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Review of: 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon 4dr Auto 2.0 TDI Highline

8.1

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI: Wagons ho!

By Jil McIntosh

May. 20, 2015

There are some things that just seem to go together. Chocolate and peanut butter. Bagels and cream cheese. And station wagons with diesel engines.

As great as this combination is, there’s only one non-premium manufacturer that puts one together right now, and that’s Volkswagen. Its Golf Sportwagon comes with a 1.8-litre turbocharged gasoline engine, starting at $22,495, but I had the 2.0-litre turbodiesel, which starts at $24,995.

Another great thing is that you can get this diesel engine in all of the Sportwagon’s three trims—Trendline, Comfortline, and Highline—and in each, you can opt for a six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. I had the range-topping Highline with autobox, retailing for $34,195. Also added to mine was that trim’s only available option, a multimedia package of navigation, steerable headlamps, LED running lights, Fender premium stereo system, and forward collision warning for $2,220, bringing my ride to $36,415 before freight and taxes.

Pros & Cons

  • + Efficient performance
  • + Understated styling
  • + Well-matched engine/transmission
  • - Interior ambiance
  • - Requires urea emissions treatment
  • - Paddle shifters
Read the full review
  • Walkaround

    I’ve heard some people say that the Golf’s styling is too plain, but I think it’s timeless. This car is going to look good twenty years from now. And the wagon looks even better than the hatchback, with its extra rear overhang nicely balancing the length of the hood.

    The optional headlamps on my tester really set it off, too, as the LED running lights show up as squares around them.

    The rearview camera, standard on all trim lines, is cleverly concealed within the VW badge on the liftgate. Put it in reverse, and the badge pops out to uncover the camera lens, and then closes again to keep it free of dirt or snow. You also push the top of the badge to unlatch the liftgate; the inside pull-down handle is equally subtle, moulded into the plastic interior panel.

    9.0Excellent
  • Interior

    As is common for Volkswagen, and a good thing it is too, the Golf’s controls are simple and easy to use. Everything is backlit, and the buttons and dials are large.

    The top-end Highline comes with several features, most of which can also be added as options to the mid-range Comfortline: automatic dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, and a dual-pane panoramic sunroof that turns most of the roof into glass.

    As opposed to the Trendline’s cloth seats, and the Comfortline’s “leatherette” chairs, the Highline’s upholstery is cowhide. As with most German cars, the seats are firm but extremely supportive. Don’t be fooled if you’re just quickly sitting in them in the showroom. They may not feel like much at first, but they’ll keep you comfortable for hours.

    The rear seats fold flat to increase the already-generous cargo area, and unlike on some VW models in the past, you no longer have to remove the head restraints to make it happen.

    Still, while the cabin’s design is elegantly simple, and everything seems put together very well, its long swatches of pebbly plastic are at odds with the Highline’s top-line status. Quite simply, it just doesn’t look like a car that, optioned as mine was, rings in at more than $36,000.

    8.0Very good
  • Tech

    All Golf models use a touch-screen infotainment system with proximity sensor, which brings up the menu any time your hand gets close to the screen. My car was further enhanced with a Fender eight-speaker stereo system—yes, the guitar-and-amp folks—and navigation.

    You can input your destination using the screen, of course, but if you choose to do so by voice command, you’ll need to be patient. Many systems now let you speak the entire address at once, but Volkswagen’s still requires you to say the province, wait for the beep; say the city, wait for the beep; say the street, wait for the beep…

    Satellite radio is included on all Golf lines, as is Bluetooth, of course, but if your device is made by anything other than Apple, there’s no place to plug it in. Word is that the stock iPod connection cable will finally be replaced with a USB port for 2016, but all we can say is: really? It took this long?

    7.0Good
  • Driving

    Diesel wagon. That says it all, but of course you want the details. So while the Golf initially starts with a 1.8-litre turbocharged gasoline engine, the step up is to a 2.0-litre turbodiesel that makes 150 horsepower, and churns out 236 lb.-ft. of torque beginning at just 1,750 rpm and lasting up to 3,500 rpm.

    That low-end power is what makes diesels so satisfying. When you need acceleration, there’s no need to wait for the engine to rev up high enough to make its horsepower. That’s much of what I love about diesels: smooth strength at almost any speed, without slamming your foot down and waiting for it all to happen.

    Be aware that you will have to use diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), which Volkswagen markets under the trade name AdBlue. Small quantities are automatically injected into the exhaust system to reduce tailpipe emissions. You get plenty of warning when it’s running low, and it’s easy to refill it yourself, but the holding tank is sized so it should need attention about the same time the engine needs its oil changed, and will be topped up during your scheduled maintenance visit.

    Purists will want the six-speed manual, but I love the dual-clutch transmission, which Volkswagen calls a direct-shift gearbox, or DSG. These units put the even and odd gears on separate shafts, and as soon as one gear is engaged, the next one is ready to go.

    These quick shifts result in almost no loss of engine power, which means not just better performance, but improved fuel efficiency on top of an engine that inherently gets better mileage. Against published figures of 7.5 in the city and 5.6 on the highway, I averaged 6.6 L/100 km in combined driving. And if you hate stopping to fill up (which, for some explicable reason, I do), that improved mileage also gives you longer range.

    As for the rest, the Golf Sportwagon drives as good as it looks. Sharp steering response and a tight turning radius make it very nimble and manoeuvrable, while the ride is smooth and quiet. You can put the shifter into Sport mode, where it will hold gears longer before shifting or let you manually shift up or down, but unfortunately there are no shift paddles on the steering wheel.

    9.5Excellent
  • Value

    It’s hard to compare the Golf to other vehicles, because hardly anyone else makes a station wagon, and no other non-premium automaker puts a diesel into one.

    That said, if you’re buying the engine strictly because you like diesels, it’s pretty sweet that you can get into one starting at $25,000. But if you’re looking at it primarily for fuel economy, it gets a little tougher. As with a hybrid, you have to do the math. Depending on the trim level, the diesel is an additional $2,300 to $2,500 over the cost of the gasoline engine. Diesel is also usually more expensive per litre than gas, you will pay more for oil changes, and you have to use AdBlue. Those who put a lot of kilometres on their vehicles will see their payback much sooner, but if you only ever use your car for short trips, you may be better off with gas.

    7.0Good
  • Conclusion

    Thanks to crossovers and SUVs, the general public doesn’t love station wagons with the passion it used to, and that’s a shame. You generally get the same cargo capacity, if not more, along with a smaller vehicle that uses less fuel and is easier to load, drive and park. I love the Golf Sportwagon for all of that, but wait, there’s more! Over the next couple of model years, Volkswagen is going to tweak the range with two all-wheel-drive models: one that looks the same as the current wagon, just with that four-powered capability, and one with more ground clearance and cladding that’s expected to compete with the Subaru Outback. Really, does it get any better than this?

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