Everyone knows their way around this particular VW at CarAdvice... or do they? James tries to spend the week with the Volkswagen Golf Wagon.
How do you make one of Australia’s best-selling hatchbacks more practical? Give it a bigger boot! I spend a week with the very practical 2015 Volkswagen Golf 103TSI Highline Wagon… or at least try to.
The Volkswagen Golf. I’m sure you have heard of it – and quite possibly read about it on this site. You may even be forgiven for thinking that everyone working for CarAdvice or in fact everyone working in the automotive media industry, simply breaks their day into chunks of eating, sleeping and talking about Golfs. So ubiquitous is the nameplate in any form of discussion about cars.
So it may come as a surprise that I have spent more time playing golf than driving them… and I don’t play golf. I nearly bought a 1978 Golf GL back in 1993 and had a Golf Mk5 GTI for about 4 months in 2010, but that’s it.
When the opportunity came up to live with the new Volkswagen Golf wagon for the week, I have to say I was a bit excited. Now I too could while away the hours, impressing people with my knowledge of soft-touch dash materials. I could mix it up with the best of the CarAdvice editorial team, knowing I too was an expert in the baseline of best selling cars.
I had big plans for my week with the Golf.
This was a variant of one of the most critically acclaimed new cars on the market that received even more praise than it’s hatchback sibling, for simply being even better value and more practical.
I was going to extend my usual commute and school-run duties and squeeze in a couple of longer drives. We had some video shoots planned so I thought the little wagon could give Ralph a break for the week and become a new camera car.
Tuesday. Picking up the Volkswagen everything is going well. The $33,840 103TSI Bluemotion petrol in top-spec Highline guise looks smart with Pacific Blue metallic paint ($500), 17-inch Dijon alloy wheels, fog lights and roof rails.
Inside, the black comfort sport seats, with their mixture of Alcantara and cloth, 5.8-inch touchscreen and gloss-black dash trim does not disappoint. This is a nice little car!
The run back to the office sees economy levels in the mid-6L/100km range, and while it takes me a few minutes (and maybe a quick phone call to Mike) to figure out how to increment the cruise control by single digits, everything is where I feel it should be and it feels good.
Then Andrew rings. “I’m going to be in Melbourne tomorrow, is there a car around?” In my head, this works perfectly. Dave is off to Perth in the morning, he can take the wagon home, then leave it at the airport valet for Beech to collect when he arrives. Great plan!
I basically never see the Golf Wagon again...
Wednesday: Dave throws two full-size suitcases into the wagon’s impressive 605L boot and makes an early run out to the airport. The fuel needle still barely off full.
Only a short 30km drive to the airport was enough to make me remember why I enjoyed the new Golf wagon so much at its local launch back in February. Splendid drivetrain, terrific ride and excellent levels of space and flexibility still make this car one of my favourites for 2014 and one that I’d highly recommend.
First impressions last, particularly when they’re correct…
Andrew arrives mid-morning and is able to jump straight into the car and head to meetings. Pairing a phone is simple and fast, and with even the newest Golfs following a well-worn path of ergonomic design, he's right at home.
When the Melbourne team told me to ‘just collect the Golf at the airport’ – bang, crackle and pop went the neurons in the brain, triggering memories of my own Golf GTIs – ghosts of Christmas’ Past.
Then I saw it: the Golf Dave had left for me. It was not a hatchback but a wagon. A WAGON. Nostalgic dreams died that day at Tullamarine as I got in, started the Golf and plotted whom to sack at the next editorial meeting.
Luckily for the team, I managed to put in around 120kms over the day before having a chance to exact my revenge. And guess what happened over that time I spent just by myself in that blue Volkswagen Golf Wagon?
I grew to really, really like it. As reliable and solid as a Golden Retriever, and with more storage than aisle 26 at Ikea, it was a car that got under my skin. This is a car that does everything well. It’s a timeless design, that has evolved rather than reinvented itself, and driving it is like singing to Toto’s Rosanna. I know the words, and I don’t give a crap about what anyone else thinks about me.
Haters feel free to hate, but if you like Golfs and need a little more room for your growing family or an active lifestyle then go out there and take the wagon for a spin. It’s no Mk5 GTI in a McDonald's carpark, but it’s still good.
Being just a day trip for Andrew, he has to get out to the airport in the evening, but as the day unfolds it turns out Mitch has to fly in the next morning for a last minute shoot. Again, the Golf Wagon is parked up at valet waiting for its next driver.
Thursday: Mitch travels with a lot of gear, so the fold-flat back seats in the Golf come in particularly handy, expanding the load capacity to a whopping 1620L. The little blue wagon again loaded up, Mitch sets off to meet me at the Ford Proving Ground for the day’s shoot.
Navigation is standard on the Highline and the interface is simple and intuitive to use. Still on the same tank of petrol, Mitch makes the 80km journey in good time.
Jumping into the Mk7 Golf Wagon was instantly familiar as it shares its entire cockpit with the hatchback version I own. Quality materials, simple design and absolute comfort are all reasons to pick the Golf over its rivals, and adding the extra spacious boot makes it even better.
Behind the wheel it's just as impressive. Light and direct steering, a plush ride and minimal wind and road noise. Frankly, if this had be out when I purchased my Mk7, I'd have stumped up the extra coin for the wagon.
My work on the Ford FPV GT-F shoot finished, I head back to town and leave Mitch with the Golf to finish up grabbing some additional B-roll footage. Two days out of my week have so far been sans the Volkswagen, but that’s OK, I think to myself, plenty of week left…
Friday: Mitch beats me to the office, so it's heartening to see the Golf in the garage. Today is the day… except Tom needs to shoot photos of the car and by the time he returns with bluey, I have to run to a meeting.
Meeting done, I return to CarAdvice's Melbourne HQ only to find the Golf is gone. This is getting silly...
The wagon is already heading back to the airport, this time with Mitch flying out and Tegan flying in. Even the valet manager queries it. “Again?” he asks. Not too many blue Volkswagen Golf wagons in his line of work it would seem.
Star-crossed lovers had nothing on my innate inability to drive this car!
Saturday: Tegan has a family event in Shepparton for the weekend and will be returning to Melbourne Monday morning. There's still time!
I had been looking forward to spending a weekend with what was by now our 'communal' Volkswagen Golf Wagon. My partner, daughter and I flew in to Melbourne and loaded our suitcases into the ample boot. You'd think we were heading away for three weeks, not three days with the amount of gear we had.
Hitting the highway with my daughter can be nerve-wracking, her sensitive stomach is prone to car-sickness. But she found the trip to Shepparton and back comfortable and there wasn't an ice-cream bucket in sight.
The best, and also most frustrating, part of the road trip was the sat-nav. We got lost a number of times because it speaks a language of its own. All locations are sounded out phonetically - The Him-Furry-Worm (Hume Freeway) and the Mill-Boon-Eee-Poot (Melbourne Airport) were two of the locations we were able to figure out, the rest - no idea!
Monday: Tegan flies out as Christian is due in (it’s honestly not always like this) and the Golf is back again at airport valet – at this point, it’s a wonder it doesn't have its own dedicated spot!
The little blue wagon is back in the office at lunchtime, now is my chance…
Fuel is low but not yet on reserve. I drive it all of five kilometers home.
Tuesday morning sees me drop Miss Five at school and take the car back to Volkswagen. And that's it. The Golf is gone. I spent less than an hour with the car over the whole week. But Dave, Mitch, Tegan, Christian, Andrew and Tom all got to drive the car. They had all found it simple, comfortable, practical and a genuinely nice place to be. Phones were paired, drinks were held, and not a single problem was had.
As a team we covered almost 850km for the week, all on a single tank of petrol, averaging just over 7L/100km (higher than the claimed 5.5L/100 but still reasonably sharp).
For seven people to be in and out of a car in seven days, and all feel immediately comfortable and at home in it, says a lot about the product.
The Volkswagen Golf hatch might well be the benchmark, a point of reference for quality on all levels, but the Golf Wagon is just that little bit better. More space, more practicality, same performance and ease of use – just think of it as a slightly bigger iPhone for the road.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.