Best Family Station Wagons: A Buyer’s Guide

This is a guest post by The Car Family

Starting from its humble beginnings carrying passengers and their luggage from railroad depots, the “station wagon” emerged as an incredibly versatile and easy to live with family vehicle.

In recent years its status has diminished with the availability of cheap gas and drivers who chose to drive tipsy SUVs. Too bad. The station wagon offers much better fuel economy, is safer, is less costly to maintain and offers more usable family friendly cargo capacity.

Here is a review of all the station wagons we have tested and each one was a delight, unlike driving overweight, gas swilling SUVs that are so unsafe that the industry created a special safety category to evaluate them called rollover rate.

Important Note: The definition of what is a station wagon has been blurred by the introduction of hatchbacks, essentially a sedan with a fifth door instead of a trunk lid, and smaller mini-vans. We have included all of these under the station wagon heading because they are essentially oriented for carrying at least four people and a dog in comfort and with decent fuel mileage.

Best station wagons for the money:
Dodge Caliber
Kia Ronda
Subaru Impreza
Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix
Mazda 5

One to wait for:
Volkswagen Jetta

Best For Carrying Infants:
Volvo V70
Saab 9-5

Best Dog Wagons:
Kia Rondo
Saab 9-5

Best $15,000 or less:
Scion xB
Suzuki SX4

Best Under $20,000:
Subaru Impreza
Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix
Kia Rondo
Mazda 5

Best Under $30,000:
Saab 9-3 Sport Combi

Best Under $40,000:
Volvo V70
Subaru Outback

Best Over $40,000:
Mercedes E-Class
BMW 5 Series

Mom’s Favorite:
The BMW 5 Series rides wonderfully and has exceptional brakes. The cargo capacity could be improved, but you can’t ignore its handling. Second choice would be the Volkswagen Passat. It looks good, but what it is best at is doing its job without any troubles. In the past I would have chosen the Volvo V70, but I find the base model underpowered and the T5 very expensive.

Dad’s Favorite:
The Kia Rondo is exceptional. It gets good gas mileage, holds everything, and is priced in the middle teens. Second choice would be the Pontiac Vibe. It is just big enough and with its exceptional gas mileage and handling and reworked styling and good resale, this is a tough wagon to pass up.

Not Working Female MBA’s View:
The Mercedes wagon is so elegant and so cavernous it is my choice. The performance is exception and there is room for everything. Second choice would be the Saab 9-3. It gets wonderful fuel mileage and the seats and ride are both firm and comfortable. Plenty of power and room. Of course, the Audi A4 has the best interior and ride.

Working My Way Through College Male’s View:
The Subaru Legacy is what a station wagon should be. Handy, have good fuel mileage, and be able to go where the action is whether it is touting a bike, snow board, surfboard or four good friends. This wagon does it all. Second favorite, Mazda 3 or 5. Handle great, and need less filling and building open source computers and servers doesn’t make you rich.

Most Fuel-Efficient Station Wagons (mixed driving gas mileage figures):
Note that some models require premium fuel. We selected the highest rated model for this section. Usually the four cylinder powered models get in the mid 20 mpg average in daily driving, the six cylinder models around 21 mpg in mixed driving and the V8 models about 19 mpg. For high performance cars subtract between 10 and 30 percent.

  1. Mini Cooper 30 mpg
  2. Vibe/Matrix – 29 mpg
  3. Kia Rio5 – 29 mpg
  4. Scion xD – 29 mpg
  5. Chevrolet Aveo – 27 mpg
  6. Dodge Caliber – 26 mpg
  7. Mazda 3 – 25 mpg
  8. Volkswagen Passat – 24 mpg
  9. Volvo V50 – 23 mpg
  10. Audi 2.0 – 23 mpg
  11. Saab 9-3 – 23 mpg
  12. Suzuki SX4 – 23 mpg
  13. Kia Rondo – 22 mpg
  14. Subaru Impreza 2.5i – 22 mpg
  15. Suzuki Forenza – 22 mpg
  16. Volvo V50 T5 – 22 mpg
  17. Audi A6 – 22 mpg
  18. Jaguar X-Type – 20 mpg
  19. BMW 3 Series – 20 mpg
  20. Volvo V70 – 19 mpg
  21. Mercedes E-Class – 18 mpg
  22. BMW 5 Series – 18 mpg

Full reviews of all the station wagons mentioned can be found here.

For more reviews go to Car Family Car Reviews

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