Ode to the Station Wagon

Posted on October 12, 2011 by Allie

If you’ve been following The Greenists for awhile, you may remember that I was on a quest to replace The Crapmobile, my low-end compact SUV, with a vehicle that would be affordable, fit two large German Shepherds in the cargo area, get reasonably good gas milage, and be an all-round nice to drive, reliable way to get from point A to point B.  After months of research and test drives, I was starting to feel like I’d have an easier time finding a unicorn to ride to the grocery store.

Because I believed I’d need to replace my SUV with another SUV to get the kind of room I needed for the dogs, my car research turned up dead end after dead end.  I’d get excited about a certain SUV, only to see it in person and realize that despite it’s gargantuan size, there was barely any space behind the backseat for the dogs.  Plus, I didn’t want to drive something enormous, and I didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for a car, or for gas.

And then, it dawned on me.  Hey, remember those things people drove in the 80′s and early 90′s before SUVs?  You know, those cars with the big back ends?  Yeah, those things.  Station wagons!

You guys, we need to bring back the station wagon.  It is a brilliant, brilliant vehicle format.  My new car gets way better gas milage than The Crapmobile, is easy to park, fun to drive, has all sorts of great creature comforts, and plenty of room in the back for the dogs (more than my compact SUV had).

I can hook seatbelt harnesses to the car seat anchors in the trunk area, so I don’t even need a heavy, noisy dog grate anymore, and my dogs are safe and secure.  I gave up four wheel drive, but a lower profile, excellent IIHS crash ratings, plus traction and stability control, means that I feel much safer in my new two-wheel drive car than I ever did in my old four-wheel drive vehicle.  And, since the seats fold down, I have enough room to haul large purchases (we fit a tree in my car last month!).  The back seat area is perfectly roomy and comfortable, and the front seats are brilliant (and heated!).  And all of this for a starting price that is ten thousand dollars less than the “affordable range” SUVs I’d been researching!

I love my car.

Since I firmly believe that everyone buying a car should do their own researching and test driving, I won’t tell you which station wagon I ended up with, but I will give you a few models to consider:

Hyundai Elantra Touring

  • Starts at $15,995
  • MPG 23/30
  • Cargo volume (cu ft): 24.3 w/ seats up, 65.3 w/seats down
  • Fun options: iPod ready stereo, heated seats, power sunroof

Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen

  • Starts at $19,995
  • MPG 24/31 (TDI gets 30/42)*
  • Cargo volume (cu ft): 32.8 w/ seats up, 66.9 w/seats down
  • Fun options: Panoramic sunroof, heated seats, navigation, Bluetooth, MDI interface
  • Starts at $18,720
  • MPG 22/32 (FlexFuel option)
  • Cargo volume (cu ft): 57.7 (maximum, 24 seat configurations)
  • Fun options: OnSTAR, Bluetooth, rearview camera, USB port, sunroof
I’m hoping as people become more fuel & cost conscious there will be an even greater array of station wagons to choose from in the coming years.
*Research tip – Consider diesel prices and research TDI fuel-pump flaws when deciding on engine type.


  1. It’s always amazing to me how much better gas mileage is when you switch over the Diesel. Is the problem with the TDI fuel-pump related to the high sulfur diesel allowed in the US? The US has pretty lax environmental regulation compared to Europe, I wonder if that’s playing a role. Did you check what their support of Bio-diesel was like? Last I saw they were only support B20. I was hoping to see some B100 support from the Europeans.

    October 12th, 2011 at 9:58 am
    Comment by Jamison
  2. The Modern Hubby and I are going car shopping this weekend because we desperately need to replace his 15-year old Nissan that’s falling apart before our eyes. We’re going back and forth between a hybrid SUV (basically the Ford Escape) and a stationwagon, and the wagon is likely going to win because of the price difference. I’ve had my eye on the Jetta but wasn’t sure about the cost and other tradeoffs with diesel.

    October 12th, 2011 at 10:25 am
    Comment by The Modern Gal
  3. I bought my current station wagon (a 1998 Subaru Legacy) in 2004, when I needed a vehicle that would balance what was, at the time, a 90-miles-a-day round-trip commute with my husband’s and my need to carry quantities of stuff around when we camp (we’re re-enactors, so the tent is canvas, the firepit is a firepit, not a Coleman stove, the furniture is wooden and breaks down, etc.), and the dogs, and, we hoped, children (haven’t succeeded on that one). It had about 75,000 miles on it, and got decent mileage.

    I still have that beastie. It’s completely paid off, has a couple of rust spots and 183,000 miles on it, and I expect to get at least another 40,000 out of it. And it still gets an average of 22-25 mpg under my normal driving conditions, which are very mixed: stop-and-go around town and to work (now IN town), and highways and back roads to visit friends and family and for other travels.

    October 12th, 2011 at 3:50 pm
    Comment by Stefka
  4. My dad was a station wagon enthusiast, while we did not have a Vista Cruiser growing up, we did have a 65 Rambler Ambassador S/W (complete with make out seats ;p) and later when dad retired he bought my uncles 1979 Plymouth Volare S/W. Myself, if I had two large dogs, I would stick with a Pick up with a canopy- As it is I make do wiht my little pick up and sub compact- (Romeo doesn’t take much room)!

    October 12th, 2011 at 7:37 pm
    Comment by Rob
  5. A station wagon list should definitely include the Ford Focus wagon. Great gas mileage (~30 mpg), very reliable. And the price is right, too – there are some very well-priced used ones on the market.

    October 14th, 2011 at 10:49 am
    Comment by roc_phd
  6. Do they still make the Focus Wagon? I have heard good things about the Focus.

    October 14th, 2011 at 10:56 am
    Comment by Allie
  7. There is an issue with US gas, I believe. If you do a google search for TDI fuel-pump issues you’ll get a ton of articles about it.

    October 14th, 2011 at 10:57 am
    Comment by Allie
  8. [...] know Allie just mentioned her own search for the right kind of car that suited her needs, that car being a station wagon. The Modern Hubby and I are in the middle of [...]

    October 18th, 2011 at 7:01 am
    Pingback by Picking Your Preferences & Poison
  9. hmmm chevy HHR…im salivating :)

    October 24th, 2011 at 2:33 am
    Comment by Samuel
  10. I adore stationwagons! My Jetta sportwagon has every feature imaginable and I love it despite it not getting the MPG I had hoped. The back seat (bottoms) flip out so when you lower the seat back you have a perfectly flat surface for cargo. The hatch in the back makes loading and unloading a breeze. The sky roof is amazing! Despite its quirks, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t adore the car.

    October 27th, 2011 at 8:47 am
    Comment by Vanessa

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