While the 2015 Golf SportWagen fills the slot previously taken by a Jetta wagon, the reason for this newest model to be slid over to the Golf lineup are both technical and practical. Technical in the fact that the newest generation Golf MQB architecture underpins this vehicle, practical because this 5-door liftback is more akin to the rest of the 3- and 5-door Golf hatchback lineup than the Jetta sedan.

In fact, the driving characteristics of the SportWagen TSI SEL are almost spot-on the same as our 5-door hatch long-term Golf, which is also a TSI SEL model fitted with the same 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine mated to a smooth shifting 6-speed torque converter automatic transmission. The big difference is seen in the aft section, where the SportWagen's tail extends about a foot beyond the Golf hatch. Measuring 179.6 inches bumper to bumper, this handsome hauler also is about an inch taller at 58.3 inches and has a more upright stance enhanced by standard roof rails. Despite that slightly higher roofline, this new MQB-based SportWagen is still almost an inch lower than the Jetta it replaces.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2015

It all happens at the back

Even though the driving experience from the front buckets forward is similar to the 5-door Golf hatch, the big difference starts in the rear passenger compartment on SE and SEL models where the tilt and slide panoramic sunroof has a rear glass panel almost over the entire rear seating area. When the shade is rolled back, the cabin takes on a light and airy feel from all the sunlight. And behind the rear seats is a load area that can hold up to 30.4 cubic feet of cargo, a space that rises to 66.5 cubic feet when the 60/40 rear bench is folded forward. Also, VW makes that compartment easily accessible thanks to a low 24.8-inch liftover to the rear floor and a wide 40.3-inch aperture for the liftback.

As a result, the Golf SportWagen offers all the utility of a crossover SUV in a more carlike package that has the kind of seating position and road manners you'd expect from a family sedan. There is also tremendous affordability and economy to be had. If you're willing to forgo the panoramic roof and opt for a base S model with 5-speed manual, the price starts at $21,395; the 6-speed automatic adds $1,100 to that figure. The TDI diesel starts at $24,595 with a 6-speed manual and $1,100 more for the 6-speed twin clutch DSG gearbox.

Our test model, at the top of the range carries a list price of $31,855 including $820 in destination. Among the many features are a rearview camera, touchscreen navigation, high-end Fender sound system, keyless entry/start, Bluetooth connectivity and heated/cooled front seats. The 2015 VW Golf SportWagen is not only a worthy successor to the previous Jetta SportWagen, but is a most welcome addition to the Golf family of vehicles.

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