The Right Car For Your Dog

Has your family vehicle gone to the dogs? Take comfort in our handy, breeder-approved, consumer guide.

By | Posted: Mon Feb 28 00:00:00 PST 2005

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With a few exceptions, the station wagon seems to be taking a back seat in popularity to sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and mini-vans. New for 2005 is the Dodge Magnum, a wagon version of the Chrysler 300 sedan, available with either a V-6 or V-8. This rear-wheel drive wagon is also available in all-wheel drive. Priced in the $21,000 to $31,000 range, it offers ample rear seat room, but limited cargo space. Another new entry is the Jaguar X-Type wagon. Propelled by a 3-liter V-6, this all-wheel drive vehicle handles well, with a base price around $30,000 to $36,000. The venerable Ford Taurus wagon, like wine, has improved with age, becoming more reliable each year. The front-wheel drive V-6 delivers an average 22 mpg. For $20,000 to $23,000, there's a fair amount of interior room. Its twin is the Mercury Sable, just slightly more expensive, which provides seating for up to eight passengers.

In lower-priced wagons ($17 to $20K) the rear seats of the Pontiac Vibe fold to form a substantial flat floor space. Equipped with a four-cylinder engine, its fuel economy averages 26 mpg. It's one of Consumer Reports' recommended buys. Another CR pick is the stylish Toyota Matrix, also four cylinder, and available in front or all-wheel drive. Rear seats fold to allow ample space for crates, and average mpg is a credible 24.

Old reliable VW serves up the Passat in wagon conformation. Based from $22 to $33K, it won highest praise from Consumer Reports, which liked its extensive safety features and proclaimed it "as roomy as some SUVs." Volvo puts out two wagons - the four-cylinder S40/V50, at $23 to $29K; and the handsome and spacious XC70 ($28 to $38K), available in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Both the SUV-like Subaru Outback ($24 to $33K) and the lower-priced Impreza ($18 to $32K) earned CR's approval, as did the Ford Focus ($14 to $18K), which it describes as "a practical choice with good rear seat and cargo space."

For something truly different in a station wagon, check out the boxy Scion xB. Looking like an oversized, square-toed boot, the design provides an incredibly roomy interior with a high roof and low floor. base-priced at just $13,680, the four-cylinder Scion shines on short-haul, city-driving chores. Its lack of aerodynamics takes its toll on the highway, however. If the name sounds unfamiliar, Scion is a new brand from Toyota.

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