Here is a category that Volkswagen outright owns – a compact wagon with a diesel. That's right, Volkswagen still makes this unicorn, and even if you ignore the diesel component, good luck finding a wagon for sale on a new car lot that isn't luxury car pricing. There is some competition in this dying space, namely the Toyota Prius V, a fairly sensible family-mobile but not much else unless you count the barely-taller-than-a-wagon small crossovers flooding the market.
The Golf Sportwagon starts at a reasonable $22,495, but add the Highline trim, add the diesel and add the six-speed automatic DSG transmission with Tiptronic and you are looking squarely at $34,000. Add in the multimedia package for another $2,200 and you are over $40,000 for this car on the road after taxes, freight and fees, no longer is it a cheap alternative.
The previously mentioned Multimedia Package is certainly a steal of a deal. It adds Navigation and Fender audio system to the car as well as a forward collision warning system and, probably most important, bi-xenon headlights with adaptive front lighting (illuminating into the corners when the steering wheel turns); nice packaging, odd name for it though.
This certainly is an odd car when you think of it from a marketing and sales point of view. Competition is lacking and it really is a niche vehicle / customer base searching for this car. Most wagon buyers have moved onto the less efficient crossovers because they like the upright seating and convincing people that diesels are no longer stinky or gross is always a task.
But here lies the rub with this car, I can only imagine I will be averaging no more than 5 L/100 km this week while being able to carry a good amount of produce or junk in the trunk – can't wait.
Pricing: 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI
Base Price (2.0 TDI Highline): $34,195
Options: Multimedia Package -- $2,220
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $38,120
Toyota Prius V
Is it just because it's no longer cold out that I noticed a bunch of really standout items in this Golf, or have they always been this nice? The centre console trim and door trim is almost a piano black but has an oval shape embedded into it (very faux carbon fibre?), it looks classy yet simple at the same time.
The door pockets are lined with carpet which is a nice touch over hard plastic that always gets scuffed if you actually use the door pocket for anything. And of course Volkswagen's famous centre armrest that both extends and is height adjustable for comfort -- the only compact car with such a great armrest design.
The seats on the highline Golf are sports seats and they are very comfortable too, the bolstering is perhaps a little excessive for some but suits me just fine. The driver's seat is fully powered while the passenger seat is a combination of power and manual controls. The passenger seat is height adjustable which is a nice addition on the Golf as well -- most passengers are left to live with whatever they get.
Of course the wagon aspect of my tester makes the cargo space cavernous, a 60/40 split folding rear seat makes for even more space as well, and those seats fold perfectly flat. Getting in and out of the back of the Golf though is difficult as the rear door openings are small, but leg room seems good once you are inside.
Like pretty much all other Volkswagens before this one the interior is well thought out and the switch gear feels solid. But the entertainment system is so bad, I hear they will be replacing the system completely in the 2016 models -- thank goodness. The Navigation system is brutally slow and frankly so is everything else, switching menus or even waiting for the back-up camera to engage after starting the vehicle is infuriating.
After some late night driving last night a few things came up on the Golf that need mentioning -- because they left this guy super impressed. First was the interior lighting, footwell lighting, door accents and really easy to read white gauges made night driving a pleasure. It makes the Golf feel much more upscale then it should be. Add to that the bi-xenon headlights that turn into the corners at speed as well as under 10 km/h adding side illumination, and night driving feels less dangerous.
The high beams on this Golf are also impressive as they are auto on/off, in other words they turn off when traffic approaches from behind or in front and re-illuminate when that traffic is far enough away. I've seen this feature before but typically in much higher priced vehicles.
Despite the sport seats in the Golf wagon though it is not really all that sporty. The tires give up very quickly around corners and the diesel engine doesn't really feel sporty. The engine is torquey though and will spin the tires if you get on the throttle hard but it takes awhile for the DSG transmission to decide it wants to let you do so at times.
I found on the highway road noise is quite loud, it may be due to the upgraded 17-inch wheels on this model versus the standard 16s. But despite the larger wheels, unlike the Focus I had a few weeks ago, the Golf still turns neatly and tightly making it easy to maneuver even with it's fairly long shape.
Visibility all around is really good with large windows, checking blind spots and parking the Golf Wagon is a breeze, the mirrors are a good size as well. There is nothing bad about the way the Golf drives but it doesn't excite either -- good basic transportation, that feels solid on the highway.
I thought I would dip below the 5's for fuel economy with this car, but it was not meant to be. But it's not like I achieved bad fuel economy – I averaged 5.3 L/100 km over the week with mostly highway driving, compared to 5.6 L/100 km I averaged in the diesel Passat I had a few months ago.
Diesel pricing right now is on par with regular fuel so that's a bonus for the pocket book. But as small direct injection gasoline motors get more fuel efficient, the diesel is starting to be less attractive even for long haul drivers.
Don't forget you will have to add the urea fluid (diesel exhaust fluid) but that is usually topped up with an oil change. But if you do a lot of highway driving the diesel really offers a nice relaxed drive over a revving gas engine and when you prod the throttle it provides the torque for passing power.
My tester is a Highline and the price reflects it, but if you are looking for a wagon your choices are limited unless you move into the luxury car segment with Volvo and Audi and then prices climb even further, making this Golf look like an utter bargain.