Should you find yourself walking into a Volkswagen dealer with some questions about the automaker's Golf lineup, you'd better have some time on your hands. That's because the Golf lineup now includes everything from a pedestrian hatchback to a hot-rodded all-wheel-drive sports car to our Best Wagon to Buy 2017: The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen.
Better yet, the Golf SportWagen lineup now branches off in two directions, leaving buyers with a wide array of choices.
MORE: Read all about our Best Car To Buy 2017 awards
For 2017, the lineup makes two important changes: The Golf Alltrack arrives as a new crossover alternative, boasting a little more ground clearance, some butch styling cues, and standard all-wheel drive. And for enthusiasts, the standard Golf SportWagen S—the entry-level model—is now available with both all-wheel drive and a 6-speed stick shift together.
The Golf wagon lineup didn't necessarily need those two additions to be our Best Wagon to Buy this year, but they certainly help.
Listing for under $23,000 before any options are added, the base Golf SportWagen is an exceptionally good value. All model including the Alltrack utilize a 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4 that makes 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard with a choice of 5-speed manual and 6-speed automatic gearboxes, but all-wheel-drive versions (including the Alltrack) utilize a 6-speed manual as standard.
Sharing its interior with the rest of the Golf lineup, at least to the second row, the SportWagen and Alltrack benefit from a conservative look that's high on refinement. Front seats are covered in a choice of cloth or hard-wearing (if cold in winter and hot in summer) leatherette, and most materials are above average for the class. VW's CarNet infotainment system comes on all models and boasts easy Apple CarPlay integration.
Where the wagon line shines is in its cargo-hauling ability. With over 30 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, it offers plenty of space for four adults and their luggage. Fold those rear seats and there's 66.5 cubes of total space, and it's well-finished.
DON'T MISS: Read our full review of the 2017 Volkswagen Golf lineup
Unless you regularly find yourself on forest service roads with "high clearance vehicle recommended" warning signs, the SportWagen is probably the way to go. Base S models ride on 15-inch alloy wheels wrapped in tires with tall sidewalls, which gives them an especially plush ride. No model is genuinely sporty—that duty is handled by the smaller, hatchback-only GTI—but all SportWagens are polished and precise, bordering on entertaining. SE and SEL models pile on more goodies, like a panoramic moonroof, Fender audio, and upsized wheels.
The new Alltrack features a standard Haldex all-wheel-drive system that requires no driver intervention for slippery terrain. However, an off-road mode accessible by a few taps of a drive mode switch retunes the electronics to respond better over loose gravel and rocks. Sure, the Alltrack doesn't have as much ground clearance as a Subaru Outback, and it's a little more expensive despite being smaller, but the VW is more fun to drive and can be ordered with a stick shift.
VW's excellent suite of front crash-avoidance tech is available at a reasonable price on just about all trim levels. With it, the lineup receives the IIHS' vaunted Top Safety Pick+ award.
It may not get your pulse pounding, but the Golf wagon lineup defines pragmatism in ways we can all appreciate. It's an easy choice as The Car Connection's Best Wagon to Buy 2017.