• 2019 Volkswagen Sportwagen

Road Test: 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen 1.4T SE

Practical and Fun To Drive

In our review of the 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen, we posed the question, “The Perfect Car?” We concluded it was in many ways. Four years later, almost nothing has changed. The 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen SE is practical car that seats four, hauls all their gear and has all the sportiness the Golf is known for.

2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

A sleek and fun runner

Getting wrapped-up in the crossover and SUV wave means that many people are not even considering a station wagon. Of course, this is too bad as Clean Fleet Report is a fan of the Golf SportWagen—and think you will be too.


Clean Fleet Report drove the 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen SE, with the 1.4-liter turbocharged and intercooled engine. Putting out 147 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet of torque while running on regular gasoline, our front-wheel drive SportWagen’s engine was mated to a smooth-shifting, eight-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic. Volkswagen’s Tiptronic allows the driver to go through the gears manually by using paddle shifters. Located on the back of the steering wheel, you pull on the plus sign paddle is for up-shifting, and the minus sign for down-shifting. The paddle shifters are not necessary for normal around town or freeway driving, but when out on curvy roads or needing to hold a gear during heavy acceleration, it works fantastic. The shifts between gears are mere blips. Without turbo lag, this is by far the way to have the most fun in the Golf SportWagen. If all you want to do is shift, you can order the Golf SportWagen S with a six-speed manual.

2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

It’s an automatic with a manual option

Running on 87 octane, EPA fuel economy estimates are 27 city/36 highway/31 combined. In real world use, 249 miles of driving throughout Los Angeles saw a combined 34.6 mpg, with a 150 mile all-freeway run, at 65 mph, of 40.1 mpg. Simply fill the SportWagen with all your gear and head-out for a fuel-efficient adventure.

It is important to note that the fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific. They represent the reviewer’s driving experience, but should be similar to most drivers living in our reviewer’s cities. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains, spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

Driving Experience: On the Road

Sharp steering with an agile suspension equates to handling with a responsiveness that requires little driver exertion. The balance is so properly placed that body roll, or pitching from side-to-side during aggressive turns, is nearly non-existent. The Pirelli Cinturato P7 225/45 all-season tires on 17-inch alloy wheels provided good grip.

2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

The crispness on the outside is also found in the driver’s seat

The crisp steering and predictive handling characteristics through hard corners resulted in the car pulling tighter the sharper you turn the wheel. The front suspension is strut-type with coil springs, with multi-link and coil springs in the rear and anti-roll bars all the way around. The rack and pinion electric power steering has been programmed to provide excellent road feel.

The power-assisted front vented and rear solid discs with anti-lock brakes stopped the car straight without brake fade. Electronic stability control is standard, making for a well-balanced car that is easy to control and drive.

Driving Experience: Interior

The intuitive, neat and tidy interior has a clean fit and finish. The usual German simplicity, with a good mix of soft and hard plastics, is uncomplicated by fake woods or other design gimmicks. The white backlighting for the dash gauges added a premium element which went along with the overall premium materials used throughout the interior. Nothing fancy, trendy or quirky.

2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

VW slips in some premium touches

Clean Fleet Report’s Golf SportWagen SE trim level came with an 8.0-inch color touchscreen for the six-speaker infotainment system. The AM/FM/HD radio and CD player, with MP3 playback and  SiriusXM had clear, crisp tones. For convenience, there is Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music, and VW’s Media Device Interface (MDI), which includes SD card and USB slots. Standard is Volkswagen’s VW CarNet connected car technology that provides a seamless link for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or a computer. The sound system, along with the climate controls, are easy to operate with the turn of a few knobs.

The base model SportWagen SE comes with cloth seats, but our SE had leatherette, a fabric technology that is comfortable to the touch, provides good air circulation and is durable. Both front seats were heated and had manual height and lumbar adjustments with power recline. There was a good choice of seat settings that, when combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, made for comfortable driving and seating positions. Separating the front seats is a center console with a height-adjustable armrest/storage area. The steering wheel, gear shift lever and parking brake handle wrapped in leather are a nice upgrade.

2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

60 cubic feet of “why to buy”

Being a four-door, access to the rear seat is easy. Head, leg, elbow and shoulder room is spacious for four adult passengers. Three can sit in the rear, but it best be for shorter trips. The 35.6-inches of legroom, HVAC vents, cupholders and reading lights made the rear seat an overall welcoming place to hang out.

Now we get into why to buy a station wagon over a sedan or hatchback: the storage space.  With the rear seat in the upright position there is 30.4 cubic feet of space. But when the 60/40 split seat back (which has a ski pass-through opening) is folded to a flat position, the storage capacity more than doubles to 60.6 cu. ft. And this storage space is very usable, as the roof is nearly flat and the lift gate is not raked at a severe angle. For even more storage, roof racks are standard.

Interior conveniences, standard or optional, include a power tilting and sliding sunroof, power windows, keyless access, multi-function steering wheel with audio and telephone controls, cruise control, power adjustable and manual folding heated exterior mirrors, multiple power ports, front and rear reading lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and carpeted floor mats.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The clean interior design continues to the exterior where Volkswagen has not gone the route of squaring-off the corners and adding all sorts of scoops and vents. Also, a big pat on the back also for staying away from the big mouth bass front grill that is all the rage these days. The Golf  family at times has been described as plain, but Clean Fleet Report’s car, painted in a very attractive Deep Black Pearl, was nothing like that.

2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

VW’s bit of Bauhaus

I find VW to be refreshing in its clean and simple design with round and soft lines. With an eye to fuel economy and aerodynamics, the 0.31 drag coefficient helps the SportWagen slip through the wind.

The 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen has a “cab backward” look with a recognizable steeply sloped hood, narrow grill and sleek LED head and daytime running lights. The strong but subtle body line—the line that runs along the side of the car from front to back—leads to the horizontal LED tail lamps, while the roof has the smallest-of-smallest antenna and an integrated spoiler.

Keeping it subtle, the only “Golf SE” badging is found on the lower-left lift gate. The VW emblem on the lift gate serves three purposes: branding, it is the latch for opening the hatch and lastly, it flips open when putting the car in reverse—revealing the back-up camera. Pretty crafty, those German engineers.

Safety and Convenience

2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

Seating for three- room for two

Clean Fleet Report’s 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen came with six airbags, engine stop/start, adaptive cruise control, a tire pressure monitoring system and an Intelligent Crash Response System. Standard or available safety features include a rear view camera, a blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, rear traffic alert and forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. If you have never driven a car with these last two safety features, have your Volkswagen sales representative demonstrate them to you on the highway. Once having used them, you will appreciate the added safety they bring to your driving.

The SportWagen earned a 5 Star Overall rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Pricing and Warranties

Clean Fleet Report’s 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen SE with the automatic transmission had a MSRP of $29,995, which did not include the $895 destination charge.

The 2019 SportWagen comes with these warranties:

  • New Vehicle                                   72 months/72,000 miles
  • Powertrain                                     72 months/72,000 miles
  • Corrosion Perforation                 84 months/100,000 miles
  • 24-Hour Roadside Assistance   36 months/36,000 miles         

Observations: 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen SE

The combination of excellent driving dynamics, 40+ mpg, the practicality of a wagon, and affordability, makes the 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen a very strong consideration over a crossover.

2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

Covering many lifestyles in one package

If your lifestyle includes commuting, driving the family everywhere, trips to the garden center, and road trips, then you will be very satisfied with a SportWagen. But more than seeing the SportWagen as a do-everything car, don’t forget how many smiles it will bring as it delivers pure driving joy.

Go to your local Volkswagen dealer and take the SportWagen out for a lengthy test drive. Make sure to sit in the rear seat and drop the seat back to see how much you can haul in the best small wagon on the market.

Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!

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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: John Faulkner

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

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