We have a Jetta Sportwagen and we are really, really happy with it. I've gotten 50+ MPG on long highway trips, and it seems to get about 30-36 with my city driving. I found out it can hold five people and luggage for a 10-day trip recently, when I drove my folks and their friends to the airport.
In general, it can hold Mr. Emryss, a few dogs in crates, and all my show gear quite comfortably. It can hold Mr. Emryss' road bike easily with the seats down.
Don't tell me about what you can't do. That's boring. Show me what you can do. - Mom
Another who loves their Subaru Outback! We have an '08, so it's still truly a wagon, not a crossover like the new models. Just hit the 100,000 mile mark this weekend and it'll hopefully last 200,000 more. Tons of trunk space (for the 4 leggeds) and we could (if the need ever arose) fit a car seat or two in the back seat with no problem. We also have a roof rack box that can fit tons of stuff for long road trips. And the AWD is pretty stellar. I average right under 30 mpg every tank, better than that if I'm on the highway.
I had a newer model Volvo wagon in college and it was nothing but trouble! The older Volvos could be driven into the ground, but I found out the hard way that more recent (the past 15 years or so) models just don't hold up the way the brand used to. It was IMPOSSIBLE to get parts for and everything was much more expensive to get fixed. I've never had that problem with the Subaru because, well, it never breaks! I rarely get it serviced at the dealer and have yet to find anyone who had a problem working on it, unlike my old Volvo.
Toyota Matrix - mine's an '03 and still rocking along.
My dad has a Subaru WRX wagon (Outback with a turbocharger, I think) and the Matrix has more cargo area. Has a flat rear deck if you drop the rear seats, which is pretty convenient for trips to the feed store or hay dealer (I can fit 10 bales of chopped alfalfa from the former, 6 bales of grass hay from the latter... ) Is also a great dog car - it'll fit 4 30" crates in the back if I need to. Mileage (with all wheel drive) is still high 20s/30+ on a road trip.
I'm totally in love with Subarus. I had a '99 Forester first, then my Mom got an '03 Legacy. I traded my older Forester in last year for a low-mileage '05 Forester, and then my Dad bought a low-mileage '02 Outback wagon I've converted them all! AWD, decent gas mileage, and they run forever.
I had a VW station wagon - honestly forget the model, it was back in the late 80's early 90's - that thing went and went and went. I really loved it. I gave it to my sister when I bought a Saturn, and she had it for a long time until she got t-boned and it was totaled.
People who have Outbacks just rave about them. The only downside I've heard is that they are sort of a rough ride, especially if you are used to a really smooth ride.
My mom has had a long string of VW station wagons- they are good cars, good gas mileage too. Her Passat has AWD is big enough for people, stuff and two large dogs in the back.
I had an Audi station wagon, 6 speed manual tranny. Got 30+mpg on the highway, AWD. Too small for what you want tho. Oh, and I don't know if this matters to you or not, but its virtually impossible to do burnouts with AWD.
My daughter and son-in-law purchased a new Subaru Outback a few years ago. I think its ride is pretty smooth, there's plenty of leg room in the back seat, and it's nice to drive.
It's also holds up well in car accidents. Shortly after they purchased the Outback they were rear-ended on the interstate by someone texting while trying to make a lane change and didn't notice that traffic, including my daughter and son-in-law, had stopped in front of him. So the stupid driver was going over 60 mph when he hit the stopped Outback.
Next was a recent incident which involved my daughter (driver) stopped at a red light when a stupid driver rear-ended the Outback because he was looking to change lanes at 35 mph and didn't notice the light had turned red.
The Outback was repaired after the first accident. I went with my daughter to take the Outback in for repair work after the second accident. After inspecting the car the repair guy could not believe how good of shape it was in. We decided the Outback was a tank in disguise.
So my husband and I are looking at Subaru for our next car.
Ford Flex....that boxy looking thing. Drove one on a test drive and later rented one for a week on a trip. Great handling! All the seats fold down and close to the same amount of room as our Expedition. Most the newer suv wannabes
were very claustrophopic...large front consoles, sloping sides, smaller windows.
Had one eons ago(long before kids were in the picture) and LOVED it. Drove the heck out of it, and I am NOT kind to my vehicles. The AWD really did work. While our house was under construction we took it "mudding" in the back section of the lot and could not get it stuck no matter how hard we tried! Also loved how much cargo space it had, especially with the back seat folded down. Actually slept in the back on a camping trip when it got colder then expected one night and the tent just wasn't cutting it. Ended up selling it when the AC went out. The guy who bought it wanted something to haul his bands instruments and surfboards all at the same time. Regretted selling it for awhile. Other then the AC and regular maintenance it ran perfect.
We will be car shopping again this fall to replace my Camry(being passed down to my daughter when she gets her license), while I would love to buy a new Wrangler, I need at least one economical vehicle. We are torn between another Camry or a Subaru.