SUV or station wagon – which is best?
SUVs have eclipsed station wagons as the go-to family car, but are they a better option?
The SUV revolution has well and truly hit its peak in Australia. So far this year almost half of all vehicles sold were SUVs, while passenger cars such as hatchbacks, sedans and wagons have accounted for just 25 per cent. That’s a big turnaround from 10 years ago when SUVs made up just 23 per cent of sales.
These days few buyers consider a station wagon when buying a new car, despite their long history in Australia as the family hauler of choice. Many of us have fond memories of family holidays driving to the beach in the vinyl-covered back seat of a Ford Falcon or Holden Kingswood.
But might it be worth considering a station wagon in 2020? Are SUVs necessarily the better choice? We’ve looked into the pros and cons of each style and busted a few long-standing myths.
Wagons tend to be more fuel-efficient than their SUV counterparts. The Volkswagen Golf wagon uses less fuel compared with the equivalent Volkswagen Tiguan SUV.
Part of the appeal of an SUV has always been that they allow the driver to sit higher up in traffic, thus allowing better visibility of the road ahead, particularly in bigger SUVs. However, the proliferation of SUVs and dwindling number of passenger cars means you’re usually sitting behind other SUVs on the road, which counters any height advantage.
Parents agree that fitting a child car seat, and lifting a child into and out of the seat, is easier in an SUV thanks to the higher hip height. That’s also why SUVs can be a better option for older folk, or people with back injuries or mobility issues. The hip height means you can slide into the driver’s seat rather than bending down to get in. It also makes it easier to load objects into the boot.
Generally, wagons are more fuel-efficient than their SUV counterparts because they are more aerodynamic than higher-riding SUVs, and they weigh less. For example, a Mercedes-Benz C43 4Matic wagon uses 9.6L/100km, according to official consumption figures, whereas the Mercedes-Benz GLC43 4Matic SUV, which shares the same engine and basic underpinnings as the wagon, uses 10.4L/100km.
Similarly the Volkswagen Golf 110TSI wagon uses 5.6L/100km compared with 7.1L/100km for the equivalent Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI SUV, while the Mazda6 2.5 Sport wagon uses 7.0L/100km compared with 8.1L/100km in the Mazda CX-8 2.5 Sport SUV.
Boot and interior space
Looking at the models available as a wagon and related SUV, the wagons have the edge – just. A few SUVs have slightly more cargo space than their wagon counterparts – BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Mercedes-Benz GLC. But the Peugeot 308, Skoda Octavia, Volvo V60 and Jaguar XF Sportbrake all have more cargo space than their SUV siblings.
In terms of interior occupant space, the differences are negligible. SUVs might have more head room, but some wagons have more leg room.
The Benz wagon has a 0.1 second advantage over the GLC.