Is there a Small, Fun-to-Drive Wagon?

My perfect car is a small wagon, 3,000 pounds tops, with a four-cylinder engine good for 180 to 200 horsepower and great road ability. I love spirited driving but want the wagon's capabilities. Any suggestions?

Lou, Pittsburgh

The wagon body style is fading away as more automakers offer sporty hatchbacks and continue to add to the seemingly endless list of car-based crossover SUVs. Some of the few choices in a smaller wagon that we find enjoyable to drive are the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen, available with a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter gasoline engine or a 140-hp 2.0-liter diesel engine, and the Acura TSX Sport Wagon, which uses a 201-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder. If you can spend $40,000 or more, there are the BMW 328 and Cadillac CTS wagons.

If you're willing to include hatchbacks (which are almost wagons) on your shopping list, you will have several other options. Among them are the Audi A3 and Volkswagen GTI, both of which use a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with 200 hp. The Kia Forte SX hatchback is another possibility, though like the Jetta SportWagen, its 173 hp falls short of your wish list. If you can wait until late this year, Kia will add a turbocharged 2.0-liter to the Forte's engine choices.

Want more giddy up? The Ford Focus ST has 252 hp, the VW Golf R has 256 hp, the Mazdaspeed3 has 263 hp and the Subaru Impreza WRX has 265 hp. All are sporty, fun-to-drive hatchbacks, and the Focus ST, MazdaSpeed3 and Impreza WRX start around $25,000.

The Vehicle Recommender can help with your search for the perfect car. It lets you choose candidates by body style, horsepower, price, fuel economy and other major criteria.

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