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The Warsaw Voice » Society » July 29, 2011
Car Review
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Station Wagons Still in Fashion
July 29, 2011   
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They carry different monikers but have one thing in common—they are all station wagons. Most are used as either family or company cars.

Do you remember the wagons of 15, 20 years ago? They all looked like sedans with a big butt. Practicality held sway over style. At a time when the minivan segment was only entering the market, station wagons chiefly played the role of family or company cars. This explains why the most popular was the huge Volvo wagon, with an enormous luggage compartment that could hold just about anything.

Not merely practical
Even though most people think of Volvo when they think of the typical advantages of a station wagon, practical-minded Scandinavians are not the only ones to appreciate the utilitarian values of these vehicles. Station wagons are offered from the small-car segment all the way to the executive class, but the greatest choice of these models is available in the mid-range segment; vehicles from this segment are most often used as company cars. Most producers offer at least one wagon, and they all try to give them intriguing names to describe their spacious and multifunctional interiors. Audi calls its wagon Avant, BMW uses the name Touring, Citroen and Honda—Tourer, Peugeot—Break or Sport Wagon, and Volkswagen—Variant. Pragmatic Swedes from Volvo only use letters. Their station wagons are marked with the letter V.

Until recently, most producers tried to win over customers chiefly with the volume of the luggage compartment and its loading capacity. However, as time passed and the number of station wagons available grew in number amid intensifying market competition, customers began to pay attention not only to utility, but also attractiveness. The luggage compartments no longer looked “tacked on,” but formed a single whole with the rest of the vehicle.

Accord Tourer—less sometimes means more
Interestingly, sometimes the volume of the luggage compartment decreases proportional to the attractiveness of the body. A good example is the Honda Accord Tourer. This station wagon has a slightly smaller luggage compartment than the four-door sedan. The sedan has a 467l trunk, while the wagon offers only 406l. Paradox? Not necessarily. Rather a deliberate decision to expand the range and allow customers to choose the type of body that suits their needs. The smaller volume of the luggage compartment is offset by easy loading and greater overall cargo capacity (563 kg). Moreover, the volume of the luggage compartment can be increased to 1,183l by folding down the back seats, in addition to the possibility of mounting roof racks. The vehicle looks dynamic and probably more attractive than the sedan, especially if you compare it to the previous version, which I think was a complete failure stylistically. With a length of 4,740 mm, the new Tourer looks not only neat but also elegant. In addition to its exceptional design, this model offers Japanese reliability and robustness. A range of two gasoline engines, 2.0l/156 hp and 2.4l/201 hp, are used to power the vehicle, in addition to Honda’s signature 2.2l/150 hp Common Rail turbodiesel engine, which is considered to be one of the best in its class. The vehicle features front-wheel drive with a choice of two six-speed manual transmissions and a five-speed automatic. The cheapest Accord Tourer with the baseline 2.0l engine costs less than zl.100,000. The most expensive and best equipped 2.4l model carries a price tag of just under zl.140,000. It’s been four years since the new Honda Accord hit the Polish market. The eighth generation of this model was unveiled in the spring of 2008.

Insignia Tourer—German reliability
The new mid-range Opel Insignia made its debut in 2008. It comes with three types of bodywork, including the station wagon (Tourer). Also in this case, the designers were up to scratch. Despite the considerable length of the car (4,908 mm), they managed to maintain excellent proportions and harmony of the body. The rear with its heavily slanted window and projecting bumper lend the vehicle a dynamic look. The massive tailgate opens like a bank safe deposit box or the gate of a ferry, facilitating access to a 540l luggage compartment. With the back seats folded down, the capacity can increase to 1,530l. The luggage compartment has a regular shape, which makes loading easy. The maximum loading capacity of this station wagon is 555 kg. A wide range of engines is used to power the vehicle: gasoline, turbocharged gasoline, diesel, and turbodiesel units. There is a choice of eight engines in all: two gasoline units 1.6l/115 hp and 1.8l/140 hp, three turbocharged gasoline ones 1.6T/180 hp, 2.0T/220 hp and 2.8T/260 hp, as well as the top-of-the-range factory-tuned OPC version fitted with a 2.8Turbo/325 hp engine and 4X4 drive. Also available are the 2.0CDTI/130 hp and 2.0CDTI/160 hp turbodiesels. Power is transmitted to the front wheels or all wheels by a six-speed stick or a six-step automatic transmission. The least powerful and cheapest 1.6l/115 hp gasoline version costs zl.85,450. The most expensive all-wheel drive OPC Twin turbo version costs zl.202,550.

Peugeot 508 SW—French elegance with Polish soul
The Peugeot 508 SW is still new to the Polish market. It arrived here last fall and has been available in the showrooms for just for a few months. Its attractive 4,813 mm-long body features a carefully finished interior designed by Polish engineer Adam Bazydło. The station wagon has a bigger luggage compartment than the sedan, but the difference is insignificant, 660l vs. 545l. As in the case of the Honda, the wagon is more attractive than the sedan to my mind. Of course, it’s a matter of taste, but the station wagon is more compact stylistically. Its massive rear looks surprisingly light thanks to large headlights protruding onto the fenders and the shape of the rear pillar. Utility-wise, the vehicle offers a loading capacity of 660 kg, in addition to the possibility of easily arranging the interior and the luggage compartment. There is also generous standard equipment with optional four-zone air conditioning. This model is offered with a choice of four engines. All meet the EuroV standard. The current range includes two gasoline engines: a 1.6l/120 hp unit and the turbocharged 1.6l/156 hp, as well as two modern Common Rail turbodiesels: 1.6l HDI/112 hp (also available with the Start-Stop system) and 2.0l HDI/163 hp. Power is transmitted to the front wheels by five- and six-speed manual transmissions. The cheapest Peugeot 508 SW in the entry-level Access version fitted with a 1.6l/120 hp gasoline engine costs around zl.80,000. The most expensive Allure version with a 2.0l HDI/163 hp engine will set you back zl.115,200. Soon the range will be expanded to include the top-of-the-range 2.2 HDI/204 hp and hybride version.

Volvo V60—Swedish conservatism? Not any more
Among the many makes, Volvo is most often associated with station wagons. At the start of the 1980s the humongous, box-like Volvo 240 wagon was American housewives’ favorite. Even the V50, V70 and XC70 models offered today have retained elements of their “boxy” predecessors. But thanks to the new Volvo V60 the conservative image of the brand is a thing of the past. The 4,628 mm-long car has an aggressive but at the same time attractive look. Unfortunately, this has affected the vehicle’s utilitarian values, which are minimal for a station wagon. The luggage compartment is only 430l, as in a compact car. The maximum loading capacity of 462 kg is also a letdown, to put it mildly. However, Volvo offers something more in each model. For years, it has been synonymous with safety when it comes to cars in both Poland and elsewhere. It features a long list of both standard and optional passenger safety features—all those available on the market. Additional strengths of this model include its AWD all-wheel drive and a wide range of turbocharged gasoline engines: 1.6/T3/150 hp, 1.6/T4/180 hp, 2.0T5/240 hp and 3.0T6/304 hp. Gasoline units are complemented by the 1.6D2/115 hp, 2.0D3/163 hp and 2.4D5/215 hp Common Rail turbodiesels. The vehicle comes as front-wheel drive or 4X4 with a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. And the prices? You need to cough up from zl.116,000 for the least powerful 1.6T3/150 hp gasoline version to zl.220,000 for the top-of-the-range Volvo 3.0T6/304 hp AWD version.

Trendy wagons
Just why are station wagons so popular, especially with families and young managers? Is it because of their style and practicality? Yes, but fashion is also important: the fashion for trips outside the city, active relaxation and for highlighting individualism. Each of the described models features the ISOFIX baby seat mounting system. In each, within a few minutes you can easily fold down the back seats and obtain a much larger luggage space. These vehicles are perfect for carrying thousands of packages while you vacation with your family, and they will also carry your scuba gear, surfboard or skis when you travel alone. Sedans are not really adapted to this, and large vans or SUVs are not necessarily needed. Shapely, functional and handy, station wagons fill this gap, doing an excellent job in this department. Add to this the sport or all-terrain capabilities offered by some of these models (depending on your preference), what more could you possibly want?

Bartosz Grzybiński
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