The popular Volkswagen Golf is offered in both 4-door hatchback form and as a wagon, with 2-door hatchback variants no longer produced. The Golf 1.8T, Sportwagen and Alltrack are all powered by a 170-horsepower turbocharged 1.8L 4-cylinder. In the hatchback, this is mated to either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The Sportwagen S is offered with those same choices, while the Sportwagen S 4Motion, SE and SEL are offered with the automatic only. Meanwhile, the Alltrack S, SE, and SEL all come standard with VW's 6-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission.
The Golf GTI comes with a potent turbocharged and intercooled 2.0L 4-cylinder that produces 210 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It rides on 18-inch alloy wheels and is offered with a choice of either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission. At the top of the Golf hatchback range is the Golf R. The R also sports the turbocharged 2.0L, upped to 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet, with the sure-footedness of VW's 4-Motion all-wheel drive. Power is put to the wheels through either the 6-speed manual or the 6-speed DSG transmission.
The all-electric e-Golf is powered by 24.2-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that runs a permanent-magnet 85-kW AC electric motor. The output equivalent is 114 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. The car's range is 83 miles when fully charged, and a 240-volt dedicated in-home charger can recharge the battery in four hours. Using household 120-volt current takes 20 hours. The e-Golf offers three selectable driving modes: Normal, Eco and Eco+, which vary regenerative braking and throttle response to either maximize power or range.
Golf 1.8T models are offered in S and Wolfsburg trims. The S trim includes 15-inch alloy wheels, power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free connectivity, an 8-speaker stereo with iPod hookup, 6.5-inch touchscreen with satellite radio, steering wheel audio controls, smartphone integration, remote keyless entry and a leather shift knob, as well as cloth seating with a 60/40 split folding rear seat. The Wolfsburg Edition brings 16-inch alloys, a power sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, automatic headlights, heated front seats, and advanced safety features such as blind-sport monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and a forward collision warning with automatic braking.
GTIs come in S, Sport, SE and Autobahn trims. In S trim, the GTI offers LED fog lights, heated mirrors, and 18-inch alloy wheels, while inside there's plaid cloth upholstery with heated front seats, a cooled glovebox, selectable driving modes, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, Bluetooth, the 6.5-inch touchscreen, and a rearview camera.
GTI Sport models add adaptive xenon headlights and various performance upgrades like a slightly more powerful engine, a limited-slip front differential, and bigger brakes. In the SE, there's a sunroof, leather upholstery, a Fender audio system, and automatic headlights. Finally the GTI Autobahn offers everything from the previous trims plus enhanced handling thanks to adaptive damping and a larger rear stabilizer bar. Dual-zone climate control, navigation, and a 10-way power driver seat round out the selection.
The range-topping Golf R is packed with premium standard features that include a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, HID headlamps, heated power-adjustable leather seats and dual-zone climate control.
Sportwagens are offered in three trims: S, SE and SEL, with an all-wheel-drive 4Motion variant also available in S trim. The S trim is configured similarly to the Golf S, with the addition of black roof rails. In the SE, buyers will find 17-inch wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, halogen fog lights, a power panoramic sunroof and a rearview camera. Inside, amenities include a Fender premium audio system with eight speakers and a subwoofer and heated front seats. The top-of-the-line SEL trim includes 18-inch wheels, touchscreen navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control and front sport seats with 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat.
With the exception of a more rugged exterior appearance, elevated ride height, and standard 4Motion all-wheel drive, the new Alltrack in S, SE, and SEL is outfitted similarly to its Sportwagen siblings.
Finally, the e-Golf is offered in SE and SEL Premium trims. SE is similar to other SE trims in the Golf family, though it also offers 3.6kw onboard charger, while the SEL Premium comes with a fast-charging 7.2kW onboard charger, full LED headlights, and the rest of the amenities from other SEL trims in the Golf range.
All Golfs come with standard safety features that include anti-lock brakes, traction control and engine braking assist, plus a host of airbags to protect the cabin.
There is nothing in the passenger-car market that can match the 2018 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen's cargo-hauling value. With a $21,685 starting price -- plus $895 for destination -- the Golf is less expensive than larger, heavier crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and even Volkswagen's own Tiguan.
Even if you step down to cheaper subcompact crossovers such as the Ford EcoSport, or Nissan Kicks, none of them comes close to the Golf's capaciousness. And then the Sportwagen steps into unicorn territory by wrapping that frugal practicality into a fun-to-drive, well equipped package that's really difficult to pass up.
I'll get to the practicality in a moment, but what makes this car really stand out is how good it is to drive. Just like other Golf variants, the Sportwagen balances ride comfort and driver engagement with admirable skill.
The Good Engaging driving dynamics, and more than enough space for people and cargo.
The Bad Interior noise is a little louder than I’d like. Our base tester's eight-speaker audio system can drown that out, but it sounds awful doing so.
The Bottom Line If you don’t want a crossover like everyone else in your neighborhood, the Sportwagen offers a different take on a practical package.
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