Photo by Vincent Taroc.
In high school, throttling around a long connector ramp to I-84 in my friend’s 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI made me understand the value of disguising a sports car in a boxy economy car package. The Rabbit GTI pre-dated the “hot hatch” market by a generation. That car should not have been in the hands of teenagers.
This was my first thought when I got behind the wheel of the 2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen 4Motion. Its outer skin conveys practicality, until you close the door, step on the gas, and take a corner. It’s surprisingly fun to drive, with no shift lag . Even its modest engine specs — the 1.8L turbo four generates 170 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque — bely its performance.
The 2017 VW Golf SportWagen manages to be lighter than the Jetta Jetta SportWagen, which it replaces, yet larger. It is still smaller than its competitive set, which includes the Subaru Outback, Subaru Crosstrek, and Toyota Prius V, according to VW press materials, though with only slightly less overall cargo and passenger volume than the Prius V.
The EPA officially slots the SportWagen in the nebulous “small station wagon” class, with the likes of the Subaru Impreza 5-Door and many non-fleet models (Nissan Juke, Kia Soul). Vehicles in the class bear similarities to the small crossover/SUV class, though station wagons generally have the benefit of a lower load-in height. For those wanting a more SUV stance, the Golf Alltrack has a higher ride height, bigger wheels, and more rugged features.
New for 2017, 4Motion all-wheel-drive is available on the S trim. The 4Motion system adapts to specific driving conditions, making it a worthy upgrade for fleets in bad weather climates. Following the automotive trend in the last few model years, SportWagen is available with the latest safety features, infotainment options, and smartphone integrations.
Photo by Vincent Taroc.
Fleet operators may appreciate VW’s Car-Net Security & Service, which features a speed alert that can notify a third party when the preset maximum speed limit is exceeded; and boundary alert, which notifies when the vehicle departs a pre-set virtual boundary.
In keeping with VW’s interiors across models, the Golf SportWagen features understated, clean lines that feel more upscale than the price. The combined fuel economy for the 2017 VW Golf SportWagen is rated at 25 mpg, and that’s exactly what we achieved over a weekend of driving. The MSRP for the 4Motion S is $25,750 all in, which beats its competitive targets.
For fleets, Golf Sportwagen offers competitive pricing and wagon functionality in an understated package. Just watch out coming off a red light after picking the kids up from soccer.