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Is there an energy efficient station wagon?

I have three big dogs and a 6 yr old grandchild. The dogs travel with me most of the time, and occasionally all need to fit in the car. The only vehicle I have found that does this comfortably is a station wagon. I am ready to trade my 2002 MBz C320 wagon for a newer (but not new) wagon. Good–even great–mileage is a priority. Suggestions?

The VW Jetta (or the more upscale Audi A3) come in TDI form. They get over 40 mpg highway.

The Jetta may be a little small. Isn’t the Passat bigger but also available with the TDI?

Mazda 5? Kia Rondo? Scion xB? CRV? Rav4? Forester?

Imax, take a moment and checkout the Toyota Venza. You can go to Toyota.com. The Venza is pretty good size, but not huge so it get decent mpg. It comes in 4 cylinder and V6 and AWD is available, but FWD would work for me. They come pretty well equipped standard, but they can get optioned up with luxury stuff like leather seats, etc.

Check out a Malibu Maxx wagon. After owning a Benz, most of anything else will be a reduction of “cashet” but a Malibu Maxx has a class look to it. These are no longer available new but have excellent rear seat leg room, like a car from the 1940s. Three dogs in the back seat, your grandchild in front and your stuff way in the back. Fuel mileage is excellent. Our 05 Malibu with a V6 was good for 32 mpg according to the dash computer readout (about 31 mpg actual) but it was not the Maxx model. It had a power adjustable brake pedal and tilt/telescoping steering wheel. It was a great car but my wife wanted to move on to an 08. We had no problems or recalls in 35K miles.

Also check out a Chevrolet HHR.

Honda Element,which MADE as a dog/people wagon with seats for four. Our state police canine crew uses it. It’s ideal for your purpose and you could look for one used.

I should say: I looked at several SUV and minivan styles (looked at a Mazda 5 today, and have checked out many SUV’s)–the fatal flaw in SUV’s is they have far less floor space than a wagon; in minivans, the second row of seats are often buckets, and when the back and one rear seat are folded down, there are gaps between them that would be just the place for a doggie leg to get stuck, or any of the dozens of things I carry for dogs or kids to get lost. JUst looked at the Venza online. Toyota’s current problems aside, how much actual space is there behind the second row of seats? It looks like a mini SUV?

Because of the popularity of SUVs, most manufacturers have stopped making station wagons.
So, SUVs are now essentially the station wagons of this era.

In the SUV category, the one with the best fuel efficiency (aside from a hybrid) is the new 2010 Outback with the 4-cylinder engine and CVT transmission. Believe it or not, it is rated better for gas mileage with the CVT than the same vehicle with a 6-speed manual transmission, e.g.–22/city, 29 highway for the CVT. Many owners are reporting 30-31 mpg on long highway trips.

In terms of cargo capacity, the 2010 Outback has 71.3 cubic feet of space when the rear seat is lowered. Some SUVs have more space, but none of them (to my knowledge) have that much space coupled with such potentially good gas mileage.

VDC has it…station wagons today are "lowered SUVs, still with the high ceilings and vertical storage that made them popular, but with less intrusive drive trains to allow them to be lower, often at the sacrifice of space. Look at the new Outback; more SUV less wagon then before. There really low slung wagons of old are back breaking loaders and are now “sport wagons” or large hatchbacks, that don’t pretend to be as space efficient…You still need an Element, doggies will extricate themselves fine.

I love that I can have this question and get people’s actual experience–love the web! My soninlaw has an Element and loves it–great for family, snowboards, kids, bikes, but also has the problem of bucket rear seats, awkward rear doors, and not so comfortable for a gramma like me–I have to admit I like a bit of comfort! I am going to look again at the Outback and the VW’s–esp diesel Passat, if I can find one w/in 50 miles of Marin County. Keep your comments coming if you have them–I will look at all options. Will decide in next month or so–just got an estimate for $450 for door handle repair for the MBZ, and figure I will let the dealer who takes it in trade fix it.

Yes, it’s called a minivan or a 2 wheel drive crossover. If you want the best, a 4 cylinder minivan has the best overall features. If you really want a station wagon, the Ford Flex (with the smallest engine) has tons of space, looks like a wagon, and with the smallest engine, gives reasonably good fuel economy.

Keep in mind that the previous style wagons, such as the Buick Roadmaster, Chevy Impala/caprice, Ford Crown Victoria, were hard on gas. In other words a roomy, economical wagon for 3 big dogs and a child is a figment of the imagination; the only vehicle meeting such specs is a Japanese built Toyota minivan (Hiace) with a 4 cylinder diesel engine. You can’t buy one here but they are all over Asia, Africa and Europe. We had such a vehicle in Nigeria.

One you can actually buy here is the new Ford delivery van converted to a passenger carrier. I believe that it is also available with a diesel engine, and is a big square box on wheels. Ask your local Ford dealer.

My choice would still be the Ford Flex, since I don’t like minivans which are the most practical for your needs.

A Consumer Reports New Car Preview from the local bookstore will show you all the choices and provide comparisoons.

The Passat was last available with a diesel in 2005.

If you want to get ideas, check out this web site:

http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/byclass.htm

Select the station wagon class and see what’s available. You can also change years to see used cars. Once you narrow your selections down by mileage, you can check a few out.