Wagons firmly live in the middle of a Venn diagram between practical and comfortable.
Perhaps that's why more automakers are paying attention to the unusually small segment and offering high-zoot wagons that coddle buyers with luxurious amenities—at a significantly higher price.
One wagon manages to stay true to those roots by offering the same practicality and comfort, all at a reasonable price. The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is The Car Connection's Best Wagon to Buy 2018 because it stays true to its ideas for just over $22,000 to start. Adding all-wheel drive, which new for last year, bumps the price up to a not-unreasonable $24,650 and opting for the Alltrack brings more ground clearance and tougher looks.
MORE: Read all about our Best Car To Buy 2018 awards
But underneath it all, the Golf SportWagen is a wagon, which means that it's comfortable for four or five people, with an open hatch in the back for plenty of gear, and foldable seats for maximum capability when life happens.
All models use a frugal 1.8-liter turbo-4 that makes 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque, but more importantly keeps the wagon averaging combined mileage around 25 mpg. That's better than many crossovers that offer less interior room—at a higher price.
The Golf Alltrack features a Haldex all-wheel drive system that helps it scramble up unforgiving terrain and in bad weather conditions. It doesn't have the same capability or ground clearance as a Subaru Outback, but it's more fun to drive and has a better buttoned-down interior.
The Golf SportWagen shares much of the same smart exterior styling as the Golf range, at least from the front seats forward. The wagon's crisp look won't raise many pulses, but it also won't look bad in five years. Inside, Volkswagen's intuitive and simple infotainment system is standard, and thankfully so is its manual transmission on base Golf versions. Even base versions of the Alltrack get a 6-speed manual.
DON'T MISS: Read our 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack first drive review: playing catch-up
From the rear seats back, the Golf SportWagen offers flexibility that isn't offered in some sedans, or crossovers. With the rear seats up, the cargo area is a voluminous 30.4 cubic feet—more than many SUVs—and with the rear seats folded that space balloons to 66.5 cubes. A low loading floor and easy-opening hatch help busy parents with hands full of groceries or children, or make stuffing an ambitious furniture store run possible in just one load.
We think more crossover shoppers would be better served by wagons, and the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is a good first step.