Role of the wag­ons



I’m in the mar­ket for a new wagon, look­ing at a Subaru Out­back 3.6R, a VW Pas­sat All­track, Skoda Su­perb 206TSI or Mazda6 Atenza. I spend a lot of time in my car, driv­ing up to 30,000km a year, so I’m look­ing for one with crea­ture com­forts as well as an en­joy­able drive. I’m happy to go with a diesel but it’s not a deal breaker, but I also need to tow a small camper trailer oc­ca­sion­ally, which is why I’ve in­cluded the six-cylin­der Out­back. I’m look­ing to spend $55,000-$60,000 and I pre­fer the wagon shape and pro­file over boxy SUVs. Rob Thistleth­waite There are plenty of classy mid-sized wag­ons de­spite the grow­ing Aus­tralian ap­petite for SUVs. A sedan-based hauler makes much more sense for a range of rea­sons — com­fort, quiet­ness, safety and econ­omy — and if you do only light all­wheel drive work such as towing you don’t need a hulk­ing brute on the daily com­mute.

CHOICES Subaru Out­back 3.6R, $48,490

The up­dated Out­back is a nice drive but the costly 3.6R is not the best one for your needs, as its 350Nm of pulling power is matched by the cheaper (from $36,490) and more ef­fi­cient diesel vari­ants. It prom­ises 191kW, against 110kW for the diesel, but that‘s at 6000rpm. Fuel econ­omy of 9.9L/100km also looks poor against 5.7L-6.3L for the diesel.

Skoda Su­perb 206TSI, $52,690

The Su­perb might have an edge on cabin space and lay­out, plus some deft de­tails in­clud­ing an on­board torch and um­brella, and it’s great value as an AWD wagon, but it’s only avail­able with a petrol en­gine, a 2.0-litre four-cylin­der turbo (206kw/ 350Nm) claim­ing 7.3L/100km..

Volk­swa­gen Pas­sat All­track, $49,290

The classy new Pas­sat pack­age works well with Haldex on­de­mand all-wheel drive and 2.0-litre turbo diesel that makes 140kW with an ex­cel­lent 400Nm for towing. It’s the pick from the VW Group, trump­ing the Skoda with cross­over styling that hints at an SUV but pro­vides wagon com­fort and class as well as econ­omy of just 5.4L/100km.

Mazda6 Atenza, $46,690

A com­fort­able and quiet wagon that works well in all con­di­tions, cruis­ing com­fort­ably but also giv­ing some driv­ing en­joy­ment. But lack of AWD abil­ity could limit ac­cess to camps and beaches. The 2.5-litre petrol en­gine has 250Nm but the diesel, at $49,540, has 420Nm and that means great pulling power.

WILD­CARD Holden Com­modore SS-V Sport­wagon, $52,690

Pro­duc­tion ends next year but V8 Com­modores still sell well, thanks to a proven pack­age of per­for­mance and driv­ing en­joy­ment. The wagon tail is not the big­gest but it works for most peo­ple, the V8 crank­ing out 304kW/570Nm for any job. It lacks AWD and city thirst of 12.9L/100km is a hand­i­cap


The heart says Com­modore, with the land­mark V8 avail­able from $49,190 in the SS Sport­wagon, but the head says it has to be the Pas­sat All­track. It’s not the cheap­est but it’s well equipped, spa­cious, re­fined, a car and not an SUV, and will eas­ily han­dle a bit of get­away camp­ing work.

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