Best Used Wagon 2013: The Car Connection's Picks

May 9, 2013

Let’s face it; Americans are biased against wagons. Whether it’s due to the associations that the Baby Boomer generation has with bloated, motion-sickness-inducing land yachts with names like Country Squire or Vista Cruiser, or to the idea that wagons represent parenting in some quaint way that’s more reprehensible than utility vehicles, crossovers, or even minivans, wagons get a bum rap.

Yet those of us who sample nearly every vehicle on the market can’t help but love them. Simply put, because a well-designed sport wagon can pair the some of the best attributes of both worlds. When they’re really good, they combine rational, sensible utility-mindedness and versatility with the responsive driving manners of a sport sedan.

Besides, you can see it either way: Wagons, and their two-box design, are essentially lower, more rakish versions of crossovers; and likewise, crossovers are taller, often less fuel-efficient wagons that are also often less exciting to drive.

While the number of affordable wagons has remained very limited for new-car shoppers, there have been a plenty of good options with luxury nameplates. So if you crave a wagon on a more limited budget, going used is especially smart. We've taken some of the work out of your search, honing in on factors we know are important to any sensible shopper--putting some weight on safety and reliability, as well as on all the rest of our review criteria like performance and features. To place on our Best Used Wagon 2013 list, each model must score:

  • at least an 8.0 rating on The Car Connection's full reviews from three years ago--in this case, the 2011 model year
  • at least four circles on J.D. Power's predicted-dependability rankings, or at least average reliability on Consumer Reports
  • no reported score lower than four stars overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
For the purposes of this piece, we’re also limiting our definition of ‘wagon’ to include only vehicles that don't have a much higher seating position than an equivalent sedan, or those that are essentially the same or nearly the same as a sedan counterpart ahead of mid-cabin (B-pillar). That rules out a few of our favorites, like the Kia Soul, which are actually wagons but with their own, higher-and-unique roofline. We made an exception for the Ford Flex—one of our staff favorites, and a vehicle related to the Ford Taurus but essentially a boxy, high-shouldered wagon—though it failed on the reliability front.

We also excluded brands that are no longer sold in the U.S., or those that no longer exist (sorry, Saab fans).

Considering those requirements, we ended up with a lot of models that drive just like sport sedans yet can more easily haul 'stuff.' Here are the 2011-model-year used wagons that made the cut—along with their Bottom Line from our full reviews:

Acura TSX Wagon

The 2011 Acura TSX is the essence of what the brand should be: compact, light, efficient, and user-friendly—not to mention fully equipped. Read more »

BMW 3-Series

The 2011 BMW 3-Series continues the tradition of excellent handling, brisk performance, and high quality, though its relatively compact size does result in some compromises. Read more »

Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

Attention-getting style, solid driving dynamics, quality materials, and a very competitive price put the entire 2011 Cadillac CTS lineup on level-or-better footing with most of the competition. Read more »

Audi A4 Avant

With strong performance, good practicality, and respectable fuel economy, the attractively styled 2011 Audi A4 strikes a great balance for an everyday-driving sport sedan. Read more »

Audi A6 Avant

The 2011 Audi A6 is elegant and agile, although its cabin design is looking somewhat dated. Read more »

Subaru Outback

The 2011 Subaru Outback is the equivalent of a good cross-trainer—offering satisfying on-road performance, modest trail capability, and enviable interior versatility and space, all with just a taste of luxury, too. Read more »

2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon

2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan swings to the masculine side of the pendulum and sharpens its driving appeal in the process. Read more »

Volvo XC70

With the V70 deleted from the Swedish automaker's lineup, the Volvo XC70 crossover wagon is the flagship wagon of the Volvo line Read more »


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