Volkswagen’s Variant ticks all the boxes in terms of value for money, drivability, boot space and looks.

From the front, this new model looked identical to the smaller hatchback. But as I walked closer, it was easy to tell this was no ordinary Golf. The Variant — a fancy new name for a station wagon or estate car — shares the same nose and some body styling as its smaller sibling. It is longer and more spacious and has a different tailgate from the all-conquering hatchback, but at first glance, it is clear the Variant has a lot in common with the hatchback.

The Variant I test-drove was equipped with the sporty R-Line trim, which helps mask its longer length and gives it a sleek look for an estate. It also comes with chunky 18-inch wheels. Despite its pleasing looks, I wondered why VW wanted to launch a Golf estate when it already had the Passat Variant, one of the best estate cars around and winner of the European Car of the Year award in 2015. I was informed by Volkswagen’s marketing department that the Golf Variant is targeted at those new to estate cars.

With a slightly shorter body length than other estates, the Variant is ideal for those who have not driven such a model but want the space and practicality of a station wagon. The car measures 4,562mm long, 1,799mm wide and 1,481mm tall. While these sound like big numbers, in reality, the Variant is only 307mm longer than the hatchback. So, it’s ideal for station wagon newbies like me.

The fact that its interior is very similar to that of the seventh generation Golf helped ease me into station wagon territory. Features include a centrally mounted centre console with a modern “Discover Pro” infotainment system, an 8in display and the latest App-Connect smartphone connectivity features. The more prominent feature, of course, is the cavernous space behind. The boot measures an impressive 605 litres, beating the VW Sportsvan’s 500 litres and the hatchback’s 380 litres. And that’s before the rear seats are pushed down. The latter increases capacity to 1,620 litres, and opens up all sorts of possibilities.

When it came to the drive, I was pleasantly surprised. The Variant may be longer and 100kg heavier than the sportier hatchback, but the drive is not all that different. VW felt confident enough to place a modest 1.4- litre engine inside the Variant rather than a bigger power plant, and it seems to have paid off. It produces 125bhp and 200Nm, the same power as the hatchback, so you will not sacrifice very much by picking the Variant over the hatchback. While there are some handling differences, mainly when cornering, the Variant seems nimble and agile enough for driving around town.

None of this is by chance. VW knows not everyone loves station wagons, so it built a version that appeals to non-station wagon owners who may be toying with the idea of purchasing one but do not want to compromise on speed and power. I was definitely won over by its generous boot space, practicality and spritely ride. In fact, my test drive gave me the chance to drop off an old flat-screen TV for recycling. The TV easily slipped into the boot, and pushing down the seats was a piece of cake. The same would apply for a couple of children’s bicycles (maybe even an adult one), a push chair and some bulky, flatpacked IKEA furniture.

VW is synonymous with its four driving profiles of Eco, Sport, Normal and Individual; the Variant is no different. If you are a first-time station wagon buyer, the Variant would tick all the boxes in terms of value for money, drivability, boot space and looks. At $138,9 00, it offers a lot of bang for your buck.

GOLF VARIANT R-LINE
$138,900 including
COE Engine: 1,395cc, four-cylinder, 16-valve, turbocharged
Power/torque: 125bhp/200Nm
Fuel consumption: 5.2l/100km
0 to 100kph: 9.5 seconds
Top speed: 205kph

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast.

This article appeared in the Options of Issue 750 (Oct 17) of The Edge Singapore.