2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
Volkswagen has a host of big and even bigger crossovers hitting the market. But if you really don’t want to go “big”, and think that a compact all-wheel-driver would fill your needs; than may we suggest setting your sights on the Golf Alltrack. A 5-door wagon that is a true all-weather, all-road runabout.
The 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack follows a simple formula used by Subaru, Volvo, and even AMC’s Eagle if you want to go way back. Take a station wagon, jack up the suspension, make some form of 4x4 system standard, add a touch of exterior ruggedness, and voila; a fun little all-wheel-drive 5 -door that’s as easy to drive as it is capable. That’s the VW Golf Alltrack.
Like the Golf SportWagen that it’s based on, output from its 1.8-liter turbo I4 engine is modest, at 170-horsepower. But its 199 lb-ft. of torque helps it feel much peppier.
In the spirit of VW, a 6-speed manual transmission is standard; the option being a DSG automatic, also with 6-gears.
Things we’ve always praised about the Golf, including its super-solid feel, very little noise intrusion, and fun disposition, are all still here. Add in that you now sense you really can go just about anywhere in the Alltrack, and you’ve got a real winner.
We still think VW’s pop-out badge hatch release is brilliant, and were further impressed once we opened it up to find a very deep, unobstructed cargo space. There’s 30.4 cubic-ft. for filling up with stuff; 66.5 if you fold the seatbacks down. That’s just short of most compact crossovers; and much more than the typical subcompact utility.
As for the driver’s space, there are some special touches to help it feel a step above the SportWagen; including nicer materials and updated trim. It’s not SUV roomy, but there is adequate space to get comfortable up front, as well as more than expected room in back.
The touch screen interface doesn’t cut the edge as much as it once did, and the whole dash theme looks a bit outdated. For 2018, Alltracks gain an upgraded screen with more features.
VW still leaves plenty of manual controls however, and they all work very well.
More personality has been added outside. Now, we’d stop short of calling Alltrack truly rugged looking, but we very much like the brighter cladding over the usual black, as it helps it to look more outgoing, perhaps even classy; think remote country club, more so than back country. Ground clearance is up only 1.4-inches over the SportWagen, at 6.9.
And that does take away from the typical Golf handling experience somewhat. Body roll is not that much more pronounced, but we did experience a lightness to the rear that gave us pause at first. Until we realized that we were really flying through here.
So there’s no arguing, it remains highly capable; it just doesn’t have that nailed down feel we’re used to; perhaps we still had thoughts of GTI in our heads when we took to the slalom course.
While the engine is willing, there’s some hesitation at launch; as the car seems to be questioning your motives when you go full throttle. Once we got it rolling, we managed to hit 60 in a fine 7.4-seconds.
That same tardy feel exists in the transmission as well, really stretching out shifts. 15.8 was our best ¼-mile time, at 88 miles-per-hour.
We’d consider a 122-foot average stopping distance from 60 a touch long these days, but we did find the Alltrack to be very stable, and the brake pedal had a nice firm feel.
As for when the going gets rough, an off road setting has been added to the drive modes. It modulates traction-control and hill decent control to match rougher terrain. Together with the already capable 4Motion all-wheel drive system, you do feel kinda unstoppable.
On that note, active safety including automatic emergency braking is available.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an automatic Alltrack are 22-City, 32-Highway, and 26-Combined. For a slightly better than average Energy Impact Score of 12.7-barrels of annual oil consumption, and 5.7-tons of CO2 emitted.
With base pricing of $26,670, Alltrack is not overpriced by any means; but it is about $4,000 over a base Subaru Crosstrek, and about $2,000 over a 4Motion SportWagon.
We’ve been waiting for quite a while now, for a true Subaru-fighter to emerge; and while this 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack certainly qualifies, and there’s a lot to like about it; many will find it hard to justify the step-up in price. Still, no Subaru delivers driver satisfaction like a Volkswagen. So, just like the rest of the compact Golf lineup, VW has done almost everything just right, setting on the right track for Alltrack.
- Engine: 1.8 liter
- Horsepower: 170
- Torque: 199 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 7.4 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 15.8 seconds @ 88 mph
- EPA: 22 mpg city / 32 mpg highway
- Energy Impact: 12.7 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 5.7 tons/yr
Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better
When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.
The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.
Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.
A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.
That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.
The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.
At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.
While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.
Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!
- Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
- Horsepower: 227 | 250
- 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 6-speed auto
- Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
- EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined