The Volkswagen Golf has long been recognized and appreciated for its sporty driving dynamics delivered at an affordable price. A longer version of the Golf, the Golf SportWagen, adds an impressively large cargo area that transforms the Golf into a more practical, utilitarian vehicle without canceling out Golf’s fun-to-drive factor.
For 2019, the Golf SportWagen is available in three trims: S, S 4Motion, and SE. Front-wheel-drive versions get a new 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 147 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It replaces the previous 1.8-liter turbo, which is continued in the all-wheel-drive S4 Motion model.
Transmission choices for the 1.4T are a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic. For the 1.8T, it’s either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
Also new for 2019, S and S 4Motion models have an optional Driver Assistance package incorporating forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, blind spot monitor, and rear traffic alert.
New additions for SE models include 17-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, fog lights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist.
My tester was the SportWagen 1.4T S model with a manual transmission. Its base price including an $895 destination charge is $22,790. The one optional item was the Driver Assistance package ($450) mentioned above.
The front-drive S model is the thrift leader in the SportWagen lineup, but it doesn’t scrimp on safety features (especially with the Driver Assistance package tacked on) or important things like rain-sensing front wipers, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a retractable cover for the cargo area, an excellent six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, and automatic halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights. It has six-way manual adjustment front seats including lumbar support, and the recline adjustment is power operated.
The SE trim is where you’ll find all the extra goodies, but it puts you into 30K territory and beyond. If all-wheel drive is a priority, the S 4Motion is your model, but note that it has the 1.8T engine.
As for my review car, its 1.4T engine didn’t disappoint, and in lower gears often astonished. Shifting its six-speed manual transmission was a cakewalk. Frosting was added by the fuel economy: 29 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, and 32 mpg combined.
Golf’s distinctive handling is fully present in the SportWagen. The 30.4 cubic feet of rear cargo area (66.5 cubic feet with the rear seat folded) wasn’t a hindrance, only a benefit because of how much stuff it could easily accommodate.
Build quality inside the Golf SportWagen is outstanding. Everything is solid and sturdy, even the retractable cargo cover. (I’ve seen retractable cargo covers as flimsy as cheap window shades.) The tester’s cloth seats gave a mighty impression of durability. And they’re handsome, too.
Sorry to say, there’s sad news about this great car. Twelve days ago, Volkswagen of America announced it is ending production of the Golf SportWagen this year. Here’s their explanation: “Over the past several years, demand among American consumers has shifted from wagons to SUVs. Through the first half of 2019, SUVs account for 47 percent of the industry sales, and more than 50 percent of Volkswagen sales. Thanks to strong sales of the Atlas and Tiguan, Volkswagen has had the highest year-over-year percentage growth among mainstream automotive brands in the first six months of 2019.”
What’s funny is that during my week with the 2019 Golf SportWagen, I thought “what does an SUV have that this SportWagen doesn’t have?” All I could think of was taller ride height. But that’s Americans for you. As soon as there are no coupes or sedans left on the market, buyers won’t want SUVs anymore.
2019 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF SPORTWAGEN 1.4T S
Base price, including destination charge: $22,790
Price as driven: $23,240
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only.
In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.