By on July 23, 2015

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (1 of 14)

Great. Another diesel Volkswagen. This time it’s the Golf SportWagen — a car every enthusiast said, “I’d buy that with real, non-Internet money.”

We all know exactly how this is going to go:

  • The Golf is better than the Jetta.
  • The Golf SportWagen is better than the 5-door Golf if you have two kids and a dog.
  • The 1.8 TSI is more fun than the 2.0 TDI.
  • The 2.0 TDI is more efficient than the 1.8 TSI, but not enough to justify the increased MSRP when fuel prices are low.
  • You should get the manual if you can.
  • Stop buying Tiguans and get the Golf SportWagen instead. (Never mind. Nobody’s buying Tiguans.)
  • You should also buy this if you care about manuals and wagons and diesels, especially as a package. (Brown is for Luddites.)

It’s with these points in mind I plunged into a week-long test of the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen — just a mere two weeks after driving the Jetta TDI.

And as much as I like it — really, really like it — the long-roof Golf is hard to justify for exactly two reasons.


The Tester

2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI SEL [USA]/Sportwagon Highline [Canada]

Engine: 2-liter DOHC I-4, turbodiesel with intercooler, direct injection (150 horsepower @ 3,500-4,000 rpm, 236 lbs-ft @ 1,750-3,000 rpm)

Transmission: 6-speed automatic, DSG with Tiptronic

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 31 city/42 highway/35 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 39.9 mpg, approx. 70-percent city driving with a light foot

Options (U.S.): Lighting Package, Driver Assistance Package.
Options (Canada): Multimedia Package (includes bi-xenon headlights with AFS, 5.8-inch touchscreen audio with navigation, 8-speaker Fender premium audio, forward collision warning system, LED daytime running lights).

As Tested (U.S.): $33,995 (sheet)
As Tested (Canada): $38,120 (sheet)


But, before we get to that, let’s talk about the car in a vacuum.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (8 of 14)

Exterior
The Golf SportWagen (U.S., in Canada it’s called Golf Sportwagon … like the actual word … in English) replaces the Jetta wagon in Volkswagen’s American lineup. The wagonified compact earns its new name by being more closely related to the Golf than the Jetta this time around. Underneath its sheet metal is Volkswagen’s modular MQB platform shared with the current 3- and 5-door Mk7 Golf and Audi A3.

Thanks to a more modern platform, the Golf SportWagen is roughly 134 pounds lighter than the outgoing Jetta Wagon — and that’s with a longer, wider body. The long-roof Golf is 1.1 inches longer and 0.7 inches wider than the Jetta it replaces, though Volkswagen does make a point to mention the new wagon’s roof is 1.1 inches lower than its predecessor, possibly reducing the car’s frontal area.

The execution of the Golf SportWagon is at odds to the Charger I drove the week before. The Dodge looks completely different from its predecessor despite using the same platform, while the Volkswagen somehow looks more similar to its predecessor even while riding on a whole new platform.

Up front, the SportWagen is all Golf. Put the two side by side and there isn’t much difference. The headlights in our tester were fitted with LED daytime running lights that show up much better in person than they do in pictures on a rainy day. Below the bumper skin is a tiny square, hidden away, that houses the radar gear needed for the adaptive cruise control and other semi-autonomous and safety features. I must say that Volkswagen does a hell of a lot better job at hiding their new-fangled techno gear than most others (FCA and Hyundai, I’m looking at you two).

Around back, the SportWagen receives its own sheet metal and taillights that are tenfold more appealing than the old Jetta wagon. The taillamps festooned to the rear of the Jetta were quite rounded off and lacked even a modicum of personality. The new SportWagen says, “Yes, I’m practical, but I’m oh-so sharp at the same time.”

From the side, the SportWagen does the long-roof body style justice by keeping the D-pillar fairly upright and the lines as simple and cohesive as possible. This is no Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon and it shouldn’t pretend to be. The bright, deep shade of Silk Blue Metallic paint is enough to call attention to this long-wheelbase Golf. Other than the color, the Golf makes no sporting boasts, though the wheels are a tad much.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (11 of 14)

Interior
Inside is the same as any other Golf — good materials, well-planned design, simple dials, decent controls, all wrapped around a cheap infotainment display with crummy navigation and limited media input options — but more on that later.

When you run through a new car every week and have to wash each one, you notice some cars are much, much easier to keep tidy than others. The SportWagen only asked for a simple microfiber cloth to bring luster to the shiny plastic bits and dusting the remaining dash was a breeze.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (12 of 14)The instrument panel is clear and easy to read — thank you, Volkswagen, for getting rid of the stupid, retina-searing blue lighting accents that left ghosts in our vision — and the driving position was perfect for my 6-foot-1-inch frame. The seats are comfortable but nothing to write home about.

But, if there’s one gold star to be given to the SportWagen — and this applies to the Jetta and Golf as well — it’s for visibility. Volkswagen has figured out how to keep passengers safe without lifting belt lines to a driver’s pupils, and that’s doubly important when driving a low vehicle with a large interior volume and a rear window that’s seemingly eleventy billion feet away from your rear-view mirror. This enhanced visibility also contributes to a very open, airy feeling in the cabin.

Infotainment
Remember when I said there are two reasons that make justifying a Golf SportWagen difficult? This is one of them.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (14 of 14)I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you have a modern phone that doesn’t use the old-style iPod/iPhone connector and you don’t need a Volkswagen right freakin’ now, wait until next year. There is supposed to be a better infotainment system and actual, honest-to-goodness USB ports.

Let me be clear: If you buy a Jetta, Golf, or any Volkswagen with this red-headed stepchild combination of haphazard technology and later complain about how much it sucks in the comments, I will link to this review each and every time screaming, “I told you so!” before throwing you to the rest of the B&B. The combination of no USB ports and a sub-par infotainment system in a modern car, especially one in the $30,000 range, is inexcusable in 2015.

Another niggle is the process you’re forced to go through to pair a phone or media device via Bluetooth. You, the driver, must use the steering wheel controls and instrument panel display to pair phone and audio devices instead of the center touchscreen used by every other automaker. Before you say, “Mark, I only ever paired my phone to the car once … when I first bought it,” this design introduces a problem for those of us who have passengers who want to connect their own devices as the driver is then forced to perform pairing process. Expect to see this functionality move to MIB II’s center touchscreen for MY2016 — though, by then, you won’t need it because Volkswagen will finally provide USB ports along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Drivetrain
Just like the diesel Jetta from weeks ago, diesel hesitation from a standing start is evident in the Golf SportWagen as well. Thanks to almost no initial torque from Volkswagen’s turbocharged compression-ignition four cylinder, the Golf is slow off the line until the snail starts to spin. It’s unnerving in the beginning, but you can compensate for it after a couple of days.

The six-speed DSG automatic is the same as the Jetta TDI, too. Crisp shifts are the norm and there’s no driveability issues outside of those detailed above.

The fuel economy surprised me. Even with all the additional weight of the wagon metal, the Golf still nearly crested 40 mpg with minimal effort.

However — and this is a big however — I’d still have the turbocharged, gas-fed 1.8 TSI instead. Unless you are clocking massive mileage or have an unrestrained desire to burn fryer fat on Oregon, the 1.8 TSI is more fun, delivers improved driveability and costs less initially. Also, I’d have the manual, just because.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (7 of 14)

Drive
You know what? As much as journalists admonish the Jetta and heap praise upon the Golf, Volkswagen has taken strides in making the refreshed Jetta a much more compelling proposition. So much so that — and I expect to get a bit of flack for this — the Golf isn’t really that much better than the Jetta, or at least not enough to justify the higher price.

If you were led to each car, the Golf SportWagen TDI and Jetta TDI, blindfolded, and asked to rate which one is better, 95 percent of the buying public would simply shrug and say, “They’re both good to me.”

The Golf SportWagen TDI suffers from the same off-the-line latency as its diesel sedan counterpart. They both have competent suspensions, but both feel a bit heavy, probably due to the big diesel lump at the front. Both testers had brakes you needed to lean on before they’d really grab those discs.

And this is a great segue into the second reason to not get a SportWagen.

Unless you really, really want a wagon, get a Jetta. Now, you probably noticed I didn’t say Golf, and there’s a reason for that, too.

The Golf SportWagen is, like DR Period says, “money”. One cannot simply ignore the massive bargain for which a Jetta can be had. If you are looking to get a car today, go out and lease a cheap Jetta for next to nothing, wait out the term, and go back to the Volkswagen dealer to see what improvements have been made in three years. This is a good solution for the aforementioned infotainment/USB problem above, as well. It gives you the car you need now — even though it might not necessarily be the one you want — and you bridge the gap to newer, better product at a cost that amounts to lint-covered pocket change.

So, there you have it: the best Golf SportWagen TDI is a diesel Jetta. You’re welcome.

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104 Comments on “2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen TDI Review – Hold Right There...”


  • avatar
    mikedt

    I’m car shopping right now and the Sportwagen was up for consideration until I researched trailer hitches. Seems like there is only one on the market at this time and it can barely handle a bike rack. Even the ones for the Jetta Sportwagen have low ratings. Hard to believe, since I have to assume a lot of Europeans are using them to tow stuff. Because of this alone, I’m probably going to end up with a CX-5.

  • avatar
    GermanReliabilityMyth

    Maybe it’s the wrong attitude, but as far as I’m concerned anyone who tows with a vehicle that isn’t a truck might as well be wearing a shirt that says “I Hate Transmissions.” UHaul, and many other companies, make hitches you can install on just about any car. Subarus? Yep (because AWD = towing?). Grand Ams? Sure. Ford Aspires? Frighteningly, yes. And you better bet your lucky stars if you cook your transmission, the purchase agreement or installation contract has an out for the maker or installer, attributing transmission failure to owner abuse. In my opinion, hitches on anything without at least an ancillary transmission cooler and towing package is an invitation for trouble.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      There’s way too many variables to just totally write off towing for any and all that aren’t BOF trucks and SUVs with longitudinal engines and RWD based drivetrains. I’ve towed a small utility trailer with a motorcycles in a mid 90s stick shift Accord, no issues at all. I’m sure a CVT 2.5i Outback could handle the same with ease. I had relatives who’d tow small utility trailers with 65hp Fiat-based RWD Ladas, again zero issues (due to the towing anyways, Ladas have issues all their own).

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        My parents used to tow stuff with a Renault Alliance and then Dodge Spirit. That doesn’t me you should. Sure, you can tow with a Sportwagen, but the factory tow packages for some CUVs make those vehicles a better option if towing is important.

        I also wouldn’t tow anything with the 6-speed DSG. That terrifies me.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Why shouldn’t people tow light trailers well within the capabilities of the vehicle? Agreed on the DSG though, the last thing it needs is extra heat and mechanical stress in its life.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            They should. I would just recommend people tow within their and their vehicles capability. Don’t buy a Sportwagen to tow a double jet ski trailer.

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            Yes, I wouldn’t fret about towing a small trailer – I do it with my 1997 Passat TDI all the time. Yes, you can tell it’s back there when loaded, and the acceleration is a bit more leisurely, but no issues otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “In my opinion, hitches on anything without at least an ancillary transmission cooler and towing package is an invitation for trouble.”

      1. Many people install hitches for bike racks.

      2. Most cars can tow utility trailers, kayak trailers, or a pair of motorcycles.

      3. Have you tried yoga?

      • 0 avatar
        GermanReliabilityMyth

        Regarding #3, you should see me go into a conniption fit when I see any 3 cylinder vehicle with a light trailer pulling mulch or a lawnmower. I think I’m afflicted with excessive mechanical sympathy and lose sleep at night grieving these transmissions.

      • 0 avatar
        mikedt

        The low tongue weight limit on the Sportwagen is the sticking point to me. 200lbs limit and reports that the similar jetta wagon hitch mount bike carriers moved a lot. A cx-5 mount in comparison is rated at 500lbs tongue weight.

        And while I have no intention of towing 1000s of pounds, it would be nice to have the ability to take a 300lb harbor freight trailer to the local HomeDepot to pick up some sheets of plywood or bails of insulation. I’ve thought about a truck but can’t justify the additional purchase costs and fuel usage just so I can buy stuff at home depot on the weekends.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          “it would be nice to have the ability to take a 300lb harbor freight trailer to the local HomeDepot to pick up some sheets of plywood or bails of insulation”

          Home Depot has trucks and vans that are $19.95 for the first 90 minutes or so. I can fill a Transit van with soooooo much mulch.

          • 0 avatar
            Veee8

            Our local city yard has free mulch too – so for 19.95 I can really load up!
            Thanks for the tip bball.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The best part is there is no mileage limit or other fees. Just put whatever gas back into it that you used.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            This is very true, and also beyond a certain $ size order, HD will deliver it for nothing. I think around $600.

          • 0 avatar
            bryanska

            And the truck takes 30 minutes to rent, sometimes longer at Menards.

            I have towed my folding HF trailer with a Miata, Tucson, and now my 300C. Nothing beats the HF trailer for pure no-fucks-given.

            Going camping? Throw it all in bins, and chuck those in the trailer.

            Buying a dryer? Why pay $60 for delivery when you can throw it on the trailer.

            Real Xmas tree? Why scratch up the roof when the trailer is right there in your garage, 5 minutes from being ready?

            Although I wouldn’t tow with NO rating, I feel 100% OK with a vehicle rated at 1000lb.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheatridger

            This is a side issue not of interest to many, but I can’t resist a few points from experience.

            — A buddy of mine uses a JSW TDI/manual to tow 1200 lbs of rafting gear and trailer over the Rockies and through the burning deserts. He’s done this for years with zero mechanical problems.

            — Auto Express Magazine’s Tow Car of the Year 2015 is the Golf SW, a slightly larger Golf hatchback variant with TDI and DSG, rated to tow 3200 lbs.

            — I tow a 2,200 lb Scamp fiberglass travel trailer with a Tiguan, with excellent results so far. The car squats less than one inch when I hitch up with the recommended 10% tongue weight. The car’s stability control sees the trailer and adapts for its behavior. The combination drove up a vertical mile from Denver to Leadville, with no strain at modest throttle openings, getting 18 mpg round trip. What more should I ask of a tow car?

            None of this evidence is likely to sway those whose standard towing advice is always, “You need a bigger truck.” And towing anything will never be as as safe as towing nothing. But unless you just want an excuse to buy a bigger truck, I don’t think anyone has to worry about towing within the USA’s highly discounted tow ratings.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      An entire distributed nation whose life, livelihood and procreation depends on towing their every belonging around with them on a permanent basis, the gypsies of Europe, seem to disagree with you……

      Trucks are better for towing, but that doesn’t mean cars can’t do it. Just as Peterbilts being better for towing than mere Superduties, doesn’t mean any towing at all with those comparatively puny Fords should somehow be avoided.

      Closer to home, it seems to me two of the more popular vehicles for towing in the US, is the Electraglide and the Goldwing. Neither of which, despite what the sportbike crowd may claim, are exactly trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        GermanReliabilityMyth

        Point taken.

        I’m not saying they can’t tow, I’m just questioning whether the drivetrain was designed and built to consistently tow even the recommended capacities on a regular basis. Nevermind folks who regularly exceed gross vehicle weight ratings and wonder why their transmission is ailing down the road. This type of behavior, coupled with the myth of lifetime transmission fluid, and people averse to maintenance (‘Merica) is a recipe for disaster.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Have you ever been to Germany?? Yes, this drivetrain was designed and built for towing. Towing way more than you would ever possibly imagine.

          • 0 avatar
            GMat

            I have a 2015 Ford Focus, 6 speed manual ,one of Ford’s “World Cars” However, in the UK this same car and drivetrain is rated (no trailer brakes) 640 (kg) = 1410 lbs, and (with brakes) 1200 (kg) = 2645 lbs. In America, the Owner’s manual states: “Your vehicle is not approved for trailer towing. Never tow a trailer with your vehicle.” Is this a concession to American driving habits, or are these vehicles in fact constructed differently

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            A combination of the realities of the American legal environment, and knowing that the average American is willing to spend more on a more profitable C/SUV or pickup given a little prodding.

            I say use your brain and tow with the Focus if you need to.

          • 0 avatar
            bhtooefr

            As I understand, European tow ratings are set based on whether the vehicle can start the trailer moving on a 12% grade without rolling back. It’s considered acceptable to be going as slow as 35 mph or so if your vehicle can’t safely tow the trailer faster. Also, European drivers have to get special licenses in many countries to be allowed to tow anything.

            In the US, vehicle tow ratings are based on what the automaker thinks is safe to tow at freeway speeds, and you do not need a special license to tow, so there’s an additional layer of idiotproofing.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    33K? No thanks. Not all too long ago, the Acura TSX wagon was going for about that.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “Volkswagen has figured out how to keep passengers safe without lifting belt lines to a driver’s pupils”

    That’s because lifting the beltlines has more to do with buyers’ perceptions of safety (and, frankly, stylists’ perceptions of what looks good with twankie dueces) than with actual safety.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Tall belt lines/short greenhouses make it easier to reduce wind noise at speed. Which, combined with a more enveloping, less spindly feel from the inside, makes for a more “premium” experience.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        Then it’s the one part of the premium experience I don’t desire. I want visibility, even if it makes the car “spindly” (I’m reminded of the Mk. IV Jetta Wagon TDI that I plan to buy one day- it’s as glassy and transparent as a microbus!)

        I don’t think the Mark VII Golf’s beltine was raised, as much as its roof was lowered. By listed specs, the new car is one inch lower. My comparison measurement with my Mk V GTI indicated that the side windows are an inch shorter, accounting for all the difference. I’m oversensitive to this measurement because I sit very tall in my seat, and I don’t fancy staring straight at my sun visor all day. The new Golf definitely feels tighter, more couped-up, to coin a phrase.

        With my Tiguan’s lease coming due, I really wanted to like this car. Although the GSW seems improved in every other way, it just tells me that I’ll never own one. I’ll snag a JSW, and enjoy the roominess of visibility of those MkV & VI interiors.

  • avatar
    statikboy

    I don’t understand the reference to Men in Black 2.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I think the smart pick is the base model “S” with the 1.8TSI and a 5spd manual. Arguably the least potential for trouble down the road, although the 1.8TSI has a question mark by it, as do all VW powerplants short of the old 2.5 and ancient 8 valve 2.0 IMO. Even I, the Euro-averse Japano-phile, am extremely attracted to this car. Specifically in the base trim with that very attractive starting price ($21k with destination?). I’ve seen a few advertised locally by dealers for $20k flat, as a sort of price leader. My top contenders for a future do it all commuter/family vehicle (supplanted by a BOF SUV) are an Outback or one of these. The one thing I wish the VW had were a cloth seat option, either that or a standalone heated seat option for the leatherette.

    • 0 avatar

      My neighbor just got this car, the Launch Edition. He paid a bit over 18 all in, so it is a screaming deal. Bargain basement bluetooth, even. Lots more hard plastic than my Mk 6 TDi.

      The higher end radio system like in the tester isn’t bad. Everyone gets their knickers in a twist about it, which I don’t get.
      It plays Ipod, SD cards, thumb drives, has HD radio, and Satellite.

      You get 20 w/ch clean into passable speakers. For a STOCK system I’d had far worse.

      The proprietary plug is stupid-I have one to the iphone, and one for a 128 mb thumb drive (usb). My Mk 6 has the top line radio but not the nav. (RCD 310 ?) The special cable is expensive at the dealer, but cheap on ebay. Very cheap on Ebay. DPF life is a question for any diesel car, but not the USB port issue.

      Oh, and the towing thing is because apparently a short rig like a Golf and trailer will stick to speed limits in europe but here will expect to do 90. A truck and trailer are longer than the car and trailer, and it damps oscillations. Since Americans are stupid, will pass you the beer to “watch this”, and then sue, we don’t get hitches.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        He damns the entire infotainment system, even though the $5 ebay cable gives you the USB input, and it has SD, satellite, etc.

        And the other cord to connect the “modern phone” is another $5.

        And it sounds damn good – isn’t everyday sonic performance a pretty large consideration in an infotainment system…or is that so yesterday; now what matters is once-in-a-blue-moon phone pairing ease – ? Right.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ll never give more than a passing comment on the quality of an audio system unless it’s truly mind blowing because 1) I am not an audiophile and 2) if you are streaming music over Bluetooth or even reading MP3 data via USB from an iDroid, the quality of the music is going to be more limited by the source than it is any modern automotive audio system … unless it’s some two-speaker job on a base model Mitsubishi, then it doesn’t even matter.

          Also, the issues with the infotainment system aren’t limited to a USB input. The quality of the display and ease of use are also not the best. I am really looking forward to MIB II.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            MIB II is going to cure these ills.

            But mp3 from a phone, the SD or USB…it’s all dependent upon the quality of the file.

            Most cars won’t support lossless files, but I use 32GB SDHC cards with files at 320Kbit/sec, and you will not be able to tell those from lossless on your home $2,000 sound system, much less car audio.

            Pretty much the same story with the 256Kbit/sec files from Amazon, iTunes, etc. Run-of-the-mill digital downloads from mainstream sources like these are NOT going to be the limiting factor in car sound system appraisal.

            You play music every day. You don’t pair a phone every day. Common-sense smell test. Sorry.

            I’ll give you the nav shortcomings.

          • 0 avatar
            whynot

            I agree the infotainment system isn’t the best (I have a Mk7 Golf), but god do I wish all cars have the ability to cycle through radio stations to see what is on without actually changing the playing station like you can do in the VW system.

            It one of those things that sounds completely pointless…until you have it.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            I strongly disagree. The factory car audio system is the limiting factor. While the D/A converters on smartphones are generally horrible and will not provide decent sound to the auxiliary input, a good head unit should be able to take a decent quality digital file (192 kb/s MP3 or better) through USB or bluetooth and make accurate analog signals that will sound as good as the speakers and interior quality allow. With factory car stereos, that’s still not usually going to be impressive in any way, but feed the same digital information from the same smartphone to a quality receiver hooked up to some nice Paradigms or B&Ws in a good listening environment and it will sound great.

        • 0 avatar
          derekson

          Dealers will also just throw in the cable if you ask. I got an iPhone 5/6 cable with my CPO Jetta no problem. I’m sure they would’ve been happy to throw in USB as well if I had asked.

          That being said, the MDI connector is still a pointless annoyance, however minimal in practice. Plus MIB II is a massive step forward in every way.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Worth noting: the “launch edition” speedlaw refers to is a two door hatchback model only. But as far as I can tell, the interior materials are the same as the “regular” Golf. If I’m wrong, let me know.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I have to agree. I don’t want “infotainment”. I just want a decent sounding stereo that I can plug something into with my tunes stored on it. I don’t really care all that much what “something” is. I don’t want NAV at all. No factory NAV system is ever going to match GoogleMaps on my Nexus 5. I don’t even care about the upcoming screen mirroring, one more thing to go wonky when I have to have the phone in the car, plugged in, regardless. The rest of the crap you can do on a phone is a waste of my expensive data plan. I own 1500+ CDs, I don’t need Pandora.

        I grudgingly ordered the Tech package with NAV on my M235i because BMW bundles some actually useful things with it (and what’s the difference once you get to that price range), but I doubt I will ever touch the navigation once the car hits the dirt in the US. So much easier to grab my phone, say “OK Google” then “directions to wherever krhodes1 wants to go”, and it magically does it, with amazingly good traffic-based routing.

        As for wagon vs. sedan, I don’t do sedans, so it is either short hatch or long hatch for me for a car that needs to be practical. I’d probably go for the 1.8TSI as well, much as I love diesels. I just don’t do enough long trips any more. Either way it would be a stickshift, whatever trim level that is cheapest that gets me butt heat.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The S model is priced really well and you even get reasonably sized wheels and tires with sidewall for ride compliance. The 1.8 paired to the manual is just a treat and–to me–completely kills any rationale for the TDI. The outgoing Sportwagen had heated cloth seats standard in a ~$20K vehicle. Now you have to spend something like $25-26K to get them.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Actually, as I don’t have a dog or live in Boulder (the two just go hand in hand), I’d skip the wagon altogether and go with the five-door S sedan. Cheaper, lighter, and looks good (if a bit cheap at the lower trim levels).

        Good luck finding a manual, though…

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Indeed, but this wagon’s a good kid hauler as well, and not a bad CUV alternative if you don’t crave the ride height and AWD.

          Our dog gets carsick at ralphs all over, so he gets NO say in what we drive.

    • 0 avatar

      I wholeheartedly agree.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    “Stop buying Tiguans and get the Golf SportWagen instead. (Never mind. Nobody’s buying Tiguans.)”

    The Tiguan’s biggest problem right now is Volkswagen, which simultaneously cut both production and price (through incentives). Dealers now have people looking for Tiguans but no inventory to sell. At least in my area.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      think the real issue with the Tiguan is the age of its design. I have one now for I guess 4 years. Got it used. It was, IMO, the best driving CUV at the time. Yes, today there are better packages, especially for cargo space.
      But I understand this is being addressed with the next gen.
      But 4 or more years ago I found it hard to find a better driving feel, engine and interior than the Tigaun.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Mark,

    I don’t get your logic in suggesting a sedan to someone looking at a legitimate station wagon. You seem to focus on dynamics, price, performance etc while never mentioning the elephant in the room when comparing the two vehicles: a massive difference in utility.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Have to agree. And he is at pains to stress that this is an especially utilitarian wagon, too, although he says nothing other than that about the cargo area.

      Puzzling.

    • 0 avatar

      If someone wants a wagon — like really wants a wagon — get this one because it’s damn good. BUT, if you are on the fence, get a Jetta and wait a couple of years.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Yes I saw that, but to devote only a single sentence to the whole raison-d’etre of the SportWagen, namely the cargo space and versatility of the wagon body style seems silly. I understand that it would undermine the whole flow of your review (“buy a Jetta instead of this”), but any review of a vehicle, and particularly a wagon/CUV, should include a bit about its cargo carrying capabilities IMO.

        I’ll make the argument in fact that most people coming into the VW dealer never cross-shop a Golf SportWagen and a Jetta sedan, they’re cross shopping a SportWagen, an Outback, a CRV, an Escape, etc. I could be wrong but it’s a gut feeling.

        • 0 avatar

          No, you are absolutely right. I can see people cross shopping with an Outback. Though, I think others would be more likely to cross shop within Volkswagen’s own showroom — against a Golf and Tiguan.

        • 0 avatar

          I don’t know about that. An Outback is at least a class-size larger and offers a lot more utility for the money, and I say that as a Golf SportWagen driver. I think the Golf SportWagen would honestly get cross-shopped those other compact crossovers you mentioned though…including the Tiguan (which, it should be noted, offers no more usable space than does the regular Golf hatchback and is practically subcompact).

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Nobody even looking at a wagon is on the fence about it.

        • 0 avatar

          And nobody seriously considering a diesel wagon has another option in addition to Volkswagen.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            BMW would beg to differ.

          • 0 avatar

            Yeah, for significantly more. Let’s not kid ourselves here.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Still another option – and a loaded Golf Wagon gets within $10K or so of a stripper 328d (which is not exactly a jail cell).

            If you can afford the BMW, you may well choose the VW for any of a number of reasons. I’m buying a BMW in large part because I can do European Delivery for it (and that was a chunk of why I bought my last one) – I would probably be just about as happy in a VW just in terms of it being a fun car to drive.

          • 0 avatar

            They still haven’t built your car yet? Geez. What is taking them so long?

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            The holdup is me – I’m not going over until 8/19, pickup on 8/21. They build the car ~3-4weeks out, so I should get my VIN and sign the finance papers in the next couple days, and it should go into production next week.

            Was actually scheduled to do the papers Monday, but the dealer did not get the VIN (shut up and take my money!). Not sure what the holdup is, but I have the confirmed pickup date/time and the car shows up on the tracking website as production scheduled. Germans, sigh.

            The number of 328d wagons I am seeing here in Maine is amazing. My CA says they are selling them 2:1 over the 328i, and they are selling something like 5X as many f31s as e91s. That is newest generation 3-series wagon vs. last generation for the code haters among us.

          • 0 avatar

            Ah, chassis codes.

            It’s amazing how quickly BMW ran through the “F” model codes, after all those years of using “E”. Part of it is because M models now have separate designation from their respective non-M counterparts. For instance, the 4-series coupe is the F32, but the M4 coupe is F82.

            Now they’re onto the “G” series. The new 2016 7-Series is G11 and G12. I guess that makes sense, though. When the F01 7-Series was released, it was the beginning of a new era at BMW, with (notably) a whole new electronics architecture. The same can be said for the G11 7-Series. It is worth noting that they’ve also moved onto “I” with the i3 (I01) and i8 (I12).

            And about your car…I remember this lady who came up to the drive-thru (back when I was a teenager at a fast-food restaurant) and told me all about how she’d had to order a manual-transmission X3 from Germany, and that she was able to see it being built via an online camera feed. Are you able to do anything like that?

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    There’s the third reason as well; the blasted leatherette seats. For the life of me i can’t figure out what was so wrong with cloth seats, that VW with exception of bare bones models, replaced almost all their vehicles with the vinyl seats. So the cloth is the definition of poverty spec, but the vinyl screams high end? Not even on SEL versions of Jetta/Golf can you have leather anymore. I rented the MB GL450 over last week while on vacation with kids, and those seats sucked! That’s $65K vehicle with vinyl seats. Regardless of what people say, the MB Tex is the same old stinky vinyl that VW puts in their cars. Sorry for venting….

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      V-Tex is better than pretty much all of the cloth at the low end VW price point. It does make for a burnt a$$ in July if you move to AZ without tinting your windows.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I too prefer cloth, but the vinyl is still infinitely better than pickled dead cow skin if you plan to keep and/or actually use the car.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The base cloth on the MkV Jetta base model was atrocious. V-Tex was a significant step up. That said, the GTI’s cloth was much better. Cloth seats that are heated are a great thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      Cloth tends to soak up messes and can smell if not looked after. Leather and vinyl are easier to clean, unless perforated for air flow, then it’s a toss up.

    • 0 avatar

      I prefer the V-tex leatherette in my Golf SportWagen (SEL) to whatever leather they’d otherwise have sold me. Leather doesn’t wear well, and the V-tex really is upscale-feeling.

  • avatar
    mjal

    My car has bluetooth music streaming with no USB port. What is the big deal? With modern smartphones I’ve never missed not having a USB port for my music.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    The SEL trim is over loaded and over priced. S trim is the best deal.
    A OEM usb cable costs 37 bucks.

    • 0 avatar

      And you still only get one USB port unless you get another $15 USB hub. Then you car turns into a mess of cords.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        The hubub over this trivial connectivity issue proves that the car hobby is doomed. What good is a car, anyway, if it takes any effort at all to utilize it?

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      One man’s “over loaded and over priced” is another man’s “costs a lot, but you get a lot for the money.”

      Big picture is this car has like zero competitive set…it’s like saying a Miata is overpriced…compared to what?

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      The SE really isn’t a bad deal either; it adds a lot over the S. SEL on the other hand is something like $2k more for power seats, a dated navigation system and dual zone climate control.

  • avatar
    pbr

    OP:

    >> So, there you have it: the best Golf SportWagen TDI is a diesel Jetta. You’re welcome.

    Awesome. This is why I read TTAC. Actual useful advice. Good luck with the VW / wagen jihad, I reckon they’re on the way.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I want an SE TSI w/the 6AT, navi and moonroof for my wife. APR chip wouldn’t hurt either. Hell of a sleeper.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Definitely a sleeper…as long it’s in motion when you punch it. LOTS of torque. But from a stop, you have to manually downshift it to first to get a decent launch.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Stage 1 APR would be very appealing for this car. I do wonder if the automatic transmission can handle the additional power and torque, though.

    • 0 avatar

      Unfortunately, the navigation system isn’t available on the S or SE trims, in either the 1.8 TSI or 2.0 TSI. You’d need to upgrade to an SEL, where navigation is standard, but you’ll be saddled with a bunch of features you probably don’t want.

      I have the navigation system, as mine is a TDI SEL. Trust me…you aren’t missing much. Just stick with Google Maps. Or wait for the 2016 with its improved system.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    If you are particular about the transmission, I think it’s important to note the following about the 2015 SportWagen trim levels. Mark, do you know if any of these combinations will change for 2016?

    1.8T S – choice of 5 speed manual or 6 speed automatic
    1.8T SE and SEL – 6 speed automatic only (automatic, NOT DSG)

    2.0 TDI – choice of 6 speed manual or 6 speed DSG on ALL trim levels

    It’s also worth noting that if you don’t want the diesel or an automatic, you are stuck with the base trim level that comes with the tiny, ugly 15″ Lyon wheels and very basic features. Basic for a new car in 2015, at least.

    If I were in the market today, I’d want a 1.8T SE or SEL with stick. Alas…

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Not quite correct – you can get the 1.8 TSI sedan with a manual…if you get the one with the sunroof. It’s actually a separate model. Go figure.

      But good luck finding one – that car’s a unicorn where I live (Denver area). Ditto for the manual wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        LeMansteve

        True, but I was talking specifically about the wagon

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          According to VW’s website, the S wagon can be had with a manual. Honestly, I don’t think the SE is worth the extra money.

          But around here, any manual gas-powered Golf besides the stripped-out two door “launch edition” exists on a strictly theoretical level.

          • 0 avatar

            We are in the process of acquiring a Volkswagen dealership and I get to build the website and inventory system, so I have gotten quite chummy with VW’s spec sheets. The 1.8 TSI in S trim can be had with a manual, unfortunately it’s a 5-speed. Meanwhile, the 2.0 TDI features a standard 6-speed manual in all trims, all the way up to the loaded TDI SEL with Lighting and Driver Assistance packages…with the DSG being optional. Mine is a TDI SEL with the Lighting package, but not the Driver Assistance package, and the DSG.

            I believe we currently have a TDI S with a 6-speed manual on our lot, in white.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    True, but I was talking specifically about the wagon.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    The upgraded infotainment system that is now arriving in Golfs (Canada, rejoice! You started receiving the 2016 Rs before us!) is lightyears ahead of the existing system. It’s not just the screen size (6.5″ versus 5.8″ currently), but the resolution and processor speed are both substantially improved.

    To Volkswagen’s credit, their new ‘modular’ approach to their vehicles really is leading to much faster product improvement rollouts in the form of engines, infotainment, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      VW’s “modular” approach is hardly new. Since the early air-cooled days, parts and modules could pretty much be swapped at will.

      But hopefully it means I’ll be able to swap in the newer sat-nav, because I am a chump early-adopter who has a 2015, and the crappy system that lies therein.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Yes, the Jetta is a scremin’ deal…if you lease it. But if you’re buying, I’d definitely spend a bit extra for the Golf. It’s a remarkably good car. My only real niggles about it are that it looks stripped out at the basic trim levels, and the vinyl seats.

    And I actually kind of prefer the automatic in the 1.8T – the manual’s quicker, to be sure, but the Golf at its heart is a wannabe Benz, and drives more like that with the automatic.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    When considering VWs, resale is something you have to keep in mind. Did a quick nationwide autotrader search for used 2006-2012 Jettas and Golf/Rabbits.

    least expensive gas were several in the $3k-4k range, mostly with 100-150k miles. Most expensive were $20-22k with 10k-41k miles.

    most TDI’s in the $20-22k price range had 30-60k miles and some lower mileage ones were listed from $22k-30k. Perhaps more indicative was the low range. Excluding one with accident damage at $2800, the least expensive was $4500 with 194k miles, next was $5500 with 219k miles. There are 7 between $5500 and $6k, one with unusually low 115k miles, 3 150k-170k, and 3 with over 200k. To consistently find less than 150k, you’ll have to spend at least $7k-$8k, which is a huge premium for the diesel both in percentage and real dollar value.

    As far as the USB goes, my car has a USB and an aux cable and I find myself using the Aux and a cigarette lighter charger for music and charging plus bluetooth for phone calls. Yes, USB is slightly safer for selecting music since I can use my steering wheel buttons and in gauge display, but I find my phone doesn’t charge well on USB, and its simply quicker and easier to pull the music choice up on the phone. This goes double if I’m switching between Pandora and my purchased music.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    Mark Stevenson sounds like a car salesman.

    Someone wants/needs a wagon and he recommends a sedan.

    Fail.

  • avatar
    wmba

    “Just like the diesel Jetta from weeks ago, diesel hesitation from a standing start is evident in the Golf SportWagen as well.”

    Well, what a surprise. So, the clutch still has to engage before the vehicle moves, just like on the other one.

    What is it about the time taken for an automatic clutch to engage that repeatedly makes you call this admittedly annoying characteristic, “diesel hesitation”, Mark?

    The manual drives fine from low revs – the only difference is the automatic clutch in the DSG, and an A3 2.0t exhibits similar characteristics with a gas engine and DSG. It was enough to make me put off getting an A3.

    But I don’t get this blaming one thing – the engine- for the characteristic of another thing – the automatic clutch. Of course, the Audi forum boys mis-characterize it as turbo lag on the gas engine.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Same thing with my DSG-equipped GTI. But nobody ever said that was a slow car. You just learn to accommodate. Who says that’s a flaw? I’m not looking forward to the day when every car drives the same.

  • avatar

    As someone who moved straight from a Jetta SportWagen to a Golf SportWagen, your observations of the new one versus its predecessor are spot-on. Overall, the car just seems much more upscale in its character and purposeful in its design.

    The infotainment/navigation system absolutely does suck, and even though I’ve had the car since April, I’ll let you scream, “I told you so!” But I will say that I wasn’t forced to pair the phone via the instrument cluster screen; I did it through the touchscreen. Like a lot of newer cars, I do like that you can have two different Bluetooth devices connected at once, one for phone calls and one for audio streaming. That came in handy when I put my friend on DJ duty during our long road trip last weekend.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    My son’s response to the review:

    “A couple things. Theres only a 13.2 gallon tank so the diesel extends range massively to the 1.8 turbo. Diesel now is around $1 less than premium as you know (cost me $36 to fill wagon up).
    The diesel has major resale value, less depreciation. The nav isn’t great yes,/only basic but I don’t understand people whining on no USB ports- you have multiple 12V phone chargers and can stream everything from phone (music, nav) via Bluetooth.
    Just read the CUV comparo in Motor Trend and while the Mazda CX-3 is very nice and the Honda HR-V has great packaging, the engines are all dogs and they still don’t have the cargo capacity of our wagon seats up or down nor can they touch the MPG.
    The closest thing to sportwagen is BMW 3 series diesel wagon at $46K+
    I knew all about the pending infotainment upgrades for MY 2016 but wasn’t going to wait for something I thought was trivial.”

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