Jonathan's newest arrival
Jonathan’s newest arrival. Click image to enlarge
Long-Term Arrival: Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI
Long-Term Wrap-Up: Toyota Prius C
Long-Term Wrap-Up: Mazda5 GS
Test Drive: 2012 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI

Manufacturer’s website
Volkswagen Canada

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Photo Gallery:
2013 Volkswagen Golf Wagon

Odometer: 4,284 km
Observed Fuel Consumption: 6.9 L/100 km
Costs: $493.42 (Gas $337.54; Winter tire installation $155.88)

It’s been too long without an update since the 2013 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI Clean Diesel arrived in our long-term fleet, but we had another arrival that took precedence. Those of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter will have seen that there was a new addition to the family Yarkony, and the trusty Golf TDI was there to shuttle him home safely and soundly.

Any parents out there can attest to the busy days immediately following a new baby, and this anticipated arrival was part of what motivated our request for the Wagon version of the Golf. I don’t doubt that we could have survived in the smaller cargo bay of a Golf hatchback (or even a Jetta or Passat sedan), the ability to simply toss in all manner of strollers, bags, and odd and ends in the wide, deep cargo area through the tall wide hatch opening is unbeatable without moving up to larger crossovers, or the ultimate in utility, minivans.

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

But I challenge you to name a crossover or minivan as efficient as the TDI Wagon, for which I am currently averaging 6.9 L/100 km, and that is with a majority of city driving and rush-hour commuting. The only one that I have driven in recent memory to even come close is the much larger seven-seat Toyota Highlander Hybrid, at a much steeper price. What’s even more impressive is that as hard as I drive it, it is still beating the Transport Canada estimate of 7.0 L/100 km for City driving for DSG models; highway rating is 4.9 L/100 km. Also impressive is its range, even during its ‘green’ break-in period, averaging about 700 km per 55 L tank, although I’ve rarely put more than 50 L in per fill-up because of the reserve.

Yeah, I’m absolutely loving the efficiency and the cargo space, but not everything is perfect in Wagon-land. Despite the long, sleek profile, backseat space is typical compact and virtually identical to the Golf, a rear-facing infant seat seriously cuts into front passenger space. If not for my wife’s height, the real estate given up would be unbearable, but even so it makes the passenger seat a crowded affair, and squeezing someone in the back between the infant seat and my daughter’s toddler seat is downright cruel.

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

Overall the interior is the high-quality version found in the Golf and Jetta GLI, as opposed to the low-rent plastics found in the Jetta and even the Passat. The stereo and auto climate controls are simple and easy to use, and the three-level heated seat buttons nested within the temperature knob have been seeing a lot of use lately with cold mornings rolling in.

The cold mornings have not phased the start-up of the diesel engine, and the car warms up as quickly as any car, although temperatures in Brampton aren’t really dropping too far below zero yet.

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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