2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

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$21,685–$30,245 MSRP range
(3.0) 1 reviews
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Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Engine responsiveness
  • Rear cargo room
  • Standard Android Auto, Apple CarPlay
  • Good handling and balance
  • Robust warranty
  • Minimalist styling

The Bad

  • Not much backseat legroom
  • Advanced safety features not available on base trim
  • Cabin materials are inconsistent
  • Price gap between trim levels
  • Fuel economy
  • AWD offered only on S trim

Notable Features of the 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

  • Refreshed for 2018
  • Turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine
  • Front- or all-wheel drive
  • S, SE and SEL trim levels
  • Six-year/72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty
  • 6.5- or 8-inch touchscreen

2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Road Test

Brian Wong
The Verdict:

The Golf SportWagen artfully meshes utility and fun into one vehicle.

Versus The Competition:

Its dynamics remain a step ahead of competitors, but the Golf SportWagen lags behind the field when it comes to fuel economy and safety features, which may turn off some buyers.

The intersection between driving fun and utility is not the SUV — it's the wagon. No better proof of this exists than the 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen.

The Golf SportWagen's competition includes cars as varied as hatchbacks, like the Subaru Crosstrek and Honda Civic hatchback, to compact sedans, like Volkswagen's own Jetta. I'd put the Golf SportWagen's driving experience up against any of those cars, and it outdoes them all on cargo space, as well. But the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen isn't perfect.

What's New

The 2018 Golf SportWagen is a refresh. There are a few changes, but nothing moves the needle too far in either direction. (Compare it with last year's model.) The front and back feature slightly different styling, but one would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between this year's model and last year's. LED daytime running lights and LED taillights are now standard across all trims.

The SportWagen is offered in three trim levels: S ($22,535 including destination charges), SE ($28,170) and SEL ($31,095). S models add automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and a 6.5-inch touchscreen display for 2018.

SE models see a large boost in safety features, adding forward automatic emergency braking and blind spot warning as standard equipment, along with an 8-inch touchscreen. The SEL adds built-in navigation, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, pedestrian detection for the forward emergency braking system and adaptive cru...

The intersection between driving fun and utility is not the SUV — it's the wagon. No better proof of this exists than the 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen.

The Golf SportWagen's competition includes cars as varied as hatchbacks, like the Subaru Crosstrek and Honda Civic hatchback, to compact sedans, like Volkswagen's own Jetta. I'd put the Golf SportWagen's driving experience up against any of those cars, and it outdoes them all on cargo space, as well. But the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen isn't perfect.

What's New

The 2018 Golf SportWagen is a refresh. There are a few changes, but nothing moves the needle too far in either direction. (Compare it with last year's model.) The front and back feature slightly different styling, but one would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between this year's model and last year's. LED daytime running lights and LED taillights are now standard across all trims.

The SportWagen is offered in three trim levels: S ($22,535 including destination charges), SE ($28,170) and SEL ($31,095). S models add automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and a 6.5-inch touchscreen display for 2018.

SE models see a large boost in safety features, adding forward automatic emergency braking and blind spot warning as standard equipment, along with an 8-inch touchscreen. The SEL adds built-in navigation, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, pedestrian detection for the forward emergency braking system and adaptive cruise control.

What We Tested

It's not often that we get to test out the base model of a vehicle, but that's exactly what I drove for a week: a 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen S. The only option checked was a $1,100 six-speed automatic transmission, which brought the car's final price to $23,635.

Beyond the additions for 2018 mentioned above, the S also includes a backup camera, Bluetooth connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system.

How It Drives

There's only one engine for the Golf SportWagen, but it's a good one: a 170-horsepower, turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder TSI that makes 184 lb-ft of torque when tied to a manual transmission and 199 pounds-feet with the automatic. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual (S only) or a six-speed automatic in front-wheel-drive models. An all-wheel-drive version of the Golf SportWagen is offered as well, but only in the S trim level (called the S 4Motion) for an extra $2,250. The S 4Motion shares its AWD system and distinct transmission choices — a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic — with the Golf Alltrack.

The driving experience is generally not a strength for vehicles in this class and price range, but I'm happy to report that the Golf SportWagen is a true member of the Volkswagen Golf family, and its dynamics and powertrain are both very much up to par. The automatic model benefits greatly from all the lb-ft of torque it has on tap: The engine is very responsive, with sharp acceleration when called upon and smooth power delivery in mid-throttle conditions. Handling is also a plus, though the wheel trends toward the lighter side of steering weight. That would be more of a concern if the suspension and chassis weren't as dialed in, but Volkswagen nailed that.

If the powertrain has one shortcoming, it's fuel economy. It doesn't match up with less thirsty competitors like the Honda Civic hatchback, which offers up to 34 mpg combined. The Golf SportWagen returns an EPA-estimated 25/34/29 mpg city/highway/combined with manual FWD models and 24/33/28 mpg with the FWD automatic. AWD models with the automatic transmission are rated 22/29/24 mpg; the 2018 manual with AWD wasn't rated as of publication. The 2017 SportWagen with a manual transmission and AWD was rated 26 mpg combined, but we can't assume that will repeat in 2018 given the other ratings have changed. Of the EPA-rated 2018 SportWagens, the automatic versions are down 1 mpg combined versus 2017 and the manual is up 1 mpg combined.

Interior and Technology

Though the base model's interior is sparse and feature-lean (as the empty switches by the gear selector indicate), it does come with a few important technologies that make the experience more than bearable. Its standard 6.5-inch touchscreen is among the best of the base model screens in this class, it's clear and easy to read without getting too close and, perhaps most important, it comes with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. So if you have a smartphone with a little data to spare, you'll have your own navigation system without paying for an SEL and its built-in version. SE and SEL models get a gorgeous 8-inch touchscreen.

The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen's shape gives it excellent cargo room, but its passenger room is a bit smaller than that of most compact cars. There's good headroom, but legroom will be an issue for taller passengers. Behind the backseat is 30.4 cubic feet of cargo room, which expands to 66.5 cubic feet with the seats folded.

Safety

Another weakness of the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is the distribution of safety features across trim levels. Standard features include a backup camera and a post-collision braking system that's designed to prevent secondary accidents from happening if the airbags deploy in a crash. The SE and SEL each add more safety equipment, but those features can't be had on the S. So getting advanced safety features means making a significant leap up cost-wise from the base trim. Volkswagen has begun to change this approach on its more affordable models — the redesigned 2019 Jetta, for example, makes automatic emergency braking optional on the base trim. But even with the 2018 Golf SportWagen's updates, there's no such luck here.

Value and Conclusion

VW adds one final perk to the 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen to bolster its value: a six-year/72,000-mile transferable bumper-to-bumper warranty, which is unmatched by other automakers. If you plan on keeping the car beyond a lease term, that's a big deal.

The price gap between the S trim and the SE is significant — nearly $5,000 between automatic versions. The SE does offer significantly more equipment than the S, including an 8-inch touchscreen, panoramic moonroof, imitation leather rather than cloth upholstery, and the aforementioned safety features, but whether or not all that is worth that kind of money is up to you. The jump from $23,635 to $28,170 pushes the Golf SportWagen from the realm of compact cars nearly to the cost of a compact SUV; for all its merits, the Golf SportWagen can't compete with a compact SUV for passenger or cargo room.

Driving the base version of the 2018 Golf SportWagen proved the car's merit and value, and there isn't much at that price that I would choose over it as an everyday car. But once you move up the trim levels, the value part of the equation diminishes quickly as the price rises and the gas mileage stays low. An S model with additional safety features would be my choice, but that's something we probably won't get until the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen gets another round of changes.

Cars.com's Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com's long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don't accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com's advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.


Latest 2018 Golf SportWagen Stories

What Drivers Are Saying

Exterior Styling
(4.0)
Performance
(4.0)
Interior Design
(2.0)
Comfort
(4.0)
Value For The Money
(5.0)

Latest Reviews

(3.0)

Lots of De-contenting for 2018

by Wagon Love from New England on March 16, 2018

Test drove an '18 TSI S, 5-speed manual transmission. Love the new front end & rear end redesign for 2018. Really modernizes look of the car. Also, VW now offering 6 year warranty, presumably to ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen currently has 0 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TSI S

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Child Seat Anchors (Latch)

Ease of Use
acceptable

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
acceptable
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
acceptable
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Small Overlap Front - Passenger Side

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
good
Overall Evaluation
acceptable
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
marginal
Structure and Safety Cage
acceptable

Small overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/thigh
good
Lower leg/foot
good
Restraints and dummy kinematics
acceptable
Small overlap front
good
Structure and safety cage
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    72 months / 72,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    72 months / 72,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    36 months / 36,000 miles

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Golf SportWagen received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker