It’s rare when we get the lowest trim level on a test vehicle, but that’s what we got with the 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen. Usually we get the top trim models loaded with everything: leather, premium sound, navigation, 12-way power seats, and more.
It’s not easy to reach down to adjust the seat with a pull handle. We do get spoiled as auto journalists. We also had to insert a key into the ignition to start the VW SportWagen. I complained to my wife when I had to actually remove the key from my pocket.
She just rolled her eyes.
What’s New For 2016?
The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen gets a rearview camera standard in all trims. The S trim we tested loses the leatherette upholstery and gets cloth instead. A new 6.5-inch touchscreen supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink functionality. A USB input replaces the MDI port.
Features & Options
The 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TSI S ($21,625) is equipped with 15-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, black roof rails, full power accessories, and a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel. Also standard are height-adjustable manual front seats with power recline, cloth upholstery, a cooled glovebox, 60/40-split folding rear seats with a center pass-through, hill-hold assist, VW’s Car-Net emergency telematics system, and Bluetooth connectivity.
The base audio system has eight speakers, satellite radio, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack, and USB port. There were no charges for the Tungsten Metallic exterior, Titan black cloth interior, or 5-speed manual gearbox.
Total MSRP: $22,445.
The cabin of our S trim tester is understated but attractive in its simplicity. The interior is actually one of the nicest in this price range. The new 6.5-inch screen is easy to understand and the convenient backup camera is now standard across all models. The SportWagen’s standard cloth front seats are attractive, offer firm support over both short and long distances, and actually breath better in hot weather than the leatherette.
We got in after the sun had been beating down all day, and seats didn’t feel like they were on fire.
In the rear, there’s lots of room for two adults or three kids for longer jaunts. The reason to buy a wagon of course is the extra cargo room behind the rear seat. The SportWagen offers up 30.4 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats up, and 66.5 cubic feet with the seats folded. That’s close to some small crossovers but you wont find a crossover for $22,000.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The Golf SportWagen is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine that provides ample propulsion and good fuel economy. Its rated by VW at 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The EPA rates the wagon at 25/36 mpg city/highway and 29 combined. The five-speed manual gearbox sends power to the front wheels.
All-wheel drive is not available but a six-speed automatic is optional.
The Golf SportWagen with the 5-speed manual is fun to drive and rates about 6 on a scale of 10, being mind-numbingly fun. It never felt deficient in the power department and kept us fully engaged as we pushed it hard through hills this week. Just downshift into a lower gear and you have all the power needed for any driving situation.
We even squealed the front tires as we pushed away from a stoplight!
The gearing is high so it gets improved mileage on the open road. We had to spool up the engine revs to get it underway. After it kicked in, the race was on. On the open road, the wagon’s ride is smooth and controlled, handling the curves well. Although it’s not as sporty as the name would suggest, it’s still a good commuter that will suit a majority of drivers.
In the city, it works well when trying to get into tight spaces. This wagon is the right size for urban living where you might have a small parking space assigned to you at home or work. Taking it out on the road on the weekend won’t be a problem either. It’s capable on the highway if you are taking a long trip.
You won’t feel like you are getting short-changed with the lower S trim level, unless you are a spoiled automotive journalist. The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is a capable commuter that offers lots of utility, plus one of the nicest interiors for the price. This car definitely won’t break the bank.
*Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy