2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen

2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Review

Golf goodness combined with a big cargo space. It's a great alternative to a small crossover.
author
by Dan Frio
Edmunds Editor

Looking for something that can haul a bunch of things but don't want a crossover SUV? You'll probably like the 2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen. It offers familiar Golf goodness, such as a premium cabin and high fuel economy, but with a cavernous cargo space.

The formula is simple: Turn the Golf into a wagon by adding a foot of length to the Golf hatchback's cargo area and get more space in return. The result is 66.5 cubic feet of space to carry stuff when you fold the rear seats, which is the kind of space typically offered by compact crossover SUVs (the Ford Escape, for example, offers 68.1 cubic feet). Factor in the Golf's efficient turbocharged four-cylinder engine, available all-wheel drive (a new addition this year) and premium interior, and you've got an excellent choice for the crossover-averse or anyone who just prefers the sleeker look of a wagon.



what's new

For 2017, the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen now offers all-wheel drive, but only on the base model. The top-trim SEL now offers standard driver safety aids such as forward collision alert, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. A rearview camera comes standard on all models.

we recommend

The base model comes well-equipped, and it's the only trim that offers all-wheel drive. But unless you need AWD for wet-weather motoring, we recommend an SE with the Driver Assistance package. You get a sunroof, power imitation-leather seats, premium audio, adaptive cruise and driver safety aids. (And if you really need AWD, consider the better equipped Golf Alltrack wagon.) You can also get the SportWagen with a manual transmission, good news for those who enjoy shifting their own gears. The bad news? It's only available on the base S trim and only with front-wheel drive.




trim levels & features

The 2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen comes in three trim levels: S, SE, and SEL. All versions have a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine (170 horsepower, 199 pound-feet of torque). On the S, you can get either a six-speed automatic transmission or a five-speed manual transmission (184 lb-ft of torque with the manual). Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive (called 4Motion) is optional for the S trim level. Note that the all-wheel-drive models come with a different automatic transmission, a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox called DSG in Volkswagen-speak.

Standard feature highlights include 15-inch alloy wheels, power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, roof rails, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, front seats with manual adjustment and power recline, 60/40-split folding rear seats with a center pass-through and a 115-volt outlet in the cargo area. Also standard are a rearview camera, a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment display, Bluetooth, VW's Car-Net App-Connect smartphone integration and Car-Net Security & Service telematics, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The base audio system includes eight speakers, a CD player, satellite and HD radio, and auxiliary audio, USB and SD card inputs.

The all-wheel-drive S trim is the same but has 16-inch wheels and heated front seats.

Moving up to the SE gets you automatic headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, heated windshield washer nozzles, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, imitation-leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats and a Fender Premium audio system (adds a subwoofer and upgraded sound). The SE offers an optional Driver Assistance package, which is a good idea to get if safety is a priority for you. It bundles adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

The top-level SEL builds on SE features with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic dual-zone climate control, a navigation system and the features from the SE's Driver Assistance package. The SEL's optional Driver Assistance and Lighting package adds adaptive xenon headlights that swivel in the direction of the car's turn, automatic high beams, lane departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, and an automated parking system (parallel and perpendicular parking assist).



Driving

With 170 horsepower, the 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine should prove potent enough for most drivers. It'll have to because it's the only choice. Despite the vehicle's name, there's not much "sport" to the car's handling abilities.

Acceleration

The extra length and weight make it feel less urgent than a regular Golf hatchback when accelerating around town, but it's a subtle difference.

Braking

The brake pedal has an uncharacteristically firm feel to it (for a VW), which is a good thing. Braking performance is predictable at all speeds.

Steering

For the most part, the SportWagen feels responsive from the helm. It doesn't give you a particularly great sense of the road exactly, but most drivers should find it perfectly adequate.

Handling

We've found the SportWagen delivers only modest handling capability when you're driving around turns. All-wheel drive should come in handy on the rain-soaked pavement, but don't expect it to liven up the SportWagen's ability on a dry, winding country road.

Drivability

The automatic transmission hampers drivability. You'll often notice small lurches when you accelerate from a stop or when you need a quick change in speed. You either need to let it creep slowly or stomp the gas to subvert this behavior.

Comfort

The SportWagen is a Golf through and through, which means impressive seat and ergonomic comfort all around. The central control panel is angled toward the driver for easier access.

Seat comfort

The standard front seats should provide firm support over short and long distances. Both front seats are height-adjustable. There is generous rear seat space, but low cushions mean less thigh support for taller passengers.

Ride comfort

Ruts and potholes are smoothed over by compliant suspension tuning. The SportWagen is composed on the highway, too.

Noise & vibration

Some road noise is noticeable but not intrusive. Engine noise is prominent under heavy acceleration, but more performance-minded drivers will probably like its burly sound.

Climate control

You'll need to step up to the SEL model to get dual-zone climate control with automatic air-conditioning. It's not a deal-breaker, but other automakers offer this creature comfort on lesser trim levels.

Interior

A large greenhouse with ample glass and a simple, sensible control layout make the SportWagen's cabin a pleasant, user-friendly environment. Premium materials and a conservative design make this wagon seem more entry-luxury than economy compact.

Ease of use

The controls are well placed and labeled for ease of use, and the gauges are straightforward and very easy to read. Nothing fancy, just strong fundamentals.

Getting in/getting out

Front passengers will have no complaints, but those in back might have something to carp about. The rear doors have a relatively narrow opening, and if the front seat is pushed back for long legs, there's not much room for the rear passenger to squeeze behind.

Driving position

Everything falls readily to hand in the SportWagen, which is unsurprising because it's basically the same praiseworthy interior you'll find in an ordinary Golf. The wheel telescoping range is very generous for taller drivers, as is the seat-height range.

Roominess

Seating in the rear is a bit lacking compared to the backseats of some roomy small crossovers or a bigger wagon such as the Subaru Outback. But there is plenty of space for the front passengers.

Visibility

All-around visibility is excellent thanks to narrow roof pillars. Backing into a spot is easy enough that you won't need to rely on the standard rearview camera — but it's nice to have anyway.

Utility

Increased cargo capacity and utility are arguably the key reason to buy the SportWagen over the Golf hatchback. With the rear seats folded, the cargo area is cavernous. Standard silver roof rails sweeten the deal for outdoor enthusiasts.

Small-item storage

To VW's credit, the flip-door ashtray area in front of the shift lever has been converted into a phone shelf with a USB port and auxiliary jack — it's super-convenient for stashing and connecting your phone. Otherwise, though, the center console offers only two cupholders and a shallow armrest bin.

Cargo space

Open the rear hatch and you've got 30.4 cubic feet of space behind the upright rear seats to work with, which is enough for the typical load of luggage, home goods and groceries. Dropping the rear seats yields 66.5 cubic feet, which is similar to what you get from a lot of small crossovers.

Technology

If the SportWagen has a clear weak spot, tech is it. The central touchscreen's graphics are surprisingly rudimentary for this day and age, and the navigation voice is robotic. On the bright side, the voice-control system is well executed.

Audio & navigation

The standard audio system isn't bad, and the Fender Premium upgrade adds a subwoofer. Audiophiles will like lossless file playback capability. Only the SEL model offers navigation, which is a mixed bag in our experience. The low-resolution graphics are disappointing.

Smartphone integration

Sophisticated smartphone capability is anchored by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Mirrors the smartphone interface and makes available commonly used apps such as Pandora, Spotify and TuneIn internet radio.

Driver aids

The optional Driver Assistance package for the SE trim adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous braking, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. A similar package for the SEL adds parking sensors, automated parking and lane keeping assist.

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.