Somewhere between a hatchback and a compact SUV is Volkswagen’s Golf Sportwagen. If you need more room than in a sedan or small hatch, but you don’t want to climb up into a bulky SUV, the Golf Sportwagen is an attractive alternative.

Available in three trims – S, SE and SEL – our S model test car had an out-the-door price of $22,400 including freight, and promises 35 miles per gallon on the highway. What’s not to like about either one of those things?

The SportWagen was known as a Jetta until 2015, when it joined the Golf family. New for 2017, Volkswagen’s 4Motion AWD system is available on the base S trim. Also for 2017, the SEL trim adds a forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking system, a blind spot monitor and adaptive cruise control. An available Driver Assistance Package with a host of safety and convenience features is available. The package is standard on the SEL and optional on SE trims. All models get a standard rearview camera for 2017.

Manual transmissions are certainly not in vogue with the driving public today, but purists will be happy to know that a manual is available on the S trim and the S with 4Motion. The 5-speed manual in my S trim test car had a pretty long throw and a sensitive clutch. I’ve been driving manual transmissions for more than…uh, since I was a teen-ager, and it’s been a long time since I killed the engine trying to get the car in gear. I’m not opposed to manual transmissions, but for my money I’d opt for the 6-speed automatic.

The 5-seat Golf SportWagen is powered quite capably by a 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 199 lb.-ft. of torque. We had a fun time scooting around town in the test SportWagen. The turbocharged 4-cylinder provides sufficient power to move the car around with gusto. The wagon dove into hard corners without fuss or body roll, and the electromechanical power steering was linear and on center.

The exterior of the Golf SportWagen has a distinctly European look, long and low with a ground clearance of just 5.5 inches.

My test 2017 Golf SportWagen had plenty of room inside, with comfortably firm seats dressed in a durable fabric. Headroom in the front and rear seats is an identical 38.6 inches, and legroom in back is 35.6 inches. Cargo space is 30.4 cubic feet, and that storage jumps to 66.5 cubic feet when the second row seats are folded flat. In all, the cabin is roomy and well done with durable materials.

Keyless entry is standard on SE and SEL trims, and hopefully in all three models soon. Touchscreen infotainment is via VW’s MIB II, which has a comprehensive suite of connected vehicle services. S and SE models feature a color touch display with a 6.5-inch screen, AUX, two SD card slots, a USB interface, Bluetooth, App-Connect smart phone integration and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. SEL trims get all the above plus the Discover Media unit, which adds navigation and other features.

Perhaps the best thing about the 2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen though is its price. A 2017 Golf SportWagen S with the manual transmission can be had for as little as $21,580 ($22,680 with the automatic). The S 4Motion starts at $23,830 with the manual and $24,930 with the automatic. The SE and SEL come only with the automatic transmission and start at $27,030 and $29,970 respectively.

The Golf SportWagen is also a safe vehicle. Six airbags are standard, and there is a host of standard and optional safety technology. The government gives the 2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen a five-star overall safety rating. It has not yet been tested by the insurance industry.

2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen S


1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder


5-speed manual


170 / 199 lb.-ft.

Base price:

$21,580 ($22,400 with freight)

EPA mileage estimates:

25 mpg city/35 mpg highway/28 mpg combined

Estimated highway range:

462 miles