4.1 Overall Score
Performance 4.3 Comfort 4.1 Styling 4.2 Value 3.9

Editor's Overview

The 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is a rare breed these days: a small station wagon. True to its name, this VW wagon is sporty yet immensely practical and efficient. It has more cargo capacity than the Subaru Impreza 5-door and every other hatchback in its class, and broadens its appeal with available all-wheel drive and a manual transmission.

You'll Like The 2019 Volkswagen Golf If...

If you’re looking for a true small station wagon vs. a hatchback, check out the VW SportWagen. It has the roominess of a small SUV, the manners of a sedan, and a budget-friendly price. All-wheel drive is available, as is a manual transmission. VW’s new 6-year/72,000-mile warranty inspires confidence.

You May Not Like The 2019 Volkswagen Golf If...

If you’re seeking even higher fuel economy, look at the Kia Niro hybrid. The slightly smaller Subaru Impreza 5-door and larger Outback have better resale value. And if you want the SportWagen in a more rugged, higher-riding form, it’s found in the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.

What's New

VW’s more efficient 1.4-liter turbo engine replaces the 1.8-liter in the front-wheel-drive SportWagen model (4Motion variants retain the 1.8), and when tied to an automatic transmission gains a new 8-speed. Base S trims now offer the Driver Assistance package with features like blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking. The top-line SEL trim has been discontinued.

Interior Features

A big reason you buy a wagon is for space, and the VW SportWagen delivers it in spades. For such a modestly sized 5-passenger vehicle, this VW makes excellent use of its interior. Behind the rear seats is a flat floor with a substantial 30.4 cubic feet of space. When you need room for longer items or more stuff, the seats fold nearly flat, creating 66.5 cubic feet. That’s on par with a small SUV. Aside from its roominess, the SportWagen’s interior is well laid out. Controls for climate and audio are easy to see and use. S models have a 6.5-inch touch screen, while the SE variants feature a larger and crisper 8-inch screen. Cloth upholstery comes in the S trims, and SE models have a more premium Leatherette.

Exterior Features

VW’s 2019 SportWagen looks more prominent than the Golf hatchback, because it is. The wagon is over a foot longer than the hatchback, giving it a long, lean and purposeful appearance. Just last year VW upgraded the look of the SportWagen with new front-end styling, including new LED daytime-running lights and LED taillights. Wagons aren’t nearly as common as they used to be, and the SportWagen’s long roof and upright hatch make it stand out further with a distinctive European flavor. It looks sporty yet practical, and it has the kind of classic shape that holds up for years to come.

Driving Impressions

The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen proudly stands at the corner where fun and practicality intersect. The new 1.4-liter engine that powers front-wheel-drive (FWD) models loses horsepower to the older 1.8-liter that still powers all-wheel-drive (AWD) versions, but we’ve found it peppy nonetheless. It is also quite fuel-efficient. Like its Golf and Jetta siblings, the SportWagen stands out among compact cars with its taut yet comfortable driving manners. It isn’t the most powerful thing on the road, but this VW manages to feel spry overall. The new 8-speed automatic transmission is remarkably smooth. And if manual transmissions are your thing, we’re happy to report that there’s an excellent one in this VW. It’s so easy to use that even a new driver could learn on it. SportWagen 4Motion models use Volkswagen’s all-wheel-drive system, and we highly endorse it if you live in a cold-weather state or otherwise have to deal with slick or snowy roads. Unfortunately, the 4Motion AWD system is available only on base S models. If you want a fancier version -- that is also more rugged and has a bit more ground clearance -- look to the VW Alltrack.

Pricing Notes

The 2019 VW Golf SportWagen has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $21,895 for a manual-transmission model and $22,995 with an automatic. Destination price is an additional $895. If you want AWD, the SportWagen 4Motion begins at $24,395. As with the FWD model, opting for an automatic transmission is an extra $1,100. The SportWagen SE, which comes with an automatic transmission, starts at $29,995. At these prices, the SportWagen starts above the Subaru Impreza 5-door, which is slightly smaller but comes standard with all-wheel drive. At $26,895, the more rugged and better equipped VW Golf Alltrack commands a premium over the SportWagen 4Motion on which it’s based. Another alternative in this class, the Kia Niro hybrid, starts at $23,490. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. The VW Golf SportWagen’s resale value is expected to be about average, but still significantly trail that of the Subaru Impreza.

Notable Equipment

The Golf SportWagen lineup has been simplified for 2019, with just two trims offered: S and SE. In base S form, you’ll get the basics like cruise control and power accessories, plus a leather-covered steering wheel, roof rails, 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, and a 6-speaker infotainment AM/FM/HD Radio system with a 6.5-inch display, USB port and Bluetooth connectivity. We like that all SportWagen models include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink smartphone integration. All-wheel-drive 4Motion SportWagen models, only offered in S trim, also get heated seats, 16-inch wheels, and the larger 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. The SportWagen S comes with a 6-speed manual transmission. An 8-speed automatic is $1,100 extra.

Notable Options

If you opt for the Golf SportWagen S, we highly recommend adding the Driver Assist Package. It’s only $450, and it has the potential to prevent an accident with features like forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and a blind-spot monitor. The SportWagen SE includes those features, plus other aids like lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and an enhanced blind-spot monitoring that can counter steer the car if a collision appears imminent. SE models are also upgraded with Leatherette upholstery, panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, fog lights, heated front seats, a 115-volt power outlet in the rear cargo area, push-button start and keyless entry. Opting for the SE also gets a better infotainment system with an 8-inch screen, auxiliary input and a CD player (it’s in the glove box). The SE comes with an automatic transmission as standard.

Favorite Features

4MOTION ALL-WHEEL DRIVE

Despite the popularity of all-wheel drive, Volkswagen is among just a handful of automakers to offer it on small cars. VW’s excellent 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is available on the Golf SportWagen, and it can be had with an automatic or a manual transmission. The system increases the wagon’s traction on all road surfaces including the snowy and slushy messes of winter.

VOLKSWAGEN WARRANTY

Called the People First Warranty and introduced for the 2018 model year, it bolsters confidence in new Volkswagens with coverage of six years or 72,000 miles. Furthermore, it can be transferred to the next owner should you sell the vehicle while it’s still under warranty.

Under the Hood

For 2019, front-wheel-drive (FWD) versions of the Golf SportWagen replace the former 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder for a smaller 1.4-liter turbo that is also used in the all-new 2019 Jetta. The engine doesn’t have quite as much power as the 1.8, but is even more efficient, hitting up to 37 mpg on the highway. It is linked to your choice of a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive (AWD) SportWagens, called 4Motion, retain the more powerful 1.8-liter. In addition to the 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that most buyers will prefer, it can be had with an engaging and easy-to-use 6-speed manual.

1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4 (FWD)

147 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm

184 lb-ft of torque @ 1,400 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 29/37 mpg (manual), 27/36 mpg (automatic)

1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4 (4Motion AWD)

168 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm

199 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/31 mpg (manual), 22/29 mpg (automatic)

Editors' Notes

The 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is something of a rare breed these days: a small station wagon. But its niche status amid a sea of SUVs makes it all the more special. True to its name, this VW wagon is sporty yet immensely practical and efficient. It has more cargo capacity than the Subaru Impreza 5-door and every other hatchback in its class, while its turbocharged engine and taut European driving manners grant satisfying driving manners while earning up to 37 mpg. Drivers requiring the traction of all-wheel drive can get that in the 4Motion SportWagen, and both models can be had with another rarity -- a manual transmission. Starting at $21,895, the SportWagen is pricier than a Subaru Impreza but still a highly tempting value.

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