Another non-issue is the DSG automatic transmission, which is swapping gears smoothly and is clearly tuned for efficiency. Starting from a standstill, forget lethargic, the car is damn-near catatonic—between the transmission, throttle response, and turbo lag it is one of the slowest responses I’ve experienced in any car of late. I understand that limited throttle response is wise because this 2.0L turbodiesel serves up 236 lb-ft of torque from 1,750–2,500 rpm, enough to chirp the tires if you lay into the go-pedal. However, a Sport mode is available for the transmission, but I didn’t detect much of a difference off the line—it simply holds gears longer for more aggressive acceleration, and downshifts earlier when slowing down.

2013 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI
2013 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI
2013 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI. Click image to enlarge

Driving like a sports car isn’t exactly its forte, but the Golf still boasts a nimble chassis and light steering that make it fun to drive, to a degree. The steering is light, but turn-in is sufficiently quick and naturally progressive and the car handles with reassuring crispness in daily driving.

Toss it into a corner with too much aggression, though, and it understeers like most any front-engine, front-wheel-drive family car. At the other end of the spectrum, it is a comfortable ride that manages bumps without excessive shock in the cabin, although it’s not a quiet affair as the suspension disperses the impact energy from rough roads.

Another source of disquiet is coming from the cabin, where there is a mystery squeak and rattle. It was diagnosed as an issue with the panoramic sunroof frame when we had it in for the swap to winter tires. As it stands the part is on order and we’ll let you know in the next update if that solves the problem, a minor irritant in the larger scheme of things.

So far the Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI has lived up to expectations, a compact wagon that delivers bigger practicality than its footprint, but the fuel consumption of a subcompact. However, this dual capability doesn’t come cheaply. At $35K as tested, its priced in the realm of mid-size sedans and compact crossovers as well as a variety of hybrids, and two of them in particular that offer similar practicality with even better efficiency, and for less money: the Toyota Prius V (4.3/4.8 city/highway) and new Ford C-Max (4.0/4.1).
Hmm, that gives me an idea. Stay tuned.

Pricing: 2013 Volkswagen Golf Wagon Highline TDI Clean Diesel
Base Price: $31,495
Options: $2,290 (DSG $1,400; RNS 315 Navigation System $890)
Freight & PDI: $1,395
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $35,280

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