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Volkswagen Golf Wagon 2022 review: 110 TSI Life

In a market where there aren't many small wagons left, the Golf Wagon Life is a welcome option. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

In a market where there aren't many small wagons left, the Golf Wagon Life is a welcome addition. It’s the mid-level entry to Volkswagen’s smallest wagon range and has the sporty vibes of its hatch sibling.

It offers a compact alternative to larger wagons like Skoda's Octavia and the Mazda6, while still capturing the practical essence of its larger competitors.

But does it offer more than just space? I had it for a week with my family of three to find out.

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What does it look like?

Featuring a longer wheelbase and sharper lines than its predecessor, the wagon’s looks won’t bore you. The slim LED lights, pointed nose and sharp bodyline that runs the length of the car all lead to it looking crisp and fresh.

Then you move inside and there’s an eclectic mix of high-tech and base model styling that threw me a bit.

The wagon’s looks won’t bore you. (image credit: Dean McCartney) The wagon’s looks won’t bore you. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

The cool looking digital dash and the piano black soft-touch pads (in place of ‘buttons’) are coupled with hard plastics and cloth seats.

I don’t dislike it, but even after a week, I was still trying to get used to it. It’s like the designers got really excited about incorporating the tech but kind of forgot about the rest of the inside! Or they had to build it to a price.

The dashboard really leans into a ‘young and hip’ vibe. (image credit: Dean McCartney) The dashboard really leans into a ‘young and hip’ vibe. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

The test car's colour, 'Pomello Yellow', is bright but will cost an extra $900. Unsure of it to begin with, the colour grew on me and it certainly made it hard to lose in a parking lot!

However, the rest of the range is fairly muted (lots of grey) and a cool car deserves cool colours. It seems that carmakers are opting for safe when it comes to colours, but Volkswagen may have missed an opportunity for some hip customisations here.

The test car was finished in 'Pomello Yellow', which costs an extra $900. (image credit: Dean McCartney) The test car was finished in 'Pomello Yellow', which costs an extra $900. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

How does it drive?

The Life has a 1.4-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with an eight-speed auto that makes it feel very smooth to drive. It feels like driving a much smaller car when zipping through city traffic. It’s a wagon in size but not in experience.

The fun ride does compromise on sound quality though and you do get a bit of road noise in this. Especially in wet weather or on gravelly roads where the sound echoes loudly underneath the car and driver's door. In average conditions, this won’t intrude too much but it’s something to consider if this will be the road tripper.

Parking is pretty darn easy with the reversing camera and front and rear sensors. The reversing camera is a little trippy and looks like a fish-eye lens but I felt very comfortable with where this car starts and ends and didn’t use the camera all that much.

The sensors and big wide windows are good assists. The Life is large enough to haul decent cargo but fairly easy to navigate around those tighter city car parks.

How spacious is it?

For a small wagon, it’s bigger inside than you expect, but the front passengers will benefit from that most. Both rows have good leg and head room, with my 186cm (6'1") father being able to sit in the back comfortably.

However, it is the back-seat passengers who will feel the narrower width of the car, especially, with a car seat installed. With a car seat, two adults might not be able to sit beside it. Even with just the middle arm rest down, it’s a snug fit. If you have three children in car seats, you would do well to make sure they will all fit.

The seats are comfortable and wide. (image credit: Dean McCartney) The seats are comfortable and wide. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

Beside the boot space, storage is fairly lean. Up front, the middle console is shallow but I like the height adjustability of the armrest. There are two cupholders (one retractable), as well as a bottle holder in each door.

In the back seat, you have that middle armrest which houses two cupholders. There’s also a bottle holder in each door and map pockets, as well as device holders on the back of the front seats (perfect for techie kids).

Both rows have good leg and head room. (image credit: Dean McCartney) Both rows have good leg and head room. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

The boot is a highlight and will endear this car to families. With all five seats up, you get a great 611L (VDA) of space. You can reposition the floor to make it slightly deeper, too, but I had a car seat and shopping in the boot with ample room.

The back seats can be laid flat with a manual lever on the side of the boot and that ramps up the space to 1642L. The seats have a 60/40 split-fold but also have a handy through-storage space which is accessed via the middle armrest.

  • Boot space is rated at 611 litres. (image credit: Dean McCartney) Boot space is rated at 611 litres. (image credit: Dean McCartney)
  • With the The back seats folded flat, cargo capacity grows to 1642L. (image credit: Dean McCartney) With the The back seats folded flat, cargo capacity grows to 1642L. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

So long as the load is secured, this is great if you’re hauling longer cargo (like skis or garden stakes).

How easy is it to use every day?

The Life is a very easy car to get along with and my family enjoyed the space it offers. The car is narrower than you’d expect when you first look at its length but that doesn't detract from the enjoyment.

We only have the one child, though, and larger families may not get the most out of the back seat.

The small gear shifter feels a bit odd, and it took me a while to get used to. But it's good that the parking brake button is located in the same place as the gearshift. Sometimes they are on the right-hand-side of the steering wheel, which can make it feel disjointed to use.

The seats are comfortable and wide and can be adjusted manually. They also both have adjustable lumbar support, which I needed.

The boot has a powered tailgate. (image credit: Dean McCartney) The boot has a powered tailgate. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

The cloth seats are fine but I prefer leather or vinyl because my five-year old seems to attract dirt. We had a strict no eating policy with this one!

Given his penchant for trucks, I was surprised that one of the highlights for my son was the low-lying height of the car. He found it much easier scrambling into the back seat than an SUV, while still enjoying an unobstructed view.

The boot has a powered tailgate, which I always like, and comes with a removable cargo blind and cargo partition net. The partition net makes it slightly harder to see out the rear window but it’s a good safety feature to protect passengers from cargo flying forward.

How safe is it?

The Golf has all the important safety tech, but also features a new driver assist system which is particularly interesting on longer trips where it monitors your driving and those around you to assist with lane departure, lane keeping and collision avoidance.

It has a smart steering wheel that monitors the driver's control and initiates an alert, via sound and a symbol on the dash, when it senses you’re not holding the wheel firmly.

The Golf has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating and was tested in 2019.

Tested in 2019, the Golf scored a five-star safety rating. (image credit: Dean McCartney) Tested in 2019, the Golf scored a five-star safety rating. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

There are an impressive eight airbags, including side airbags for the back seat but it is lacking a front centre airbag that’s starting to appear on newer models.

There are two ISOFIX mounts and three top tethers but without some Tetris abilities and skinny seats, you’re only going to fit two car seats at a time in this row.

Having said that, it's easy to fit a car seat and there's plenty of space for a rear-facing position without compromising front passenger comfort.

What’s the tech like?

The dashboard really leans into a ‘young and hip’ vibe with the pared back touchpad buttons and 10.0-inch touchscreen embedded into a sleek digital cockpit.

It looks cool but there are some drawbacks. The climate and volume control buttons are quite sensitive and not backlit, which makes it tricky to use at night. However, you can access the climate directly through the touchscreen if the buttons become too fiddly.

The touchscreen can sometimes lag, a seemingly common occurrence with this sort of tech, but the menu pages are easy enough to navigate.

The Life has wireless (and wired) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are always welcome and easy to connect to.

There's a 10.0-inch touchscreen embedded into a sleek digital cockpit. (image credit: Dean McCartney) There's a 10.0-inch touchscreen embedded into a sleek digital cockpit. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

You can apparently customise the ambient lighting 10 different ways but, even after a read through the manual, I still couldn’t work out how to do it.

I would have liked to have changed it up and make it feel like ‘my own’ but the white ambient lighting was still lovely at night and made the interior feel exciting.

The sound system is crisp and clear with the Harman Kardon sound system.

The Life also has park assist (the ‘parking itself’ feature) but I didn’t make use of it because the car is pretty forgiving to park.

How much does it cost to own?

With a price tag starting at $37,290, before on-road costs, this is a well-priced option that offers a good alternative to the popular SUV.

The Golf comes with five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is pretty standard these days. There’s capped priced servicing over five years, averaging at $429 per service (hovering around the middle marker for competitiveness).

Servicing intervals are 15,000km or every 12 months, whichever comes first.

The official combined cycle fuel consumption number is 5.9L/100km and I averaged 5.8L/100km on a mix of highways and city streets.

That’s impressive, and with rising fuel prices (and prices on parts), that’s a big selling point for me. Especially since this needs premium 95 petrol.


The Wrap

I have a soft spot for station wagons and think they’re a good alternative to SUVs. The Life has the fun I expect from a Golf hatch; it doesn't feel like a ‘soccer mum' car and still has the much-needed practicality of the boot space.

I would like a more cohesive interior and a couple more features for the price (leather seats, anyone?) but this suited my family just fine. I gave this car a solid four out of five. My son liked the colour but didn’t gush over this one, I guess, there weren’t enough buttons for him to touch. He gave it three and half.

Likes

Sharp exterior design
Fun to drive, with nimble engine
Boot space

Dislikes

Narrow back seat
Fish-eye reversing camera lens
Laggy touchscreen

Scores

Emily:

4

The Kids:

3.5

$37,290

Based on new car retail price

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