Endangered they may be, but station wagons still compete with their high and mighty SUV rivals, and in many cases wagons offer a practical alternative with very usable space and better fuel economy
firstname.lastname@example.org Endangered they may be, but station wagons still compete with high and mighty rivals FAMILY-FOCUSED station wagons have become a dying breed in Australia. Both the Ford Falcon wagon and Toyota Camry wagon are gone.
Some survive, such as the Holden Sportwagon, and there are loyal buyers in both the small-car and luxury classes, but the rising tide of SUVs has washed station wagons out of showrooms.
The distinction between the traditional sedan-based station wagons and Australia’s new favourite family freighter has become much more blurred.
However, there are still a number of important points of difference and it’s worth looking at some of the leading contenders on the rival teams.
A sedan-based wagon is usually lighter than a similarly sized SUV. This means better fuel economy and lower servicing and tyre costs. It also sits closer to the bitumen with a lower centre of gravity, so it’s more agile and stable, especially cornering.
But wagon drivers don’t enjoy the high-and-mighty position with an unimpeded view of the road that SUV drivers, women in particular, cite as a major attraction.
Booming SUV sales indicate that more people are taking the
if you can’t beat em, join em’’ view.
It’s a myth that SUVs are more spaceefficient than wagons, although most midsized models— including the popular Holden Captiva and Ford’s Territory— can come with a couple of extra seats in the back, a feature no longer found in conventional wagons.
Children also love an SUV’s elevated seating position because they can sit back and enjoy the scenery.
Whether you choose a sedan-based wagon or an SUV — or sports utility vehicle— the good news is that affordable family transport with five-star safety can now also be an enjoyable drive.
Among the wagons, the Commodore VE Series II Sportwagon, priced from $41,990 for the 190kW, 3.0-litre V6 Omega, is a standout. It looks sensational— a rarity in wagon world.
Recent improvements to drivetrains, including E85 ethanol fuel compatibility, direct fuel injection and sixspeed auto— plus a flash new dash with hands-free Bluetooth and audio streaming as standard— have rewritten Commodore’s technical resume to come up to 21st century standards.
Around town, the 3.0-litre V6 averages 12.6 litres/100km in official tests. A big serve of extra grunt in the 3.6-litre V6 SV6 Sportwagon, along with tighter suspension, sports seats and other extras, justify its $45,790 ask, and with a city average of 13.3 litres/100km, you’re not savagely penalised at the pump.
Despite the Commodore’s appeal, Ford’s Mondeo and the little-known Skoda Superb are the kings of outright space behind the driver’s seat.
Given their size, the fuel economy from their 2.0-litre turbodiesel engines is amazing. Starting from $36,840, the 120kW, six-speed automatedmanual Mondeo pulls like a train and averages 7.7 litres/ 100km in town.
The Skoda isVW engineering with a Czech badge— a luxury wagon for half the expected price.
The 125kW six-speed automated-manual Superb Ambition is $43,990, with a city average of 8.3 litres/100km, and the 118kW 1.8-litre petrol turbo Ambition, at $40,990, offers respectable performance too, averaging 9.7 litres/100km.
In the SUV showroom, Ford’s Territory, from $39,890, is still one of the best size/price/ performance packages available, especially with big discounts ahead of the facelifted model. But the all-wheel-drive’s 17.6 litres/100km thirst in town is a big disincentive.
This month a 140kW 2.7-litre V6 turbodiesel engine, which averages 11.6 litres/100km, goes under the bonnet as part of an upgrade. It’s worth a test drive.
Kia’s Sorento, a classy, sevenseater with a brilliant 2.2-litre, 145kW turbodiesel, starts at $39,999, with a five-year/ unlimited-kilometre warranty. Around town, it averages 9.5 litres/100km.
The five-seater Subaru Outback now has enough interior acreage to keep a regular-sized family happy.
This blue-chip, made-inJapan SUV starts at $38,490 for the 123kW 2.5-litre petrol (11.5 litres/100km), or $40,490 for a 110kW 2.0-litre turbodiesel, in manual only, which averages a frugal 7.7 litres/100km.
FAMILY VIEW Simon and Genevieve Abbott want a vehicle with space and comfort for their sons Felix and Jasper, aged seven and five, but which is also enjoyable to drive. Kia’s seven-seat Sorento ticks the boxes for Felix and Jasper but their parents didn’t like the light steering or the cabin trim. Simon liked the Commodore which has a lot of guts, feels sporty and is very well mannered on the road. But the Kia was massively better in performance, features and quality than I expected’’.