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2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Volkswagen Golf SportWagen, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Review

The 2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen probably won’t be the best-selling car in the United States. American buyers tend to prefer their lumpy-handling crossovers, while wagons tend to get little traction. If a car maker does offer a wagon, it’s often called something else, like a Touring or a SportCross.

Which means the SportWagen is criminally under-appreciated. Here’s an incredibly practical car with all the quality, sophistication, refinement and sheer driving talent for which the brilliant Golf is renowned, plus an extended cargo area that measures a massive 66.5 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded flat, outdoing many compact crossovers.

What’s New for 2017?

All-wheel drive (called 4Motion) is now available in the basic S trim level. Some driver aids have been reshuffled between the SE and SEL trims. See the 2017 Volkswagen Golf models for sale near you

What We Like

Excellent fuel economy; capable handling; upscale interior; serious cargo space

What We Don’t

Automatic transmission occasionally sluggish in its responses; infotainment system beginning to look a little dated

How Much?

$22,400-$30,790

Fuel Economy

A 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine makes 170 horsepower and either 184 lb-ft of torque with the standard 5-speed manual transmission, or 199 lb-ft with the optional 6-speed automatic.

Front-wheel drive is the default setup. All-wheel drive is optional, but this drivetrain brings the option of a 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission (DSG) as the two-pedal alternative.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, fuel economy with the manual transmission and front-wheel drive is 25 mpg in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined. With the automatic (and that extra torque), it’s 25 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/29 mpg combined.

All-wheel drive with either transmission results in 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen comes in S, SE and SEL trim levels.

The base 1.8T S ($22,400) has 15-in alloy wheels, black roof rails, heated side mirrors, cruise control, rearview camera, leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt/telescope adjustment, height-adjustable front seats, cooled glove box, hill-hold assist, cloth upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, 6.5-in touchscreen interface, USB port, SD card reader, auxiliary audio input, HD/satellite radio, power accessories, air conditioning, and a 115-volt outlet in the cargo area.

The S 4Motion version also has heated front seats and 16-in alloy wheels.

The 1.8T SE ($27,950) adds 17-in alloy wheels, fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, panoramic sunroof, leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, keyless entry/start, heated windshield washer nozzles, and a premium Fender-branded 9-speaker audio system.

The SE’s optional Driver Assistance Package adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

The 1.8T SEL ($30,790) has 18-in alloy wheels, silver roof rails, navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, sport seats with 10-way power driver’s-side adjustments, and ambient LED interior lighting, plus the SE’s Driver Assistance Package as standard.

The SEL’s optional Driver Assistance Package brings lane-keeping assistance, front and rear parking sensor, self-parking function (parallel and perpendicular spaces), self-dimming rearview mirror and adaptive bi-xenon headlights.

We’ve already mentioned the generous 66.5 cu ft of maximum cargo space. But when the rear seats are in place, there’s still 30.4 cu ft to swallow the week’s groceries.

Safety

Standard safety features include anti-lock disc brakes, traction/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 features an SOS button for emergency assistance.

The SportWagen has not been crash-tested, but the regular Golf scored a maximum five stars overall in government crash tests; four of out five for front impact protection and a full five stars for side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) makes the regular Golf a Top Safety Pick+ after awarding it the top rating of Good in every category.

Behind the Wheel

The SportWagen’s dashboard is lifted directly from the regular Golf, which means it’s stylish in a restrained way, with materials higher in quality than is normal for this price range. Even the base S trim comes with a touchscreen interface, plus Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. The premium flourishes in pricier trims are even more tempting.

The front seats are firm and supportive, particularly with the SEL trim’s sport comfort contours. And rear passengers will find more knee room than a compact wagon might be expected to provide. The standard panoramic sunroof on SE and SEL models is a luxury-grade touch.

The SportWagen also drives like the Golf, displaying the same confident handling and taut-yet-supple ride. The 1.8T engine is energetic 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).

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Subaru Outback The Outback is larger than the SportWagen. It’s also more capable, providing standard all-wheel drive and a raised suspension.

2017 Volvo V60 Considering something pricier? The V60 is even nicer than the SportWagen inside. It’s quicker too.

2017 Toyota Prius V This larger Prius hatchback is more fuel-efficient than the SportWagen, but nothing like as much fun to drive.

2017 Volkswagen Alltrack Like the SportWagen but comes with a raised ride height and consequently an elevated driving position, plus all-wheel drive as standard and vaguely wannabe-crossover styling.

Used Audi Allroad The luxurious Allroad offers standard all-wheel drive and tough off-road hardware. It’s also a little faster than the SportWagen. Look for a certified pre-owned (CPO) example with a factory warranty.

Autotrader’s Advice

It’s not a foregone conclusion that everyone will get the automatic version, since a wagon buyer obvious has a non-conformist streak. But that extra torque and the subsequent advantage in resale value could swing it. The SE trim level with those extra driving aids makes a good combination of equipment and affordability. Find a Volkswagen Golf SportWagen for sale

 

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