A viable alternative to a utility vehicle. The 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is very much a wagon operating in a sea of crossovers and SUVs. Its design is closer to the Subaru Forester, another wagon-like SUV.
Storage space is generous with 30.4 cubic feet behind the second row and 66.5 cubic feet once the rear seat is folded. This easily beats subcompact models such as the Ford EcoSport and Fiat 500X, while rivaling larger compact models such as the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue. You’ll find ample room to hold a bicycle, your yard sale finds, or enough luggage space for a week-long journey.
Interior that's a cut above the rest. The quality of materials used, along with the fit and finish, put the SportWagen near the top of its class. The dashboard is clean and uncluttered, while the center stack has an orderly feel with buttons, knobs, and switches at the ready.
Even the base model offers six-way partial power adjustable front seats. Cloth seats are standard; imitation leather seats are available and feel very much like the real thing. Although the rear seat isn’t especially roomy, the tall roofline makes getting in and out very easy.
Good tech features. Volkswagen’s suite of tech features is admirable and outperforms most competitors. The standard 6.5-inch touchscreen is clear and responds quickly. The better choice is the available 8-inch display.
You’ll find both Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto compatibility, the latter still not available with any Toyota. Built-in navigation is available, but you’re better offer allowing your smartphone app to take you there.
The available Driver Assistance Package can be had even on the base model. It brings in forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian monitoring, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. For $450, it's a valuable and cost-effective upgrade we heartily endorse.
Front-wheel-drive models down in power. This year, Volkswagen splits the powertrain offerings based on the chosen drivetrain. Select the front-wheel-drive version and the SportWagen has a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The all-wheel-drive model retains the previous turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine.
The difference in power is noteworthy, as the smaller engine delivers 147 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque to the larger engine’s 168 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque. Both work with a standard six-speed manual gearbox. Optionally, the FWD model has an eight-speed automatic, while the AWD version supplies a dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission.
Regardless of what’s under the hood, we found the SportWagen offers a commendable ride and handling. Although Volkswagen’s 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system isn’t the same as Audi’s quattro, it's also quite good. It acquits itself well on wet roads and wherever snow is a factor.
Final thoughts. The 2019 VW Golf SportWagen is a utility vehicle disguised as a wagon. Some will find its design more pleasant than the bubble-shaped SUVs common to the market – and that’s not a bad thing.
Priced from just under $23,000 to just over $30,000, the SportWagen costs somewhere between most subcompact and compact models. The S with 4MOTION offers the best value with its alloy wheels and heated front seats.