VW Golf Alltrack – A Last Hurrah for the People’s Station Wagon
If you’re lucky, you can still find one.
As I’m writing this, Volkswagen Canada is emptying its remaining inventory of 2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltracks in favor of Tiguans, Atlas’ and the upcoming ID.4 electric crossover. Meanwhile, the entire Golf family, except for the GTI and R variants, are leaving the country next year.
Volkswagen defends itself by saying that, while Canadian consumers loved the Golf, North Americans – i.e. the U.S. market – are demanding more crossovers and SUVs than ever. Ironically, even if the adorable Alltrack is just as versatile as a utility vehicle, its declining North American sales are sadly at the root of its demise.
Consider these facts though: when its rear seats are folded flat, the Golf Alltrack will engulf up to 1,883 liters of your gear, which is more than – ahem – Volkswagen’s own Tiguan (1,860 liters). This Golf eat a Mazda CX-5 for breakfast (1,687 liters).
The Golf Alltrack is the Golf’s ultimate form. While many claim that spot is reserved to the overachieving Golf R, I firmly believe that the Alltrack proved just how versatile the Golf MK7’s architecture was. As a matter of fact, it’s that same basic structure – the Volkswagen group’s MQB platform – that also underpins both the Tiguan and the Atlas.
Based on the all-wheel-drive Golf SportWagen variant, the Alltrack gets a slightly lifted suspension, some light underbody protection and plastic body cladding, à la Subaru Outback, to give it quasi-SUV road presence. Power comes from a turbocharged 1.8-liter four cylinder, an engine that once powered the three and five-door Golfs. It’s rated here at 168 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque and mated to either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission.
That’s how this car is spec’d, with the manual, making it a very rare pick; one that’ll surely appreciate in value and soon become the target of automotive enthusiasts. As a matter of fact, this Alltrack belongs to my photographer, Guillaume.
After shooting many boring crossovers with me, he asked what he could buy that would be as practical as a crossover, but also fun and engaging to drive. More importantly, he wanted a manual transmission.
His choices were thin, but my recommendation immediately defaulted to the Golf Alltrack, or even a SportWagen. However, Guillaume had to hurry, since they were dropping off dealer lots like flies. Luckily, his local VW shop had this Pure White example ready to ship.
The main reason automotive journalists prefer wagons over crossovers is that they tend to be a lot more engaging to drive, particularly because they’re essentially stretched cars. Granted, modern sport utility vehicles are pretty much all car-based now, but their center of gravity is typically higher than that of a station wagon, leading to clumsier handling.
This assumption couldn’t be clearer than when you drive an Alltrack immediately after a Tiguan or an Atlas. While, yes, VW’s SUVs ride on the same platform as the Golf, but they feel top-heavy, as if they’re standing on stilts. The Alltrack, on the other hand, still drives likes a Golf, meaning it’s spirited, nimble and rewarding to drive.
I’m also impressed by how rock-solid this six-year platform still feels. While the Golf’s cabin design is starting to show age, the car feels of good quality and impeccably well put together. The cabin is vault-like quiet and, at times, you’d swear you’re sitting inside a budget-minded Audi. Grip is above average, turn-in is quick, brakes are good, and the entire experience is pleasantly fun and appealing.
The turbocharged four-cylinder remains a punchy little unit, providing more than acceptable acceleration, sprinting from 0 to 100 km/h in about 6.7 seconds. What this engine lacks in outright power, it makes up for it with ample low to midrange torque, allowing this little wagon to eagerly get up and go.
The manual gearbox is a peach to operate, while the clutch pedal provides the right amount of resistance, making each shift feel like an occasion. However, I was somewhat disappointed with this car’s fuel economy numbers. Perhaps this has to do with the Alltrack’s added weight and raised suspension, but 11.2L/100 km is the kind of numbers you’ll get out of a V6-powered three-row SUV these days.
The Alltrack’s overall ergonomics remain class-leading, with convenient physical HVAC controls and a touch-operated infotainment system that reacts quickly to your commands. Menus and functionalities are easy to find in this system, and it’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible, but the interface itself is beginning to feel a little dated compared to what’s currently on sale.
Rear seat room is comparable to what you’ll get from subcompact crossover like a Mazda CX-30, for instance, but the Alltrack’s high roofline does provide above average head clearance. But the Alltrack’s rear bench proves how quickly the industry has evolved in terms of space efficiency. While fairly sized, the Alltrack’s cabin could prove a little cramped for four tall adults. One could also argue that with a starting price of $31,200, the Alltrack is a little pricey when compared to comparatively sized crossovers.
These are however very minor inconveniences for a car that downright does everything to near perfection. The Golf Alltrack, then, is a little more than a supersized Golf. It’s a statement as to how ridiculous the SUV craze is. It proves once more that the good-old fashion station wagon remains a fantastic way to transport a family and their gear in comfort and style. Sadly, it’s a truth many consumers haven’t yet understood.
As for getting your hands on a brand-new, manual-equipped Alltrack, hurry up and make phone calls. Technically, you can still build one on Volkswagen Canada’s website. If you’re lucky, you can still buy one. If not, your only option is the second-hand market. But one thing is for certain, the Golf Alltrack is a keeper, and definitely a future classic.
2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
BODY STYLE: Compact station wagon
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, six-speed automatic. Vehicle driven six-speed manual
ENGINE: 1.8-liter turbocharged I4 (168 hp @ 4,500 rpm / 199 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm)
FUEL ECONOMY: 9.3/12.7/10.6L/100 KM (City/Hwy/Combined)
CARGO CAPACITY 860 liters (1,883 liters total)
PRICE: $31,200 – $35,270 ($31,200 as tested)