SUVs vs. Wagons

Jamie Page Deaton
February 27, 2012
SUVs vs. Wagons

If you want the practicality of an SUV without the downsides, you’ve got a great alternative: the station wagon. Though wagons are no longer the stereotypical family car on American roads, today’s wagons are just as practical as the one you may have grown up with. In many cases, they’re more fun to drive and less expensive than SUVs.

Volkswagen Tiguan vs. Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen

The Volkswagen Tiguan is a great small SUV. Car reviewers love that it provides sportier performance than most of its competitors. But you can find a great alternative without even leaving the VW dealership. The Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen has more cargo space and a lower price tag than the Tiguan. The Jetta SportWagen has 32.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind its second row and 66.9 cubic feet of cargo space overall, while the Tiguan only has 23.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind its back seat and 56.1 cubic feet of total space.

Not only does the Jetta SportWagen get better gas mileage than the Tiguan, it’s available with a fuel-sipping TDI diesel engine as well. Ultimately, unless you need the Tiguan’s available all-wheel drive, the Jetta SportWagen trumps the Tiguan when it comes to practicality, price and performance.

BMW X3 vs. BMW 3-Series Wagon

This is an instance where a wagon isn’t necessarily better than a similar SUV. First, there’s little price difference between the BMW 3-Series wagon and BMW X3 SUV: only $400 separates the two, with the X3 being the more expensive option. Though the 3-Series wagon is a bit quicker than the X3, the X3 comes standard with all-wheel drive without making a huge sacrifice in fuel economy. Both vehicles get 21 mpg in combined driving, according to the EPA. The BMW 3-Series wagon also has slightly more total cargo space – 60.9 cubic feet compared with the X3’s 56.6 cubic feet – and it’s available with a manual transmission, while the X3 isn’t.

Both have the same 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, which makes the 3-Series wagon a bit faster because it weighs less than the X3. However, reviewers say that the X3 is fairly sporty for an SUV, so your choice between these two vehicles will likely come down to personal preference.

Subaru Tribeca vs. Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outback is one of the larger wagons you can buy, and its standard all-wheel drive leads many potential buyers to cross-shop it with SUVs. But when you put the Outback up against the Subaru Tribeca SUV, you can see how different the two vehicles are. The first difference is price. While the Outback has a base MSRP of about $23,300, the Tribeca starts at about $30,600. The Tribeca gets EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 16/21 mpg city/highway, while the Outback gets 18/25 mpg with the same engine or a higher 22/29 mpg with its base four-cylinder engine. The Tribeca does have a standard third-row seat, which the Outback lacks, but it’s uncomfortable for anyone but small children, so you may not use it much.

When it comes to cargo capacity, the Tribeca has a maximum 74.4 cubic feet of space, while the Outback has 71.3 cubic feet. That’s a pretty small difference, especially when you take into account how much money you could save on the sticker price and fuel costs by going with the Outback.

Cadillac SRX vs. Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

Both the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon and Cadillac SRX crossover offer luxurious interiors and rewarding drives. However, the SRX has a maximum of 61.1 cubic feet of cargo space while the CTS wagon only has 58 cubic feet. When it comes to fuel economy, the SRX gets an EPA-estimated 17/24 mpg city/highway, while the CTS gets a slightly higher 18/27 mpg rating. The SRX starts at about $35,500, and the CTS Sport Wagon starts at about $39,000.

When you come down to it, the SRX manages to run neck-and-neck with a comparable wagon. However, if you’re looking for the best combination of sports-car performance and an SUV’s utility, the Cadillac CTS-V wagon will have you covered. With a starting price of about $64,500, the CTS-V wagon’s price is in luxury sports car range, but its 556-horsepower supercharged V8 will make any grocery run or car pool trip fun.