By on December 22, 2020

Well friends, it’s been an entire year since I purchased a CPO Golf SportWagen, and it’s time for an ownership update.

Do you expect I’ve had any more issues since we last spoke?

You may remember that my initial (and so far, only) ownership experience with a non-Audi VW Group product was not an awesome one. The purchase took a couple months worth of haggling with the local dealer who just happened to have a singular (hard to find) example with tan interior. Because I was able to wait them out, they eventually came around on price.

Much to my dismay, shortly after the purchase I realized there was quite a rattle in the headliner. And so began four repeat trips to the dealer, which after 23 days or so admitted there was a quality control issue with the headliner, as the factory installed a deformed one. At day 27, I picked up my car with a new headliner, and no rattles.

And all was well! Of course, about six weeks later I moved to work from home status along with so many others across the country, and commute miles dropped to zero. I resorted to afternoon or evening sanity drives, most often to explore the middle of nowhere. There on twisty and occasionally hilly roads, the Golf proved a fun if somewhat underpowered companion. Always planted and stable, its primary shortcoming is in the power department. The 1.4 is happy to rev if the shift paddles are used to hold the engine in the first four or five gears. But if left in automatic during zesty driving, upshifts are too frequent. Similarly, downshifts (and turbo power) are a bit too delayed: The power arrives after the corner you’d intended to power out of has passed. The brakes have plenty of punch, and bring the wagon down quickly with an easy-to-modulate pedal. The skinny tires (Pirelli Cinturato P7 all season) designed with fuel economy in mind do create traction issues in wet weather conditions, and I wouldn’t advise anyone do rainy day cornering in a Golf.

On longer-distance trips, the Golf performs well in standard automatic mode. The ride is compliant at high speed, and the suspension absorbs highway bumps well. Seats prove comfortable for a few hours of driving time, with no back or leg aches or fatigue. As you’d expect, cargo capacity is copious and the wagon handles many bags with aplomb. At highway speeds, noise is managed well, although there’s some wind noise from the panoramic roof. I find myself closing the shade on longer trips to buffer it a bit. The heated seats get almost too hot on their highest (level three) setting. I can tell you with certainty Volkswagen does better heated seats than Infiniti, Lexus, and Subaru – no contest.

As mentioned, the interior is a pretty quiet place to be. But there’s a slight rattle in these colder months from the cargo cover. Many wouldn’t notice, but hearing annoying rattling sounds in the car is my thing. While I’m griping, there’s also an occasional slight rattle from the glove box door. Months may pass with no sound from the area, then there might be a few days of light rattling. Again, pretty minor. Owners of these Golfs who park outside will notice there are a lot of places for leaves, pine needles, and other bits of natural detritus to gather. Sometimes they’re hard to pick out by hand, for instance when pine needles lie in crevices around the windshield. Some human detritus made an appearance over the summer and used the Golf as a doorstop in a parking lot. At least it was down low on the door, and touch up paint fell readily to hand.

Generally, the controls and infotainment have been simple and without fault. There’s an “oil change needed” warning which comes up upon every start these days, as determined by the calendar and not mileage. It can’t be reset within the menus by the press of a button, and that’s annoying. There might be a special procedure to reset it, but I’d rather it could be dismissed and not warn me again.

Android Auto works well the majority of the time, with some occasional lag upon startup. When plugged in, the car charges my Samsung phone quickly, which is the opposite of my experience in some other modern cars which used a trickle method of charging. The audio system is fine for this class of car, but would not pass for a premium sound experience (Fender Audio was limited to the extinct SEL trim). The CD player in the glove box is an oddity, as are the memory card slots in there. Both have remained unused.

Features like blind-spot monitoring and rear traffic warnings are nice, but the lane keep assist is annoying – I turned it off quickly. The radar cruise is a bit too cautious and only works without annoyance in low traffic highway situations. If trusting in the machine is your thing, the radar cruise also works around town, even at stoplights.

A year of ownership, and I’ve experienced no issues with the Golf, save for that early rattle. When I picked it up last December the mileage was at 3,997, a figure which reads 8,575 today. This wagon has the most consistent fuel economy of any car I’ve ever owned. No matter how or where this VW is driven, it returns 31 to 32 miles per gallon by hand calculation. The trip computer is generally slightly optimistic, but not too far off. I do wish the fuel tank was a bit larger, as 13.2 gallons seems to disappear so quickly. But at current prices, a $22.00 fill-up doesn’t hurt too badly.

After 12 months, I’m still pleased with the SportWagen. It does lots of things well, and only asks that you manage its relative lack of power in exchange. I don’t see myself getting bored with it any time soon. And if something does break, you’ll be the first to know.

[Images © 2020 Corey Lewis/TTAC]

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45 Comments on “One-year Ownership Update: 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen...”


  • avatar
    Maymar

    Regarding the power/transmission issues, do you ever use the S-mode at the bottom of the shifter? The last MkVII I spent any time with was a 1.8 hatch (so already up a bit on power and down a bit on weight), but as much as the natural transmission tuning was a little conservative, and S-mode was a little frantic, at least it was a quick, easy tap between the two drive modes, so more power was a simple request.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “its primary shortcoming is in the power department.”

    Compared to the Outback or compared to the GS350? If it is slower than a Slowbaru then that’s rough.

    It’s too bad they dumped the 1.8T, but I guess the CAFE monster must be fed.

    • 0 avatar

      The 1.8 was also paired with 6AT instead of 8AT, so there was a considerable mpg difference there.

      If I had to guess, it’s probably slightly slower to 60 than the Subaru, it just feels much nicer getting there. Outback had better highway passing power than Golf unless the Golf is carefully finagled.

    • 0 avatar
      slap

      I’d imagine that with the 1.4T it’s quicker than an Outback. An Alltrack was 2 seconds faster in 0-60 than an Outback (tested by The Fast Lane). The Alltrack has the 1.8T, but is quite a bit heavier than the FWD Sportwagen.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      C&D:
      1.8T Sportwagen, 15.9 @ 89
      1.4T in a somewhat lighter Golf hatch, 15.9 @ 88.
      H4 2010 gen Slowbaru, couldn’t find the Outback but that gen Legacy was a 16.9 @ 83 and H6 to H6 the Outback was a full second slower. Mid to high 17s.

      No. Thanks.

  • avatar
    C5 is Alive

    “There might be a special procedure to reset it, but I’d rather it could be dismissed and not warn me again.”

    VAG-COM by Ross-Tech. It’s pricey and requires a Windows laptop or tablet, but it will also allow you to turn off the oil change light and customize lots of other vehicle functions.

    • 0 avatar
      Urlik

      No VAG-COM needed:
      How to reset the Change Oil notification:

      – While holding the 0.0 button below your gauge cluster down, turn on the car but not the engine.
      – Once the screen in the gauge cluster prompts you to reset the oil change notification. Release the 0.0 button and press it again.
      – It should now tell you that it has been reset.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Car noises and rattles drive me crazy, so I feel your pain. Glad that’s resolved!

    That’s a nice-looking car. Too bad it couldn’t be driven more this year, but so it is with many things in 2020.

    Have you used the ‘wagen’ hauling utility yet?

    • 0 avatar

      Just a few bags or a lot of groceries. Far from being tested.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      My F150 after 10 years has been pleasantly low on the rattles. Any rattles tend to be loose stuff in the glove box or door cubbies.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I am the same way about rattles! Drives me nuts!

      My Accord will be having a new lower-console cover installed because of a creak, and there’s another creak in the dash, probably the one trim panel above the glovebox. Should be easy for the dealer to find it, as it’s pretty obvious when the interior’s cold!

      At least my last two Accords, unlike all Hondas previous, didn’t go back to the dealer within the first couple weeks of ownership to address a rattle or squeak!

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Your fuel economy comment reminds me of my ’07 Rabbit, which also got remarkably consistent mileage-
    27 in the city
    27 in the suburbs
    27 on the highway
    27 if I baby it
    27 if I hammer it
    I must’ve filled that tank at least 100 times and every time, 27 mpg.

  • avatar
    random1

    That 13.2 gallon tank isn’t so bad, with your 32mpg. But I bet you get “0 miles to empty” or whatever it is with about 2 gal left like my GTI. And while I know there’s 2+ gal to go, it’s too irritating and somewhat nerve wracking to keep going. So, kind of like having an 11 gal tank….

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Third picture – the 90 degree bend makes me think of this study:

    https://tinyurl.com/y9wnj9k8

  • avatar
    Slocum

    “The heated seats get almost too hot on their highest (level three) setting. I can tell you with certainty Volkswagen does better heated seats than Infiniti, Lexus, and Subaru – no contest.”

    Wow, just how hot do you want your butt to be? I can’t leave the heated seats on in my Subaru (even on the lowest setting) for more than a few minutes. I thought these things were just for an initial warm-up on a cold day. Do people really drive around with them on all the time!?

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      Peak Heated Seat Controls:
      • Infinitely adjustable [the switches pop up for adjustment]
      • Stays where you put it (no need to adjust each time)
      • Easily visible on the center console (no fumbling, and driver can easily adjust passenger setting – cf. “courtesy”)

      (Bonus: No menus or touch screens)

      https://www.ebay.com/i/324097678835

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I tend to roll with the climate control set pretty cold in the winter, just warm enough to keep the windows clear, and use the heated seats because they’re more comfortable.

      The best ones I’ve ever used were in my 2013 Focus. They were pretty much always set to level 3 of 5. Then again since they were cloth the effect might have been attenuated somewhat.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Sums up what I remember about the same 1.4 engine in my old Jetta – there was absolutely no reason to push it above 5,000 rpm.

  • avatar
    EX35

    I haven’t followed VW reliability in a long time. Do they still require you to sink tons of $$$ into them to get them to 100k?

    • 0 avatar
      random1

      I know you’re trolling, but are there any cars today that don’t get to 100k easily? I’m a bit of a VW fanboy, not least because my ‘91 Jetta got me to ~260k miles with very little fuss. My GTI is at 70k and I’ve spent a sum total of zero so far, although the notorious water pump was replaced under warranty. No muss, no fuss.
      So, to answer your question: no.
      My ‘14 Touareg was at 70k when I traded it in. That also involved a nice round zero total repair bills.

  • avatar
    GR4H4M

    I think the oil change reset is pretty straightforward, starting the car with the trip odometer button held down maybe.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I would put up with the warning if the meter was actually affected by oil and engine temperatures, revs, etc. But if the light simply comes on every six months, or every 7,500 miles, it’s not worth anything!

      Honda has had the so-called “Maintenance Minder” since 2006 or so, and doesn’t publish a set maintenance schedule, just to do whatever services are indicated once a year if the OLM doesn’t hit 15% (with the resulting wrench telltale illuminating). Does GM or other manufacturers that actually compute oil life publish a schedule? (As a few Blackstone Labs analyses have shown, the Honda oil-life monitor is almost spot-on accurate! And it seems to account for the harder-working engine and turbo in my current car, as the wrench came on maybe 1,000 miles sooner than with my 2013 V6 for the first oil change notification.)

  • avatar
    bufguy

    I have a 2018 Alltrack SE, 1.8T, DSG and absolutely love it. Almost 2-1/2 years old, 22k and not one problem. I have done a few mods to my Alltrack. I bought the VW sourced Helix subwoofer which installs above the spare in the wee…It’s plug and play and it transforms the stereo. I love the 1.8T quick off the line but it is a bit gutless when passing on the highway…so I added a Unitronic tune. HP went from 170- 242. I also added a AWE touring exhaust and an AFE high flow airfilter. Interior I found some clark plaid GTI seats to replace the black vinyl…Much more supportive and they look great…

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The $24K Regal TourX 2.0T with 295 lb-ft of torque and torque vectoring AWD would easily filled tgise missing voids. The Sights & Sounds package has 8″ screen and a stereo that is noticeably better than the one in my CT6!

  • avatar
    BenReich

    I have a 2018 sportwagen se, so power with the 1.8T is more than enough. I consistently get 32mpg around town after 18000 miles. The driving dynamics reminds me of my first car, a 1985 Honda Prelude 5 sp. Found out the hard way the oil pan and trans pan are very vulnerable to damage from road hazards.

    • 0 avatar
      Bill Wade

      I have a 2018 too. I learned the hard way hitting a piece of wood on the highway and immediately destroying the engine at 20k miles with a broken oil pan.

      They did something when they replaced the engine because the average economy resets every morning whereas before it didn’t. My guess is some sort of software update. I’m also averaging a solid 3mpg more than before too with easily 43 mpg hand calculated on the highway on cruise at 75 with the 5 speed stick, simply amazing.

      My first VW with now 35k on it. It’s fun to drive and so far I’d be inclined to buy another one of their vehicles.

      My sole complaint is serious wind noise around both the drivers side and passenger side windows. VW can’t fix it and I can’t figure it out either. It’s way worse in crosswinds.

  • avatar

    I have the 1.4 in the Jetta S, tied to the 5 speed manual, the six speed requires an E or EL on the trunk lid-I had the six in my TDi, so the 5 is what they used to call the wide ratio gearbox. I generally prefer a manual on a small engine. The 1.4 gets us a steady 34 or 35 mpg, and while not a powerhouse, tries to copy the powerband of my TDi. It is super smooth…NVH isn’t a thing. Torque off the bottom with a tiny turbo, which gets neutered once you get to 3000 rpm…I am going to tune this once the powertrain warranty is up, goes from 140 hp to about 180.. I tossed the junk Bridgestone ecotopias and installed Conti DWS 06, which transformed the car. The stock 215/55 on 16 inch steelie to 225/50…the car no longer over powers the tires, and as my family describes it, the car no longer feels like it will tip over in corners.. At 40k miles, I’ve changed the oil every 10k with synthetic, and one set of plugs and filters-no other issues. It’s like it knew my Mk 6 TDi Diesel experiment and is trying to make up for it. The stripper version still has IRS. I’d do a bit more soundproofing, the TDi was a lot quieter, but the Alltrack is probably better soundproofed as a higher end build… Overall these cars are, as Road and Track used to say, “tossable”, and while the limits of my Jetta are clearly not supercar, it is linear, friendly, and road feedback is Germanic in the best sense.

  • avatar
    tedward

    That low 30’s mileage is interesting. My 4mo manual 1.8 is returning that combined driving, and absolutely smashing that on highway drives at this point. I started out getting what your 1.4 is returning, but it’s definitely improved over time, and my buddies Alltrack SE has begun to do the same. I’m at around 70k on mine and it’s a 17 for reference.

    Makes me suspect the switch from 1.8 to 1.4 was more about economies of scale than it was CAFE requirements. Considering the timing of the 1.8t’s launch (known tdi issues on the horizon for VW), and the absence of direct peer competitor engines even today, I think we can safely assume that it was never THE plan. Rather, it was the engine they had on hand (from the Audi A3 line) that cost the least amount too much to sub in for the missing 30% of their lineup.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    I get better mileage than that in my ’15 manual GTI.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    The seat heater temperatures for each of the 3 levels can be set to your liking with the Ross-Tech Vagcom tool.

    The Golf has a moulded plastic oil pan that, while it has other advantages, is not very impact resistant. If that’s a concern in your driving environment, the very sturdy and well designed factory skid plate from the Alltrack variant is a simple bolt-on. (There’s also a factory stamped steel oil pan from some other VW model that be substituted, but these tend to rust out.)

  • avatar
    jeanbaptiste

    So for my GtI rear rattle I placed a small wedge between the back glass and the plastic shroud in the hatch. Right in the middle near where the wiper is. That quieted down my rear noise a whole bunch. I wish I could upload a picture to show you where.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    My ’17 GTI Sport is about to turn four in the next few weeks. Not a single issue. None, zip, zilch. No rattles, squeaks, dings, nothing. LOVE IT. Just a superbly useful car. I just wish VW would give us a long-roof version.

    I just did a full fluids and filters service, and added the 034Motorsports lower dogbone mount insert which takes the slop out of the lower motor mount, at the cost of a tad more vibration when taking off. Which was about my only complaint with the car, the amount of drivetrain lash getting on and off the throttle. I am spoiled by also having two BMWs…

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