Since its introduction in 2015 replacing the Jetta wagon, the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen, billed as a “sportier alternative to compact SUVs,” has been a top choice for buyers who want a nimble, fun-to-drive vehicle with lots of space, versatility, comfort, and performance.
The Golf SportWagen is also beautifully designed. The appearance is basically unchanged for 2018, with new LED taillights and daytime running lights on the base S trim, and automatic rain-sensing headlights, along with automatic rain-sensing wipers. All Golf models have newly-designed LED Daytime Running Lights and striking LED taillights.
Inside, the SportWagen has a few mild changes, most noticeably a new standard 6.5-inch Composition Color infotainment system, replacing the five-inch system on the S model. A new, larger MIB II touch-screen infotainment system is available on all trims up to eight inches.
An added value change for 2018 is a new People First Warranty, a six-year, 72,000-mile warranty, replacing the previous three-year limited warranty. The new warranty can be transferred to subsequent owners throughout its duration.
SportWagen is available in S, SE, and SEL trims, with pricing from $21,685 for the S model with front-wheel drive and a five-speed manual transmission (six-speed automatic transmission adds $1,100) to $30,245 for an SEL with six-speed automatic.
An S 4Motion with a six-speed manual transmission is $23,935, with a six-speed automatic transmission it is $25,035. The 4Motion system directs power to the front wheels until slip is detected, then sends as much as 50 percent to the rear wheels.
Under the hood, the SportWagen has a 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine. The EPA estimates front-drive SportWagens with a five-speed manual will achieve 25 mpg city/35 highway.
The SportWagen is internationally recognized as a Volkswagen, with the unmistakable DNA of the Golf, while displaying distinctive elements of its own – a “D” pillar, roof rails and a unique rear design.
For this review, I drove a Reflex Silver Metallic Sportwagen S with Titan Black textured cloth seating with contrast stitching. The interior was trimmed with brushed metallic on the door panels, glossy gray on the dash and center stack/console, and piano-black on the steering wheel, shifter knob (five-speed manual transmission), and parking brake handle. Knitted cloth covered the door panels and felted cloth lined the door pockets.
Eight exterior colors are offered, including captivating Night Blue Metallic, Elegant Silk Blue Metallic and brawny Tungsten Silver Metallic. Interiors come in Titan or Beige cloth for S and S 4Motion; Titan or Beige V-Tex Leatherette, or Quartz Gray/Titan Sport leatherette for SE and SEL, depending on model and/or exterior color chosen.
The hood slopes down into the front fenders and has deep creases from the upper grille to the “A” pillars. The updated front grille freshens the front with upper and lower chrome trim.
In addition to new taillights there is a wide rear window and a wide, low tailgate that integrates the license plate. Black roof rails add to versatility, with a place to haul bikes, sports equipment, skis, or luggage.
A load height of 24.8 inches and an opening of 40.6 inches make the SportWagen very functional for weekend adventures or daily hauling of kids to school and/or practice.
The SportWagen is 179.6 inches long and 70.8 inches wide, ensuring sporty proportions and aerodynamic performance. The front wheels sit forward, for a premium “cab backward” appearance. Styling and updated proportions help achieve a lower visual center of gravity and more-dynamic stance.
Wheel size and style varies according to model – my S had 15-inch “Lyon” silver-painted aluminum-alloy wheels with 10 spokes, alternating thin and straight with thick and carved.
Cargo volume is on par with compact SUVs, and passenger volume is increased due to the wagon body style. With the 60/40 rear seats up, cargo space is 30.4 cubic feet, increasing to 66.5 cubic feet with the seats fully folded. Release levers in the cargo area are convenient for quick folding.
Front passengers have 41.2 inches of legroom, while rear passengers have 35.6 inches. Headroom is 38.6 inches for both rows, and total passenger volume is 94.3 cubic feet.
Controls are positioned for optimum ergonomics and usability, with the center stack angled toward the driver, a feature often seen in premium luxury or performance vehicles.
Seat position, shifter height, and spacing between the pedals are refined for maximum driver comfort. A leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob, along with white backlighting for the controls and soft-touch plastics highlight the upscale ambience of the interior.
The MIB II infotainment system, the foundation for VW’s Car-Net connected vehicle services, is standard across the SportWagen line, and also offers one of the most comprehensive suites of connected vehicle services and features in the industry. Introduced in VWs in 2015, MIB was updated in 2016.
MIB stands for “Modular Infotainment Platform,” and this is the second generation of the system, with changes including larger, more responsive touch screens with better graphics. My SportWagen S had a 6.5-inch screen with a capacitive surface with proximity sensors and swipe controls, requiring less pressure to operate.
A Composition Color unit offers an SD card interface, rearview camera and standard Bluetooth technology. Together the units offer one USB port, a JPEG viewer, satellite radio, HD radio and Free Lossless Audio Codec, and have the ability to send and receive SMS text messages, pairing two phones at once.
Volkswagen Car-Net features are divided into three areas: App-Connect, Security & Service, and Guide & Inform. App-Connect smartphone integration is standard, allowing the user to run select apps on the vehicle’s display through Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink.
A Security & Service subscription helps locate your parked vehicle, check if the doors are locked, make emergency calls, receive vehicle health reports, and more.
The Guide & Inform subscription includes navigation, weather reports, traffic updates, fuel prices and locations, sports scores, and more.
My SportWagen didn’t have integrated navigation, but it wasn’t a problem as I could use the app on my phone or Car-Net Guide & Inform.
The SportWagen comes with both passive and active safety systems, meeting or exceeding all current crash regulations, including Electronic Stability Control, Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, and Intelligent Crash Response System.
Post-collision braking applies the brakes when the air-bag sensors detect a primary collision, thus reducing the possibility of additional damage from subsequent collisions.
Intelligent Crash Response shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors and switches on the hazard lights following certain types of collisions where air bags are deployed. SportWagen is rated by the IIHS as a Top Safety Pick.
SportWagen S offers several options for fun and convenience: Muddy Buddy Trunk Liner, $105; CARGOTECH Blocks, $45 for organizing items on the Muddy Buddy liner; Rear Seat Cover with an opening to the armrest/pass-through, $105; attachment kits for a cargo box, $1,064; bike, $546; kayak, $531; snowboard/skis, $576; and many more.
My Golf SportWagen S with the manual gearbox was well-equipped, comfortable and roomy, quiet with a subtle Volkswagen rumble, attractive and well-appointed inside, and versatile enough for all my needs – people hauling, shopping trips, and antiquing.
A destination charge of $850 brought the total delivered price to $22,535.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.