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2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader May 2015

If you ask most Americans, they'll tell you that wagons just aren't cool these days. But the 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen seems determined to win us over. Based on the excellent Golf hatchback, the SportWagen adds an extended cargo area that measures 66.5 cu ft. with the rear seatbacks folded flat, outdoing many compact SUVs. But since it's a Golf underneath, it has sporty handling, too, along with a pair of fuel-efficient turbocharged engines. If you're not sold on the usual crossover SUV choices, the SportWagen presents a very compelling alternative.

What's New for 2015?

The Golf SportWagen is all new this year.

What We Like

Excellent fuel economy with either the gasoline or diesel engine; capable handling; upscale interior; serious cargo space

What We Don't

Fancier models cost more than you might think

How Much?

$22,215-$31,165

Fuel Economy

The front-wheel-drive Golf SportWagen offers a choice of two engines.

The 1.8T models are motivated by a 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine rated at 170 horsepower and either 184 lb-ft of torque (with the 5-speed manual transmission) or 199 lb-ft (with the optional 6-speed automatic that's mandatory on the SEL trim). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fuel economy for the 1.8T is 25 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway (manual) or 25 city/35 hwy (automatic).

The TDI models switch to a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel that makes 150 hp and 236 lb-ft. With the standard 6-speed manual transmission, it's EPA-rated at 31 mpg city/43 mpg hwy, while the optional 6-speed automated manual transmission (DSG) drops the estimates a smidge to 31 city/42 hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 SportWagen is offered as the 1.8T or TDI in three trim levels: S, SE and SEL.

The base 1.8T S ($22,215) and TDI S ($25,415) come standard with features such as alloy wheels (15-inch wheels for the 1.8T and 16-in wheels for the TDI), black roof rails, Bluetooth connectivity, a touchscreen interface, satellite radio, leatherette upholstery, power accessories and air-conditioning. The TDI also gets keyless entry/start and a rearview camera.

The 1.8T SE ($27,815) and TDI SE ($28,815) add 17-in alloy wheels, fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry/start, a rearview camera (already standard on TDI) and a premium Fender audio system.

The 1.8T SEL ($30,165) and TDI SEL ($31,165) add 18-in alloy wheels, silver roof rails, a navigation system, automatic climate control, sport seats with 12-way power driver adjustments and ambient interior lighting with LED reading lights.

All SE and SEL models are eligible for two options packages. A lighting package (adaptive xenon headlights, LED running lights and -- if not already specified -- ambient interior lighting with LED reading lights) and a Driver Assistance Package (forward-collision warning and front and rear parking sensors).

Safety

Standard safety features on the Golf SportWagen include anti-lock disc brakes, traction and stability control and six airbags (front, front-side, side-curtain). The standard Volkswagen Car-Net telematics system provides a smartphone app that lets you interact with the car remotely, and it also features an SOS button for emergency assistance. The optional Driver Assistance Package's forward-collision warning system alerts you to imminent accident threats.

The SportWagen has yet to be crash-tested as of this writing.

Behind the Wheel

The 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen's dashboard is lifted directly from the regular Golf hatchback, which means it's stylish in a restrained German way, with higher-quality materials than the norm for this price range. Even the base S trim comes with items such as a touchscreen interface and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, though the pricier trims are tempting with their premium flourishes. The front seats are firm and supportive, particularly with the SEL trim's sport comfort contours, while rear passengers will find more knee-room than expected in a compact wagon. The standard panoramic sunroof on SE and SEL models is a luxury-grade touch that gives the car an uptown vibe.

On the road, the SportWagen is once again a chip off the old Golf, displaying much the same confident handling and taut yet supple ride quality. The 1.8T engine is plenty peppy off the line, but acceleration suffers a bit at higher speeds with the manual transmission, so we recommend the responsive automatic (and its extra 15 lb-ft of torque) in this case. The TDI diesel, meanwhile, is torque-rich with either transmission, so we'd consider choosing the conventional manual to save some cash. The diesel's exclusive DSG automatic is incredibly quick and precise, however. Either way, fuel economy is outstanding, with the TDI even approaching hybrid levels of efficiency.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Subaru Outback -- The Outback is a larger car than the Volkswagen, but it's also more capable, providing standard all-wheel drive and a raised suspension.

2015 Volvo V60 -- Considering pricier versions of the SportWagen? See if your Volvo dealer can hook you up with a deal on a V60. It's nicer inside than the Volkswagen, and it's swifter, too.

Toyota Prius v -- This supersized Prius hatchback is even more fuel efficient than the SportWagen, so if you're considering the TDI engine for its fuel economy, the Prius v could be an appealing alternative.

Used Audi allroad -- The luxurious allroad offers standard all-wheel drive and tough off-road hardware, and it's a little faster than the SportWagen 1.8T. Look for a certified pre-owned example with a factory warranty.

Autotrader's Advice

The SE trim level strikes us as the sweet spot, giving you keyless entry/start, the panoramic sunroof, Fender audio and rearview camera without breaking the bank. No matter which engine you choose, the SportWagen SE is a lot of car for under $30,000.

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2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen: New Car Review - Autotrader