We automotive media types talk a lot these days about the coming demise of the family sedan, a vehicle segment whose popularity is falling victim to the average car buyer's love of crossovers. But if you want to know the real victim of the crossover craze, it's the station wagon.
Volkswagen is one of the last automakers who still believes in this body style, which used to be all the rage with family-oriented drivers. And ironically enough, the Golf Sportwagen is the basis for what can fairly be called VW's entry-level crossover, the Alltrack, an AWD version of the Sportwagen with a lifted suspension and more rugged-looking styling.
The Sportwagen's most notable change for 2019 is its adoption of a 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which leaves last year's 1.8L turbo for the all-wheel drive Alltrack variant, covered in a separate buyer's guide entry. The Alltrack is also now the only way to get a Golf with AWD; last year's option of all-wheel traction in the regular wagon is gone.
An eight-speed automatic replaces last year's optional six-speed; a six-speed manual is still the base gearbox.
VW has also dropped last year's entry-level Trendline trim so that the Sportwagen is now offered in Comfortline and Highline variants. Both trims lose a few features you probably won't notice: there's no more auxiliary input (the one that looks like a headphone jack), there are two fewer speakers in the base sound system, the 12-volt power outlet in the centre console is gone and VW has pulled the TSI badge off the tailgate.
Meanwhile, the Highline gains automatic dual-zone climate control.
Borrowed from the all-new 2019 Jetta, the 1.4L engine makes 147 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. That's 23 hp less than last year, while the torque figure is about the same and is really what matters here, anyway. As with all of VW's turbo four-cylinders, this one feels stronger than it is owing to that torque peaking just off idle speed. If there's a downside, it's a lack of high-end power that you'll notice most in highway driving.
In our minds, VW faces no direct competition for this car, but the Sportwagen challenges compact crossovers in terms of interior space while its smaller body presents less square footage to the wind, aiding fuel economy, especially in highway driving.
As of press time, Volkswagen hadn't published its fuel consumption estimates for the Sportwagen, but we expect them to be only nominally higher than the new Jetta's 7.8/5.9 L/100 km (city/highway) estimates.