Volkswagen’s Jetta SportWagen has been discontinued for 2015, but don’t despair. It really hasn’t gone away. Instead, it’s been redesigned and renamed the Golf SportWagen for 2015.
It looks almost the same, and has almost the same specs and engine choices as its predecessor, including the base 1.8-liter turbocharged gasoline engine, and the optional 2.0-liter TDI diesel – although this is a new version of the diesel, introduced in a variety of VW models for 2015.
The Golf SportWagen is 1.1 inches longer and 0.7 inches wide than the Jetta version, but it’s also 1.1 inches lower, giving it better aerodynamics to help boost fuel economy, Volkswagen says. It also weights about 137 pounds less.
Its design provides a more-squared-off rear end than you’d get with the typical Golf hatchback, which translates into more useable cargo space. With its overall length of nearly 180 inches, this vehicle can accommodate up to 30.4 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seat in place, or a whopping 66.5 cubic feet with the rear seatback folded.
In the passenger portion of the cabin, there’s technically room for up to five people, but the rear middle position is a tight fit for adults or children big enough to ride without a child safety seat. It is the perfect spot for that safety seat, though.
Up front, the driver and passenger have quite comfortable accommodations, and the two rear outboard passengers have generally enough room if they don’t have long legs or are plus-sized (perfect for most teenagers).
Fuel economy is one of the SportWagen’s best attributes. With the gasoline engine, the EPA ratings are 25 mpg city/36 highway with the standard six-speed manual gearbox, or 25 city/35 highway with the optional six-speed automatic.
But the diesel offers the best mileage, approaching that of some of the hybrid vehicles: 31 city/43 highway with the six-speed manual, or 31/42 with the six-speed automatic.
For 2015, prices begin at $21,395 (plus $820 freight) for the base 1.8T S model with the manual gearbox, or $22,495 with the automatic. Diesel versions begin at $24,595 for the TDI S model with manual, or $25,695 with the automatic.
Other trim levels include the 1.8T SE automatic ($26,995); 1.8T SEL automatic ($29,345); TDI SE manual ($27,995); TDI SE automatic ($29,095)’ TDI SEL manual ($30,345); and the TDI SEL automatic ($31,445). The manual gearbox is not offered on the 1.8T SE and SEL models.
Our test vehicle was the TDI SE manual, with two options. We had the Lighting Package ($995), which brought LED Daytime Running Lights; adaptive headlights, which turn slightly in the direction the car is turning; ambient interior lights; and LED reading lamps.
We also had the Driver Assistance Package ($695), which added the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, the Forward Collision Warning System, and front and rear Park Distance Control.
With freight and options, the total sticker price of our test vehicle was $30,505. But you can get a base SportWagen with the very capable turbocharged gasoline engine and even an automatic transmission for about $7,000 less, or with the manual gearbox for about $8,000 less.
There is plenty of power from either engine. The 1.8T produces 170 horsepower and 199 foot-pounds of torque, while the TDI cranks out 150 horsepower and 236 foot-pounds of torque.
Our TDI engine gave us plenty of zip for Interstate highway cruising or climbing hills and uphill freeway on-ramps. With about a 50-50 mix of local and highway driving, we averaged about 36.7 mpg, and did not have to refill the tank during our week of testing.
Even the base S models are very well equipped, and the starting price is $700 lower than the previous year’s Jetta SportWagen. TDI models start about $2,000 less, making them a much more-affordable option.
Among standard features on the 1.8T S model are 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; Bluetooth connection; a touch-screen radio with satellite radio trial; an earlier-generation iPhone cable and a USB port for smartphone integration; V-tex leatherette seating surfaces; power windows/mirrors/door locks; and manual air conditioning.
The 1.8T SE versions add 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; front fog lights; a panoramic sunroof; keyless access with pushbutton start; a rearview camera; and a premium Fender audio system.
With 1.8T SEL models come 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels; silver roof rails; a navigation system; Climatronic automatic air conditioning; sport comfort seats with a 12-way power driver’s seat; and the ambient lighting with LED interior reading lights.
As the clean diesel models, the base S version comes with most of the items on the 1.8T S version, except 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels are standard, along with keyless access with pushbutton start and the rearview camera..
TDI SE models add the Fender premium audio, automatic headlights and panoramic sunroof.
The TDI SEL versions bring navigation, automatic air conditioning, and sport seats with 12-way power adjustment for the driver.
Inside, the center instrument stack is now angled towards the driver, and there is white backlighting for the controls. Premium materials are used throughout the cabin, including the leather-wrapped handbrake, shifter knob and steering wheel, soft-touch plastics and piano-black trim.
Other standard features on all models include a multifunction steering wheel and the VW Car-Net connected car features, along with the touch-screen infotainment center. Its 5.8-inch display has a capacitive-touch sensor like those uses in smartphones and tablets, which allows for gesture controls such as swiping and pinch-zooming.
Among standard safety features are electronic stability control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, tire-pressure monitoring, front and front-seat side-mounted air bags, side-curtain air bags for both rows, and VW’s Intelligent Crash Response System, which automatically unlocks the doors and shuts off the ignition if a collision is detected.
Volkswagen’s new Automatic Post-Collision Braking system is standard on the SportWagen. It applies the brakes when a primary collision is detected by the air bag sensors.
Driving the SportWagen is quite fun. It handles more like a sport coupe than a wagon, with the sporty suspension helping to iron out the curves on mountain roads. Steering is tight and responsive, and never unsure.
It did take some getting-used-to in handling the clutch on our manual-gearbox
SportWagen, as it had a very short range. But after I got the hang of it, there was no problem. Still, for regular daily commutes in stop-and-go freeway traffic, I would prefer the automatic transmission.
Our tester came with the Platinum Gray Metallic exterior paint, and it had the Titan Black Leatherette interior.
The Golf SportWagen is assembled at the Volkswagen plant in Puebla, Mexico.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen
The package: Compact, five-door, five-passenger, four-cylinder, gasoline or diesel-powered, front-wheel-drive station wagon.
Highlights: All new for 2015, the Golf SportWagen replaces the Jetta SportWagen in the U.S. Volkswagen lineup, offering a stylish, economical, well-equipped, and fun-to-drive compact wagon with a clean-diesel engine option for even better fuel economy.
Negatives: Back seat knee room is tight for adults.
Engine: Turbocharged 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder gasoline (base); 2.0-liter TDI inline four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel (optional).
Transmission: Six-speed automatic (optional); six-speed manual (standard).
Power/torque: 170 HP./199 foot-pounds (1.8, gasoline, turbo); 150 HP./236 foot-pounds (diesel).
Length: 179.6 inches.
Curb weight: 3,063-3,246 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Cargo volume: 30.4 cubic feet (rear seatback in place); 66.5 cubic feet (rear seatback folded).
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted, standard.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Fuel capacity/type: 13.2 gallons/unleaded regular (1.8); 13.2 gallons, low-sulfur diesel (TDI).
EPA fuel economy: 25 mpg city/36 highway (1.8-liter, manual); 25 mpg city/35 highway (1.8-liter, automatic); 31/43 (TDI, manual); 31/42 (TDI, automatic).
Major competitors: Subaru Outback, Mini Countryman, Toyota Prius V.
Base price range: $21,395-$31,445, plus $820 freight.
Price as tested: $30,505, including freight and options (TDI manual).
On the Road rating: 8.7 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.