Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Review
If you're looking at small hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Golf, you may be wondering whether they're big enough for your lifestyle. Stepping up to a larger crossover SUV might seem to be a logical choice, but their higher center of gravity and compromised fuel economy may give you pause. This is what MBA types refer to as a "market opportunity," and the 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is an attempt to seize it.
While it's technically an all-new model, the Golf SportWagen isn't so different from the Jetta SportWagen it replaces in VW's lineup. Both models offer gasoline or diesel power and similarly versatile interiors. But with its previous-generation platform and dowdy styling, the Jetta SportWagen never seemed to be a top priority for the company. The Golf SportWagen, conversely, shares its capable underpinnings and crisp styling with the highly regarded new Golf, so it's clear that Volkswagen means business this time around.
Indeed, the Golf SportWagen could have just as easily been called the "Golf XL." In return for an extra 12.1 inches of overall length, the SportWagen provides 33 percent more cargo space behind the rear seats and 26 percent more space with the rear seatbacks folded flat. In SE and SEL trim, it also comes standard with a panoramic sunroof that's unavailable on the regular Golf. Otherwise, though, it's a Golf through and through, from its two terrific turbocharged engines (gas-powered 1.8T and diesel-powered TDI) to its attractive, well-trimmed interior. The hatchback liftgate comes standard either way; you just have to decide how much space you want inside.
If you're shopping for something like the Golf SportWagen, you'll quickly find there isn't much else out there. The 2015 Subaru Outback wagon is reasonably priced and roomier and more capable (thanks to a raised suspension and all-wheel drive) than the SportWagen, but it's bulkier to drive and its fuel economy isn't as good. Then there's the 2015 Toyota Prius V. It mirrors the SportWagen's hauling capabilities and returns an impressive 42 mpg in mixed driving, but it's slow and uninvolving from the driver seat. Beyond that, we'd just point you to crossovers like the 2015 Ford Escape and 2015 Mazda CX-5. But for an affordable wagon with a premium vibe, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is one of a kind.
performance & mpg
The 2015 VW Golf SportWagen 1.8T employs a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 170 horsepower. With the base five-speed manual transmission (1.8T S only), it's good for 184 pound-feet of torque, but the optional six-speed automatic bumps that number up to 199 lb-ft. According to the EPA, the 1.8T returns 29 mpg combined (25 city/36 highway) with the manual, dropping to 35 mpg highway with the automatic.
The SportWagen TDI uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder producing 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while the optional transmission is a six-speed automated manual (VW's DSG). The EPA estimates 35 mpg combined (31 city/43 highway) for the conventional manual, with the DSG a single highway mpg behind.
Standard safety features on the 2015 VW Golf SportWagen include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Also standard is a post-collision braking system that automatically applies the brakes after an impact to lower the chances of a secondary crash.
The standard VW Car-Net emergency telematics system includes automatic crash notification, an SOS button for roadside assistance, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location and geo-fencing (permitting parents to set electronic limits for young drivers). The Car-Net app lets you control some of these features from your smartphone, and it also grants access to various vehicle status indicators (fuel level, odometer reading, service schedule, etc.).
As noted above, the optional Driver Assistance package (SE and SEL only) adds front and rear parking sensors and a forward collision warning system. Certain increasingly common safety technologies are absent, however, such as a blind-spot monitor and lane-departure warning.
The 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is blessed with a pair of excellent engines. The base 1.8T is so smooth and strong that it feels as if you should have paid extra for it, while the TDI delivers more authoritative torque at low rpm along with astounding fuel economy. As redline approaches, the 1.8T pulls ahead, and that extra measure of performance plus its lower price may be enough to justify its relatively modest 29 mpg rating. Or perhaps you'd rather pay a premium for the TDI's exceptional driving range and available quick-shifting DSG transmission, which makes the 1.8T's automatic seem a bit dull. You'll be winning either way.
On time-worn pavement, the rigidity of the Golf SportWagen's structure shines through, as the ride is controlled yet supple, with little harshness to speak of. If you've driven a regular Golf, you'll notice the extra foot of length when you're parallel parking, but the SportWagen remains small enough to be an asset in tight urban spaces. It's also an unusually confident high-speed cruiser. Pressed on a winding country road, the SportWagen demonstrates only modest handling talent and generally fails to make good on the "Sport" part of its name. But overall we like the way this VW drives.
Inside, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is a dead ringer for the regular Golf hatchback, which means it has one of the nicest cabins in this price range. Highlights include relatively upscale materials and tastefully restrained dashboard styling, plus a central control panel that's angled toward the driver for easier access. Most of the buttons and switches are sensibly arranged and easy to understand at a glance, and while the standard 5.8-inch touchscreen is on the small side by present standards, it's a cinch to operate. We also like that an exclusive panoramic sunroof comes standard on all but the base S trim, which should only enhance the SportWagen's appeal.
The main disappointment is the SportWagen's touchscreen interface. It works reasonably well but it's small and lacks the crisp graphics and detail found in some other systems. Also, VW's continued use of its oddball "MDI" electronics port instead of a USB port means you'll need a special cable to connect your phone, and swapping or purchasing cables for different devices is a hassle.
As in the regular Golf, the SportWagen's standard front seats provide firm support over both short and long distances. Per Volkswagen's norm, both front seats offer height adjustability, so front passengers won't feel like second-class citizens. Rear seat space is quite generous for a small car, but the SportWagen's relatively low rear cushions deprive tall riders of under-thigh support; most crossovers have a distinct advantage here with their higher seat bottoms.
Cargo capacity is already a strength of the standard Golf hatchback, but the SportWagen takes it to another level. There are 30.4 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, and that expands to 66.5 cubes with the rear seatbacks folded flat. To put that in perspective, the Ford Escape provides 34.3 and 68.1 cubes, respectively. The SportWagen is a genuine match for small crossovers in this regard.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.