Big SUVs and pickup trucks make sense if you live in a rural area. In the city, a zippy little compact should suit you just fine. And the suburbs just wouldn’t be the suburbs without a fleet of minivans navigating the streets. There’s one kind of car that generally works no matter where you live. Thanks to their relatively small size and cavernous cargo areas, wagons are great vehicles for most environments. There are some wagons, however, that are better suited to different kinds of regions, including urban, suburban and rural areas. The weather where you live should also factor into your wagon choice. Before you pick up the keys to your new wagon, make sure it suits your neck of the woods.
While SUVs and vans struggle to get in and out of tight parking spaces, compact wagons make a lot more sense in tight urban spaces. Their small size makes them maneuverable and easy to park, and their smaller engines use less gas compared with crossovers and SUVs with more powerful, larger engines. Great urban wagons include the Audi Allroad, which is small enough to slip through city traffic, but roomy enough to be comfortable on a weekend jaunt to the country.
The Toyota Prius v is another good option for urban wagon shoppers. While the Prius v is larger than the regular Prius, it has the same gas-electric powertrain and gets an EPA-estimated 44 mpg in the city. A nice touch is that the rear seats in the Prius v recline and slide back and forth, making the back seat more comfortable for passengers. And since the Prius v’s engine will shut off when the car is stopped, you won’t waste gas while you’re stuck in city traffic. The Ford C-Max is another hybrid you should consider. It gets 47 mpg in the city and critics say it has good acceleration and little body roll.
Great suburban wagons include the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen, which has more cargo space, a lower starting price and better fuel economy than the Volkswagen Tiguan crossover. Plus, you can get the VW Jetta SportWagen with an efficient diesel engine that returns up to 42 mpg on the highway. The Cadillac CTS Sports Wagon is another great suburban ride. It has nearly as much overall cargo space as the Cadillac SRX crossover and gets better highway fuel economy. Plus, when those suburban roads open up, the Cadillac CTS-V Wagon, which has a V8 engine, is one of the most fun-to-drive wagons you can buy. Its fuel economy however, is significantly lower than the SRX’s.
Drivers who live in rural areas deal with issues that suburban and urban drivers often don’t encounter, such as wildlife. While you aren’t likely to see a deer on the streets of Boston, for example, their populations are exploding in rural areas. Since wild animals don’t generally look both ways before crossing, it’s vital that drivers in rural areas are able to see wildlife in the road, especially at dawn and dusk when they’re most active. The Acura TSX Sport Wagon has standard high intensity discharge headlights that shine a bright and wide path ahead of the car, allowing the driver to see what’s coming.
Another issue drivers who live in rural areas encounter is unpaved roads. While dirt roads present few problems in dry weather, a rainstorm can turn them into slippery paths of mud. All-wheel drive is a major advantage in situations like that. It’s optional on the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon and is standard on the Subaru Outback. All-wheel drive is a good feature to consider if you plan on taking your new wagon on outdoor adventures like camping, canoeing and skiing, where you may drive off the beaten path.
Wagons for Snowy Areas
Not all wagons offer all-wheel drive, so if you live somewhere that gets a lot of snow or rain, take a careful look at your wagon’s options list because the feature may not be available. The Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen, Prius v and Ford C-Max don’t offer all-wheel drive.
Reviewers say one of the best all-wheel drive systems you can get is on the Subaru Outback. The Outback handles the heaviest snowfalls with few difficulties, thanks to its high ground clearance. All-wheel drive is standard on the Outback, so you don’t have to worry about an added cost. While the all-wheel drive system on wagons such as CTS Sport Wagon are good, the Cadillac is performance-oriented and rides lower to the ground, which means it can’t handle deep snow like the Outback can. Another good snow option is the Audi Allroad, which has all-wheel drive as standard equipment.