If there could be a car that represented a basic mode of transportation yet was smartly equipped and efficient in many ways, the 2018 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen could certainly be it. Available with a thrifty engine, plenty of space, available all-wheel drive, and modern active safety equipment, the Golf Sportwagen ticks the right boxes for a small car.
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2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Overview
What's New for 2018
For 2018, the Golf SportWagen receives new touchscreen displays for the infotainment system, updated front and rear styling, and new alloy wheels.
Choosing Your Volkswagen Golf SportWagen
The Golf SportWagen carries the torch for wagons at Volkswagen while the very similar Golf Alltrack handles the fight against the more rugged looking crossover types. The SportWagen’s straightforward styling means there’s no surprises but there are many impressive details such as the restyled LED taillight cluster and added chrome trim along the lower parts of the bumpers and on the grille.
All trims are powered by a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque (184 lb-ft when mated to the manual transmission).
Front-wheel drive models are offered with a five-speed manual – the mileage champ with an EPA estimated 34 miles per gallon highway – and a six-speed automatic. VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is only available on the base S, trim where a six-speed manual is standard and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is offered for $1,100.
The mid-level SE and top tier SEL trims only feature front-wheel drive and six-speed automatic transmission layout. This setup achieves 24 mpg city, 33 highway, and 28 combined.
Aside from accessories and the S' 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, Volkswagen doesn't offer any extras for the Golf Sportwagen. Buying is as easy as picking a trim, an interior and exterior color, and driving off the lot.
The Golf SportWagen prioritizes practicality over styling and functionality over frills. The S with 4Motion and manual transmission fully embraces this mantra. But it's the SE trim, with its basic level of active safety equipment and today’s expected level of tech, that will be the most suitable offering for the majority of drivers.
2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Review
You won’t find all that many wagons on the market, but when you do, the 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen shines among them. It offers all the practicality and comfort shoppers could want and for a reasonable price. Opting for all-wheel drive makes this model all the more formidable.
The 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen starts at $22,535 and offers standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. Customers have a choice of three trims: S, SE and SEL. A 1.8-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder is standard on every trim and with every drivetrain, while owners can choose from a standard six-speed manual or an available six-speed automatic.
We recommend passing on the available all-wheel drive model – at $2,250, it's not cheap, it limits customers to the base S trim, and the available Golf Alltrack is an all-around better all-wheel-drive experience for not much more money than the 4Motion-equipped SportWagen. But there is a conundrum – the all-wheel-drive SportWagen almost splits the difference between the base S and the mid-grade SE. Bypassing the 4Motion means spending just over $5,600 to reach the next trim level.
With that in mind, stick with the front-wheel-drive base model for maximum versatility at a modest price.
- Model: 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen
- Engine: 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
- Output: 170 hp/184 lb,-ft
- Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
- Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
- Fuel Economy: 24 City / 33 Hwy
- Options: Automatic transmission ($1,100)
- Base Price: $22,535 (an $850 destination charge)
- Best Value Price: $23,635
We’re fans of Volkswagen’s 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine as it delivers sufficient power and superior gas mileage. In fact, its 28 mpg average fuel economy bests most small crossovers.
Volkswagen pairs this engine with a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. We think most customers will prefer the latter, in part for its ease of use. It also shifts quickly and smoothly.
The SportWagen delivers an athletic chassis, driving better than its taller crossover competitors. It stays planted while cornering and delivers feedback on twisty roads. Its lower center of gravity provides a distinct advantage over its high-profile competition (not to mention the lifted Golf Alltrack it shares showroom space with).
Interior and Exterior
The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen may not be a head turner, but it is hardly plain either. It should stand the test of time, whereas some competing crossovers likely won’t. Its skin is all Volkswagen with no surprises. It doesn’t attempt to hide its wagon design.
Volkswagen takes great care with its interiors. The SportWagen looks and feels refined, even punching above its weight here. The front seats are very comfortable and supportive, ideal for sporty driving. The rear seats are quite good too, delivering ample headroom and legroom. Cloth upholstery is standard. Imitation leather, power-controlled front seats and heated front seats are available.
The Best and Worst Things
We like that the SportWagen is Volkswagen’s answer to the small crossovers. It is as if Volkswagen took a defiant approach to this booming segment, choosing to deliver a model that’s roomier and less costly.
On the other hand, the SportWagen is still a bit too conservative for some tastes. It is an improvement over the previous model when it wore a Jetta badge, however.
Right For? Wrong For?
Customers who need maximum storage space. The standard cargo hold is excellent: 30.4 cubic feet. With the rear seat folded, that space expands to 66.5 cubic feet, rivaling some midsize SUVs.
The individual expecting off-road prowess. This isn’t the Jeep Renegade, so if you’re looking for something a bit more off-road worthy, choose the VW Alltrack.
The Bottom Line
The Sportwagen shares its engine and suspension with Golf and that’s a very good thing. Few small crossovers provide stellar handling and performance. The SportWagen does both and adds excellent utility to it.