Golf Alltrack. I was on the fence since it was launched years ago. The look and the practicality ticked all the boxes for me, but the haunting DSG saga stopped my desire dead on track. Since then, I have had an XV and the latest Impreza, but the "just enough" power in the Subaru was annoying at best and made my soul screaming for more. Why couldn't they just drop the 1.6-litre (125kW) engine in their XV and Impreza? Is it too much to ask for? Hence the Golf Alltrack was back on my radar. I was still concerned about the DSG and decided to find out from friends who owned the latest Golf and Octavia, instead of blindly believing the media. Google Maps also helped me to easily find a good VW dealer. After the test drive and all the paperwork, I was the proud owner of the car that fit all my needs. I also managed to get the car I had test driven, which helped in giving me more confidence.
That was a year ago, and I have never looked back. As a family - and the only - car, it dutifully does its daily school run and hauling without complaints. Being a wagon, trips to IKEA are less concerning on what things we could buy. We have child seat on the passenger side. With the other side of the rear seat down, the Alltrack still can swallow anything up to 1.8 metres long - admittedly it won't be comfortable for a 180cm tall driver over long distance. If the child seat is on the driver side (I won’t recommend for obvious safety reason), and if the front passenger seat was pushed forward, I reckon it could swallow anything up to 2 metres.
Its ride height of 175mm is helpful as well. Though not as high as an XV, which is 220mm, it is good enough for us to navigate around the hilly area we live in without the constant worries of hitting the bottom front like the Impreza did. A big tick from me. The 132kW power comes in handy too, if one likes a little bit of excitement without upsetting the family. I feel much safer and more confident when overtaking trucks uphill.
Though I originally wanted to buy a standard Premium model, I ended up with a fully optioned one. Being the only family car means everyone has an opinion, right? Democracy means spending more. The leather seats are comfortable and easy to clean, which is great when you have kids. The driver's seat comes with two seating memories, which comes in handy when you have two drivers - I no longer need to adjust the seat and the wing mirrors when I step into the car. One push of the button solves the problem, though you must push and hold the button until the seat and wing mirrors have completely adjusted themselves. They will stop the moment you let go of the button.
The upgraded sound system is great and comes with a built-in 1 terabyte hard drive that plays MP3 and other audio files. If one is into music, he or she could just sit in the car all day for the music. Another feature I like is the virtual cockpit. I can have the map displayed on the dashboard without the need to keep an eye on the map in the central console. The map has its own quirk though: you can't find many suburbs by name. Many are just listed as Sydney with different postcodes. It may be that the Germans like the numbers more than names. But all in all, the navigation does its job well. The voice instructions are clear and concise.
The panoramic roof is nice to have, and it does not transfer much heat to the cabin, but you really don’t want to get caught in a hailstorm like the recent ones. The air-conditioning is also good enough for the Aussie summer. It was field tested during the few days when the temperature soared to 46 and 48 degrees. Other features such as lane keeping and parking assist are nice to have, but not essential. I don't really like the lane keeping assist. It can feel like the car is fighting for control. There are times it can get confused with the line markings, especially in road work areas. So, both hands firm on steering in those areas.
I haven't tested the park assist. I'm old school; if one must rely on it to park a car when it already has a reverse camera, the person probably shouldn't drive. Speaking of the reverse camera, both side guidelines are accurate, but the horizontal line is skewed. When aligning the horizontal line to the back of the wall, the car is skewed to one side. The guidelines from the Impreza were more accurate.
The AEB (automatic emergency braking) can be annoying in some situations though. Coming out from a car park that I visit regularly requires going down a ramp that connects to an uphill main road. The angle between the end of the ramp and the uphill road must be too steep for the sensors, as it always thinks the main road is an obstacle and it beeps and hits the brake the moment I want to join the main road. It has created a few hairy moments. I haven’t had a chance to talk to the dealer and I’m not sure if anyone can do anything about it. Most likely it is because of the location of the sensors - I believe they are either behind the bumper or the front grille. Unlike the Eyesight from Subaru that never has such issues, as the cameras are mounted up high behind the windscreen. To overcome that unpleasant experience in the Alltrack, I must either slow down to a snail's pace at the end of the ramp or quickly deactivate the AEB (temporarily only) the moment it beeps. This is something I did not expect, since the Alltrack is much higher than the standard Golf.
I also noticed that the inner DRL (daytime running light) are duds. Only the outer two work, despite seeing all four lights pictured as working in all the brochures. Upon checking on online forums, it seems that since 2018, the inner DRL for Alltrack and GTI are just duds. Some said that you can activate them through software, but some said it’s not possible as they are not wired at all. I’m not sure of the reason behind this and I forgot to ask the dealer during the recent service. Strangely, there are unconfirmed anecdotes that these work for Golf Highline and the R. One of the reasons I found for this was that the Alltrack and GTI have had dynamic automatic cornering lights since 2018. I don’t know how that could affect the inner DRL. Does the R not have dynamic automatic cornering lights, since it has the working inner DRL?
Overall, the car drives and behaves well. No rattling in the cabin, no light bulbs issue, no windows problem. Touch wood. The six-speed DSG does its job smoothly and nicely, albeit it is a bit relaxed and lazy compared to the seven-speed DSG in the standard Golf. I have not experienced any DSG-related shuddering or jittering that many claimed to have in low speed. I am not sure if it is because this one has the wet clutch while others have the dry clutch, or simply because of a software problem. Some would say that its response is a tad slow from stand still to go. I do not disagree with that but it’s just like most CVTs. A sudden step on the accelerator won’t sprint you like a conventional automatic, but if you could live with a CVT, you could live with this. Personally, I prefer the DSG as I can feel the gear shifting even though I am no longer the one who shifts it.
A recent visit to the dealer service resulted in me getting a standard Golf as a loan car. I took my chance to sample it. Despite having only 110kW, it was livelier to drive. The seven-speed DSG is more responsive and has the sense of urgency that I like. I suspect partly it is because it is a hatch, and therefore lighter than the wagon, and it does not have the extra weight of the AWD system. It could also be that AWD saps some of the power as well. The smaller wheels - 17 inches versus 18 inches on my Alltrack - ride a tad better over rougher surface. If one doesn’t need the ride height and space, the standard Golf hatch is a better choice if driving is the main aim. Maybe it can be my next car.
NOTE: We've used a CarAdvice photo with this story.