Teeing up the 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI

Does a dose of diesel make a good thing better?

Published: August 03, 2015 11:30 AM

We’re already in love with the Volkswagen Golf—it’s our top-rated small car. But does adding extra cargo space and a diesel engine make a good thing better?

The fuel economy benefits of diesel should have us gleefully going into this summer’s road trip season—after all, our last tested Jetta TDI had a 500-mile cruising range.

Unfortunately, the DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission in the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI doesn’t play well with the 2.0-liter, 150-hp turbodiesel. It's gutless and lazy. The DSG feels as if it’s in the wrong gear when you want a power surge—say, when you spot an opening in traffic. You really need to floor the gas pedal to get a downshift. And the VW diesel’s clatter was rather old-school compared to newer, more refined offerings from other automakers.

Fuel economy for the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI is almost hybridesque with the diesel—we’re seeing around 40 mpg on a consistent basis. That’s a solid 12 mpg better than the more-responsive 1.8-liter gas engine in our Golf hatchback, but its laggardly performance nonetheless had us wondering if the diesel’s price premium is worth it.

The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI maintains the line’s well appointed and fairly roomy interior. The controls are straightforward. And the sunroof is enormous. Steering, ride, and handling all feel like those of a more expensive car; nothing is lost in the Golf hatchback-to-wagon translation.

However, our midlevel SE model set us back $30,000, and didn’t include automatic climate control or full-power front seats (only recline is powered). VW makes you trade up to the top-level SEL to get these features. Also, you’ll have to wait a year if you want one with all-wheel drive.

So equipped, the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI is like a little Audi . . . and priced accordingly. Stay tuned for our complete test. 

In the meantime, check out our Volkswagen Golf road test.  

Mike Quincy

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