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Wagon or small SUV

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta


We're looking to replace my wife's car, a '14 BMW 320i. She loved this car, great handling and driving response, very good fuel economy, and for her, great styling and comfort. I was happy to get her out of SUV's (last 3 previous vehicles) and get her into a sedan, but after seeing how she uses her car(s), I think a wagon would be a great choice for her.

Backstory, I owned an e39 540 wagon, great car, but for those who haven't lived with one, they are very expensive to maintain. I purchased a low mileage used car, and put a 100k miles on it, but, went through the standard list of V8/e39 replacement schedule, ie. bushings, air spring, rear hatch gas springs ($$$!), radiator, coolant tanks, AC clutch, etc., etc..

so I've looked around and the BMW wags, Audi etc, look great and drive well, but, not really interested in the long term headaches again. She likes the look of the Acura TSX wagon, but it looks pretty small to me.

Volvo V60 (new version)?
TSX wagon?
E9x BMW?

Would consider a smallish "SUV" like the X3.

Priorities: Handling / Reliability & durability / Fuel economy

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 50000
Maximum age: 5 years

Maximum price: US $ 24000

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Response from Dnslater

4:13 pm November 28, 2016

I'm a huge wagon fan and have researched this extensively with similar criteria to the above. I even created a spreadsheet comparing the various lightly used wagons on the market (Allroad, A4 Avant, V60, BMW E91, TSX, etc....). This was all to decide on a replacement for my VW diesel Sportwagen which is being bought back. A couple of interesting things arose:

1. The only Wagon (excluding the Outback) that has as much space as the VW Jetta Sport Wagen was the Acura TSX. It has a relatively large cargo area and back seat. The E91 BMW and Audi A4/Allroad have slightly less cargo with back seats down, slightly less back seat space, and far less cargo with seats up. The TSX is wonderfully reliable and well made. Only downside is that it is FWD only and the power is adequate, but not great. Engine should run forever though.

2. The Volvo V60, while great looking, is practically a hatchback as far as function goes. It has similar cargo space to a VW Golf/GTI and less back seat space. Partially due to the sweeping shape of the back window. Great looking car though.

3. The E91 BMW wagon is actually a very reliable car and shouldn't be bad to maintain if you have a good independant shop. This is the last of the great straight 6 naturally aspirated BMW's. As I recall the 2009-2012 versions have less problems than the pre 2009 versions. The engine in these has evolved slowly over decades and is pretty bulletproof now. I was leaning in this direction until......

4. I realized that the current generation VW GTI was quicker and more fun than all of the above options, while getting superior gas mileage. It also has a larger back seat than all of the above wagons which is important for my pre-teen kids. The cargo area almost matches the Volvo and E91 BMW with seats up and I have a Yakima Skybox that I can use when I need more space. Also, my wife has an Odyssey. :)

Be careful pushing the wife in a direction she doesn't 100% want to go. I've made that mistake. As much as I hate crossovers, she may strongly prefer one. The E83 BMW X3 is built on the E91 chassis and is basically a lifted wagon. Food for thought. You might also consider something new like the VW Alltrack.


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Acura TSX

Response from Miljack

5:02 pm November 28, 2016

Thanks for the response, funnily enough she is currently driving a TDI Sportswagen (DSG), and while she likes most of it, she has come to hate the DSG gearbox for the "jerkiness", too bad as I really enjoy this car. It too is going back to VW (whenever they decide it's time).
We have also driven quite a bit in an Outback, and we both dislike the CVT in this car, IMHO, it's just not very good...The chassis/car is ok, but, that driveline...

Hashing out in this format also brings another variable into this, and we are leaning towards used due to a soon to be new driver cutting his teeth on this vehicle very soon. Going the Japanese route avoids the long term headache if we decide to pass the car along later...

4. on the GTI, I have driven the latest, and it's a very fun car, I'll have to go check out the hatch, as I thought no way anything could fit back there!


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Response from avshelden

5:49 pm November 28, 2016

I'm and A4 Avant owner ('07) and have loved almost everything about it except the cost of maintenance. I wouldn't say I have had more than an average number of issues, but they were pricey to fix. I'd 2nd the TSX vote as nicer wagon and the new VW Alltrack (or the non AWD Golf/Jetta sport wagon), both mentioned above, although the Alltrack wouldn't fix your $24K max budget.

On the Volvo front, the older V50 was my 2nd choice to the A4 which could be a good alternative option to the newer V60 depending on how the cargo space is laid out given I recall it was more the Volvo traditional box shape.

I'm generally not an SUV/CUV fan, but when it's time to replace my Audi I'd likely look at the Mazda CX-3 (maybe CX-5) just based on general reviews of Mazda making vehicles that are more fun to drive (Zoom-Zoom).


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Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
Volvo V50
Mazda CX-3

Response from Dnslater

7:21 am November 29, 2016

Here is my Wagon comparison spreadsheet in google doc format.


Volvo doesn't publish the V60 cargo capacity with seats up, strangly. Some have said it is 21 CF and some say it is 28 CF.

Regarding the GTI, the back seat is similar to the Jetta Sportwagen. I'm 5'10" and can sit behind my seat ok. The DSG is better in this car - as I too was frustrated by the lag of the TDI on takeoff.


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Response from koksetna

8:51 pm December 2, 2016

I'm not sure,, but I think the new sportwagon has a 6 speed auto, not a DSG. The regular golf does not have a DSG, I just drove one.

With a younger driver coming on, that would change my calculus quite a bit - in favor of a moderately powered, safe car. I would not hand a GTI over to a young driver without some additional driver training. (Weekend schools like BMW offers).

I would think and off-lease 320i might meet your budget and give your wife what she likes.
CUV's are probably more likely to roll than a sedan, another point in a wagon/sedans favor for a younger driver.

Another option would be a 5 door Mazda 3 Hatchback or similar. You could go new in your price range.


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Volkswagen Golf SV Sportsvan
BMW 3-Series
Mazda Mazda3

Response from mkaresh

6:39 pm December 6, 2016

I don't think the TSX is as small as you think it is.

Among BMWs, if you want a car a little larger than the 3 wagon check out the 3 Gran Turismo. The hatch roofline compromises cargo space above the belt line, but whether this matters will depend on what you'll be carrying back there.


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BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo

Response from NormT

11:28 am July 17, 2017

With four years older than a 2010 TSX, is the 2006 Saab 9-5 SportCombi. The 2004-2006 are the ones to get with Arc or Aero offering 230 hp 260 lb-ft of torque. The forums are a chock full of diy maintence and they seem to run for ever with a little TLC.


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Saab 9-5
Saab 9-3
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