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The Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen is proof of life outside of crossovers.

As we all know suvs have taken over the world, with many people switching out their sedans and hatchbacks, to slightly bigger hatchbacks the automakers charge double the money for. Are they double the car? Of course not as I shall now prove with a review of the car so good I spent my own money on. I give you, the 2016 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen.

Headline figures

  • 1.8L turbo 4 cylinder
  • 170 hp
  • 199 lbs torque
  • 26 mpg combined

Normal operation

For majority of its use cases the gsw as ill be calling it in this review from now on, functions like a normal car, albeit a very nice one, you get in, shut those thick, heavy doors and press the gorgeous aluminum finished start button, the turbo four comes to life with little vibration, or noise to disturb you and your off and on your way. The car feels nimble when going through tight city streets. The ride is good and well damped with not too much play in the suspension. Nvh levels are also impressive, It feels like a huge isolation tank at 80 on the freeway, the only discernable noise noticeable is the wind rush from the optional roof racks. So in everyday use the gsw is like most german cars, quiet, smooth and a bit cold, There is another side to this car though, you just have to know how to unlock it.

Driven in anger

You have to remeber one thing about the gsw, its basis have made 2 of the best hot hatches made in the past 20 years, ie the Golf R and the croud favorite GTI. Surely a portion of those cars must be in this one right? Correct, lets start with the engine, remeber how i said it was smooth and relaxed most of the time? Well dont let that fool you into thinking its dull, the gsw makes almost as much torque as ths MK6 GTI did, from a dig the thing just goes. And its not even the torque number thats the interesting bit, its the way its delivered. Allow me to geek out for a moment, you see VW, designed this engine to give peak torque from 1600 rpm, that means you dont have to rev the car out to get it to speed up. That rush of turbo torque that builds to around 6000 coupled with a quck shifting 6 speed auto means you might think twice about needing to upgrade to the GTI. However if the engine could be described as thrilling but a bit soulless, the chassis is simply otherworldly. To put it in blatant terms i did not expect for this car to handle so well, When i got it i figured it would be average, nothing all hat exciting, and a bit big. Happily i was proven wrong, the way the you can steer it so accurately into a corner, stamp on those brakes to make it rotate a little and then rely on that front diff to pull you out of a corner are thing that would be perfectly at home in a 2000s hot hatch. This is a car I find myself taking the curvy road home in just to see exactly what it can do. And it never disappoints. If the base car is this good, i cant wait to try out the high performance versions.

What’s it like on the inside?

One word comes to mind while sitting inside this car. Audi, I have no clue why anyone would choose to spend time inside of an A3, or a lower trim A4 after spending some time in this Golf because it’s just as good. From the rich textures to the solid controls, it has the same feeling you would get if you spent 10-20 grand more and bought one of the VAG group’s more expensive products. The sound system is pretty good or so I thought, that was before I got to test out another golf with the optional Fender system and realized it is so worth it. The Fender offers much more clarity with a richer bass thanks to the addition of a sub. As far as tech goes there’s a black and white display between the gages which does look really old fashioned and there’s a 6.5-inch screen that can run apple car play and android auto. On the limited model I tested, it comes with adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and a backup camera with cross traffic alert. So enough to keep you safe but not enough to worry any Elon fanboys. as far as storage take your pick, there’s a cubby to the left hand side of the lower dash on the driver’s side, there’s a big one under the seat, there’s one in the middle for your phone, and of course the middle armrest one. oh and there are the ones in the doors that are huge and carpeted so things don’t rattle around. Backseat space is good as well, I’m 5’8 and even with the seat all the way back I’ve still got good knee room behind the seat. Headroom is good, and with the optional panoramic moonroof, it gives the passengers a great view of the stars. Trunk space is excellent with the GSW beating out cars like the Mazda CX5 and the Chevy Equinox of the same year.

Any negatives?

  1. On the Limited trim level adaptive cruise control comes standard but lane keep wasn’t even an option.
  2. The transmission will sometimes downshift when not needed, ie when I’m not driving sporty sometimes it will downshift instead of coasting in the gear it’s already in, not necessarily a problem just a quirk.
  3. Volkswagen recently shut down its car net services which means no more using the app, so you can no longer remote start, or unlock doors or change the cabin temp with your phone.

Final remarks

To sum it all up the gsw is a phenomenal car, it has no sporting pretenses at all and yet it outhandles just about any of its peers, feels like a much more expensive car than it is on the inside, yet returns better fuel economy and hauls more stuff that majority of the compact SUVs on sale to this day? What’s not to love? Well it being lower on the ground according to its ales figures, as it has been subsequently replaced by the Taos in VW’s lineup. Oh well, at least they’ve one over another heart in my case.

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