Buried somewhere in your family photo album you might find a faded picture of your dad or grandpa standing proudly beside a wood-panelled station wagon. Back then there were no minivans, no compact SUVs, no crossovers. If you had a growing family, and needed more trunk space, a station wagon was one of the few available options. Fast forward a generation and families have many more choices. Still, for drivers who want practicality without bulk, a versatile wagon is popular pick. Our experts circled the available wagons and came up with their top five choices.
Japanese reliability, true off-road capability and a rock-bottom price make this rough-and-tumble version of Subaru’s Legacy sedan a winner in this category. “For any family that loves the great outdoors, the Outback is sporty and spacious both in the cabin and in the cargo area,” says Petrina Gentile. Available with either a four- or six-cylinder engine, the Outback is no threat to its German rivals from Audi and BMW on a racetrack, but Ron Corbett says it offers more space and manages to provide a more-than-acceptable ride and handling for a family wagon. Even better: The Outback earns top points for safety and maintains a strong resale value. It’s a smart buy, says Tim Dimopoulos, and a “very safe and reliable” choice over the long term.
BMW 328 xi Touring
The 328 xi Touring is more or less a straightforward wagon version of BMW’s popular 3-series sedan, says Corbett. Slightly smaller inside than the Subaru, the Touring can still accommodate four adults and their luggage in reasonable comfort. For buyers pondering a step up to BMW’s X1 compact SUV, Rod Cleaver says the Touring model “combines the all-wheel drive and cargo capacity of the X1 with better handling.” Keep in mind, this model is not powered by BMW’s much-lauded inline V6 engine, but rather a two-litre turbocharged four-cylinder.
Volvo V60 T5 AWD
The V60 wagon is both stylish and refined, while preserving Volvo’s reputation for enveloping passengers in a nearly impenetrable safety cocoon. “This wagon’s pricey, but you get it all: powerful engine, smooth-shifting transmission, sporty handling, gorgeous styling and a comfortable interior,” says Jil McIntosh. Volvo offers a bewildering array of powertrain options, but Corbett says the 2.5-litre, turbocharged five-cylinder is a good choice. It doesn’t offer as much trunk space as its competitors, but the V60 packs a lot of versatility in a chic and sporty package.
While the MKC shares its basic architecture with the Ford Escape, it plays the role of Lincoln’s luxury wagon. From its wing-shaped front grill to its Audi-style clamshell tailgate, Corbett says the MKC cuts an elegant figure on the road and its interior is suitably upscale. But our experts say the rear seats feel cramped and the touchscreen system and push-button transmission are awkward to work. The smaller turbocharged engine is meant to boost fuel economy, but McIntosh doesn’t think lead-footed drivers will notice much of a savings.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Wagon
Absent in Canada since 2006, Mercedes once again offers a wagon based on its C-Class sedan. Pricing for the wagon hasn’t been finalized, so we’ve listed the sedan prices, which debuted last year at just under $44,000. The addition of a hatchback should be the only major difference between it and the existing sedan. Based on this, Dimopoulos says buyers can expect one of the best cabins in its class, while the standard diesel engine and all-wheel drive system will ensure plenty of muscle and grip in all kinds of weather.