It doesn’t seem that long ago, a simpler time before smartphones and social media, a time when the wagon was the go to choice for family transport.
The wagon is a body style that was once a staple of the Australian motoring landscape. It’s a very different market now.
Buyers have voted with their wallet and now the SUV dominates family driveways. What is fascinating is despite the rise of the SUV, there are still plenty of options for those wanting to recreate moments from their past.
It’s been something of a busy year for the wagon, a mini revival of sorts. At the premium end, BMW has a new 5 Series Touring and Jaguar has a new XF Sportbrake. Both of these models look great and more interesting when compared to the long line of SUVs that populate the road. These two bring some style to the table, unfortunately, they also bring a high price tag and getting into one requires a sizeable cheque.
If the price isn’t an issue and the great outdoors is calling, Mercedes-Benz has a new E-Class All-Terrain wagon.
In a sensible price point, Skoda offers the Superb SportLine in a wagon. It’s roomy, comfortable and practical. It’s also lovely to drive.
The Mazda 6 is a good looking and affordable family car and Holden still has its Sportwagon, but its days are numbered. A new Tourer will take its place in 2018. There’s also the sharply priced Volkswagen Golf All-Track.
I would argue there are two reasons for the demise of the wagon. Firstly, the perception of value has swung in favour of the SUV. With a higher roofline, it appears to deliver more metal for the money. The same could be said about the large sedan when compared to an SUV. I recently had the chance to look at a Maserati Ghibli and a Levante side by side. For the same spend, the Levante looks like you’re getting more. It’s the same with the Mazda 6 when compared to the CX-5.
The other reason has got to be cheap flights. It’s now reasonably affordable to fly domestically and internationally. The low-cost flights between major cities have diminished the appeal of the long haul family road trip. Australian’s are also more connected globally, international travel is no longer the domain of business people or the wealthy. The number of Australians travelling overseas has risen significantly over the past decade.
Headroom is the only area where an SUV can out point its wagon equivalent. In other measurements such as rear legroom and luggage space, the wagon scores a knockout.
Another underrated aspect of wagon ownership is the driving experience. In the majority of cases, the lower centre of gravity makes the wagon much nicer to drive. The quality of the drive mustn't be as important a criterion when buying a new car as the high seating position.
With the current growth in the SUV category, it’s astonishing there are still so many wagon options, with a range of sizes from small to family there’s plenty to choose from.
The wagon now provides something of a cool retro vibe, the fact they are now a bit of a niche segment means they stand out.
A true wagon renaissance is unlikely, we are too far gone. The SUV is now firmly established as the go to car for the family buyer, but for those not wanting to blend in, the wagon still has lots to offer.
Let’s start a Car Conversation, will the wagon ever recapture its former glory, or is it now just here for a bit of novelty value for those who like to reminisce?