Wagon sales aren’t exactly huge at the moment, as the SUV steamroller continues to flatten our historical attachment to conventional cars with an extra bit tacked on the back.
But there’s still a lot to be said for them. A lower centre of gravity improves dynamic response, and for many, driving a car is somehow more civilised than clambering into a pseudo off-roader you know in your heart-of-hearts is never going to travel on anything other than that evil, black hydrocarbon mix better known as bitumen.
Even though Volkswagen has its own quality compact SUV in the shape of the Tiguan, it remains loyal to the small wagon; the Golf battling a modest contingent of mainly European competitors for supremacy in a particularly narrow market niche.
We loved this ‘7.5’ version at its mid-2017 launch, but was that affection sustained over the Golf 110TSI Highline wagon’s three-week stint as Cleary family transport?
Volkswagen Golf 2018: 110 TSI Highline
Premium Unleaded Petrol
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
After more than four decades on sale around the globe, the Golf can comfortably claim the title of automotive icon. And understandably, Volkswagen has applied a policy of measured evolution to a form that’s now firmly etched in the world’s automotive consciousness.
No Toyota C-HR inner-city SUV funkiness here. Contemporary, yet relatively conservative, the Golf wagon’s exterior design is a sleek extension of the hatch’s, with the lines of the roof (identical to the hatch from nose to C-pillar) flowing cleanly into a subtly tapered rear turret and glasshouse.
‘Our’ 110TSI boasted the optional R-Line package ($2500), which includes 18-inch ‘Sebring’ alloy rims, dark tinted rear side and rear window glass, lower body side sill extensions (in gloss black), as well as gloss black detail along the front bumper, front spoiler and (larger) lower air intake.
‘Our’ 110TSI boasted the optional R-Line package ($2500), which included 18-inch ‘Sebring’ alloy rims. (image credit: James Cleary)
The standard LED daytime running lights give the car a forceful and focused expression, and it’s worth noting the front fogs (with static cornering lights), normally standard on the Highline grade, are flung for the R-Line transition.
Tricky little R-Line badges on the grille and front guards will have friends and neighbours believing you’ve splurged on the full-house R wagon ($57,490, before on-road costs, and due to launch locally in the first quarter of this year).
At the back, LED tail-lights add a touch of pizzazz (the wagon even picks up LED lighting for the rego plate), and the R-Line additions continue with a gloss black sports diffuser with trapezoidal chrome trims (including the exhaust surrounds), and a rear roof spoiler (with gloss black aerodynamic extensions).
The cabin design reinforces how much of a difference the addition of a slick new multimedia screen (8.0-inch standard, optional 9.2-inch in our test example) has made to the Golf 7.5’s interior look and feel. It’s properly primo.
The addition of a slick new multimedia screen has made the Golf 7.5’s interior look and feel primo. (image credit: James Cleary)
‘Vienna’ leather-appointed seat trim, already standard on the Highline, picks up an R-Line logo on the front chairs and contrast white stitching throughout. The three-spoke, leather-trimmed and flat-bottom sports steering wheel features brushed metal inserts and gearshift paddles.
You’ll also notice alloy finish pieces on the accelerator and brake pedals, aluminium finish front scuff plates, black headlining and pillar trim, as well as a racy ‘Linearus’ carbon fibre style inlay in the doors and on the passenger side of the dashboard.
If you’re thinking about a wagon, you’re thinking about carrying things, like people and their stuff; presumably, family stuff. And despite its relatively compact exterior dimensions (4.6m long, 1.8m wide, 1.5m high) the Golf wagon gets over the line as comfortable transport for four, even five, if one of the trio in the back seat still answers to the description of ‘kid’.
There’s plenty of storage space for those up front, with two cupholders, generous door pockets with space for bottles, a decent (cooled) glovebox, a drawer under the front passenger seat, and lots of oddments space, including a lidded bin between the seats, a handy tray at the front of the centre console, a dash cubby on the driver’s side, and a compartment in the roof console. Power and connectivity includes, a USB socket, ‘aux’ audio input, and 12-volt outlet.
You’ll find another pair of cupholders in the rear centre armrest, as well as door bins, storage pockets in the front seatbacks, plus adjustable air-conditioning vents (with flow control).
Rear passengers get air vents. (image credit: James Cleary)
And when you’re in the back, there’s heaps of leg and headroom. I’m 183cm tall, and sitting behind my own driving position, I enjoyed generous space in front and above. But as mentioned, there’s not enough width for three grown-ups to sit comfortably. Average size school-age kids would be fine.
Even with the 60/40 split folding rear seats up the wagon boasts a hefty 605 litres of luggage space, growing to an impressive 1620 litres once the second-row seats are folded, with well-placed release handles on either side of the cargo area making that an easy process.
The Golf wagon with the seats up has 605 litres of luggage space. (image credit: James Cleary)
Boot space grows to 1620 litres once the second-row seats are folded. (image cerdit: James Cleary)
A through-port behind the rear seat armrest adds an extra level of flexibility, as do four tie-down points, shopping bag hooks, a usefully bright compartment light, and a 12-volt outlet. The spare is a space-saver.
If you’re a wagon person, there’s a higher than average probability you’re a towing type as well, and the Golf 110TSI wagon can haul 1500kg worth of braked trailer, and 670kg without stoppers.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
Highline is the premium grade in the Golf’s four-level lineup, and at $35,990 (plus on-road costs) the 110TSI Highline wagon sits in the same size, dollar and spec bracket as the Peugeot 308 Allure Touring ($37,990), Renault Megane GT-Line wagon ($33,990), and the Subaru Levorg 1.6 GT ($35,990).
Also, worth noting that at $31,490, Skoda’s Octavia 110TSI Sport wagon sits on the same VW Group ‘MQB’ platform and features the same drivetrain as the Golf. It boasts a handy standard equipment list, a longer wheelbase (+51mm), more cargo space with the rear seats folded (+98 litres) and loads of safety tech, including AEB and active cruise.
The Golf’s standard features include dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, heat insulating tinted glass, the 18-inch alloy rims, cruise control, a programmable speed limiter function, parking distance sensors (front and rear with acoustic warning), ‘Optical Parking System’ (OPS) graphic display (in main screen), reversing camera (with static guidelines), LED headlights (as well as the LED DRLs and tail-lights) with auto function, a panoramic glass sunroof (electric slide and tilt adjustable), interior ambient lighting, rain-sensing wipers, sports front seats (with electric adjustment and three-position memory for the driver), eight-speaker audio, plus leather-appointed seat trim.
The media system has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. (image credit: James Cleary)
Our test example was also loaded up with all three available option packages. ‘Driver Assistance’ ($1500) includes adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitor (with rear traffic alert), ‘Lane Assist’, and ‘Park Assist’ (parallel and perpendicular parking).
‘Infotainment’ ($2300) adds the digital ‘Active Info’ instrument display (high-res 12.3-inch TFT screen with customisable menus), ‘Discover Pro’ audio and sat nav (9.2-inch colour capacitive touchscreen display with voice and gesture control), and Dynaudio Excite 400-watt sound (with 10-channel digital amp and subwoofer).
The ‘R-Line Package’ ($2500) is described in the design section above, and finally, metallic paint ($500), brings the all-in total to $42,790 (before on-road costs).
Yes, there’s lots of standard fruit on board, but at that money, you’re starting to push well into Audi A3 Sportback territory, with the A3 1.4 TFSI ($40,300) also underpinned by the MQB chassis and running the same drivetrain.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 8/10
Sitting under this Golf’s bonnet is an all-alloy 1.4-litre (1395cc), four-cylinder, (single) turbo-petrol engine featuring direct injection, variable intake and exhaust valve timing, and start-stop tech. It produces 110kW at 5000-6000rpm, and 250Nm between 1500-3500rpm.
The Golf's turbocharged 1.4-litre, four-cylinder, produces 110kW/250Nm. (image credit: James Clearly)
Drive goes to the front wheels via VW’s seven-speed ‘DSG’ dual-clutch transmission, with our car’s R-Line package adding wheel-mounted shift paddles.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.6L/100km, with 131g/km of CO2 emitted in the process.
Over exactly 544.7km of mostly city and suburban running we recorded 9.05L/100km at the bowser (urban cycle claimed figure is 6.7L/100km). And you’ll need 50 litres of minimum 95 RON premium unleaded to fill the tank.
What's it like to drive? 9/10
A lengthy stint behind the wheel of this 110TSI Highline graphically reinforced the Golf wagon’s three main strengths – it’s quiet, rides beautifully, and steers precisely.
Suspension is MacPherson strut front, four-link rear, and despite the R-Line sports tune, which lowers the car by approximately 15mm, as well as relatively low-profile 225/40 18-inch Bridgestone Potenza rubber, the Golf delivers ride comfort and body control cars several sizes and price brackets above it would be happy to own.
And as we’ve said before, the Golf is simple and user-friendly to operate, with the recently added sleek, and flush multimedia screen enhancing connectivity, and the sports front seats managing to mix grippy lateral support with long-range comfort.
Road feel from the variable ratio (speed sensitive) rack and pinion steering is excellent, and the standard ‘Electronic Differential Lock’ (EDL) uses the ABS wheel sensors to seamlessly manage appropriate supply of drive to each front wheel on mixed surfaces and in quick cornering.
On top of that, the (also standard) ‘Extended Electronic Differential Lock’ (XDL) works in unison with the XDL, using the ESP system’s hydraulics to apply pressure to the wheel on the inside of a corner, preventing wheelspin and maximising power down. The result is a front-wheel drive Golf wagon with the dynamic authority of an all-wheel-drivehot hatch.
Performance from the 1.4 turbo four feels more like that of a naturally aspirated 2.0 litre.
Performance from the 1.4 turbo four feels more like that of a naturally aspirated 2.0 litre. Volkswagen claims 8.6 seconds for the sprint from 0-100km/h, which is 0.4sec slower than the hatch (the wagon weighs an extra 63kg), but still rapid. However, it’s the way the engine does what it does that stands it apart.
With maximum torque available across a broad band from 1500-3500rpm, the 110TSI accelerates strongly with linear power delivery and smooth throttle response; perfect for the cut and thrust of city and suburban running. And when it comes to washing off speed, the four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front) provide consistent and progressive stopping power.
Peak power takes over from 5000-6000rpm, and highway overtaking proved stress-free, even with a full compliment of (five) Clearys on board.
The only snag was the seven-speed ‘DSG’ dual-clutch transmission (with wheel-mounted paddles), which kept things nicely on the boil around town, but was prone to the occasional shunt and clunk in slow-speed manoeuvres.
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
Golfs of all descriptions incorporate an impressive array of standard safety tech, including active features like active cruise control (plus a programmable speed limiter), distance warning display, auto flashing brake lights (activated in an emergency braking situation), driver fatigue detection, AEB (front), ABS, EBD, BA, EDL, multi-collision brake, ASR, ESP, a tyre-pressure indicator and a rear-view camera.
As mentioned, the optional ‘Driver Assistance’ package fitted to our car adds adaptive cruise control, lane assist, blind spot monitor, and rear traffic alert.
And when all that isn’t enough to avoid a collision, no less than seven airbags are on board (driver and front passenger head and side, driver’s knee and front and rear curtain).
There are three child restraint top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
Although the 7.5 hasn’t been specifically tested by ANCAP, the Golf VII scored a maximum five-star rating when it was assessed at launch in early 2013.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 8/10
The recommended service interval is 12 months/15,000km, with indicative costs for the first five years/75,000km ranging from a low of $326, to a high of $740, for a total of $2324, and an average of $465 per service.
A polished and dynamically outstanding compact wagon, the VW Golf 110TSI Highline combines compelling value with impressively high-quality fit and finish. Before you opt for that compact SUV (like everyone else) you should give it the once-over.
Does the Golf wagon appeal to you as a compact SUV alternative? Tell us what you think in the comments below.