2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen: Practical and Fun

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The 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen flies in the face of all the crossovers and SUVs that currently populate family driveways. It’s something of a callback to the days when station wagons were the go-to choice if you needed more room than a sedan, but this isn’t yesterday’s wagon. The Golf SportWagen has the extra cargo room families need with the fun of a compact car all rolled into one.

It’s available in three trims with the base S starting at an affordable $21,895 and the top SE coming in at $29,995. We drove the S with 4Motion, or all-wheel drive as the rest of the world would say, which comes in with a starting price of $24,395.

Front-wheel drive models get a new 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 147 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The 4Motion keeps the 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder from last year. It offers 168 horsepower with 199 lb-ft of torque.

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That’s a hefty amount of power for a small wagon and it’s what makes this car fun to drive. It looks rather practical and not terribly exciting, but get behind the wheel and it feels more like a straight-up Golf than a family wagon.

The engine is responsive making merging onto the highway easy and handling is crisp. The golf SportWagen doesn’t compromise on performance just because it’s a wagon.

This is also one of the dwindling number of vehicles on the market with an available manual transmission. We drove the 6-speed manual and it shifts smoothly and easily with a light clutch that won’t wear you out when you’re caught in stop-and-go traffic. If you want to teach your kids to drive a stick one day, the Golf SportWagen will make it an easier endeavor.

The interior is comfortable with plenty of room for the 6-foot crowd up front, but rear seating is a bit more snug. Two adults are fine, but three will find it a tight fit for anything more than quick trips. Three kids, however, will be just fine.

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Although comfortable, the interior isn’t striking. Materials are all of a good quality, nothing feels overtly cheap, but it doesn’t feel high-end either. While some may see this as a drawback, a family with young kids liable to destroy a fancy interior will be quite pleased.

Standard infotainment features a 6.5-inch touchscreen, which is on the small side, but still large enough that you won’t find yourself squinting to see. Volkswagen Car-Net App-Connect is also standard with a range of available apps including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Every Golf SportWagen includes automatic post-collision braking and an intelligent crash response system, which automatically unlocks the doors, turns on the hazard lights, and turns off the fuel pump in certain collisions. Available features include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, and lane keeping assist.

When it comes time for cargo, there’s 30.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats or you can fold them down for up to 66.5 cubic feet. The latch to open the trunk is actually the VW badge, which pops out to form a handhold. It’s cute and quirky, but impossible to find on the first try. Be ready to explain this to anyone who wants to give you a helpful hand loading up.

The 2019 Golf SportWagen offers an alternative to the compact crossover. It has room for the family and cargo in an affordable range of trims that are surprisingly fun to drive.