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THRIFTY FLAIR: VW packs all-new 2015 Sportwagen with quality, comfort

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Station wagons are an increasingly rare breed in America.

Sure, there’s the pseudo-sport-ute Subaru Outback, and Toyota’s big Venza. Both BMW and Audi, as well as Volvo, offer wagons, but at a premium price point.

Among American automakers, it seems crossover SUVs have pretty much crowded traditional wagons out of the picture.

Volkswagen, though, is keeping the faith with its wagoneers, releasing for 2015 the latest version of its long-running compact station wagon, now called the Golf SportWagen (in place of the previous Jetta moniker).

Based on Wolfsburg’s upgraded MQB underpinnings, which will underlay a number of upcoming VW models, the new Golfs are larger in most dimensions, providing greater interior room along with a smoother ride and improved handling.

And for those versed in the benefits of diesel – remarkable long-range fuel economy, plentiful torque for surprising power, long-term reliability – the SportWagen TDI makes a welcome return.

VW’s modern diesel dispenses with the bugaboos long attributed to the technology, mainly noise, smell and smoke. All are vanquished to the point that casual passengers, and even some drivers, might not realize they’re not in a gasoline-powered vehicle. Only at idle is the engine noise even noticeable, and then it’s minimal.

The SportWagen’s enlarged cabin is fitted with quality materials a definite step up from those typically found in this segment. Our base-model TDI S came with leatherette upholstery and plenty of soft-touch surfaces.

golfinteriorSteering wheel, shift knob and parking-brake handle are wrapped with real hide.

The handsome dash sports a clean, low-key design, with minimal buttons and simple controls for most functions and a touchscreen display for media and HVAC.

Seating is comfortable; even backseat passengers get decent legroom. The easily accessed, nicely finished cargo area is generous as well.

The little wagon rides and handles in the Teutonic idiom, that is, firm but compliant, with an entertaining dose of fun factor dialed in.

Flaunting its European flair, and bolstered by its long list of comfort, quality and performance attributes, the Golf SportWagen is a compelling proposition, particularly when factoring its palatable pricing.

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