One of the best cars I’ve reviewed this year is the redesigned Volkswagen Golf. That’s no big surprise since this award-winning machine has been at the top of many lists of the “best vehicles” for years.
This week I drove what could realistically be called the extended version of the Golf in the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen. It essentially takes all the best parts of a standard VW Golf and adds more storage and passenger space to make a version of the Golf that is perfect for families or outdoor adventurers.
Let’s review five reasons to drive Vee-Dub’s latest wagon.
Reason #1: Better Than the Former Jetta SportWagen
Like most auto critics, I’m a fan of wagons. I like their utility. I like their slightly larger size. I even like their look.
I like the 2015 Golf SportWagen more than the outgoing Jetta SportWagen for a few meaningful differences.
The Golf is slightly larger, slightly lower, slightly more powerful and, dare I say it, better looking that the old SportWagen. Granted, a Golf wagon will never be the most popular choice of American drivers, but if I had to choose between last year’s Jetta SportWagen and 2015′s Golf SportWagen, I’ll choose the new Golf every time.
Reason #2: A More Fuel-Efficient Golf
The Volkswagen Golf has been on American roads as either the Rabbit, the Golf or the GTI since 1975. Meaningfully, it has deservedly occupied a slot on Car and Driver’s 10-Best Cars list for nine straight years. The writers in Michigan understand that the Golf has virtually everything a driver wants in a hatchback and their praise for the Golf has never waned for nearly a decade.
Updates for 2015 include a turbocharged 170-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that is mated to a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Choose this engine and the EPA expects you’ll see 25 mpg in city driving and 36 mpg on the highway. That’s a huge improvement over last year’s model that netted 23 mpg around town and 30 mpg on the freeway.
You can also choose a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that makes 150 horsepower, 236 pound-feet of torque and improves city fuel economy to 30 mpg and highway economy to 45 mpg. If you’re a heavy freeway commuter, the TDI engine is the smart choice.
Reason #3: Fun to Drive with an Inviting Interior
The Golf arguably has the most premium feel of any vehicle in its class. VW knows how to design an interior that is attractive, intuitive and welcoming, and that stays the same on the Golf SportWagen.
The leatherette seats in my test model were firm but comfortable on long and short drives. The touchscreen infotainment system improves on older models, but is a bit small in comparison to what you’ll find in other vehicles. I typically noticed the smaller size when using the rearview camera, but not when tuning the radio.
The 2015 Volkswagen SportWagen seats five passengers, though four will be most comfortable. You’ll find 30.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seat and 66.5 cubic feet with the 60/40 rear seats folded flat. Though the dimensions are average for wagons, the difference in storage space between the standard Golf and the SportWagen are dramatic. I had enough space to lay a nearly full-size keyboard and electric guitar case side by side, with adequate room for a small amplifier and small gear bags near the back seats. I could never attempt that in a standard Golf.
My rear-seat passengers — both kids and adults alike — found plenty of legroom in the rear seat and I even managed to transport three adults on a 20-minute trip up a canyon without complaint.
In terms of driving dynamics, the Golf SportWagen is easy to handle and easy to park. My TDI model offered generous acceleration after a few moments of turbo lag. It felt zippy but never particularly fast. Once you’re moving at speed on the highway, you have plenty of power to confidently pass other vehicles. If you need maximum performance from your Golf, forgo the Golf SportWagen and focus instead on the GTI or Golf-R models.
Reason #4: Golf is a Top Safety Pick+
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the redesigned Golf a “Top Safety Pick+.” That’s the highest possible safety score and means the Golf earned the top score of “Good” on all IIHS tests.
While the Golf SportWagen has not been tested by either the IIHS or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it offers the same essential features and I anticipate it will perform equally well, but official test scores are not yet available.
Standard safety features include front and side airbags, front and rear curtain airbags and front seat-mounted torso airbags. Electronic stability control, traction control and four-wheel anti-lock braking system and a rollover sensor (on recent SportWagen models) are also standard.
A rearview camera is standard on all models except the Golf SportWagen S and is always a recommended and valuable safety feature. An all-wheel drive SportWagen is not yet available in America, but should arrive for the 2016 model year in the guise of the 2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Alltrack. I’m particularly excited to test that one.
Reason #5: 2015 Volksagen Golf SportWagen is An Award-Winner
The SportWagen is the latest version of the Golf to hit American streets. But the standard Golf has been earning awards with a vengeance this year.
Motor Trend named the Golf its 2015 Car of Year. Car and Driver named the Golf to its “10 Best” list. A veritable “who’s who” of auto journalists named the Golf and Golf GTI the “2015 North American Car of the Year.” US New Best Cars editors currently place the 2015 Golf SportWagen No. 1 on their list of 10 available wagons, topping the excellent Subaru Outback, Audi Allroad and Toyota Prius V.
Put simply, drivers and critics like this new Golf a lot.
Golf SportWagen Makes Great Sense for Families
With all that high praise for this new vehicle, you understandably wonder about the elephant in VW’s large showroom: reliability. VW vehicles are known for great design, attractive interiors and expensive repair bills.
Though reliability for the 2015 Golf is still unknown since the vehicle is new, Consumer Reports notes that the 2013 model was a solid choice. JDPower.com expects the Golf’s dependability should be average for the class.
I suggest you visit your local VW dealership and explore the entire Golf lineup. If you need a fun, sporty hatchback, the standard Golf could be the perfect choice. However, after driving the standard Golf and Golf SportWagen back to back, for my family’s needs, the Golf SportWagen would be my top choice due to the extra passenger and storage space.
No matter which model you choose, know that you’re selecting a winner.
2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen photo copyright Waterdog Media, Inc.