So, it's the weekend. And you want to do… stuff. Lots of stuff. Interesting stuff. Outdoors-y stuff. Indoors-y stuff. Just stuff in general. Stuff that doesn't make you think of the office or the paycheck or the economy.
So, you're going to need a car that helps you do stuff, and this, surely, is where an SUV should come in, barging it way awkwardly to the front of the stuff car queue, apologizing to all the others waiting in line for the scratched fenders and clonked wing mirrors.
But maybe you don't want to use an SUV to haul your stuff-doing-stuff, suppose you consider yourself thoughtful and caring towards the environment, or you just don't have the cash for a big all-wheel-drive soccer-mom-mobile. Aha, then you're going to need some less expensive, less carbon-intensive stuff-hauling cars and here, whether for your amusement or your shopping list, are my Five Favorite Non SUV Good Weekend Stuff Cars. I should probably come up with a snappier title than that but for now…
5. The Honda Fit.
It's actually called the Jazz in my neck of the woods, but it's basically the same car and it's the go-to car for hauling stuff when you're on a budget, both for buying and for fuel.
That revvy little 1.4 engine returns combined EPA economy of 29mpg (which you should better in everyday driving with ease) hauling your stuff won't set your wallet's therapy back by months. But it's the actual hauling that the Fiat does really well. 20 cubic feet of luggage space with the rear seats up, 57 with them down is already looking pretty good for what is actually quite a small car, but that's before you take the Magic Seats into account.
Want to put something narrow and tall into the Fit without lying it (potentially expensively) on its side? Simple, just flip up one of the back seat bases and in it goes. Genius, and actually deserving of the term magic.
4. Kia C'eed SW
You're thinking that the SW in that name stands for Station Wagon, don't you? Well, it doesn't, it stands for Sporty Wagon and that just goes to show that some of the best cars have some of the lousiest names.
You're going to kill me for putting some Euro-centric models on this list, but hey, a writer must write of which he knows and anyway, just think of it a Forte sedan with an extension and you won't be far wrong.
And how about a trunk with 500-liter capacity, better than you get on an Audi A6 sedan? How about sweet 1.6-litre engines that combine decent performance with exceptional fuel economy (especially if you go for the Euro-friendly 1.6 diesel). How about a cabin that, if it's not quite as pretty, is certainly as well built and spacious as you'd get on a VW Jetta?
And consider too the quality. In Europe, where the C'eed is actually built in Korea's massive factory in the Czech Republic, its quality is considered so good that Kia slaps a seven year warranty on each one as it rolls out the gates. And if you're not spending money on repairs, then you'll have more to spend on stuff to fill the back...
3. Buick Regal.
Us Euro-weenies were so impressed with the Regal (under its secret identity as the Opel Insignia) that we gave it a car of the year award.
But Opel or Buick, this is the real deal, with a sophisticated chassis, agile, enjoyable handling and a cabin that can actually stand comparison with the best of the Germans. Which is not surprising, as it was actually designed in Germany.
And out back you'll find a massive trunk, especially if you can convince Buick to build you one with a sloping fastback hatch (think of it as an Audi A7 on a budget) or better yet, the Europe-only (for now) wagon.
This is one of those cars that you can fill to the brim with whatever you need to haul, and it'll still drive with the same crispness and enjoyment that it does when it's just you and the stereo. And come one, who doesn't want to see Buick back at its best? Anyone? Bueller?
2. Skoda Roomster.
Ok, ok, I know. You can't buy one. Unless you decide to privately import one and who's going to go to that kind of trouble for a no-name Czech-built hatchback that looks like it's been hit up the backside by a truck carrying a pre-fab porch?
But then, the Skoda Roomster is a car that defies logic, simply by being so logical. Huh? Well, it's simple. Skoda's engineers realised that you actually need two cars. One with a low, intimate roof to make driving more enjoyable and one with a high roof for space and light. So they joined the two together, with a low-slung driving compartment up front and a big, glassy, airy conservatory out the back.
And it's brilliant. It drives with enjoyable precision and excellent refinement, it's cheap enough that you suspect the dealers are all ex K-Mart employees and thanks to that gawky styling, the back is stunningly roomy. And the rear seats all tilt, fold and even remove individually, so you don't have to decide between the baby and the trail bike; you can bring both now (but probably shouldn't)!
And so, it's to the past master that we turn. Decades before the term SUV was even coined, good old Volvo was turning out big, boxy station wagons that we used to carry our stuff. Four wheel drive? Raised driving position? Breakover angles? All pointless when you're actually thinking about the people inside the car.
And what an inside. Volvo's latest ditches the last vestiges of the boxy-but-good styling regime for something far sexier and slinkier on the outside, but it's the cabin that truly makes this our favourite weekend car. And that's because when you leave the house, it's nice to go somewhere that's actually nicer... than your house. Volvo'a cabin designers have really hit the motherlode on this one, from the watch-dial instruments, to the cellphone center stack to the seats which seem to have been picked from a Barcalounger catalog. It's way nicer than my house, and nicer than most high-end hotels I've stayed in.
Oddly though, it's not all that good at carrying stuff, with the trunk actually being slightly smaller than that on the (smaller overall) Kia C'eed we discussed earlier. But hey, when it's this nice on the inside, maybe just leave the stuff at home and go for a drive instead...
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