Volkswagen is one of the few automakers that’s consistently sold a station wagon in the United States. When the Passat wagon was introduced years ago, it became popular as a more family-friendly option in the mid-size lineup. It then morphed into the Jetta Sportwagen and has now become the Golf Sportwagen. We’ve been told by Volkswagen that the “Sportwagen” brand is now recognized by most Americans separately from the vehicle model it may be attached to. The switch to Golf comes because the Sportwagen was, essentially, already a Golf and just used Jetta body parts here in the U.S.
Regardless, whatever the Sportwagen’s underpinnings, it’s always been two things: convenient and in diesel. The Sportwagen continues to be a convenient, right-sized family car with the versatility a wagon provides without the downsides that a crossover or other taller, more robust vehicle has. It’s also offered in TDI for diesel efficiency. We like both.
Today’s market has a lot to offer the young family with growing needs and tight budgets. Small hatchbacks, crossovers, and the like are plentiful. Most are also very good. The Golf Sportwagen, however, shines thanks to its signature Volkswagen drivability, diesel efficiency, and right-sized build. It’s big enough for two adults and up to three kids, has cargo space aplenty, and is easy to maneuver and park in tight spaces.
Did we mention that it’s fun to drive? The 2.0-liter turbodiesel outputs 150 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA gives it a rating of 31 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway (42 with the auto trans). In the real world, we rarely saw the MPG meter drop below 40 for long. Even with a load of passengers and while going uphill.
Inside, the VW Golf Sportwagen is on par with the Volkswagen “plain, but quality” design trend. The interior materials are all of quality, but the overall impression is of simplicity and modern uncluttered appeal. The base model includes a 5.8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, and most of the general amenities you’d expect. Upgrade trim points add a sunroof, keyless entry, push-button start, a rear parking camera, more seat adjustments, etc. The Fender Audio system is available as well. On the exterior, alloy wheels are standard and grow in size based on the trim level, starting at 15 inches and ending at a beautiful 18 inches with the SEL package.
On the road, we found the VW Golf Sportwagen to be a good drive. The diesel engine is peppy, though not particularly sporty, with the high amount of torque really paying off in the shorter runs around town in stop-and-go. Out on the highway, the Sportwagen is reasonably quiet and comfortable for everyone. It glides along well and offers just enough power to make merging and passing easy.
The 2015 Golf Sportwagen is a great vehicle and it’s worth a look if you’re a small family on a budget and in need of a good ride. Prices start around $22,000 with our reasonably-equipped test model ringing in at about $26,000, delivered.