It seems like everything that’s old is new again— beards, flannel, vinyl records, and even station wagons. But unlike your dad’s copy of Led Zeppelin IV, the 2016 Volkswagen Golf is a fully modern version of its craft. Now, Led Zeppelin probably isn’t getting back together anytime soon, but is the wagon fully capable of making a comeback? I’m George Kennedy for CarGurus, and today we’re going to see a Volkswagen that’s baked in enough technology, luxury, and performance to bring some swagger back to this corner of the market. The Golf SportWagen’s strong suits are practicality and value. It offers a lot of car for the money and is impressively refined. Because of their car-like ride, wagons are potentially more fun to drive than their crossover counterparts, and that’s definitely true of the Golf SportWagen. Up front there’s plenty of storage space and little cubbies for all your stuff, but the real storage story’s out back, where rear-seat passengers have plenty of head- and legroom.Even with the rear seats up, you’ve got 30.4 cubic feet of cargo space— that’s more than a Ford Focus or Kia Soul. With the flip of a handle, the rear seats fold flat, giving way to 66.5 cubic feet of cargo space—that’s 14 more cubic feet than the Honda Fit. The Golf SportWagen starts at $21,625. It comes standard with a backup camera and a really great multifunction steering wheel— it’s a flat-bottom wheel with piano black accents and a leather wrap and paddle shifters. This is the kind of steering wheel you’d expect to see in a sports car, and it’s so neat to see it in a wagon—and why I spent 30 seconds talking about it. For $24,995, you move up to the Limited Edition trim. It adds keyless entry, push-button start, and V-Tex leatherette seating. The SE trim adds this massive panoramic sunroof and a Fender premium audio system. The range-topping SEL trim features power front seats, 18-inch wheels, and the touchscreen navigation system.No matter which trim you choose, the SportWagen has a straightforward layout. Most automakers seem to be pushing the limits of style, but this clean look is refreshing. The touchscreen has swipe and gesture controls plus a blend of buttons. The gauges are real simple, and the controls are easy to use. It’s like the same dials you got in 1990, and I mean that in the best way possible. The Golf SportWagen comes with a 1.8-liter turbocharged inline four. It makes 170 horsepower sent to the
front wheels through either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The automatic has Tiptronic with Manual and Sport modes. Our SE test model has the automatic, and under general acceleration feels a bit hesitant.Once you get it into the right gear, it pulls pretty strong, but there’s some delay getting into that gear. When you’re in Drive, pull back on the shifter once to put the car into Sport or S mode, and acceleration gets much better. That said, you probably won’t achieve the EPA-estimated 25 miles per gallon city, 35 highway, and 29 combined when you’re in Sport mode. EPA estimates for the manual are the same, but you get one more MPG on the highway. So you put into Sport mode and go into Manual mode to get some serious acceleration, but the SportWagen has some terrific cornering chops. The steering is perfectly weighted, and if you want to carve some corners, you will not be disappointed. Now, say I got a text message from our editor at CarGurus, and I don’t want to pick up my phone or look down at it— luckily, the SportWagen comes with Apple CarPlay.If my phone is plugged into the USB, I can simply compose a response by voice control. The SEL offers a pair of packages. The Lighting package costs $995 and includes Bi-Xenon HID headlights, daytime running lights, and adaptive front lighting. The Driver Assistant package costs $1,495 and comes with a suite of high-tech safety gear. It includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane- departure warning, and parking steering assist. So who else is out there that makes a true wagon? There’s the Audi A6 Allroad and the Volvo V60, but both of those options are significantly more expensive than this VW. The MINI Cooper Clubman is a wagon, but even it’s a little bit more expensive, starting at 24 grand.And that’s what you get from the SportWagen. Even fully loaded at nearly $33,000, the SportWagen is an incredible value. In base form, you get a refined car with nimble handling. Your father’s wagon never handled like this car, and with the Driver Assistance package, it never had tech like this either. Right now, people are obsessed with crossovers, and I think that folks should pay attention to the practicality, versatility, and fun-to-drive nature of the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen. Is the wagon back? It’s such a small corner of the market, and I think folks are really missing out. With crossovers, you often
get the illusion of practicality and versatility, when in reality, a wagon gives you all the same cargo and storage solutions but is actually more fun to drive. If you’re in the market for a small crossover, check out the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen—you may be pleasantly surprised. Thanks for watching. Go to CarGurus.com to read my full review on this vehicle, and to see more video reviews, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.And if you think the wagon’s back, be sure to leave a comment. .