Anyhow, the most improved aspect of the 2013 Golf Wagon over the 2003 Jetta Wagon is interior space. Headroom, legroom, and shoulder room are all noticeably improved, but the extra couple inches (2003 – 851 mm; 2013 – 902 mm) of rear legroom are really clutch, offering adult passengers precious space. Our rear-facing infant seat, which already limits front passenger space in the Golf Wagon, will probably force my wife right into the glove box in our Jetta.
The platform has grown, increasing in length, width and wheelbase, but chopping the height to give it a longer, lower, sleeker look. Curiously, despite almost 150 mm of growth in length, cargo space is actually smaller (shrinking from 963 L to 929), but is more useful—it is wide enough to fit our folding stroller across in the Golf Wagon, whereas the Jetta requires a diagonal loading that really eats into space functionality. Most of that space reduction is likely over the window line anyway, where the Golf Wagon’s raked rear hatch and sloping roof are decidedly less boxy.
And speaking of space functionality, the Golf Wagon has a lifting, folding cargo floor panel that can be secured in three positions to create a flexible cargo hold that better secures bags and packages and keeps things from rolling all over the wide, deep cargo bay. It is particularly appreciated in winter, when it can save you, your back, and your pants (from dirty bumpers) from having to reach all the way to the seatbacks to retrieve a melon or case of pop that slid out of your neat arrangement after a visit to the grocery store. Or you could just not drive like me.
2013 VW Golf Wagon TDI. Click image to enlarge
Finally, when comparing efficiency, it’s really apples to oranges, or perhaps oranges to clementines. While the 1.8T is the sporty engine, its small size and turbocharging also offered respectable efficiency, rated at approximately 10/7.5 L/100 km in city/highway driving, as per Chris Chase in our Used Vehicle Review of that Mk IV generation. While I don’t track my fuel consumption in the Jetta Wagon, I’d estimate it well over 10 L/100 km based on distance driven and weekly fuel costs. The TDI of its day rated as efficient as 5.5 L/100 km for city and under 5.0 L/100 km for highway, depending on trim.
Our Golf Wagon’s 7.0/4.9 city/highway rating are a reflection of stringent emissions regulations, but 7.0 is really about the worst you could do as I continue to average 6.9 L/100 km through our last tank of almost exclusive city driving and rush-hour commuting. Just out of curiosity, I also checked out the ratings of this generation’s nominal ‘sport’ model, the 2.5 Sportline; it manages, 9.9/6.6, but I doubt its real-world consumption would be any better than my 1.8T.
Looking at the bigger picture, it’s hard to see 10 years worth of progress in this update, although safety systems and crashworthiness that have steadily progressed are not readily apparent in the driving experience, but they are significant. Despite this Golf Wagon not being as premium a product relative to its competition as the Jetta was in its day, it is no less a practical, efficient, and engaging car for that. However, despite the improved ride and modern features, I find it hard to overlook the value of my $7K Jetta (okay, probably closer to $5K now) vs the $35K Golf Wagon Highline—do all the math you want, I haven’t had that many repairs.
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