Austin, TX -- This compact utility “thing” is huge. Suddenly, it’s as though everyone shopping for a car realized that bigger is far from better and that “correct size” is truly the way to go.
The station wagon breed hangs precariously from a thread, and has been for a few decades, but in my mind it has always been that correct size. Most manufacturers gave up on the segment -- few still see their worth -- and to them, I extend a personal thank-you. The rush to join the subcompact CUV category is further detrimental to the survival of the wagon and as such, introducing a new version of a small wagon, the only remaining small wagon in North America, takes guts -- and potentially deep pockets.
Calculated wagon risk
In 2014, the Volkswagen Auto Group (VAG) sold for over $215-billion worth of cars, trucks, and all other automobile-related products and thus have said deep pockets. Despite the abundance of money, Volkswagen are no fools; being alone in this segment ensures sales, however few.
The 2015 Golf Sportwagon is but one member of the Golf family, but where I’m concerned it is the most versatile, and the prettiest. A hatchback is already flexible, but by extending the roofline a generous number of millimetres, a whole new world of options opens up.
The MK7 generation of the Golf, introduced roughly a year ago, is stunning. In the compact car segment, many try to emulate the classy and contemporary design of the car, but few manage to copy it properly, let alone match it.
Volkswagen took that Golf, stretched its butt, kept the proportions in check, and created not only a capable family car but also one you would be proud to find in your driveway or garage. The signature Golf front end is intact and (if you can) the optional distinct LED headlights are superb.
The MK7 Sportwagon is all Golf. The “D” pillar is a carryover from the Golf’s “C” pillar while the taillights are also reminiscent of the hatchback’s. The final product is muscular and handsome. Also: Tornado Red is back!
Getting in the Sportwagon is done with ease: door openings are wide, and sliding a baby seat in the rear is child’s play. Four adults can sit with plenty of room to spare. Want boot space? The Golf Sportwagon makes light of many small CUVs thanks to its 860 litres (!) of volume with the rear bench in place. Put that down and the volume grows to 1,880 litres (!!).
The MK7’s dashboard is another element that ties into the Golf’s overall level of class and sophistication. The ergonomics are straightforward and one has to love the available flat-bottom steering wheel. The only foible has to do with the HMI screen that will be updated for the 2016 model year. Bottom line: in typical VW fashion, fit and finish are worthy of a pricier car.
At launch, the new 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon will be powered by two of the most efficient and agreeable 4-cylinder engines currently available. The standard mill is the EA888 turbocharged 170-horsepower 1.8L TSI, while the sole option here resides in the excellent EA288 turbocharged 150-horsepower 2.0L TDI.
The 1.8T surprises me every time thanks to its effortless delivery of power. Its 200 lb-ft of torque (with the 6-speed auto -- 185 with the 5-speed manual) is on tap as early as 1,600 rpm all the way to 4,200.
The TDI’s the charmer, and although the TSI is powerful and frugal, I’d opt for the fuel-burner every time (big surprise) -- 236 lb-ft from 1,750-3,500 rpm kicks’ the pavement’s butt. What’s more, max hp eagerly lines up as of 3,500 upholding forward thrust. With a smart right foot, average combined fuel-consumption could be as low as 6.5L/100 km.
DSG’s the answer
Transmission selection resides between a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed DSG when TDI is selected. Now, I’m not getting old, I’ve become more pragmatic and figure I should work smarter, not harder. The DSG is the epitome of automatic transmissions and (thanks to the wheel-mounted flappy paddles) is as engaging as it is easy to live with.
Drives like a VW
Taking to the road with the Golf Sportwagon poses no compromises over the 5-door hatchback. In fact, the bonus is that you can stuff more gear in the trunk, thus avoiding putting a cargo box on the roof, improving drag, efficiency, and looks. The slight weight increase over the hatchback is barely noticeable through the car’s controls. Steering assistance is nicely judged and the car’s ride quality is unflappable. Providing comfort with a sporty accent, the Sportwagon feels as surefooted as the hatchback.
As the only car of its kind, the 2015 Golf Sportwagon is not only a no-compromise family car, but it will never be a bore to drive. This is a win-win for parents who love to drive and have a small family to lug around.
If I’m to speak for myself, the Golf Sportwagon is all I need. The coming addition of VW’s 4motion AWD system will seal the deal where I’m concerned. With my intentions firmly on starting a family, this is the ideal car. I will have to wait for the 2017 model year…
The 2015 model year will be short, as the 2016s will arrive in the fall and with it will come a new HMI interface. Already arriving in showrooms, pricing for the ’15 starts at $22,495 for a base Trendline 5-speed TSI. A loaded Highline TDI DSG with a few options retails for just over $36k. If our CDN dollar continues to nosedive, it is conceivable that pricing for this car will increase, if ever so slightly. Something to think about.