Golf wagon versus hatchback a difficult choice

The Volkswagen Golf in its most common form – a five-door hatchback version. But dressed in most uncommon trim – a fully-loaded Highline model dipped in Candy White and powered by a 140 hp 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine

Story and photos by Rob Beintema
Metroland Media/Wheelstalk.com –

There’s a tendency to take the Volkswagen Golf for granted.

It’s been around, after all, since 1974 when the new lineup replaced the retired, or should I say, extremely tired original VW Beetle.

The Golf (or Rabbit, or Caribe, depending on time, country and marketing whims) has evolved through six generations since then and it is steadily creeping up on a global sales mark of 30 million.

The Golf itself may not have seeded the origin of the species, but it definitely took hatchback design from being unique to being ubiquitous. Which is a fancy way of saying there are a lot of the darned things on the road.

You don’t really notice this until you’re behind the wheel of one yourself. And then you start spotting the familiar VW emblem just about everywhere.

That six generation span has branched the Golf family tree out into a wide spread of variations, including three-door models, five-door models and station wagons, all available in a variety of trim and technology levels.

There are normally aspirated versions powered by a 170 hp 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine. There are fuel-efficient diesel models harnessing 140 hp 2.0-litre TDI four-cylinder motors.

And there are pocket rocket versions – the GTI with its 200 hp 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged motor and the Golf R, an uber-hot hatch brought to North America last year with a tweaked 256 hp version of the 2.0-litre TSI turbo four.

I felt instantly at home in the Golf, probably because I just got out of a Jetta, a vehicle that may have diverged somewhat from its “Golf-with-a-trunk” origins, but that is still more alike than different.

So, with such a broad swath of choices, it’s hard to do the Golf justice. But we can at least zero in on two specific, and rather practical examples within the brand.

VW Golf TDI Highline five-door 2013:

The Golf five-door model comes in with a starting price of $21,475 and is available in three trim levels – Trendline, Comfortline and Highline.

The Golf diesel TDI version may be thrifty but it is not cheap. The diesel option first comes available at the mid-range Comfortline level and it adds a $2,400 premium to that trim price.

As tested here, bolstered further in all of its Highline glory, this vehicle comes in Candy White with a Titan Black Vienna leather interior with all the fixings for $31,685. That includes $1,400 for the DSG automatic tranny and $890 for the RNS 315 Navigation System.

Among the RNS 315 Navigation System features, a handy search mode option includes a diesel fuel station finder.

Features at this all-inclusive trim level include heated sport seats, power heated mirrors, power windows, power locks, power sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity, eight-speaker Premium 8 audio, 17-inch alloy wheels and a long list of other standards. And among the handy features in the nav system is a search mode that will pinpoint the nearest diesel-fueling centres. Not that you will need it that often with roughly a 1000 km range.

The diesel starts immediately without any glow plug drama. The diesel drone is a noticeable presence, especially at idle, and even at speed. But it’s a background rumble that’s easy to live with and there’s none of the annoying pots-and-pans clatter of earlier versions.

The 140 hp rating may not sound all that impressive compared to the base engine numbers but, as with all diesels, it’s the torque that matters. There’s an initial acceleration lag that seems common to all Volkswagens and then the 236 lb/ft of grunt, peaking early at a low 1750-2500 rpm, gets things up and moving.

The 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine makes 140 hp and 236 lb/ft of torque. Fuel economy is rated at a hybrid-rivaling 6.7/4.7L/100km (city/hwy).

The Golf TDI boasts fuel efficiency that rivals hybrid competitors with its rating of 6.7/4.7L/100km (city/hwy).
I did my best to complement the TDI’s strong suit by accelerating gently, backing off of the throttle to encourage upshifts, and coasting to stops.

My combined driving included everything from highway runs to stop-and-go traffic but, after burning through a tank of fuel, my average still came in as a very respectable 6.6L/100km.

Diesel factors to keep in mind include the occasional scarcity of diesel fueling stations, the greasier, stinkier pumps that your wife won’t exactly enjoy and a floating price level that is sometimes less than regular, sometimes more.

In the end, each customer will have to weigh the extra costs against the potential savings benefits based on their personal driving demands.

The 2013 Golf Wagon, pictured here in Platinum Grey Metallic, makes a striking Sportline statement with 18-inch Bilbao alloy wheels accenting the wagon’s sleek lines.

VW Golf Wagon 2.5 Sportline 2013:

The 2013 Golf Wagon lineup starts at $22,795. The extra $1,500, compared to the five-door hatchback starting price, pays for a car that is 355 mm longer (14 in).

Most of that translates into extra storage room. The cargo space measures 930 litres (32.8 cu.ft.) expanding to 1,890 litres (66.9 cu.ft.) with the second row folded forward.

That’s substantially larger than the five-door hatchback’s 420 litres (14.8 cu ft) or 1,310 litres (46.3 cu ft) with the second row down.

Raise the liftback and the Golf Wagon offers approximately twice the luggage room of the five-door hatchback, with an available 930 litres (32.8 cu.ft.) or 1890 litres (66.9 cu.ft.) with rear seat folded.

The wagon is also marginally heavier, but the extra 68 kg (150 lb) doesn’t make a dent on the standard 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine’s abilities.

Fuel economy with this base 170 hp mill is rated at 9.1/6.5L/100km (city/hwy). As usual, my mileage comes closer to the city rating, working out to 9.3L/100km (comb) although I was handily managing 6.8l/100km averages on highway runs.

This base powerplant is more than satisfactory, maybe not as thrifty as the TDI diesel or as hyperactive as the TSI turbo version, but it still managed to pull off a matchup with the Sportline trim tested here.

Although not up to scale with the previous Highline tester – cloth instead of leather and fewer do-dads – this Sportline Wagon does come with some upscale features including a Panoramic power sunroof over the first and second rows, 10-speaker audio and sport touches like alloy pedals, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, along with love-‘em-or-leave-‘em 18-inch Bilbao alloy wheels.

At $29,375, that Sportline package bumps the price up a bit and a less-equipped Trendline or Comfortline at a lower cost would fit in just as well for the usual wagon chores of family weekend getaways or trips to the leash-free dog park.

Inside the Sportline trim environs of the Golf Wagon with cloth upholstery, panoramic sunroof and sport cues that include alloy pedals and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob.

These were only two sample flavours from the varied Volkswagen Golf menu with many others to be considered. And there are a few other points to keep in mind.

The five-door Sportline version was dropped this year to make room for a Wolfsburg edition coming later this spring with many of the same sporty cues.

The next generation Golf Mk7, already being tested in Europe, will probably arrive on our shores by the spring of 2014, maybe as a 2015 model. It will be accompanied by a new GTI, and possibly, a new Cabriolet model.

And, if the Jetta hybrid, now arriving in Canada, does well enough, we may see a Golf hybrid following behind. Who knows, maybe even a plug-in version a year after that?

A lot of that will depend on customer reaction but, as noted in the beginning of the story, the way Canadian customers have embraced the Volkswagen Golf in all of its many models and forms, anything seems possible.

For more info on a wider range of models and prices, check www.vw.ca.

Volkswagen Golf Comparison 2013 At A Glance

  • BODY STYLE: Compact five-door hatchback; compact five-door wagon.
  • DRIVE METHOD: front-engine/front-wheel-drive.
  • ENGINE: Hatchback 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine (140 hp, 236 lb/ft); Wagon 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine (170 hp, 177 lb/ft).
  • FUEL ECONOMY: Hatchback (diesel) 6.7/4.7L/100km (city/hwy); Wagon (gas) 9.1/6.5L/100km (city/hwy)
  • CARGO: Hatchback 420 litres (14.8 cu ft) or 1,310 litres (46.3 cu ft) with rear seat folded; Wagon 930 litres (32.8 cu ft) or 1,890 litres (66.9 cu.ft.) with rear seat folded
  • PRICES: 2013 VW Golf TDI Highline five-door $31,685; 2013 VW Golf Wagon 2.5 Sportline $29,375

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