Golf 1, Golf 2, Which is for you?
Both cars had a 6-speed manual transmission. As much as I like shifting for myself it was a bit tedious in traffic, especially when I tried to follow the fuel economy upshift indicator. It seems that many makers report better economy with an automatic transmission but VW claims ever so slightly better economy with the manual, probably due to that indicator telling me when to upshift.
I don't need AWD so I'd opt for just the FWD Sportwagen if I was in the market.
For sheer utility I'd have to go with the Sportwagen. The Golf has 17.4 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seat and 53.7 with the rear seat folded down. The Sportwagen ups that to 30.4 behind the rear seat and 66.5 with the seats folded. You just can't beat a station wagon for space (unless you move up to a SUV).
Volkswagens are kind of no nonsense vehicles. In today's world these two are about as bare bones as you'd want. Power windows, A/C, that sort of thing but the only really nanny device is that upshift indicator.
One welcome feature I noticed on the Sportwagon was a system that holds the brakes on for just a tad once you take your foot off the brake pedal. No rolling backward when starting off uphill.
Volkswagen gets high marks in my book because the seats are easy to get in and out of; they are just about the right height. I don't understand why the seat back angle is adjusted electrically but not the fore/aft of the whole seat. It just seems to be the VW way. The front seats seem overly firm at first but they offer good support.
Pricewise the cars are competitive. A base Golf starts at $20,910 (I tested a base model), and a base Sportwagen at $21,685, with 4MOTION.the base and tested price is $23,935.