The station wagon might seem like a product of a different era, but it still has a place on the American scene. A small but loyal contingent of buyers continues to favor wagons over newer inventions like the crossover. Although they might not be exciting to look at, wagons offer the same performance characteristics as sedans and a whole lot more room for cargo. That makes them, in a word, practical.
These wagons represent the best of the breed for 2017.
The compact VW Golf is no slouch when it comes to versatility, so we expect the wagon version to be especially accommodating—and it is. Passenger room is generous for this class, but of course the SportWagen's main draw is cargo space. You get 67 cubic feet of it with the rear seat folded. With its classy trim and soft-touch materials, the interior is surprisingly refined for this price class.
The 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes 170 horsepower and gets up to 29 mpg in combined city and highway driving. All-wheel drive is optional on the base wagon and standard on the new Alltrack model, which is designed for light off-roading. The SportWagen is nothing if not budget friendly. Prices start at just $22,400, destination included.
Based on the midsize Legacy sedan, the Outback offers all-wheel drive and 8.7 inches of ground clearance for moderate off-road capability. It's certainly one of the most adventure-ready wagons on the market.
The Outback can handle five passengers and up to 35.5 cubic feet of cargo. With the rear seat folded, you get 73.3 cubic feet of space, which is on par with some midsize crossovers.
The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder puts out 175 horsepower, and you can upgrade to a hearty 3.6-liter V6 with 256 horsepower. The CVT features paddles shifters for manual gear changes. The Outback can be equipped into luxury territory if your budget allows.
The wagon version of the hybrid that started it all, the Prius v (v stands for versatility) combines the proven Prius power plant with the cargo capacity of a compact crossover. That makes it one of the most efficient family vehicles you can buy at any price.
The Prius v is slightly taller and six inches longer than the hatchback model, which translates into increased rear legroom and 34 cubic feet of cargo space. The rear seat slides and reclines, a rare feature in a wagon. Fold it down and you're looking at 67 cubic feet of cargo space. The passenger seat also folds down to accommodate long items.
Power comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors that produce a total of 134 horsepower. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) sends power to the front wheels. Drivers can choose between three driving modes: Eco, Normal and Power. The Prius v achieves an outstanding 43 mpg in city driving and 39 mpg on the highway.
A step up from your typical wagon, the V60 is closely related to Volvo's S60 compact luxury sedan. You get the same performance, interior quality, and safety features as the S60, along with 28 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat. With it folded, the V60 can take on 43.8 cubic feet of cargo. That's nothing special for this class, but the V60 is more about performance and refinement than utility.
The standard 2-liter four-cylinder produces a healthy 240 horsepower, and yet delivers 29 mpg in combined driving. The available 302-horsepower version of the 2-liter takes the V60 from zero to 60 mph in about 5 seconds, outstanding performance for a wagon. An eight-speed automatic transmission is used on all models, and all-wheel drive is available. The V60 can be equipped with many of the high-end features found in Volvo's larger and more expensive crossovers.
MINI's largest model, the Clubman offers a legitimate backseat and plenty of cargo space while maintaining the footprint of a subcompact. Besides that, it's a real charmer. No other wagon looks and feels quite as spunky as the Clubman.
Like all MINIs, the Clubman is highly configurable. You have a choice of three engines, starting with a 134-horsepower three-cylinder turbo. The available 2-liter four-cylinder, also turbocharged, lays down 189 horsepower. MINI offers a 228-horsepower version of the 2-liter for rambunctious performance. All-wheel drive comes standard with the top engine and is available with the others. All models feature a Green driving mode for enhanced efficiency.
The Clubman is surprisingly spacious with the rear seats folded. You get 47.9 cubic feet of cargo space, a good deal more than you would guess from looking at the outside.