Used 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Review

The 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen provides familiar Golf goodness along with a cavernous cargo area. It's a compelling alternative to similarly priced crossovers.




what's new

A rearview camera is now standard across the board. The S trim loses leatherette upholstery, which is now standard on the SE. A new 6.5-inch-touchscreen supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink functionality, and a USB input replaces the MDI port. New features are included in the Driver Assistance option package, including blind spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

vehicle overview

The 2016 Volkswagen Golf is one of our favorite compact cars, but it isn't for everyone. Hatchbacks like the Golf are losing ground to the rapidly expanding small crossover class, due in no small part to their larger cargo areas. Of course, the natural downside to these bigger vehicles is additional weight and a higher center of gravity. If you want the best of both worlds, it's worth considering one of the very few wagons left on the market. Of these, it's hard to beat the 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen.

If you are shopping for a small wagon, the 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is one of your only choices.

Adding a foot to the length of the Golf's cargo area increases available space behind the back row by 33 percent, with the overall area behind the front seats expanding by 26 percent. In raw numbers, that's 30.4 cubic feet in the SportWagen vs. 22.8 in the Golf with the rear seats up, and 66.5 cubes vs. 52.7 with the seats folded (for reference, the Ford Escape provides 34.3 and 68.1 cubes, respectively). The SportWagen is a genuine match for small crossovers in this regard.

The SportWagen also one-ups the Golf in terms of equipment. The new 6.5-inch touchscreen is standard on all trims, while a panoramic sunroof comes on SE and SEL versions. Otherwise, the SportWagen is a Golf through and through, and that means it's driven by a powerful turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that provides ample propulsion and decent fuel economy. The cabin is attractive in a way that is understated but never boring.

If you need more cargo capacity but don't need the extra heft of a crossover, there are a few other options. The 2016 Subaru Outback is a reasonably priced alternative, with plenty of cargo space, a raised ride height and all-wheel drive (a feature notably absent from the SportWagen). Then there's the 2016 Toyota Prius V and 2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid. Both offer impressive hauling capabilities and fuel economy thanks to hybrid powertrains, but they are slow and unrewarding to drive.

trim levels & features

The 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is offered with a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine in three trim levels: S, SE and SEL. The TDI diesel engine is on hiatus until Volkswagen issues a fix to the emissions system.

The 1.8T S starts with 15-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, black roof rails, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories anda tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel. Also standard are height-adjustable manual front seats with power recline, cloth upholstery, a rearview camera, a cooled glovebox, 60/40-split folding rear seats with a center pass-through, hill-hold assist, VW's Car-Net emergency telematics system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a 6.5-inch touchscreen interface. The base audio system has eight speakers, satellite radio, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB port.

The 1.8T SE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, heated windshield-washer nozzles, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, a 115-volt power outlet, heated front seats and a nine-speaker Fender audio system.

Going with the 1.8T SEL gets you 18-inch wheels, silver roof rails, LED interior ambient lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, sport front seats with a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat (with power lumbar) and a navigation system.

The TDI S gets 16-inch alloy wheels and keyless entry and ignition as standard, but the TDI trims otherwise have the same standard equipment as their 1.8T counterparts.

All 2016 SportWagens come with a new touchscreen, but only the SEL has navigation.

All SE and SEL trims offer two options packages. The Lighting package adds xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, cornering lights that shine through turns, and interior ambient lighting. The Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, a forward collision warning and mitigation system, rear cross-traffic alert, a lane-departure warning system, blind-spot monitoring and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

performance & mpg

The 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen 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 when equipped with the optional six-speed automatic, the torque number jumps to 199 lb-ft. According to the EPA, the 1.8T returns 29 mpg in combined driving with either transmission.

safety

Standard safety features on the 2016 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. As noted above, the optional Driver Assistance package (SE and SEL only) adds front and rear parking sensors, a forward collision warning and mitigation system, rear cross-traffic alert, a lane-departure warning system and a blind-spot monitor.

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.).

driving

The 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is blessed with a refined 1.8T engine that never feels like it is deficient in the power department. Peak torque arrives very early in the rev range (at just 1,600 rpm), so the SportWagen is rarely more than a downshift away from a decisive passing maneuver. The only blemish for the otherwise exceptional powertrain is occasional laziness from the automatic transmission in low-speed situations.

Despite its name, the 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen isn't really sporty to drive.

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, so it's great for long trips. Pressed on a winding country road, the SportWagen demonstrates only modest handling talent. It generally fails to make good on the "Sport" part of its name, but overall we like the way this VW drives.

interior

Inside, the 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is identical to the regular Golf hatchback, which means it has one of the nicest cabins in this price range. Most of the buttons and switches are sensibly arranged and easy to understand at a glance. Thankfully, the new, larger 6.5-inch touchscreen interface also brought with it a standard USB connection in place of VW's "MDI" electronics port that required a proprietary cable. We also like that a panoramic sunroof comes standard on all but the base S trim.

As in the regular Golf, the SportWagen's standard front seats provide firm support over both short and long distances. 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.

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.