ARTICLE_DETAIL

12 Great Alternatives to a Station Wagon

By: Jeff Youngs, 10/31/2013

Smart marketers know how important it is to use the right terminology when selling to consumers. Naming conventions can make or break a product or service, and when American car buyers fled the station wagon market in the 1980s and 1990s, first to buy minivans and then in favor of SUVs, no car company, public relations person, or marketing guru would call any vehicle that offered added cargo carrying capacity a station wagon if they could help it.

This aversion persists today. For example, many crossover SUVs are really just station wagons with added ride height. Even genuine wagons that are based on a corresponding sedan model are called "sport wagons" or "crossovers" in order to make them more appealing to consumers. Other models unique unto themselves are called "multi-purpose vehicles" or "multi-activity vehicles" in order to avoid wagon branding.

If you're interested in buying a car that has greater utility than a sedan but you don't want to get a station wagon--or a hatchback, crossover SUV, or minivan--we have a list of 12 alternatives for you to consider, vehicles that don't fall cleanly into any specific category. Some are available with all-wheel drive, and all possess extra room for people and stuff in a unique package. They're listed below in alphabetical order.


2014 Buick Encore
Based on the same platform and powertrain as the Chevrolet Sonic, the Buick Encore is a small, upscale, 5-passenger vehicle billed as a crossover SUV. All-wheel drive is an option for the Encore, but this vehicle isn't designed for traveling anywhere off the pavement aside from a gravel driveway.

Key Specs:
  • 138-horsepower, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
  • 18.8 cu. ft. of cargo space behind rear seats
  • 48.4 cu. ft. of cargo space behind front seats
  • EPA-rated 26-28 mpg in combined driving
  • Base price: $25,085


2014 Fiat 500L
Don't confuse the Fiat 500L with a standard Fiat 500 model. Unlike the regular version, the 500L is able to comfortably seat 5 people and carry a great deal of cargo. The same turbocharged 4-cylinder engine from the 500 Abarth performance model is installed under the hood, and the 500L is offered in a variety of trim levels and color schemes.

Key Specs:
  • 160-horsepower, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
  • 21.3 cu. ft. of cargo space behind rear seats
  • 59.7 cu. ft. of cargo space behind front seats
  • EPA-rated 27-28 mpg in combined driving
  • Base price: $19,900


2013 Ford C-Max*
The Ford C-Max is based on a 5-passenger multi-purpose vehicle sold in Europe. Americans get the C-Max only with a gas-electric hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrain, the latter installed in the C-Max Energi model. Note, however, that the larger battery for the plug-in model chews into cargo space.

Key Specs:
  • 141-horsepower, gas-electric hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrain
  • 19.2-24.5 cu. ft. of cargo space behind rear seats
  • 42.8-52.6 cu. ft. of cargo space behind front seats
  • Hybrid: EPA-rated 43 mpg in combined driving
  • Energi: EPA-rated 100 MPGe in combined driving
  • Base price: $25,995


2014 Ford Flex
Built on the same platform and employing the same powertrains as the Ford Taurus, the Ford Flex is essentially a spiritual successor to the iconic Ford Country Squire station wagon of the 1960s and 1970s. All it lacks is fake wood paneling on the sides. Available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and a choice between a standard V-6 or optional turbocharged V-6 engine, the Flex even has a third-row seat for 7-passenger capacity.

Key Specs:
  • Standard: 287-horsepower, 6-cylinder engine
  • Optional: 365-horsepower, turbocharged 6-cylinder engine
  • 20 cu. ft. of cargo space behind third-row seats
  • 43.2 cu. ft. of cargo space behind second-row seats
  • 83.2 cu. ft. of cargo space behind front seats
  • Standard engine: EPA-rated 19-20 mpg in combined driving
  • Optional engine: EPA-rated 18 mpg in combined driving
  • Base price: $31,995


2014 Honda Crosstour
The Honda Crosstour is based on the previous-generation Honda Accord, equipped with different exterior styling, a fastback roofline, and a raised ride height. Buyers select between a 4-cylinder or a V-6 engine, front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and cloth vs. leather seats. Honda markets the Crosstour as a crossover SUV.

Key Specs:
  • Standard: 192-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine
  • Optional: 278-horsepower, 6-cylinder engine
  • 25.7 cu. ft. of cargo space behind rear seats
  • 51.3 cu. ft. of cargo space behind front seats
  • Standard engine: EPA-rated 25 mpg in combined driving
  • Optional engine: EPA-rated 22-23 mpg in combined driving
  • Base price: $28,210


2014 Infiniti QX50
Until this year, the Infiniti QX50 was called the EX37, but the name is the only major change for 2014. The QX50 is still derived from the popular G37 Sedan, using the same platform and powertrain wrapped in more utilitarian packaging. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive optional. Not surprisingly, Infiniti markets the QX50 as a luxury crossover SUV.

Key Specs:
  • 325-horsepower, 6-cylinder engine
  • 18.6 cu. ft. of cargo space behind rear seats
  • 47.4 cu. ft. of cargo space behind front seats
  • EPA-rated 20 mpg in combined driving
  • Base price: $35,395


2014 Kia Soul
Kia has completely redesigned the Soul, a segment-defying 5-passenger vehicle equipped with a low price, long warranty, lots of space, and plenty of personality. All Souls are front-wheel drive, powered by a choice between two engines paired with a manual or automatic transmission. Cargo space ranges depending on whether or not you're including the storage compartment under the trunk floor.

Key Specs:
  • Standard: 130-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine
  • Optional: 164-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine
  • 18.8-24.2 cu. ft. of cargo space behind rear seats
  • 49.5-61.3 cu. ft. of cargo space behind front seats
  • EPA-rated 26-27 mpg in combined driving
  • Base price: $15,495


2014 Mini Countryman
Always wanted a Mini Cooper, but decided they were simply too small? The Mini Countryman resolves that issue, though it is still on the compact side of the scale. With genuine room for 4 people, if not quite 5, the Countryman delivers cargo space that matches or bests the typical midsize sedan. Plus, thanks to a wide variety of colors, options, and powertrain selections, you can build one that is uniquely your own.

Key Specs:
  • Countryman: 121-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine
  • Countryman S: 181-horsepower, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
  • Countryman JCW: 208-horsepower, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
  • 16.5 cu. ft. of cargo space behind rear seats
  • 42.4 cu. ft. of cargo space behind front seats
  • Countryman: EPA-rated 27-31 mpg in combined driving
  • Countryman S: EPA-rated 26-29 mpg in combined driving
  • Countryman JCW: EPA-rated 26-27 mpg in combined driving
  • Base price: $22,895


2013 Nissan Cube*
Whether or not you like the styling, there's no denying the Nissan Cube is equipped with personality combined with practicality. Far roomier and comfortable than its exterior dimensions might suggest, the Cube seats 4 or 5 people while leaving a small trunk behind the unusual swing-out cargo door. Fold the seats down and you'll discover one reason why this funky machine got its name.

Key Specs:
  • 122-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine
  • 11.4 cu. ft. of cargo space behind rear seats
  • 58.1 cu. ft. of cargo space behind front seats
  • EPA-rated 27-28 mpg in combined driving
  • Base price: $17,570


2013 Nissan Juke*
Among the station wagon alternatives on this list, the Juke is the hardest to quantify, and not just because of its styling. Small inside and out, yet powerful thanks to standard turbocharging, the 4-passenger Juke defies convention. And that's just how Juke buyers like it.

Key Specs:
  • Standard: 188-horsepower, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
  • Nismo: 197-horsepower, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
  • 10.5 cu. ft. of cargo space behind rear seats
  • 35.9 cu. ft. of cargo space behind front seats
  • EPA-rated 27-29 mpg in combined driving
  • Base price: $19,800


2013 Scion xB*
Though the current Scion xB is nearing the end of its life cycle, there's plenty of reason to recommend one, including favorable dependability and crash-test ratings. Put people in the back seat, and the trunk measures on the small side of the scale. Fold the seats down, though, and the xB is capable of hauling more stuff than most compact crossover SUVs.

Key Specs:
  • 158-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine
  • 11.6 cu. ft. of cargo space behind rear seats
  • 69.9 cu. ft. of cargo space behind front seats
  • EPA-rated 24 mpg in combined driving
  • Base price: $17,725


2014 Toyota Venza
If Toyota built a Camry station wagon, it would be the Venza. The Venza is based on the previous-generation Camry platform, and is offered only as a 5-passenger vehicle equipped with a 4-cylinder or V-6 engine and front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Toyota calls the Venza a crossover SUV, one that fits between the RAV4 and Highlander in the automaker's lineup.

Key Specs:
  • Standard: 181-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine
  • Optional: 268-horsepower, 6-cylinder engine
  • 36.2 cu. ft. of cargo space behind rear seats
  • 70.2 cu. ft. of cargo space behind front seats
  • Standard engine: EPA-rated 22-23 mpg in combined driving
  • Optional engine: EPA-rated 21-22 mpg in combined driving
  • Base price: $28,810


* As this guide was written, the 2014 model had not yet gone on sale