So, you’ve decided to buy a medium SUV? Great choice! It’s sure to become a practical and useful addition to your family life.
But, what if I were to tell you a medium SUV isn’t what you need at all, in fact what you want is a station wagon. I know, station wagons are old fashioned - not to mention their lack of go anywhere ability.
Well, some wagons anyway, not this one though. The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack technically is an SUV, but more accurately it’s a Golf wagon equipped with raised suspension and all wheel drive, plus the styling cues you might traditionally associate with an SUV.
Sorry to make you choice a little harder, but spend some time with Volkswagen’s clever crossover and you might be swayed.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $40,990 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 135kW/380Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 7spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.4 l/100km | Tested: 7.3 l/100km
As part of the Golf 7.5 update Volkswagen has expanded its Golf Alltrack range to three models, starting with the petrol powered 132TSI from $34,490, or a premium version of the same for an extra $4000.
The 135TDI Premium tested here brings a diesel engine with greater power and torque outputs than those of the low-riding Golf hatch, along with all wheel drive plus the Premium treatment brings extra equipment to the interior for a plusher experience.
Now that sister-brand Skoda has discontinued the conceptually-similar Octavia Scout, Volkswagen is alone in dressing up a small wagon as a medium SUV although the idea is repeated in the large SUV segment with crossover wagons including the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack and Subaru Outback.
Medium SUVs are often heralded as the ideal transport for Aussie families, blending rough-road abilities with flexible interior accommodation, despite most being spun off small car platforms anyway. Could the Golf Alltrack - unabashedly a small car playing the role of an SUV - be a better vehicle?
- Standard Equipment: Leather seat trim, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, heated front sports seats, colour multi-function display in instrument cluster, LED headlights, carpet floor mats, rear ventilation outlets, cruise control with speed limiter, auto headlights and wipers, leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: Standard 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, AM/FM radio, CD player, SD card and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity, eight-speaker audio (optional infotainment upgrade fitted)
- Options Fitted: Driver Assistance + Infotainment package - lane departure warning with lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, premium Dynaudio speakers, 9.2-inch touchscreen, 12.3-inch TFT instrument display
- Cargo Volume: 605 litres to rear seats, 1620 litres to front seats
Let's start with the most important measure of an SUV’s ability: The boot. In the case of the Golf Alltrack the boot measures 605 litres.
Compare that to a Volkswagen Tiguan which provides between 520 to 615 litres depending on how the rear seats are placed and that’s not too bad at all.
Passenger space is also generous. The Golf 7.5 range is no different in dimensions compared to the previous Golf 7 but that car didn’t suffer any shortage of space, and even the rear seat is roomy enough for adults.
Standard Alltrack equipment includes dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control with speed limiter, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android auto.
Moving up to the Premium adds leather seat trim with heated front seats, satellite navigation, LED headlights, a colour trip computer display and carpet floor mats (and Premium is the only way you can get the diesel Alltrack).
Of course, Volkswagen’s reputation for classy interiors also stands up in this variant. Quality fit and finish, some of the nicest materials in the class, timeless (if a little conservative) design, and a general feeling of quality extend to almost every surface.
Older occupants will appreciate the raised hip point for ease of entry and egress, young families will appreciate not having to stoop as far to buckle up child seats, and everyone can appreciate the low boot floor and rear seat release levers.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, 135kW @4000rpm, 380Nm @1750-3250rpm
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: Raised MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
- Steering: Electro-mechanical power steering, 10.9m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 2000kg braked, 750kg unbraked, 80kg tow ball load
The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack 135TDI packs a decent punch under the bonnet with a 135kW and 380Nm 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine. Consider that a base-model Tiguan diesel scores only 110kW and 340Nm but costs $2000 more and the Golf looks all the more attractive.
In fact, to outgun the Alltrack you’d need to buy a Tiguan 140TDI (140kW and 400Nm) for $49,990 - though as a Highline model it does come with added features also.
The Golf Alltrack 135TDI is no rocket however, with a tepid response to being hurried from a standstill, but a far better rolling response when asked for a burst of speed due to an engine that can feel sleepy at low revs.
It’s much harder to fault Volkswagen’s slick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic which is as close to a traditional torque converter automatic in the way it behaves as you’ll find, transitioning between gears with barely a moment's interruption to power delivery.
The haldex all-wheel drive system (Volkswagen calls it 4Motion) also helps make the best use of available grip on loose or damp surfaces. No, it doesn’t transform the Golf Alltrack into a go-anywhere offroader, but is more than capable away from regular made roads.
The drive mode controls also include an off-road mode (along with the usual eco, normal, and sport modes) to optimise soft-roading adventures.
Of course it is more likely that the average Golf Alltrack will spend its time on sealed roads in and around suburban centres. Good thing it is just as at-home navigating school runs as it it finding camping grounds.
A quiet-running diesel engine, added ground clearance for dealing with spoon drains and speed bumps, and a decent blend of ride comfort and handling balance makes it easy to live with as a runabout.
Less ideal for urban life is the stop-start system that’s both rough and slow to restart the engine. The times it’s at its most useful, in grinding bumper to bumper traffic, happens to be when it grates the most where its annoyance far outweighs any potential benefits.
ANCAP Rating: 5/5 stars - the Volkswagen Golf scored 35.92 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2013, based on crash data from Euro NCAP. This rating applies to front wheel drive variants only, with the Alltrack is officially classified as “unrated”.
Safety Features: Seven airbags (dual front, front seat side, full-length curtain, driver’s knee), ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, and multi-collision brake (which prevents the car rolling into another vehicle after an accident), electronic stability and traction control, front force-limiting seatbelt pretensioners, rear view camera, driver fatigue detection, and Front Assist with city emergency brake (up to 30 km/h).
An optional Driver Assistance Package on all Alltrack variants adds blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane assist with lane departure warning, and proactive occupant protection as part of the Driver Assistance Package.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Volkswagen capped price servicing costs $304, $493, $537, $610, and $304 for the first five services respectively. Service intervals occur every 12 months or 15,000km (whichever occurs first), consult your dealer for full terms and conditions.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Similar in concept and price, though one size larger, the Subaru Outback is a tall wagon that plays the SUV part too. There’s petrol or diesel options, and for purists the possibility of a manual as well, plus plenty of interior space to keep all occupants happy.
It goes without saying that if you’re at a Volkswagen dealer you’ll probably check out a Tiguan while you’re there. It’s a good vehicle too - roomy, thoughtfully designed for families, but can be more expensive depending on your priorities.
Australia’s love affair with the Mazda CX-5 continues. The Mazda’s premium look and feel inside could be part of the reason, or it might be the on-road dynamics which make it one of the better drives in the SUV class.
Although it doesn’t get the SUV-inspired styling, the Peugeot 308 Touring is all the wagon you could need. A strong diesel engine and a plush yet stylishly minimalist interior are also sure to delight.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The SUV has universal appeal around the world. There’s not a car buying region on the planet that doesn’t love the idea of extra practicality and off-road ability. Wagons on the other hand are a Euro thing.
That’s a bit of a shame really. A wagon is every bit as roomy - and now with the advent of the two wheel drive SUV the go anywhere ability is no different either.
Volkswagen’s Golf Alltrack is the brand’s way of pushing back - of shining a light on the humble station wagon and declaring to the world that SUVs aren’t always the answer.
Sure, to get to that point the company has had to raid the dress-ups box for a more adventure-ready outfit, but with a torquey diesel engine, raised ground clearance, and all the interior space a young family could need the Golf Alltrack is the wagon SUV fans never knew they needed.
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