2011 Volkswagen Golf wagon
2011 Volkswagen Golf wagon. Click image to enlarge
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Volkswagen Golf TDI

Manufacturer’s web site
Volkswagen Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2011 Volkswagen Golf wagon

As the only diesel-powered compact wagon available in Canada, the VW Golf wagon TDI offers a rare combination of outstanding fuel economy, generous cargo capacity, and everyday driveability at a price starting under $30,000. The fact that this alternative fuel wagon was voted Best New Family Car in the 2010 AJAC Canadian Car of the Year Awards, and the VW Jetta TDI sedan was voted Best New Family Car in 2011, says a lot about how good today’s diesel engine technology has become.

It’s amazing, really, that Volkswagen is still the only automaker in Canada offering diesel engines in vehicles priced under $30,000. Sure, you can get a diesel engine in a $50,000 BMW 335d or a $70,000 Mercedes-Benz E-Class or a $50,000 Dodge pickup, but where are the affordable diesel cars? Now that we have ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel, and cleaner, quieter and more powerful diesel engines, past objections to diesel engines no longer apply. Even so, vehicle manufacturers are reluctant to offer diesels in Canada. The first generation Smart Fortwo model had a small diesel engine, but it was discontinued in the second generation car in favour of a small gas engine, primarily because Smart’s surveys showed that American buyers didn’t want diesels – so we didn’t get one either. Apparently, Canada is just too small a market to justify a Canada-only diesel car.

2011 Volkswagen Golf wagon
2011 Volkswagen Golf wagon
2011 Volkswagen Golf wagon
2011 Volkswagen Golf wagon. Click image to enlarge

However, Volkswagen should still get a lot of credit for continuing to offer affordable diesel cars in North America at all, since no one else will. The Golf hatchback, Golf wagon, Jetta sedan, and the upcoming 2012 Passat sedan all offer optional diesels. In the U.S., the Golf wagon is called the Jetta Sportwagen (with an ‘e’ like Volkswagen), but it’s basically the same car.

The subject of this road test is a 2011 Golf wagon TDI in the mid-range Comfortline trim level. Interestingly, while Golf Wagons with the standard 2.5-litre gasoline engine are offered in base Trendline ($22,975) and mid-level Comfortline ($24,075) trim, the Golf wagon TDI comes only in mid-level Comfortline ($26,875) and top-of-the-line Highline ($30,775) trim. Among other things, that means that you can get leather seats and optional navigation in the TDI Wagon (Highline) but not in the gas model (Comfortline).

Our 2011 Golf wagon Comfortline TDI test model has a base price of $26,875. It’s well equipped with such features as 16-inch all-season tires and alloy wheels, front fog lights, chrome trim around the windows and grille, remote central door locking, air conditioning, height-adjustable front seats with lumbar adjusters and seat heaters, CD player and eight speakers, leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and hand brake, split folding rear seatbacks with centre pass-through and cargo cover.

Our test car was equipped with all the options that could be added to the Comfortline trim level: a six-speed DSG automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual mode ($1,400), “Panoramic” power sunroof ($1,780); Multimedia Package that includes a “Premium 8” AM/FM radio with touch-screen, 6-disc CD changer, and Sirius Satellite radio; iPod connector, Bluetooth hands-free phone setup, multifunction steering wheel, trip computer, and digital compass ($1,300); and rear side airbags ($450), for a total of $4,930 in options.

With a $1,365 Freight and PDI charge and $100 air conditioning tax, the as-tested price came to $33,270 (not including taxes).

Since the main reason people buy the Golf wagon instead of the Golf hatchback is the extra cargo space, let’s start with the cargo area. As the Golf wagon is about 355 mm (14 in.) longer than a Golf hatchback, it adds a considerable amount of cargo space. With the rear seats up, the Golf wagon has more than twice the amount of luggage space: 930 litres (32.8 cu. ft.) vs 410 litres (14.6 cu. ft.). With both rear seatbacks folded down, the wagon offers 1,890 litres (67 cu. ft.) vs 1,300 litres (45.9 cu. ft.) in the Golf hatchback.

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