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A trip down the coast with family is exactly the sort of weekend work a Volkswagen Golf Wagon will find itself doing – so that’s exactly what I did with it for this review.
I headed down the coast with my partner and met up with my sister and her two kids (aged six and 10) to see how the car might live up to expectations for a typical family hauler.
This isn’t just any Volkswagen Golf Wagon, though – this is the 2017 version, the 7.5 update as it’s called, which sees new equipment available, further refinement and some exterior styling changes that are subtle, to say the least.
For those playing along at home, there are new front and rear bumper finishes, which are a little smoother looking overall, while there are new halogen headlights in this spec, as well as new LED tail-lights and new alloy wheels (17 inches in this spec).
The model tested here is the Comfortline, priced from $30,490 plus on-road costs, which adds some niceties over the regular 110TSI Trendline model ($28,990), such as an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with satellite-navigation, dual-zone climate control, some chrome finishes inside, and 'comfort front seats' – we assume the regular seats are still comfortable…
The wagon gets chrome roof rails, too, not to mention some further exterior chrome finishes.
The interior doesn’t feel that different to the model it replaces, to be frank.
It’s all very familiar in its presentation and its top-quality materials, including soft dash and door plastics (on the front doors, at least), fabric liners near the door grabs, and there’s a new media screen that is more flush-fitted than the existing one – but while that’s certainly a talking point, it’s not exactly a game-changer.
The screen has the latest smartphone smarts (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), but there’s still only one USB point, meaning the devices of those in the passenger seats may run low on charge. There’s no rear-seat 12-volt outlet, either.
There are, however, rear air-vents which are handy on days of extreme highs or lows (and dual-zone climate control for those up front), but this spec doesn’t get you seat heaters (even for the bums of the bums up front). And you don’t get leather trim (except on the steering wheel and gear selector), electric seat adjustment, or keyless entry and/or push-button start.
There are lots of clever storage touches, though, like a storage drawer under the front passenger seat, a 12V outlet in luggage compartment (I guess you could run a long cable to a device in the back seat?), and a ski-port in the middle rear seat.
There are also big lined door pockets with bottle holders in all the doors, twin map/tablet pockets in the back, a flip-down centre armrest in the back seat with cupholders, and a set of cupholders between the front seats. The only storage criticism we have is that the covered centre bin is a bit small.
Oh, and more on the storage – the boot is huge, at 605 litres, and that expands to 1620L with the seats folded down, which you can do by way of a set of boot-mounted levers – very handy – and there’s a space-saver spare wheel under the floor. Another smart feature are the shopping back hooks and storage boxes in the boot hold, and the VW emblem flips up to become the boot opener.
The space in the back seat is good, particularly if you’re tall – there’s lots of headroom, decent toe-room and adequate knee-room, even with a six-foot driver.
The space is a little tight width-wise for three adults, unless they’re small, with the transmission tunnel taking up quite a bit of space in the middle. No problem for the family I was hauling, though. They are all small.
There are dual ISOFIX child-seat anchors and three top-tether attachment points, and a pair of rear reading lights that can be controlled by the driver.
And it’s fairly up to date in terms of safety kit for the cash, too, with a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, fatigue detection, autonomous emergency braking and seven airbags (dual front, front side, full length curtain and driver’s knee).
If you want more, for just $1500 there’s the Driver Assistance pack, comprising adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist and semi-automated parking.
The 110TSI 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder drivetrain has 110kW of power at 6000rpm and 250Nm of torque across a nice wide range, 1500-3500rpm.
It’s front-drive, with a seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) transmission – and yes, there are still some slow-speed issues with it. VW claims fuel use of 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres, and on my weekend trip I averaged 6.3L/100km – pretty impressive for a loaded-up wagon.
If you don’t measure your throttle application thoughtfully you can experience some lag getting away from a standstill. It is slightly better than we recall in the previous Golf range, but it still displays the propensity to spin the front wheels under acceleration, particularly if you have some steering lock applied.
The engine is certainly punchy enough to cope with five occupants and some shopping and luggage on board, though it does its best work lower in the rev range – as you rev it out it starts to feel like it’s petering away as the revs rise. This is only really noticeable if you take off from a virtual standstill at a freeway entry, though.
One thing we found a bit peculiar was some shunting shifts from the dual-clutch automatic gearbox in our test car – usually between second and third gears – but otherwise the transmission was smooth and quick thinking.
We’ve come to know the Golf as one of the most refined offerings in the segment in terms of ride comfort, compliance and quietness, and the 7.5 version remains true to that. It is nice and hushed at highway speeds, even on coarse-chip surfaces, and the suspension deals well with rolling bumps like speed-humps. Potholes and road joins are dismissed commendably, too.
There are different drive modes you can choose for sportier or more sedate response, but we found the normal mode to be fine. The steering in this mode is decidedly direct and responsive, in part because the Golf 7.5 has the brand’s XDL electronic differential lock and torque vectoring, where the inside wheel has subtle braking applied to enhance turn-in control.
The Golf Wagon falls under VW’s capped-price service plan, which requires maintenance every 12 months or 15,000km, and spans five years/75,000km, whichever occurs first. The average cost over that period is $455 per visit – not too bad – and it has a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with the same coverage for roadside assist.
In summary, there’s a lot to like about the 2017 Volkswagen Golf Wagon in 7.5 guise, but, to use a lunchbox analogy, the Comfortline feels a little more devon and tomato sauce than triple-smoked leg ham off the bone. I imagine the Trendline might feel like two bits of bread with just tomato sauce. But with a six- and 10-year-old in tow, the Comfortline was totally suitable.
If keeping to a budget is vital to your weekly shop, and therefore your set of wheels, this variant won’t fail you. But if you like a few more splurge items, and your bank account can bear the brunt, we’d suggest the Highline would be a better option.
Click the Gallery tab above for more images by Sam Venn.