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Thursday Throwdown: 2014 Station Wagons

In today’s Thursday Throwdown, we are looking at station wagons. The field of wagons has seen a lot of change since they dominated driveways in the 1970s. Today, wagons are on a comeback as more offerings begin to enter the field, often blurring the line between a station wagon and a crossover. Leading that charge are our top picks below, which include some low-priced options, mid-level picks and premium-level offerings.

Our top picks are chosen for their cost-effectiveness, efficiency and safety. These 2014 models are beginning to appear as used car and dealer demonstration vehicles now, so be sure to check the CARFAX report for one you might purchase used and our Used Car Listings to find one for yourself.

Side-by-Side Comparison Chart of Top Picks

2014 Station Wagons New $ MPG Safety (of 10)
Audi Allroad $40,700 20/27 6
Ford C-Max $24,170 42/37 9
Honda Crosstour $27,380 20/30 7
Subaru Outback $23,495 24/30 10
Toyota Prius V $26,750 44/40 8
Volvo XC70 $34,500 18/26 7

2014 Top Station Wagons Picks

Lowest Entry Price: Subaru Outback, Ford C-Max Hybrid
Best Value: Subaru Outback, Toyota Prius V
Best Fuel Economy: Ford C-Max Hybrid, Toyota Prius V
Quietest Ride: Audi Allroad
Most Refined Overall: Audi Allroad
Most Refined Interior: Volvo XC60
Most Fun To Drive: Audi Allroad

2014 Audi Allroad

The Audi Allroad won our picks for three categories and is also the most expensive wagon on our list. The Allroad is one of two premium vehicles we’ve included, and it features a beautiful interior, strong driving dynamics and a lot of refinement overall. For the driver, excellent on-road presence starts with the light, but balanced steering and the Allroad’s overall poise in corners and acceleration. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine has great output and decent fuel economy. The smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic tops it all off.

For everyday use, the Allroad offers the expected conveniences of a station wagon. Although cargo space is somewhat limited in comparison to others, this is a small tradeoff for the otherwise great ergonomics in this wagon. Standard features are excellent and include a panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control, infotainment and more. Optional upgrades include safety systems like blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control as well as upgraded audio and navigation.

[Read: Best Used Car Deals for April 2015]

2014 Audi Allroad
Base price new: $40,700
EPA mpg (city/highway): 20/27
Crash Test Ratings: IIHS – N/A, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid / Energi

The Ford C-Max Hybrid and its plug-in brother the C-Max Energi focus on having excellent passenger room and great fuel economy. The Hybrid is the better value proposition of the two for most buyers, but the Energi model, with its heftier price tag, can be a great choice for urban and suburban commuters who are looking to maximize fuel savings. Compared to competitors like the Toyota Prius V (below), the C-Max also offers great driving dynamics as part of the package.

The front and back seats in the C-Max Hybrid are very large for the car’s size, offering plenty of room for up to five adults. Cargo space suffers with the C-Max Hybrid and Energi having the smallest cargo areas in our lineup here. Standard features are plentiful, however, including dual-zone climate control, a great audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, Ford’s voice-command system (SYNC) and a 110-volt power outlet. Options upgrade from there to include active park assist, which helps parallel park the car.

[Watch: Top Five Reasons to Buy Certified Pre-Owned Cars]

2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid / Energi
Base price new: $24,170
EPA mpg (city/highway): 42/37
Crash Test Ratings: IIHS – TSP, NHTSA – 4/4/5/4

2014 Honda Crosstour

The Honda Crosstour offers a good mix of fuel economy, family ergonomics and driving fun. The Crosstour is fuel-efficient in both its four- and six-cylinder options, though the V6 offers a little more bang with its six-speed automatic. Space is good in the Crosstour, though the cargo area is small compared to some others. Seating is nicely done, with room for five to sit comfortably.

Out on the road, the Crosstour offers excellent driving dynamics while carrying passengers in a well-made cabin. Interior fit and finish is good and above what the price point might suggest. Standard features are great, including a sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity with USB input, a rearview camera and a quality audio system. Options include several safety upgrades for the driver, dual-zone climate control, and Honda’s right-side “LaneWatch” system for blind spot monitoring.

[Read: Best Used Cars Under $25,000]

2014 Honda Crosstour
Base price new: $27,380
EPA mpg (city/highway): 22/31
Crash Test Ratings: IIHS – G/N/G/G/G, NHTSA – N/N/N/4

2014 Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outback makes two top spots on our list of picks for both its value proposition and its excellent manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing. Two things that can often go hand-in-hand. The Outback features excellent family ergonomics, a smart all-wheel drive system as standard and excellent engine choices, all of which contribute to a high resale value.

Standard features in the Subaru Outback include a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine and a fun six-speed manual transmission. The Outback also has an excellent continuously variable transmission (CVT) option (reflected in our MPG numbers below) and a composed daily drive. Bluetooth connectivity, quality cabin materials and more are also standard. Options include a moonroof, a backup camera and Subaru’s excellent EyeSight system for adaptive cruise control and safety systems.

[Watch: Top Five Reasons to Buy from a Dealership]

2014 Subaru Outback
Base price new: $23,495
EPA mpg (city/highway): 24/30
Crash Test Ratings: IIHS – TSP+, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Toyota Prius V

Excellent fuel economy and a relatively low price for a hybrid are what mark the Toyota Prius V. As an overall value proposition, the Prius V is second only to the Subaru Outback for its cost-effectiveness. For those who drive in urban environs and have no need for all-wheel drive, the Prius V may prove a better choice. One thing to note is that for drivers expecting high levels of comfort and fun driving dynamics, the Prius V delivers neither. Its focus is on fuel economy and being right-sized for family use.

The Prius V is a well-sized family wagon with an ample back seat and good cargo space. The base model is spartan, but efficient, while upgrades can range into the sub-premium arena with upgraded app suites for infotainment and top-end safety systems.

[Read: Five Great Used SUVs Under $25,000]

2014 Toyota Prius V
Base price new: $26,750
EPA mpg (city/highway): 44/40
Crash Test Ratings: IIHS – G/P/G/G/G, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Volvo XC70

The Volvo XC70 is another station wagon that pushes the line into crossover territory. It is spacious and comfortable and is the only premium wagon on our list besides the Audi Allroad (above). The XC70 has the best interior on our list, boasting plenty of space for all passengers as well as premium-quality materials and excellent daily use ergonomics. Where the Volvo suffers most, however, is fuel economy, which is below par. Safety is expected to be excellent, but a lack of crash testing from NHTSA and the IIHS means we cannot give it top scores.

The Volvo XC70 is powered by either a well-tuned six-cylinder or a more robust turbocharged option, both of which run through a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. Overall performance is good, though not at the same level as what the Allroad or the Crosstour offer. Standard features are very robust, with infotainment and upgraded safety systems aplenty.

[Read: Taking a Test Drive]

2014 Volvo XC70
Base price new: $34,500
EPA mpg (city/highway): 18/26
Crash Test Ratings: IIHS – N/A, NHTSA – N/A

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