Are wagons making a comeback in the U.S.? The European automakers seem to think so. Each one of them, including Volkswagen, are marketing at least one here now. The Volkswagen version, the Golf SportWagon is the lowest priced vehicle of its kind in the market. For those who are looking for utility, but not an SUV, the SportWagon might be just the ticket. 

VW styled the SportWagon conservatively. In this era of exaggerated grilles, the one in the Golf is refreshingly tastefull. The rest of the styling is also clean, and free of extraneous gimmicks. For 2018, the visible changes are so subtle that even a dyed-in-the-wool Golf enthusiast will be hard pressed to notice them. Hint: LED running lights and taillights are now standard on all models.

Inside, the SportWagon has a straightforward layout. Instruments and controls are user friendly. A new 8-inch infotainment display is brighter and easier to interpret. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all models. The Golf seats four adults—five in a pinch. The seats up front are supportive and feature a height adjuster, even on the base model. The seats in the rear are mounted a bit higher for better visibility, yet they have sufficient head- and legroom for tall passengers.

However, the large cargo area is what makes this Golf special. Volkswagen stretched the standard Golf body about a foot to provide 30.4 cubic-feet of storage space behind the backseats. That’s better than some SUVs can deliver. Then, if you lower the backrests the cargo capacity more than doubles. And as a bonus, a cargo cover is standard.

Volkswagen offers the SportWagon in three versions, S, SE and SEL. The basic S comes with a standard 6-speed manual transmission (a 6-speed automatic is $1,100 extra), a touchscreen, a backup camera, Bluetooth and rain-sensing wipers. The SE adds safety features, like front emergency braking and blind-spot warning, as well as convenience items, such as keyless entry/start, standard automatic transmission and leatherette upholstery. The top-of-the-line SEL gets navigation, leather trim, adaptive cruise-control and more.

VW powers all models of the SportWagon with its tried-and-true 1.8-liter, turbocharged, 4-cylinder engine. It cranks out a respectable 170 horsepower. Except for the S model, a six-speed automatic transmission is standard. My test car was a base S model, with the manual gearbox and the optional 4Motion all-wheel drive system. 4Motion, by the way, is only available on the S, but can be had with either the manual, or a dual clutch automatic transmission. Gas mileage is only rated at 25 mpg with AWD—28 mpg on other models.

On the road, the SportWagon feels nimble. The steering is light, but precise. It negotiates corners competently, but this wagon would need a more responsive engine to be truly sporty. However, that said, if you use the gears effectively, and keep the revs up, it can be entertaining to drive. Ride quality is on a par with other compacts in its class—smooth on the freeway, but a bit choppy on secondary roads.

Pricing for the Golf SportWagon starts at a reasonable $22,585—4Motion adds $2,250. However, the SE jumps up to $28,170 and the SEL cracks the 30K barrier at $31,095.



Spacious Cargo Area

Nimble Handling

Low Starting Price

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