatchback but can't quite see themselves behind the wheel of a lumbering crossover. The wagon niche needs more champions, and the Golf Sportwagon is happy to step up to the plate and take a swing for space-hungry shoppers searching out a deal.

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