Overview: Not the latest and greatest – but arguably one of the best. This is the only moderately-priced diesel-powered family wagon.
The compact car market is flooded with more hatchback iterations than coffee variations at Starbucks, much to the detriment of family wagon seekers. Now try finding that family wagon with a frugal turbo-diesel under-hood and the choice between a 6-speed manual gearbox and a 6-speed automatic transmission. Unless you’re in Europe or a Volkswagen showroom, good luck.
Though its clean lines and large sheets of glass haven’t changed much over the years, I continue to admire the Golf Wagon. Unfortunately, my admiration isn’t without its gaps. The cabin of the Golf Wagon is in need of a technological update. This applies to the touch-screen in particular, which primarily supports navigation functions and audio settings. A few basic issues here: the screen’s too small, the graphic’s too lame, and the user-friendliness too little.
I found the system overly difficult to navigate, especially when it came to audio needs. I just gave up. The screen, bundled with navigation and upgraded audio, is an $890 letdown. It didn’t support voice activation or a backup camera, the latter of which is most helpful in wagon configurations. In fact, there isn’t even the availability of an audible parking aid, yet my top-shelf Highline tester was tagged at $34,075 before taxes and delivery charges.
Despite my tech-related musings, (or is that more of a rant?), the Golf’s cabin is a locale of comfort and practicality solidly assembled using upscale materials. Dropping the second row split-bench seat produces a flat, nicely-finished cargo floor, though removing the head restraints is a necessary hurdle in an otherwise simple task.
Belying its compact rating, the Golf Wagon is relatively spacious inside, offering more head and legroom than one may expect. Sight lines are also better than today’s norm. While all these aspects of the car may be desirable, the Golf Wagon TDI is better defined by what’s under its hood.
While its diesel engine may be slightly noisier and more prone to vibration than a gas counterpart, the abundance and depth of torque is a largess, which combines with superior fuel economy to make the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel the engine of choice from my perspective. While its collective horsepower may seem tepid at 140, it’s the dispatch of 236 lb-ft of torque at just 1,750 rpm that effortlessly launches the wagon and sails it up hills as if the world were in deed flat.
Of late, small diesel engines are proving themselves an ideal alternative to hybrid operations in the pursuit of economical motoring. The Golf wagon TDI is rated at just 6.7L/100km and 4.6L/100km city and highway driving respectively. Those are outstanding numbers for a vehicle capable of carrying five adults and their gear.
I was looking forward to extracting the rated fuel-economy from this week’s tester around town, but even with treading upon the throttle like balsa wood, I never hit the target of 6.7L/100km. I did manage to drop from the mid-7 range to 6.9L/100km at one point according to the onboard information centre, but was unable to sustain it. Nevertheless, the Golf TDI Wagon is one of the more fuel-frugal cars I’ve driven in the past year.
The latest and greatest may always look better on paper, but sometimes the tried-and-true comes out ahead in the real world. This is the case with the 2014 Golf TDI Wagon. Volkswagen’s enduring diesel technology delivers a driving experience that people love, and that experience comes hand-in-hand with sporty European handling dynamics. That’s a hard combination to beat despite the aforementioned misses.
On the road, the Golf TDI Wagon performs exceptionally well. Its agile, lively road manners are underpinned by a suspension setup best described as taut but never harsh. This isn’t the smoothest riding wagon ever, but it’s one of the best at stopping. As with Volkswagen products in general, the Golf Wagon delivers linear, powerful braking with just the right amount of progressive effort.
And it’s a quiet car. While its diesel engine may be a tick louder than a gas unit, the Golf TDI Wagon treats its occupants to a notably hushed ride once underway. The vehicle is particularly relaxing on the highway thanks to its ease of operation and precise tracking.
Yes, the tech is outdated, and yes, it didn’t attain its posted fuel-economy ratings under my tutelage, but I’m devoted just the same. Enough said.
2014 Volkswagen Golf TDI Wagon
Base Price: $26,375 (2014)
Price as Tested: $34,075 (2014)
Destination charge: $1,395
Type of vehicle: Compact family wagon
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-diesel
Power: 140 horsepower & 236 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic / 6-speed manual
Brakes: 4-wheel antilock disc
Fuel Economy L/100 km: 6.7 city; 4.6 hwy
- Turbo-diesel performance
- Choice of manual or automatic
- Good fuel-economy
- Outdated touchscreen
- No backup camera
- Missed its fuel-economy rating