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2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

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2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Review

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IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be aware that this vehicle's diesel engine is involved in a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act issued by the EPA to Volkswagen for producing and selling 4-cylinder diesel cars that include a software device that circumvents EPA emissions standards for certain air pollutants. The EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) determined that these diesel cars emit up to 40 times more pollution than emission standards allow. Recalls, investigations and litigation are currently ongoing.

The 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is a new model for the Golf lineup, but not for VW. Previously sold as the Jetta SportWagen, the new Golf SportWagen remains the only budget-priced compact wagon available in the U.S. That makes the VW SportWagen a unique proposition, providing efficient transportation with a European flair that's literally unavailable anywhere else. This all-new Golf SportWagen is built on the new MQB platform, meaning it's lightweight and efficient, and sports VW's excellent new 1.8-liter turbocharged TSI engine in base models. But don't worry diesel fans – the SportWagen TDI returns, offering more power and even better fuel economy than before. With a flexible cargo area, newer technology, and sharp driving dynamics, the new Golf SportWagen makes a compelling alternative for compact SUV shoppers.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you're looking for something with plenty of useable cargo space, fun driving dynamics, and a pair of smooth and fuel efficient engines to choose from, the new Golf SportWagen is an excellent choice. Enthusiasts take note: If you want an affordable, diesel-powered, manual-transmission wagon, this wagon is your only choice.

You May Not Like This Car If...

About the only major drawback to the new Golf SportWagen is that it lacks the all-wheel drive and ground clearance of the compact SUV competitors against which VW says it competes. However, both will be rectified next year when all-wheel drive and the Subaru Outback-like Alltrack debut.

What's New for 2015

The 2015 VW Golf SportWagen is all-new this year. Built off the new MQB compact car platform it shares with the standard VW Golf, the new SportWagen takes the place of the VW Jetta SportWagen in the Volkswagen lineup.

Driving the Golf SportWagen
Driving Impressions

The easiest thing to say is that the new Golf SportWagen drives exactly like the standard 2015 Golf, but since it's likely you haven't driven one, we'll elaborate. Whether you...

... choose the 1.8-liter turbocharged gasoline engine (TSI), or the 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine (TDI), you'll be rewarded with good acceleration. However, we think the diesel's generous low-end torque gives it an undeniable seat-of-the-pants advantage. The suspension offers up a firm but not unyielding Germanic solidity on the highway, but when the road bends, the suspension's sharp reflexes combine with sharp steering and good power to deliver on the "Sport" half of the SportWagen's name. Both engines are also available with slick shifting manual transmissions, a 5-speed in the TSI or a 6-speed in the TDI. Tone it down, and the new SportWagen cruises efficiently and quietly, returning excellent highway fuel economy, especially in diesel form.

DIESEL POWER
Roughly 80 percent of Jetta SportWagen buyers chose the diesel engine, and about 40 percent of those cars had manual transmissions. Those enthusiasts are on to something, as the combination of diesel engine and manual transmission makes the Golf SportWagen a pleasure to drive.

REMOTE SEATBACK RELEASE
It may not sound like a big deal, but being able to fold the rear seatbacks from the cargo area is a big win. If you're balancing a long object on your SportWagen's bumper, and you realize you need to fold the seats down, the convenience speaks for itself.

2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Details
2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen photo Interior

Like the rest of the current-generation Golf family, the new Golf SportWagen gets high marks for its interior. Materials used and fit and finish all look like they're from a higher class of car. Comfortable seating includes the rear seats, which offer decent legroom and headroom, even for taller passengers. The generous cargo area doesn't result in any additional road noise, as is often the case with wagons. We're not hugely fond of the touch-screen infotainment system though, especially its proprietary plug for connecting an iPhone and a power button that shuts off the whole thing, not just the audio.

Exterior
2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen photo

From head-on, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the new SportWagen from any other Golf. From the side, of course, it's a different story, with the long roof and upright hatch giving the SportWagen a distinctively European look. Surprisingly, it's not much bigger than the regular Golf. The wheelbase – the distance between the front and rear wheels – remains the same, and overall length only grows a few inches. Options include bi-xenon headlights with LED accents, and they give the SportWagen a distinctive and upscale appearance.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

Whether you choose the gas-powered TSI or diesel-powered TDI, base model Golf SportWagen S models come pretty nicely equipped. For starters, SportWagen TSI models get standard 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, while TDI models get bigger 16-inch wheels. You get a 5-speed (TSI) or 6-speed (TDI) manual transmission, leatherette seats, tilt/telescoping steering, air conditioning, cruise control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake lever. The standard touch-screen audio system includes Bluetooth, a CD player, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Volkswagen's Media Device Interface to connect your smartphone. Safety equipment includes front, side and curtain airbags, and hill-hold assist.

Optional Equipment

Options are mostly divided among trim levels. Higher-level Golf SportWagen models (SE and SEL) get a standard automatic transmission, but TDI buyers can choose between manual or automatic regardless of trim. SE equipment also includes 17-inch wheels, heated front seats, keyless entry and ignition, a Fender audio system, and a backup camera. Sportwagen SEL models add upgraded leather seats with 12-way power adjustment for the driver, automatic climate control, navigation, and ambient lighting. A lighting package adds bi-xenon headlights with LED running lights, while a Driver Assistance Package adds in front-and-rear parking sensors, and a forward-collision warning system.

Under the Hood

Standard issue on the 2015 VW Golf SportWagen is Volkswagen's 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Known as the TSI, this model is available with either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, and puts out 170 horsepower to the front wheels. Also available is VW's well-regarded 150-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel 4-cylinder engine. Wearing the TDI badge, the diesel has been the most popular engine in the Jetta SportWagen for years, accounting for about 80 percent of all SportWagen models. It's available with a 6-speed manual transmission in all trim levels, or a 6-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission. Both versions offer fuel-efficient driving, with the TSI offering up to 36 mpg on the highway, and the TDI up to 43 highway mpg.

1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4
170 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm
199 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/36 mpg (manual), 25/35 mpg (automatic)

2.0-liter turbocharged diesel inline-4
150 horsepower @ 3,500 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 31/43 mpg (manual), 31/42 (automatic)

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