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Wagon that fits 2 adults & 3 kids, manual transmission, and FWD

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta


I'm looking for a wagon or large hatchback that has a manual transmission. I prefer FWD. I do not need AWD as I know how to drive in the snow. Conventional gas engine is okay, as is diesel. I'm looking to seat 3 kids in the back (1 car seat, 2 boosters). Front seats should be comfortable, as this will be the car for long road trips as well as commuting. I currently have a 2002 Saab 9-5 Aero wagon with a manual transmission, and there is NOTHING on the market that even comes close to this level of performance, cargo-capacity, seating, and fun factor (sigh). Our other car is a 2012 Mazda 5 - seats 6, manual transmission, actually fun to drive, but you give up cargo capacity with the 3rd row seating... and it's 100 hp less than the Saab wagon.


Priorities: Front seat support & comfort / Rear seat room & comfort / Price or payments / Handling / Cargo capacity

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Wagon

Car Needs: Daily commuter

Primary Driver(s): Tall driver

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 60000
Maximum age: 5 years

Maximum price: US $ 30000

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Response from mkaresh

11:16 am April 10, 2015

I wish such a vehicle had been offered here in recent years, but one hasn't.

The 2014+ 3-Series wagon might be large enough, but will be too expensive and is only offered here with AWD.

The 2010+ Subaru Outback should be large enough, but it is AWD, has a raised suspension, and a manual transmission has only been offered with the base engine.

The closest fit is likely the new Golf Sportwagen. Even the top-of-line diesel lists for just a little more than your limit. The gas engine performs fairly well, but a manual is only available with it in base trim.


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Volkswagen Golf / Rabbit / GTI

Response from mkaresh

11:21 am April 10, 2015

Just remembered another possibility. The Hyundai Elantra Touring, last offered as a 2012, has a lot of passenger and cargo room (it was marketed as a wagon in Europe), and handles fairly well, but probably doesn't have the acceleration you're seeking. One would be way under your price limit.


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Hyundai Elantra Touring

Response from mwcten

12:53 pm April 10, 2015

The new Volvo V60 is in the same niche as the Saabs, though a little over your budget. There are also BMW and Benz wagons. Reliability on all is, well, European, although the Volvos are probably the least of the three evils to maintain. Although if you realy like the older Saab wagons, they're still available used and if you look around I'm sure you can find one that was well taken care of.

I'm a fan of the Honda Fit. It has 20 cubic feet of storage space behind the 2nd row; so significantly more than behind the 3rd row of the Mazda 5, but probably not quite as much as a wagon. If that size works for you, you could get one new and it will be a few thousand dollars less per year to own and operate than a $30k european wagon. The Mazda3 hatch will be similar.

You may need to measure across your 3 seats and make sure you get a car with enough rear hip room to fit the seats.

And while you don't need the AWD, there are always the Subarus, where you can choose Impreza/Outback/Forrester based on how much size you need. Their MPG has improved over the years, so the AWD penalty, while still there, is mitigated.


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Volvo V60
Honda Fit
Subaru Impreza / Outback Sport

Response from mkaresh

1:22 pm April 10, 2015

I wanted to suggest the Volvo V60, but they don't offer it with a manual here.

When I had three kids in seats I learned that anything with more than 45 inches of rear hip can fit them, if you have the right combination of seat models. Few cars have less than this amount. The problem with the Mazda5 has been no center seat in the second row.


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Response from john_jans

9:28 am April 23, 2015

Thanks MKaresh & mwcten for the recommendations.

Good suggestions all. I actually located a 2011 BMW 328i wagon with a manual transmission in my area. Only 42K on the odometer and $21K... very tempting indeed! RWD is not a problem, especially in the heavier wagon. I've driven plenty of RWD vehicles in the snow.

I'm looking at the VW Jetta wagon and the Mazda3, and still scouring the classifieds for suitable used vehicles.

Another newer Saab wagon would be great, except GM changed the styling (interior & exterior) after 2005, and it swept a lot of great Saab ergonomics and functionality right into the dustbin, sadly.

In regards to the Mazda5 not having a 3-seat 2nd row, this is an option in Europe, but the middle seat seatbelt is not tied into the frame, so it won't pass US safety (if I have my facts straight).

Thanks again. JMJ


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Response from mkaresh

9:36 am April 27, 2015

Typo in my earlier response, now fixed. The 2014+ BMW has been offered here only with AWD. But some earlier years, including the 2011, were offered with RWD.


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