Volkswagen Golf Alltrack review: 2015 first drive

The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is a lot like a Golf… except it can go places you wouldn’t normally bother. Starting at a steep £26,790, that extra 20mm of ground clearance and four-wheel-drive system better be important to you.

Andrew Brady | April 2015

Ever wished your Volkswagen Golf estate had an extra 20mm of ground clearance, four-wheel drive, and a modicum of off-road ability? If so, you’re a rare breed, but Volkswagen has gone there with its latest niche.

The Golf Alltrack follows in the footsteps of the bigger Passat Alltrack. It’s aimed at lifestyle types. Those who want to hack the motorways day in, day out, but at the weekend head up a mountain or hit the beach.

At least that’s what the marketing types would have us believe. But there are clearly buyers out there for this new breed of crossover estates – Volkswagen is simply getting into a market already occupied by Vauxhall, Subaru, Seat and Skoda.

What’s the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack like to drive?

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The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is available in the UK with three power outputs – a 110hp 1.6-litre diesel and a 2.0-litre producing 150hp or 184hp.

We tried it in its most potent 184hp guise – the only engine available with a DSG automatic ’box. That’s the same combination as the Golf GTD – meaning you could argue this is the ultimate, do-everything Golf.

On paper, it’s even faster than the GTD. It’ll hit 62mph in 7.8 seconds (0.1 seconds quicker than its so-called ‘sporty’ diesel brethren), but that’s largely down to shorter gearing optimised for off-roading.

We put the Alltrack through a light off-road test in Spain and found it to be more than capable for the majority of buyers. Light axle-twisters encourage the Alltrack to cock a wheel, while the Haldex coupling acts as a centre diff-lock, combining with electronic diff-locks on each axle to transfer power to where it’s needed and help you maintain momentum.

Setting the driver profile to off-road mode, however, numbs the throttle response, making it hard to gauge just how much right foot you need to clear obstacles. It’s a minor complaint, but not an issue we noticed under similar conditions in the Seat Leon X-Perience.

The hill-descent system is particularly effective – allowing you to take your feet away from the pedals and let the car brake itself down hills at speeds close to standstill.

Another feature of its off-road profile is a modified ABS configuration, which allows the wheels to lock up to a degree and allow a wedge of gravel or mud to build in front of the front wheels to aid braking.

While we imagine the majority of Alltrack buyers will have a genuine reason to go off-road occasionally (farmers, or those living in rural areas, for instance), most will spend the majority of their time on the road.

On-road, it handles like a Golf estate, with little evidence that you’ve picked the off-road version. Sure, there might be a hint of body roll over the regular model, but it’s not as evident as a full-sized off-roader.

Sporty it is not, however. Despite what it says in the stats below, the short gearing means even the 184hp turbodiesel seems to soon run out of puff. We expect, thanks to the weight of the four-wheel drive system, lesser models might be a bit of a chore when it comes to overtaking.

One advantage of the extra ride height is the improved ride quality – it soaks up bumps remarkably well, and even gravel roads at speeds of 30-40mph are smoothened out nicely.

Should I buy a Volkswagen Golf Alltrack?

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The issue with the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is the competition it faces – particularly from within VW Group.

The Seat Leon Alltrack offers a very similar driving experience for less money (£24,385 versus £26,790) – as does the Skoda Octavia Scout (£25,530).

A lot of it comes down to image. Volkswagen is slightly more upmarket than its cheaper rivals, and that means it’s a little more discreet about its off-road ability.

That’s particularly true inside, where there’s little evidence that this is the Alltrack model rather than the regular GT it’s based on.

That’s not a criticism, as the interior feels upmarket, with comfortable seats finished in unique Alltrack cloth centres and Alcantara side bolsters.

But if you’re forking out this kind of money on a crossover estate car as a lifestyle statement, it might be a little too discreet for your tastes.

Practicality is good, though. Its boot is the same as the regular Golf estate – 605 litres. And it’s capable of lugging trailer loads of up to 2,000kg – perfect for caravanners who want to venture into the occasional muddy field.

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Verdict: Volkswagen Golf Alltrack (2015)

The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is exactly how you’d expect a four-wheel-drive, off-road Golf estate to be.

It’s capable, frugal and good to drive. We found the 184hp turbodiesel to be adequate, but little more, meaning the lesser-powered units may struggle to cope with the extra weight of the four-wheel-drive system.

If you can justify the very slight reduction in economy and performance, living with the Alltrack isn’t a big compromise. Certainly not compared to a full-size off-roader.

Rivals: Volkswagen Golf Alltrack (2015)

  • SEAT Leon X-Perience
  • Skoda Octavia Scout
  • Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer
  • Subaru Outback
  • Nissan Qashqai

The SEAT Leon X-Perience and Skoda Octavia Scout both share a platform with the Golf Alltrack, so are obviously very similar. Both are cheaper, however, yet seem to shout a bit more about their off-roadability. The Vauxhall Insignia is larger and more of a rival to the Passat Alltrack, but starts at nearly £2,000 less than the Golf. It’s a similar story for the £27,995 Subaru Outback, and while the Nissan Qashqai is more of a crossover it is available with four-wheel drive.

Specification: Volkswagen Golf Alltrack (2015)

Engine 1.6 – 2.0-litre turbodiesel
Gearbox Six-speed manual, six-speed DSG
Price from £26,790
Power 110 – 184hp
Torque 185 – 280lb/ft
0-62mph 7.8 – 12.1 seconds
Top speed 136mph
MPG 56.5 – 58.9mpg
CO2 124 – 132g/km