The 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen fills a niche, and while it might appear to be a narrow one at first glance, this station wagon should not be overlooked by anyone who is interested in an alternative to a small SUV.
By examining some of the differences between the SportWagen and most small SUVs, you’ll see the advantages I discovered while driving one for a week recently. I had a 2015 Golf SportWagen TSI SE from the Volkswagen press fleet.
There are a lot of small SUVs and crossovers out there in the below-$30,000 range. Most manufacturers have one, and they are very popular right now. They all have front- or all-wheel drive, get good gas mileage, provide ample cargo space and ride high. They also all look more or less the same.
The SportWagen almost stands alone as a small, affordable performance station wagon. The Ford C-Max Hybrid is almost a station wagon, as is the Subaru Outback and XV Crosstrek, and the Toyota Prius V. The SportWagen sits low to the ground and is sure-footed in tight corners, but it’s the performance factor that really sets it apart from its competitors.
The SportWagen I drove came with the new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. Until this year, the SportWagen was based on the Jetta, but for 2015 it has switched to the award-winning Golf and its new MQB architecture.
Taking its cues from the rest of the Golf lineup, the SportWagen accelerates strongly. That 199 pound-feet of torque comes at a low 1,600 rpm, which means drivers will feel it when they need to take off quickly.
My SportWagen came with a six-speed automatic that offered a regular Drive for standard driving and Sport Drive, where the forward gears automatically upshift later and downshift earlier for better performance. For top performance and to best take advantage of the shift paddles on the steering column, the shift lever can be moved to its right into the Tiptronic position that allows the driver to shift up and down manually. Driving it in that mode provides the most fun, too.
The SportWagen is quiet on the highway, with just a little engine noise entering the cabin. If you are going to manually shift the transmission by listening to the engine revs, you’ll have to turn down the radio to hear them. That’s easier said than done because the SE trim comes with a fine Fender Premium Audio System.
Being a member of the Golf family means the interior is both attractive and comfortable. The brushed aluminum trim on the dash looks nice, the seats are comfortable and the standard panoramic sunroof brightens the interior. I like the way the capacitive touch screen works in the SportWagen, but at 5.8 inches, it’s seems a little small.
The SportWagen wouldn’t work as an SUV alternative unless it provided good cargo space, and it does. With the rear seats up, there is 30.4 cubic feet of space in the back. Flip the two handy rear-seat release levers in the rear cargo areas, and the 60/40 seats fold flat, providing 66.5 cubic feet of space. By comparison, the Honda CR-V has 70.9 cubic feet of cargo space with its seats folded.
The Golf influence is evident in its exterior design, too. In front, the SportWagen is all Golf with a lower visual center of gravity and an athletic stance. While its overall look is not exciting, it has a swept-back appearance that is attractive.
Three years or 36,000 miles; five years or 60,000 miles powertrain warranty.
The starting price for the SportWagen TSI SE is $26,995. One option was included: a Driver Assistance Package that included a Forward Collision Warning system and front and rear Park Distance Control. The sticker price, including destination, was $28,510.
Mike Fitzgerald’s email address is email@example.com
2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TSI SE
ENGINE: 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower turbocharged four cylinder with 199 pound-feet of torque.
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
WHEELBASE/LENGTH: 103.5/179.6 inches
CURB WEIGHT: 3,120 pounds
BASE PRICE: $26,995
AS DRIVEN: $28,510
MPG RATING: 25 mpg in city driving, 35 on the highway