The new Volkswagen Golf wagon really is 'all-new' this time around. Where the previous Mk6 model was effectively a 2005-era Mk5 with a new nose and door trims, this new Mk7 version is truly a Golf hatchback, with simply a bigger, square-backed boot.
With a choice of three trim grades and three turbocharged four-cylinder engines, the new Golf wagon range exactly aligns with the Golf hatch. Uniquely, however, no manual transmission is offered, with only an automatic available in the more practical Golf variant – a six-speeder in the sole diesel and seven-speed units in both petrols.
The entry-level $25,540 Golf 90TSI wagon costs $1550 more than its auto hatchback equivalent, which is a more than reasonable premium for a wagon that offers a 605-litre luggage area over its 380L-booted sibling. A set of alloys replace the hatch's steel wheels and hubcaps making the value equation even more convincing.
Outside of the Volkswagen Group, a Hyundai i30 Tourer starts at $22,990 as a six-speed manual, or $25,190 with an auto, but it only gets a 1.6-litre non-turbo engine. Unlike the burgeoning compact SUV segment, there’s only one other contender in the small wagon class, and that’s the Renault Megane wagon that starts at $26,490 for a 2.0-litre auto.
Sitting above those entry cars, and completing the Golf wagon line-up, are the $29,290 90TSI Comfortline, $33,840 103TSI Highline and $36,340 110TDI Highline. Full pricing and specification details here.
Covering ground between the vineyards of South Australia’s McLaren Vale wine region on the local launch, the base model Golf wagon immediately impresses.
Distinguished by its black roof rails and standard 15-inch alloy wheels, the 90TSI wagon greets drivers with a neat and well presented interior on par with the high quality but conservative cabin of the hatch.
Comfortable cloth seats, a leather-wrapped multifunction flat-bottom steering wheel and gear leaver, clear and easy to use manual air conditioning controls and a 5.8-inch multimedia touchscreen with Bluetooth and USB connectivity mean even the base grade feels semi-premium.
Measuring 308mm longer than the hatch – though sharing the same 2620mm wheelbase and MQB platform – the Golf wagon is also 26mm longer, 18mm wider and 28mm lower than its predecessor and gains an additional 100 litres of space in its 1050mm-long, 950mm-wide boot.
Total capacity is up 125L to 1620L, though this is trumped by the Octavia wagon’s 1718-litre maximum. With the rear seats up, however, the Golf wagon pips its Volkswagen Group cousin by 17L, in addition to beating the i30 Tourer by 77L and the Megane wagon by 81L.
Able to be easily dropped forward by clever boot side wall-mounted remote unlatching levers, the well shaped and supportive 60/40 split-fold rear seats provide ample room for two adults with plenty of head and leg clearance available. There’s even sufficient space for three in the back, provided you don’t mind rubbing shoulders.
Despite the 90TSI’s 1.4-litre petrol engine developing a humble 90kW of power between 5000-6000rpm, it’s the 200Nm of torque over an astonishingly broad 1400rpm and 4000rpm that’s far more noticeable.
Surging strongly from just off idle, the small capacity engine does an admirable job in low speed and cruising situations but does labour up hills and if more rapid acceleration is requested – the latter compounded by an engine stop-start system that can be slow to react to a lift of the brake pedal.
Further assisting with power delivery and flexibility are the DSG’s smooth ratio changes, regardless of whether they’re automatically or manually selected.
Dealing almost unnervingly well with every road surface we could drive over – smooth tarmac to pothole-dotted coarse-chipped country back roads – the most basic Golf wagon rides with the same other-worldly composure as its hatch compatriot it was developed alongside.
Teamed with the Golf wagon’s accurate and responsive steering, our 90TSI test car’s 65-profile Michelin tyres provide sharp enough turn-in and lateral grip to encourage and inspire confidence through several spirited twisty-road passes.
Helping the wagon’s cause is the use of the hatch's multi-link rear suspension rather than the less sophisticated torsion beam setup employed by the also-MQB-based 103TSI and 110TDI Skoda Octavia wagons (132TSI variants match the Golf with an independent rear).
Aided by a 58kg weight reduction compared with its predecessor, the 1312kg 90TSI and 90TSI Comfortline wagons claim fuel consumption of 5.3 litres per 100km.
With an identical mass, the 103kW/250Nm 103TSI claims 5.2L/100km while the 14kg heavier 110kW/320Nm 110TDI diesel takes top honours with 4.7L/100km. Over our single-day launch, the three engines returned figures of 8.6L/100km, 9.7L/100km, and 7.7L/100km respectively.
Jump into the 90TSI Comfortline with its upgraded dual-zone climate control air conditioning, chrome roof rails and 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 55-profile Dunlop rubber and things feel largely similar. Winery parking is made that much easier thanks to a rear-view camera and parking sensors – which should be standard in the entry 90TSI – with sunny weather ensuring the rain sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and automatic headlights are not required.
The two premium Highline models are characterised by minor differences compared with the 90TSI, but not all of the changes are for the better.
They look smarter on the outside, coming as standard with front fog lights and larger 17-inch alloy wheels fitted with lower 45-profile Pirelli tyres – although a second diesel test car wore Bridgestones of identical size. Likewise, the addition of standard satellite-navigation, Alcantara trim and piano-black dash inserts makes the Highline feel richer inside.
However, although the more powerful petrol engine brings with it more punch and response, it comes at a small cost to refinement, with slightly more engine noise evident, and the sound isn’t as sweet. There was an occasional gearbox clunk felt during higher rpm changes, while the larger 17s seemed to throw up slightly more roar.
Small to medium road imperfections – and tram tracks – are felt through the steering wheel and comfort sports front seats and are met with a faint shudder through the chassis that isn’t evident on the 90TSI.
Although an improvement over its predecessor, the cabin penetration of the strong and flexible 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel does marginally reduce the otherwise premium interior ambience both at idle and when revs rise.
Volkswagen Australia says it is unaware of any significant suspension differences between trim grades – although obviously the heavier diesel model would have some spring rate variation –with the wheel and tyre packages being the only differing factor.
Whichever variant your budget allows, the Volkswagen Golf wagon is still a class act. For most families its combination of a competitive price, plenty of space and hatch-like driving characteristics will make this small wagon a better bet for many small families.
Our tip, however, would be to save the top-dollar cash and opt for a 90TSI Comfortline with the $950 sat-nav optioned in.