Big SUVs and pickup trucks make sense if you live in a rural area. In the city, a zippy little compact will 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 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 specific 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 fits where you live.
Without a doubt, compact wagons make the most sense in tight urban spaces. Their small size makes them more maneuverable and easy to park, but their smaller engines also use less gas when you’re stuck in traffic. Great small wagons include the Hyundai Elantra Touring, 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 being stuck in city traffic.
Wagons make a lot of sense in the suburbs. While SUV and van drivers will struggle to get in and out of tight parking lot spaces, wagon drivers can maneuver these small spots easier. 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 Jetta SportWagen with an efficient diesel engine that returns up to 42 mpg on the highway. The BMW 328i Sports Wagon is another great suburban ride. It has almost as much cargo space behind the rear seat as the BMW X3 crossover and gets better highway fuel economy. Plus, when those suburban roads open up, the 328i Sports Wagon is one of the most fun-to-drive wagons you can buy.
Rural drivers deal with issues that suburban and urban drivers often don’t encounter, such as wildlife. While you aren’t likely to see a moose or bear on the streets of Boston, for example, their populations are exploding in the rural areas of Massachusetts. Since wild animals don’t generally look both ways before crossing, it’s vital that rural drivers 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 rural drivers encounter is unpaved roads. While dirt roads present little problem in dry weather, a rainstorm can turn them into slippery ribbons of mud. All-wheel drive is a major advantage in situations like that. It’s optional on the Audi A4 Avant wagon and standard on the BMW 328xi Sports Wagon. 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. While you used to be able to get it on the Jetta SportWagen, Volkswagen now only offers all-wheel drive on its crossovers and SUVs. The Acura TSX Sport Wagon and Hyundai Elantra Touring also 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 the BMW 328xi Sports Wagon are good, the BMW’s lower ground clearance means it can’t handle deep snow like the Outback can. Another good snow option is the Volvo XC70. It has all-wheel drive as an option on the base trim and standard on the T6 trim. The XC70 also has lots of safety features, which will help you and your passengers stay safe even if it loses its footing.