By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
The 2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen occupies a field of one. As the only compact station wagon in the sub-$25,000 price range, VW’s 2017 SportWagen is ideal for those needing more room than the average hatchback provides, but who have no need for a small SUV. Although the economical diesel engine is no longer offered, the standard 1.8-liter turbocharged gasoline unit provides excellent response and economy perfectly suited to the SportWagen’s taut suspension and available manual transmission. VW also equips the Golf SportWagen with a number of advanced safety features, such as the available Driver Assist Package containing autonomous braking, adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning. Buyers can even opt for 4Motion all-wheel drive (AWD), but only on the base S trim.
If you’re looking for the cargo-holding ability and comfort of a compact SUV, but you don’t fancy the high step-in height or visibility-limiting narrow side windows, the 2017 VW Golf SportWagen makes an excellent runner-up. AWD is available with either a manual or automatic transmission.
Volkswagen’s Golf SportWagen for 2017 gains the option of 4Motion AWD on the base S trim, while the Driver Assist Package is made standard on the SEL and optional on SE.
Sharing its suspension and engine with the Volkswagen Golf makes the 2017 VW Golf SportWagen one fun little machine. The 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged 4-cylinder may not look...
... like much on paper, but it delivers its power smoothly throughout the rev band, and is especially willing when power is needed for passing or merging. Although we love that VW offers a manual transmission, this one is a bit rubbery and vague. The DSG automatic is a much better choice, offering nearly identical fuel economy and still allowing the option of choosing your own gears. We found the SportWagen’s ride to be on the firm side, as are its seats, and the suspension is tight enough to allow some very rapid high-speed maneuvers through twisting turns with very little evidence of torque steer. The available 4Motion AWD is a great feature, but why only on the base S trim, VW?
DRIVER ASSISTANCE PACKAGE
Standard on the SEL and available on SE, the Driver Assistance Package brings such helpful driver assists as forward-collision warning, autonomous braking, lane-departure and blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic detection.
REMOTE SEATBACK RELEASE
Why every hatchback and wagon doesn’t offer this feature is beyond us. However, once you’ve experienced the joy of being able to lay flat the rear seats from the back of the vehicle, you’ll probably be asking the same question.
Like the rest of the current-generation Golf family, the 2017 Golf SportWagen gets high marks for its interior. Materials use 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, although having Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a nice upgrade. Even the cloth seats on the base S trim are stylish and handsome.
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 2017 VW 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 grows only a few inches. Options include bi-xenon headlights with LED accents, and they give the SportWagen a distinctive and upscale appearance.
The base model VW Golf SportWagen S for 2017 comes pretty nicely equipped. For starters, the SportWagen TSI gets standard 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a 5-speed manual transmission, cloth seats, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, rearview camera, heated side mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake lever. The standard touch-screen audio system includes eight speakers, Bluetooth, a CD player, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Volkswagen's Media Device Interface to connect your smartphone via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or MirrorLink. The S 4Motion gains heated front seats. Safety equipment includes front, side and curtain airbags, and hill-hold assist.
Options are mostly divided among trim levels. Higher-level Golf SportWagen models (SE and SEL) get a standard automatic transmission. SE equipment also includes 17-inch wheels, heated front seats, keyless entry and ignition, corner-illuminating fog lights, panoramic sunroof and a Fender audio system. SEL models add upgraded leather seats with 12-way-power adjustment for the driver, automatic climate control, navigation and the Driver Assistance Package. A lighting package for the SEL includes bi-xenon headlights with LED running lights, while the SE offers the Driver Assistance Package that adds adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitor and a forward-collision warning system with autonomous braking.
Standard issue on the 2017 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 both front- and all-wheel-drive (FWD, AWD) models.
1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4
170 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm
199 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/35 mpg (FWD, manual), 25/34 mpg (FWD, automatic), 22/30 mpg (AWD)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a 2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen starts low, with the 5-speed-manual-equipped TSI S just under $22,500. An automatic transmission adds $1,100 to the price of any SportWagen, while AWD adds about $2,250. We think the mid-level SE grade offers a solid mix of standard and available features for just under $28,000. A loaded SportWagen SEL with every option costs about $34,000. Not cheap, but it's hard to find a better-equipped or more fuel-efficient people-and-things hauler at the price. Of course, you want a good deal, so check out KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price to see how much people in your area are paying for the new SportWagen. As for resale, 2017 VW Golf SportWagen looks to be holding only average values, well below those of the Subaru Outback, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. The SportWagen’s low values are likely due to fallout from the diesel-engine scandal.