Some SUVs still have a thing or two to learn from the likes of this Volkswagen Golf Wagon, especially in this pragmatic Life specification.
- Good value for money compared to a mid-sized SUV
- Spacious proportions, especially in the second row and boot
- Well-sorted driving experience
- Expensive to service
- No backlighting on the volume and climate controls
- Lower roof can make buckling-in the little ones trickier
Some might say that the 2023 Volkswagen Golf Wagon is in a tricky situation. It’s not the typical Golf hatchback that many think of, nor is it an SUV (that we all seem to buy these days).
To make matters worse, this 2023 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life Wagon isn’t the scintillating R specification with over 200kW and drift mode.
Rather, we have a well-specified, humble wagon that takes care not to blow the budget. And I think it’s a terrific choice for those looking for a practical, enjoyable and well-put-together family car.
And while there is a less expensive Golf Wagon variant (that drops the ‘Life’ trim name), it’s in limited supply right now. That makes this Golf Life – at the time of writing at least – the cheapest Golf Wagon you can easily get your hands on.
How much does the Volkswagen Golf Wagon cost in Australia?
Where the base-specification Golf Wagon has a list price of $36,890 (plus on-road costs), our 110TSI Life goes up a few grand to $39,490 plus on-road costs instead.
Spending up to Life gets you 18-inch alloy wheels (up from 17s), a 10-inch infotainment display (up from 8.25 inches), an upgraded 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, keyless entry, a seven-speaker sound system, wireless phone charging, interior ambient lighting (with 10 colours to choose from), power-folding mirrors with puddle lamps, floor mats, a powered tailgate and a luggage partition net.
Life specification also gets bolstered safety credentials, with Emergency Assist (which will bring the vehicle to a stop if there are no driver inputs) and a Safe Exit Warning System.
This comes atop of standard systems like LED headlights and tail-lights, three-zone climate control, push-button start, cloth seats and automatic wipers.
So while it’s a few thousand dollars more expensive, this Golf Life specification makes a good case for itself.
|Key details||2023 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life Wagon|
|Price||$39,490 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Reflex Silver Metallic|
|Options||Metallic paint – $700|
|Price as tested||$40,190 plus on-road costs|
|Drive-away price||$44,375 (Sydney)|
|Rivals||Mazda 6 Wagon | Volkswagen Tiguan | Skoda Octavia|
How much space does the Volkswagen Golf Wagon have inside?
Choosing a Golf Wagon is a pragmatic choice. The thinking person’s choice, you could say. It a substantial 350mm longer overall, with a 30mm longer wheelbase to boot.
Speaking of the boot, the amount of storage space in the back grows from 374L to 611L. That’s a solid improvement, and dropping down the back seats yields a (small) van-like 1642L.
So if you’re planning on hauling a fair amount of gear around, or you at least want the option available to you, the packaging of this Golf Wagon speaks for itself. And costing only $2000 more than the equivalent Golf Life hatch, it doesn’t exactly break the bank either.
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The boot is finished off nicely with levers to drop the second-row seats, a powered tailgate and a height-adjustable floor. There is room for a full-size wheel in the high setting, but the included space-saving spare wheel allows it to drop down quite a bit (for extra storage space).
The interior of the Golf Wagon is a nice place to spend time, with a modern and clean interior design matching well with the available specification and technology.
Seating – while being a basic cloth unit with manual adjustment – is plenty comfortable for short runs and long hauls alike. Ergonomics feel bang-on overall, with good levels of adjustment available through the seat and steering column.
The dashboard – clearly designed with a pared-back view in mind – is mostly plastic. Although, it doesn’t feel cheap. Build quality is good, and there is a gentle mix of textures and colours here to help keep things interesting. Air vents combine with the big horizontal silver strip across the middle, and it is finished off nicely with some ambient lighting.
The textbook Volkswagen addition of flocking in the generously sized door bins also improves the experience.
Storage spaces are contained mostly within the centre console, with a smallish bin further back and another area (where the wireless charging pad lives) below the infotainment display. There are also a couple of USB-C power outlets here, as well as a slot that thoughtfully works well for the key fob.
There is a 12V power outlet further back, and the cupholders can flip out some additional adjustable control for today’s wide range of beverages.
Buttons for the air conditioning are a bit annoying, as some simple fan speed controls would be nice. Instead, you are forced to go further into the infotainment system for anything more than a temperature adjustment. Another foible here is that these controls, along with a touch-sensitive volume adjustment strip, aren’t illuminated and can be a tricky challenge to locate in the dark.
The second row of this wagon is a little bigger than a Golf hatchback, offering a slight bump in legroom. This is helpful as a family car, and those long-limbed kidults will fill in here happily enough, and they will also appreciate the inclusion of air vents, temperature controls and twin USB-C power outlets.
While I didn’t test it out this time, I reckon rearward-facing child seats would fit in the second row of this Golf. For a growing family, it’s just the right ticket.
|2023 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life Wagon|
|Boot volume||611L seats up|
1642L seats folded
Does the Volkswagen Golf Wagon have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?
The 10-inch infotainment display of this Golf – upgraded for the Life spec – is good. There is native navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which operate wirelessly as well as wired.
Although, I did note that wireless charging while using Android Auto on my phone – using Waze for navigation and streaming music – saw my phone get very hot in about one hour. Wired connections are better in this regard.
The digital instrument cluster in front of the driver is a nice addition, and something that has trickled down over the years from more expensive Volkswagens and Audis. There is some good functionality available, and it helps with increasing the overall presentation of the interior.
Is the Volkswagen Golf Wagon a safe car?
The Volkswagen Golf range – in both wagon and hatchback variants – enjoys a five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2019. The testing, which was undertaken by Euro ANCAP in Europe, yielded some good numbers to boot.
Adult occupant protection is a particular highlight at 95 per cent, while child occupants were slightly lower at 89 per cent. Vulnerable road users (pedestrians) get a 76 per cent safety rating, while the active safety assistance systems on the Golf get 80 per cent.
|2023 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life Wagon|
|ANCAP rating||Five stars (tested 2019)|
|Safety report||Link to ANCAP report|
There is a good range of active safety equipment included in this Golf, which scores a few small punches over the lesser-equipped model.
A front centre airbag – which is situated in between the forward occupants – is a recent new addition to the Golf, taking the total count of airbags to nine.
There’s also autonomous emergency braking (with intersection support), lane-keep assistance, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a ‘proactive passenger protection system’. There’s also Travel Assist, which is a kind of semi-autonomous driving technology that can keep the car centered in its lane when using adaptive cruise control.
Safe Exit Assist and Emergency Assist are two safety features that the Life picks up over the base-specification model, and going up into the R Wagon doesn’t add any more active safety technology. However, it does add in matrix LED headlights and a head-up display.
How much does the Volkswagen Golf Wagon cost to maintain?
Servicing this Golf does feel particularly expensive, especially considering it is a front-wheel-drive vehicle with a relatively small (1.4-litre) engine. There are plenty of other options out there (Toyota especially) that offer a cheaper capped-price servicing schedule.
Three years of servicing costs $1751, while going to five years (the time duration of the unlimited-kilometre warranty) will cost $3356.
Insuring a 2023 Volkswagen Golf Wagon 110TSI Life costs $1382.76 based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.
|At a glance||2023 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life Wagon|
|Warranty||Five years, unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$1751 (3 years)|
$3356 (5 years)
Is the Volkswagen Golf Wagon fuel-efficient?
Having only 1.4 litres of capacity is a good thing for fuel economy, with Volkswagen claiming a miserly 5.9 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle. We got close to this number while doing some longer highway driving stints in the Golf, but our number balanced out to 8.0L/100km when we did more urban-based driving.
Fuel consumption has gone up slightly in comparison to the previous-generation Golf, presumably in line with the added weight of the new generation along with the decision to move to a torque-converter automatic gearbox (in lieu of a more efficient dual-clutch transmission) in this generation model. However, the small loss of economy is certainly worth it for the driving experience.
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||5.9L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||8.0L/100km|
|Fuel type||95-octane premium unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||50L|
What is the Volkswagen Golf Wagon like to drive?
That 1.4 litres of engine might not sound like a lot, but this scaled-down turbocharged motor provides a good level of performance to match the application. Its 110kW isn’t a headline number, sure, but it’s the 250Nm of torque available between a wide band of revs that helps the Golf Wagon feel energetic and responsive for town driving.
Even on the highway, its performance seemed good and never lacking. Certainly not scintillating, but capable of overtaking and holding highway speeds up steep hills without feeling stressed.
It’s matched well by an eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox, which is a noticeable and significant step change over the previous-generation Golf. Where the old dual-clutch provided fast, crisp-feeling gearchanges on the move, it also suffered from a little jerkiness and throttle lag at low speeds (especially when parking on a hill, for example).
This eight-speed automatic gearbox is plenty sharp and responsive enough, but gives an additional layer of smooth operation at low speeds that the old dual-clutch transmission couldn’t match.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of the driving experience is the wonderful balance that is struck between ride comfort, control engagement and refinement. It’s not the quickest car by any means, but that balance means it is pleasurable and engaging to drive. There are good levels of handling and body control (to a point), and the levels of noise insulation and bump absorption are highly appreciated.
|Key details||2023 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life Wagon|
|Engine||1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power||110kW @ 5000rpm|
|Torque||250Nm @ 1500–4000rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Eight-speed torque converter automatic|
|Spare tyre type||Space-saver|
|Tow rating||1500kg braked|
Should I buy a Volkswagen Golf Wagon?
This Golf Wagon proved to be a terrific companion to everyday life during my week. I managed to rack up about 1500km in the vehicle during my time, and I must confess they were all enjoyable.
It’s not from a sense of performance or handling prowess, but just an inherent sense of balance and practicality that this Golf Wagon brings. Extra length (and a bump in the wheelbase) improves space and family suitability, and the combination of decent torque, a good gearbox and on-point chassis tuning means it’s a quiet pleasure to drive in your average daily conditions.
Shortcomings are few, and headlined by relatively expensive servicing procedures for the first five years. There are some foibles with the otherwise excellent interior, but this unassuming wagon is a compelling alternative to what so many consider to be the only family car format.