Time was, a broad spectrum of station wagons were on offer from nearly every manufacturer. Then, somewhere down the line, the station Wagon fell out of favor in popular culture. Considered old-fashioned; basically too much like what their parents drove, Baby Boomers abandoned the station wagon for minivans and SUVs. The model has yet to fully recover from this stigma. These days, you have to be a very confident manufacturer to put a car on the market and declare it to be a station wagon. Interestingly, this doesn’t mean station wagons are gone, it just means they’re referred to by different names; small crossovers, four-door hatchbacks, Sport Wagons—basically anything except station wagons. In a subset this small, the sub-subset of models offering manual transmissions is even smaller. Here they are…
Kia’s best selling model proves a station wagon can enjoy healthy sales these days—as long as you don’t tell anyone it’s a station wagon. The base Soul is fitted with a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 130 horsepower and 118 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual transmission with hill-start assist is standard equipment. A six-speed automatic is offered as an option. A 2.0-liter four is also offered, but choosing it locks you into an automatic transmission. Standard features include full power accessories, heated exterior rear view mirrors, and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel with audio controls. There’s also Bluetooth audio streaming and telephone connectivity. Soul offers 19 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats deployed and 61 cubic feet with both of them folded. Fuel economy is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 30 on the highway, and 26 miles per gallon combined. Pricing starts at $15,100.
Mini Cooper Countryman
Mini’s Cooper Countryman makes driving a wagon hip. Thanks to its unexpectedly roomy back seat, Countryman transports five adults while holding on to that distinctive Mini flavor of “cool”—quite a feat. What’s more, the Countryman delivers an engaging driving experience courtesy of the delightful handling for which Mini’s models are well known. Power comes from a 1.6-liter inline four with 121 horsepower and 114 ft-lbs of torque. The manual transmission is a six-speed and feeds the front wheels. There is also a more powerful version called Cooper S Countryman, which gets 181 horsepower and 177 ft-lbs of torque from turbocharging the 1.6-liter four. If that’s not enough for you, go with the all-wheel drive John Cooper Works Countryman’s 208 horsepower and 192 ft-lbs of torque. Cooper Countryman pricing starts at $22,750, Cooper S Countryman starts at $26,100, and the all-wheel drive John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 starts at $35,350.
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen 2.5L/ Jetta SportWagen TDI
Looking for a European wagon with a manual transmission? You have one choice, but it’s offered with a choice of two engines for the 2015 model year. The 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder gasoline engine fitted to Volkswagen’s Jetta SportWagen 2.5L makes 170 horsepower and 177 ft-lbs of torque. The model’s front-wheel drive powertrain employs a five-speed manual transmission. The diesel version of the wagon, the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI, uses a 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter four with 236 ft-lbs of torque. VW engineering paired a six-speed manual transmission with this engine. Available equipment includes air-conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and VW's Car-Net telematics system—along with keyless entry and start and a touchscreen interface. The SportsWagen offers 32.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seatbacks in place and 66.9 cubic feet with them folded away. Pricing starts at $20,995 for the 2.5L and $26,656 for the TDI.