COAL: 2018 VW Golf SportWagen – The Return of the Bunny

Those who have read my pieces are probably confused in regards to my latest daily driver, a 2018 Volkswagen  SportWagen Comfortline, with manual transmission. After all, I was always the one extolling the virtue of old Japanese cars as offering a good bang for the buck. Well, they do, but this time I did something different. Instead of figuring out the dollars per kilometre, I simply bought what I wanted.


I drove all the other models in the class, and the only one which really stood out was the Golf. To me, it epitomises the values for which VW is famous. Yesterday, I looked back at my COAL for my Rabbit Diesel, and it was amazing how much the qualities I liked about VW cars were around forty years ago. The driving position is great, the visibility excellent and the car is built like a tank. The steering and brakes are excellent and it is cheap to run. It is exceptionally well put together with materials that belay the cost of the car. VW values through the ages.

The Golf is based on the VW MQB architecture, which provides the platform for about five million cars a year. With this kind of volume, VW can bake in some real goodness. The car drives much better than it should at this price point. The body is very, very strong: there are zero rattles and squeaks. The large volume allows VW to spend on a nice interior. The dash is all soft touch plastics and the the steering wheel a fat leather device. The shifter indeed falls readily to hand and is the best I have ever used. I love the styling: German industrial art. It is all very classy, in my opinion, and I just love the signal repeaters!

The motor. Yes, the motor. Volkswagen has always had smooth, torquey motors, and the 1.8 TSi is simply the best four cylinder motor I have ever experienced. This is about the end of ICE technology: every trick in the book is present: turbocharging, variable valve timing and lift (on the exhaust side) intercooler, the works. All this tech makes for an terrific motor: the torque it produces is simply amazing. The peak of 184 lb/ft is at 1500 rpm and stays that way all the way to 4500 rpm. Shifting gears is optional.

The great benefit of all this tech is not only a smooth, flexible engine, but one that returns really good fuel economy. I was initially concerned since the Transport Canada city rating is 9.2L/100 km. The first tank was 8.4, the second and the third 7.0. Even with colder temperatures, it is not above 8.0 (30 mpg). This is quite a bit better than even my Kia Rio.

Niggles are few. The five speed transmission is a bit of a cheap-out. At 50 km/h, third gear is too low and fourth too high. The latch for the sun visor is stiff. Kudos are more: the car runs fine on regular fuel. The drive train is simply the best I have ever experienced. It makes fantastic torque, making the car seem much faster that I really is. The seats heat up really fast and the water cooled exhaust manifold means you have cabin heat in thee minutes or less. Again, just like my Rabbit Diesel.

The stiff body and suspension make for superb handing. The cars limits are indeed above mine. Being a car of German roots, it tracks down the highway at speed brilliantly. While one is doing this, the standard Android Auto and eight speaker audio make the trip very pleasant. It seems VW is doing some penance these days for all their naughtiness, and perhaps to increase market share: the Golf Comfortline, the lowest model, still includes rain sensing wipers, heated seats and wiper nozzles. There is a real spare tire. The car is full of cute little touches that show typically German attention to detail, like the back of the seat belt latches being cloth to prevent rattles.

Now, I am sure I am going to get all kinds of comments like, “Well, it’s a VW and it is gonna break.” Well, that is somewhat true, but the most recent reliability ratings show the Golf is mid pack, not that I really care. The car has a four year, 80,000 km warranty and I probably won’t have it longer than five years, when I relocate abroad to retire.

The Golf was a right brain decision. I simply liked it a lot better than anything else in its price class. It is an absolute joy to drive, is cheap to run and isn’t an SUV, all of which I detest.

Oh, and it’s Bagel approved.