In the concluding chapter of the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen story the other day, I was asked by a frequent commenter to share some of the things I liked or would miss about the Golf now that it’s gone away. I’m thinking of those things now as I view its dealer listing, recently updated with many photos. They never did replace the cargo area trim panels, I can see the scratches from here!
Anyway, the positives. The most enjoyable thing about the Golf was its fun to drive nature. Even though it didn’t have a lot of power at 147 horses, that just meant you could use more (or all) of the power more of the time. It was one of those cars where there’s not really enough power for anything bad to happen should you floor the throttle. That made it fun to rev up and toss around on back roads, an area where it shone. The steering was communicative enough to let you know what the front wheels were doing, and the brakes strong in the event of a tractor appearing suddenly around a bend (that happens here). Though there wasn’t a ton of grip from the slimmish tires, the power level was well-matched to said grip. There weren’t really any situations on dry pavement where things were going to get out of hand, everything felt planted all the time.
The engine was also a highlight. Smaller than the power plants in the vast majority of cars in this country, it was smooth and had excellent NVH characteristics. At idle it was almost entirely silent from inside the cabin. Handled roughly, the 1.4 provided eager small engine noises and it never sounded as though you were thrashing it too hard, even at the red line. To get the most out of it, it was best to put it in manual mode and shift with the paddles to keep up the revs. Even when you drove it aggressively for some hours in a given tank of fuel, it would still return between 29 and 31 miles per gallon. Over my 18-month experience, it was the most consistent fuel economy of any car I’ve ever owned (hand calculated). Pity that engine was available only on 2019 models, and only on the SE in wagon format. Same goes for the eight-speed automatic, which was not a complicated DSG like in the Alltrack. It was crisp and responsive, not indecisive and jerky like in the current Tiguan.
Fit and finish were great as well, especially considering its compact non-premium class. Everything had a solid feel, and most of the surfaces you touched were of pretty good quality. It was interesting to see how the same climate control knobs across Golf, Passat, Jetta, and Tiguan felt a bit different in each car: They were put together the best in the Golf. Doors made a nice heavy sound and an equally nice sound upon opening them. Touch-sensitive door handles sometimes reacted a bit too slowly, but always had a nice return action. Seats were comfortable enough (the SEL seats were better, but dropped for 2019), and the problem-prone glass roof and light-colored vinyl provided a bright interior. I can’t recommend light interiors enough when the only other option is black.
Having Android Auto was nice as well, though I suspect I’ll get used to not having it like every year before I had the Golf. The large screen was intuitive, and so were the rest of the interior controls. Special shout out to the dials, which were clear and easy to read, and looked slightly nicer than the similar dials in other Volkswagen products. This compliment won’t apply soon though, as all VWs are in process of the switch to fancy screen-based gauges. Speaking of things no more, I liked that it was a regular Golf with a wagon body, which allowed for the aforementioned roof and lots of cargo space. Folding the seats was a breeze from the side or the rear levers, and the cargo area was enormous for such a small car. The interior overall was pretty spacious, especially so with front legroom and acceptably so at the rear.
Overall (and I know it’s cliché to say) it felt like the Golf had a bit of personality in a segment largely devoid of it. I liked that you didn’t see it everywhere, either, but that’s really a reason for its cancellation rather than a positive. I don’t see myself owning another Volkswagen at any point (and the new Golf does not appeal at all per reviews of the thing), or another wagon in the near future. The Golf then will be a one-off, some happy driving times during a pandemic, interspersed with inconvenient factory quality control, and overly complex, fussy German engineering. Until next time.
[Images: Corey Lewis / The Truth About Cars]