Lots of Americans grew up riding in the back of their family’s Ford Country Squire or Chevrolet Nomad. While the fake wood paneling of classic station wagons has faded, today’s wagons are still great family cars, even if many families have abandoned the segment for crossovers, SUVs and minivans.
SUVs, vans and crossovers are good vehicles for families, but there are plenty of wagons out there that are just as good for families and offer lots of family-friendly features. These include high-tech entertainment systems, lots of interior space and better fuel economy than you’ll see with most vans and SUVs. An even bigger advantage for families is that wagons typically have lower starting prices than SUVs, minivans and crossovers. If you’re looking for a family car that’s practical and won’t break the bank, you should have a wagon or two on your shopping list.
Toyota Prius v
The Toyota Prius lineup started out with only one model, the first-generation Prius, but recently, it’s expanded to include models like the Prius v wagon, which has impressive fuel economy, a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and plenty of space for your family and their cargo. The Prius v starts at $26,650 and has a lot of cargo room for a hybrid. There’s 34.3 cubic feet available behind the second-row seats, and with the rear row folded forward, cargo room increases to 67.3 cubic feet. The Prius v does have less overall cargo space compared with the Toyota RAV4, which can hold up to 73.4 cubic feet when the rear row is folded, but the Prius v’s available room is still impressive. However, if you want good cargo space and EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 44/40 mpg city/highway, the Prius v is a good choice.
When it comes to features, the Prius v does a good job of holding its own. Its standard features include a touch-screen infotainment system, which has a backup camera, USB port and Bluetooth. An Entune app-based data service, which will provide the local weather forecast, look up movie showings for you and connect to Pandora Internet radio, as well as a navigation system, are optional. A standard center console, which has a removable tray and plugs for your MP3 player or iPod, will allow you to keep electronics out of sight when you leave the car.
With roomy seating for five, the Subaru Outback is a great option for families with older kids or kids who just like their space. The Outback’s EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings reach 24/30 mpg city/highway, which isn’t bad considering it has standard all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is also a great feature for families who live in snowy areas of the country or frequently travel off the beaten path. The Outback has up to 71.3 cubic feet of cargo space available when the rear seats are folded.
The Outback’s starting price of $23,495 is pretty good, too. The Outback was named a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS. The base Outback comes with a USB port and Bluetooth, and you can add features like navigation, a Harman Kardon audio system and a rearview camera. While these features may not be as kid-friendly as a rear-seat entertainment system, which is available on some crossovers and SUVs, they’ll make shuttling kids to and from sporting events and running errands a lot easier.
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
The Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen’s maximum 66.9 cubic feet of cargo space gives it more room for gear than many compact SUVs. It’s also an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Starting at about $20,600, the Jetta SportWagen gets decent mileage with its gasoline engines, but if you upgrade to the optional diesel engine, you can get up to 42 mpg on the highway. The base Jetta SportWagen TDI starts at almost $25,800 and comes with a touch-screen sound system, Bluetooth, USB port and satellite radio. Choose the SE trim of the gasoline Jetta SportWagen and you’ll get a touch screen to control the sound system, as well as iPod connectivity and faux-leather seats that clean up easily. A panoramic sunroof is optional on the SE model. Open the sunroof, direct the kids’ attention skyward, and you won’t hear complaints about the lack of a DVD player.
Acura TSX Sport Wagon
If you want something more upscale, the Acura TSX Sport Wagon pairs a high-end interior and an exciting driving experience with a price tag that’s roughly $31,900. Plus, you can get it loaded with high-tech features. Bluetooth and a stereo with a USB port are standard. Go for the optional technology package, and you’ll get a system that lets you control the stereo with voice commands, as well as a navigation system. Not only will the navigation system give you directions, but it will also provide traffic updates, real-time weather updates and Zagat restaurant reviews. A power liftgate also comes with this package, and may be worth it for parents who have their hands full.
The well-equipped TSX Sport Wagon also doesn’t skimp on cargo space, and offers 31.5 cubic feet behind its rear seats, and 66.2 cubic feet of cargo space overall. The TSX Sport Wagon gets up to 22/30 mpg, according to the EPA.
You may not have considered a wagon for your next family car, but with cargo space that can compete with small crossover SUVs, impressive safety scores and good fuel economy ratings, it’s likely that one of these wagons will suit your family’s needs.