Fuel-sipping alternative to the CUV

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2016 Golf SportWagen Highline

The 2015 Golf won just about every meaningful award in the auto industry from North American Car of the Year to the Canadian Automotive Jury Best of the Best. No matter what model you choose, it is a very well engineered car. I really like the basic three- or five-door Golf sedans and the sporty GTI. The SportWagen fills the niche for those wanting CUV-like space but not at CUV prices. It was also an enjoyable ride and better suited to empty nesters or a young couple who are involved in a potpourri of activities and don’t yet have children. The SportWagen replaces the outgoing Golf wagon and is slightly bigger, yet up to a full 137 lbs. lighter.

While North Americans are rushing to buy compact and intermediate CUVs, there is still a market for wagons. Consider this, the SportWagen offers similar cargo space to a CUV but outwardly takes up less space in a garage or, more to the point, a single car driveway or underground condo parking space. There are three trim levels; Trendline, Comfortline and Highline. My tester was the top-of-the-line Highline which for the most part is well equipped. Standard features include 5.8-inch touch screen interface, heated front seats and backup camera.

Only one engine is offered in the 2016 SportWagen, a 1.8-litre TSI turbocharged four-cylinder. While a somewhat lively performer in the basic Golf, it doesn’t feel that way in the wagon in part because of the greater weight of the wagon body. Even so, the six-speed automatic transmission’s electronics can make the car hustle Place the gear shift in S or Sport mode and engine rpms pick up with the Golf feeling much livelier. Slide the shifter over to the right and you can manually shift holding each gear as high as you dare snapping the gear lever into the next highest gear when you want. The normal “Drive” mode gives lazy shifts such that the tranny upshifts to help achieve the best fuel consumption. In a mix of urban and some highway driving I was able to go 6.5 L/100km on a tank with my worst fuel consumption at 8.5L/100km.

Volkswagen allows owners to use regular gasoline unlike some manufacturers. I did not drive the SportWagen in a brisk manner as my intent with this model was to get the best fuel consumption possible in mainly urban driving. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and one I enjoyed in a couple of other Golf models not long ago.

Ride and handling is what you would expect of a German engineered car. The Golf SportWagen has springs, struts and shocks well tuned for a comfortable, well balanced ride, which is nimble and more than capable of keeping the wagon glued to the pavement. BMWs used to feel this good. I really felt through the steering wheel that I was one with the car with the Golf responding well to steering inputs. Inside it’s all top quality materials put together really well, showing as first class finish.

Windows are large with good sight lines including the rectangular rear window. Seats are supportive and comfortable for a long drive. They are heated and boy do they heat! Cargo room abounds especially when you drop the 60/40 rear seatback. There is even space for very small items even where the spare tire lies. I like the layout of controls where every switch and knob is right at hand. My only gripe would be the NAV screen seems a little too small. Better graphics would help too. Fonts and colours just don’t look like something that’s befitting a $30,000 automobile.

This brings me to pricing. You don’t have to top-of-the-line to enjoy this little wagon. The 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen starts at $22,795 for the Trendline. Comfortline comes with more features starting at $25,595. My well-optioned 2015 Highline model started at $31,795. The Multi-Media Package was the major option on the car priced at $2,220, bringing the price tag to just over $34,000 before freight and GST. Go to Volkswagen.ca to check in detail the models

Garry Melnyk is a St. Albert resident and lifelong car buff who has written about new cars and trucks for radio and print publications since the ’70s.

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