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Review of: 2016 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon 4dr Auto 1.8 TSI Trendline

7.1

2016 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon: Attractive practicality

By Chris Chase

Oct. 5, 2016

In her May 2015 review of a Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon, fellow Autofocus reviewer Jil McIntosh astutely said that few things make a station wagon better than a diesel engine. So imagine our dismay — not to mention Volkswagen’s — in the wake of the company’s diesel emissions scandal, which broke in the news a little more than a year ago.

Almost immediately, VW stopped selling Golf and related Jetta models powered by the brand’s 2.0L TDI turbodiesel engine. That meant no more affordable diesel wagons for us aficionados. That stop-sale turned the Golf Sportwagon into a one-engine model, but thankfully that engine, a 1.8L turbo gasoline-fueled four-cylinder, is a decent one in its own right.

Pros & Cons

  • + Trunk space
  • + Well-matched engine/transmission
  • + Fuel economy
  • - Value for money
  • - Small side mirrors
  • - Unsupportive front seats
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  • Walkaround

    Not much to see here, save for a nicely-proportioned compact carry-all. As far as we can tell, the Sportwagon is identical to the more-common Golf hatchback from the front doors forward. This car’s tail is where things get interesting, as the wagon’s body is 295 mm longer, housing 860 litres of cargo volume, compared to the Golf hatchback’s 670. Fold the back seats down, and this wagon can carry 1,880 litres of cargo — more than VW’s own mid-size Touareg SUV.

    8.5Very good
  • Interior

    Our tester had VW’s optional beige cloth interior. We like the look of just about any interior colour that’s not black, but there’s a reason beige upholstery isn’t for everyone: it shows just about every kind of dirt or stain that might end up on it, as our high-mileage tester proved (it had about 15,000 km on it when we picked it up for our week, it looked like a crime scene inside).

    The Sportwagon’s wheelbase is the same as that of the standard Golf, so don’t be disappointed when you discover there’s no more rear-seat legroom here. But the Golf’s rear quarters are roomy enough as they are, and the front seats’ fore-and-aft adjustment is generous, so few people will feel squeezed.

    Some, like us, may not love the Golf‘s front seats for long drives. Granted, we were in the car for 12 hours for a one-day haul from Ottawa to Baltimore, Maryland, but we’ve done that drive in cars that were nicer to our backsides.

    Our tester came in base Trendline trim, which is available with a single option, an automatic transmission that we’ll talk about later, so if you want niceties like leather seating, built-in navigation, automatic climate control or passive keyless entry, you’ll have to move up to Comfortline or Highline trims.

    7.1Good
  • Tech

    Standard equipment does include Bluetooth, USB input, and a backup camera as well as VW’s Mirrorlink smartphone integration system, which supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Both of these effectively provide built-in navigation, as long as you have a smartphone with the appropriate app installed.

    More advanced stuff such as adaptive cruise and automatic emergency braking are available in a technology package only offered on the Highline model. Both Comfortline and Highline models offer blind spot monitoring in convenience (Comfortline) and technology (Highline) packages.

    6.0Okay
  • Driving

    Volkswagen’s 1.8L turbo four-cylinder replaced a 2.5L five-cylinder as the Golf’s base engine a couple of years ago, and its combination of nice low-end torque and fuel economy gave us cause to reconsider our love affair with the TDI diesel. So while we’re disappointed in the decision-making process that forced VW to take a break from selling diesels, we’re not that sad to be left with this 1.8L as the Golf’s only engine.

    About that optional six-speed automatic transmission: Many car enthusiasts who love diesels also prefer manual transmissions to automatics, but in this case, the automatic is actually the better performer, its closely-spaced ratios making more efficient use of the engine’s power. The manual is a five-speed that works just fine, but it needs a sixth gear to be any fun in spirited driving.

    A comfortable ride belies competent handling that makes the Sportwagon a better companion for enthusiastic cornering than you might expect from such a practical-looking car. All of that said, we would not say no to a Sportwagon kitted out with the GTI’s sharper chassis, including its available adjustable suspension.

    The Sportwagon is basically a greenhouse, so visibility is good save for small side mirrors.

    7.3Good
  • Value

    Volkswagen doesn’t sell its cars cheap, and so the equipment and features you get in a $23,000 Sportwagon are available for less in many compact hatchback competitors. But if you want a proper station wagon, this is what’s available for less than $30,000, and the Sportwagon’s price is good value relative to compact crossovers (whose prices tend to start between $28,000 and $30,000) that don’t offer much beyond a taller ride height and a bit more interior space.

    6.5Okay
  • Conclusion

    If you think we like this car, then you can bet we’re excited for the Sportwagon Alltrack, a version of this wagon fitted with all-wheel drive that’s coming for 2017. It will be priced to start at a little more than $35,000 in a nicely-equipped base model that lines up with compact crossovers around the same price point. We know where our money would go.

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