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A Place for Your Stuff – Volkswagen Golf SportWagen/Mazda3 Hatchback

Whether it’s moving boxes or a run to the store, you’ll eventually need a vehicle that can haul your stuff. Here are two appealing candidates.

Test drive: Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen

The Golf SportWagen is both fun and practical.

(Photo: Volkswagen)

Just because you’re looking for space for your stuff doesn’t mean you need to drive a tall, uninspiring crossover. Not when there are cars like the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen around.

What makes this compact VW unique is right there in its name. First and foremost is the “wagen” that tells you this is one of the rare station wagon-like hatchbacks still around. Fold the rear seatbacks down and you have a 66.5-cubic-foot cargo hold that’s as spacious as that of many crossovers.

Now before you turn your nose up at the thought of driving a wagon, you should focus your attention on the “sport” part of the Golf SportWagen’s name. It’s not hyperbole to say I enjoyed the heck out of the all-wheel drive SE model I drove on a winding mountain road.

The 1.8-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine made for plenty good acceleration out of corners. The available six-speed manual transmission made the experience all the more engaging. The suspension delivered rock-steady handling and a compliant ride that soaked up pavement imperfections nicely.

All in all, anyone looking to enjoy the drive while still schlepping stuff on occasion should find a lot to like in the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen.

Test drive: Mazda 3

The Mazda3 Hatchback boasts a spirited ride.

(Photo: Mazda)

In a perfect world, every car would have an ideal blend of fun and practicality. Well, like our world, the Mazda3 Hatchback is far from perfect, but it does offer a better-than-average balance between the two.

The 3 has always been a top pick for those who enjoy a spirited drive. The decision to make the lively 186-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that was an option last year standard across the lineup only bolsters that reputation.

Handling feels sharp and the ride quality is on the firm side, as you’d expect from a car weighted toward driving enjoyment. With this latest generation, the newly available all-wheel-drive system will be a plus for those who need to contend with nasty weather.

Inside, the Mazda3’s cabin offers great room, comfort and support up front. Controls are particularly intuitive.

It also gets its biggest demerits here, thanks to a cramped backseat that’s not adult-friendly. The cargo area maxes out at just 20.1 cubic feet, significantly more room for your stuff than the 3’s sedan version, but still on the modest side. A smallish rear window and wide rear roof pillars make visibility out the back an issue as well.

Looking for a new ride? Check out more car reviews at AAA.com/TestDrive.

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