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Station wagon with manual transmission - daily driver

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta


Looking for a FWD, manual transmission wagon or crossover, under $24k. This is a very small pool of vehicles in the USA.

Settled on a Mazda CX-5 or VW Golf Sportwagen. Unfortunately, the Mazda, though roomy, has anemic performance (manual transmission models get a smaller engine - why???). Very strange feature set - electric parking brake... really?

The Golf Sportwagen is fun to drive, and the interior seems more durable. I can JUST get a car seat and booster in the rear seat - my kids are 8, 6, and 3, so this is critical. Performance of the TSI S model was lively. I drove the TDI as well right before the emmisions debacle. :( Both models were fun to drive and just roomy enough.

I'll be replacing my2002Saab 9-5 Aero wagon (255hp with 5-speed - big boots to fill), so driving performance is important to me.

Priorities: Cargo capacity / Reliability & durability / Powertrain performance

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Wagon

Car Needs: Daily commuter / Family transporter / Long trips

Primary Driver(s): Tall driver

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 40000
Maximum age: 3 years

Maximum price: US $ 21000

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Response from mkaresh

1:57 am December 25, 2015

I put three car seats in the back of a Mazda Protege5, and the Golf has a roomier rear seat than that Mazda did. It does help to pick relatively compact seats. Later I used Grace Turboboosters because they were relatively narrow.

The Golf SW is pretty much your only option, so luckily it's a very good one.

If you're open to AWD, the Subaru Forester might be a possibility. But the Golf handles much better.


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Volkswagen Golf / Rabbit / GTI

Response from jasonmreece

8:26 pm December 25, 2015

The Mazda3 5-door has very similar interior specs to the Golf Sportwagen and it actually has slightly more interior room overall. The i Grand Touring (2.0L) and s Grand Touring (2.5L) can be had for under $24k (MSRP is $26k+ on the s, but you can buy it for a hair under $24k). Both models are available with the 6-speed manual.


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Mazda Mazda3

Response from mkaresh

11:01 am December 28, 2015

I like the Mazda3, but since he specified a wagon I assumed he needs more cargo space than the Mazda offers. Mazdas also tend to feel less roomy in the back seat than their specs suggest they ought to.


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Response from john_jans

8:39 am January 8, 2016

Thanks for the feedback. My financial situation has changed, so I'm starting to look at used cars. New budget is about $15k. I'm looking at Volvo V50's, V60's, and Saab 9-3 wagons. Again, finding manual transmission models is the hard part.

I prefer the cargo space of a wagon because I'll be shuttling a medium sized dog around often.

Final point - just because an automatic transmission has a "manual shift" feature, this does not make it a manual!!! I don't know if it's the search engines or the seller inputing faulty data, but it makes searching a royal PITA. Venting over.



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Response from mkaresh

1:59 pm January 8, 2016

The V60 is likely too new to cost only $15k. 2015 was the first year.

If you meant V70, then 2007 was the last year those were offered with a manual, and reliability will be questionable. Especially for the 300-horsepower R (which would otherwise be very attractive).

2010 was the final year for a manual V50. Nothing special, iffy reliability, and limited cargo space.

An Audi A4 could be a possibility, but a $15k Audi is rarely an inexpensive-to-maintain Audi. Otherwise, it would cost more than $15k. Same for the BMW 3-Series wagon, though I'd have a little more faith in one than in the Audi.

A Saab 9-3 would at least be newer for a given price. It's likely the one you'll be happiest with.

2006 was the last model year for a manual-transmission Mazda6, and 2005 was the last for a manual transmission Legacy GT. So those are likely too old.

In 2009 the Jetta SportWagen was offered with the 2.0T. Reliability concerns with this one as well.

If you decided you didn't need much power, the Elantra Touring could be an option.

Overall, I'm thinking Saab unless you can find a killer deal on a 2015-2016 VW.


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Saab 9-3

Response from john_jans

3:42 pm March 31, 2016

I purchased a 2007 Saab 9-3 2.0T SportCombi in March, 2016. Car has only 53,000 miles and is a very rare 6-speed manual. This was the first year of the upgraded interior, and the last year of the more-traditional Saab exterior, so I hit the sweet spot in getting this low-miles wagon.

Not as roomy as my trusty 9-5 Aero, but 180,000 miles newer. Standard roof rails and upgraded sound system. It's a keeper.

I re-evaluated what I was willing to spend (under $15k), and what the maximum mileage would be (under 75k), so I got this one well within those new parameters. My 4th Saab with a manual transmission, and probably my last Saab daily driver.

Thanks for everyones' responses.


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Response from NormT

8:40 am July 27, 2017

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