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2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen: New Car Review

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

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen takes the hatchback rear section of the regular Golf and extends it to make a wagon. Simple enough in principle, but also a little controversial, because American buyers aren’t famous for their love of wagons.

Which means the SportWagen is criminally underappreciated. Here’s an incredibly practical car with all the quality, sophistication, refinement and sheer driving talent for which the brilliant Golf is renowned, plus that larger cargo area measuring a massive 66.5 cu ft. when the rear seats are folded flat, outdoing many compact crossovers. And it comes with the option of all-wheel drive.

What’s New for 2018?

In common with the rest of the Golf range, the SportWagen gains new designs of LED daytime running lights and taillights. The New Vehicle Limited Warranty is updated to 6 years/72,000 miles (whichever happens first). Some of the previously optional driving aids have been incorporated into the standard equipment of the top two trims.

The S trim gains automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and a new 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen.

The SE trim receives a new 8-in touchscreen, plus forward-collision mitigation and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

Pedestrian monitoring will be available later in this model year.

The SEL trim gains a new design of 17-in alloy wheels, self-dimming rearview mirror and pedestrian monitoring. See the 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen 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

How Much?


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 (called 4Motion) is optional in the lowest S trim. This drivetrain brings the choice of a 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission (DSG) as the 2-pedal alternative.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fuel economy with the manual transmission and front-wheel drive is 25 miles per gallon in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in combined driving. With the automatic (and that extra torque), it’s 24 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined.

All-wheel drive results in 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined (manual) or 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined (DSG automatic).

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen comes in S, SE and SEL trim levels.

The base 1.8T S ($22,535) has 15-in alloy wheels, black roof rails, LED daytime running lights with automatic headlights, LED taillights, power accessories, air conditioning, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, heated windshield-washer nozzles, cruise control, a rearview camera, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt-telescopic adjustment, height-adjustable front seats, a cooled glove box, hill-hold assist, cloth upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, a 6.5-in touchscreen interface, an 8-speaker audio system, a USB port, a SD card reader, an auxiliary audio input and HD and satellite radios.

The all-wheel-drive S 4Motion version ($23,935 plus 850) adds heated front seats and 16-in alloy wheels.

The 1.8T SE ($28,170) has the automatic transmission as standard and adds 17-in alloy wheels, fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, single-zone climate control, leatherette seating surfaces, heated front seats, keyless entry/start, heated windshield-washer nozzles, an 8-in touchscreen, a CD player, forward-collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert (with pedestrian monitoring coming later in the model year) and a 115-volt outlet in the cargo area.

The 1.8T SEL ($31,095) has 18-in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, chrome roof rails, fog lights, navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, sport seats with 12-way power-adjustment on the driver’s side, a self-dimming rearview mirror, pedestrian monitoring and a premium Fender-branded 9-speaker audio system.

Options include lane-keeping assistance, front and rear parking sensors, a self-parking function (parallel and perpendicular spaces), high-beam assistance and an overhead-view camera system.

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


Standard safety features include antilock 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 2018 SportWagen has earned the full five stars overall in the crash-test program carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with five stars for driver’s-side protection and four for the front-passenger side. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also gave it the top mark of Good in most major categories — except for the passenger-side small-overlap front crash test, where it took the second-best rating of Acceptable.

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

2018 Subaru Outback — The Outback is larger than the SportWagen. It’s also more capable, providing standard all-wheel drive and a raised suspension. Updated for this model year.

2019 Volvo V60 — Considering something pricier? The V60 is even nicer than the SportWagen inside. It’s quicker, too. A new generation is imminent.

2018 Toyota Prius V — This larger Prius hatchback is more fuel efficient than the SportWagen, but nothing like as much fun to drive.

2018 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

Try to stretch to the SE with the extra advanced-safety features. And even if you really want the manual transmission, the automatic version has more torque and will be easier to sell when the time comes.

Find a Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen for sale


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