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Before the advent of the modern minivan, the family vehicle of choice was the tried-and-true station wagon. Essentially a sedan with an elongated roof that forms an enclosed rear cargo area, the station wagon provides more space for groceries, sports equipment, even the family dog. Back in their heyday of the 1960s and '70s, most wagons offered a third-row seat that allowed for a couple of extra passengers.
Nowadays, the definition of a station wagon is a bit murky. There are vehicles that are obvious fits for the segment, such as the BMW 3 Series wagon, the Ford Flex and the Volvo V60. Others such as the Kia Soul, Ford C-Max and Mini Cooper Countryman are actually more like tall four-door hatchbacks than traditionally styled wagons. Still they fall into the category of wagon mostly because other definitions come up short. Unlike "the old days," a third-row seat option is all but extinct now; the Flex is one of the very few wagons that offer one. But on the plus side, many modern wagons offer the option of all-wheel drive for added traction in foul-weather driving conditions.
With minivans providing more passenger and cargo space, and crossover SUVs also offering more room along with rugged styling and added off-road capability, station wagons have become something of a niche market. That said, they still have a fair measure of appeal for those who don't need — or who might even be turned off by — a boxy minivan or a bulky SUV.