Shapely, Smart, Practical
June 3, 2014
Do you remember the station wagons of 15 or 20 years ago? They all looked like sedans with a large trunk stuck on. They were boxy, lumbering and often resembled the back end of a bus, but at least they were practical. Times have changed: these days, station wagons are downright sexy.
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; these 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 the Avant, BMW uses the name Touring, Citroen and Opel have a Tourer, Peugeot has a SW (or Sport Wagon), and Volkswagen has the Variant. Volvo station wagons are simply marked with the letter V.
Until recently, most producers tried to appeal to customers chiefly with the size 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. Luggage compartments no longer looked tacked on, but became an integral part of a sophisticated overall design.
Mazda 6: Japanese ninja
Sometimes the volume of the luggage compartment is inversely proportional to the attractiveness of the body. The Mazda 6 station wagon has an only slightly larger luggage compartment than the four-door sedan. The sedan comes with a 483-liter trunk, while the station wagon offers 506 l—only 23 l more. This, however, is offset by easy loading and greater overall cargo capacity (645 kg). Moreover, the volume of the luggage compartment can be increased to 1,648 l by folding down the back seats (in the 60:40 configuration) using buttons in the side walls of the trunk. Another interesting solution is a luggage compartment cover attached to the hatch door. When you open the hatch the cover goes up along with it, thus facilitating access to the trunk; after closing the hatch it covers the luggage.
The car looks very dynamic and in my opinion is the most attractive among all station wagons out there. With a length of 4,805 mm, the vehicle looks not just neat but elegant. In addition to its exceptional design, this model offers Japanese reliability and robustness. It comes with a choice of two gasoline engines: a 2.0 l unit that delivers either 145 hp or 165 hp and a 2.5 l/192 hp motor. Also available is a turbocharged Common Rail 2.2 l diesel engine with a capacity of either 150 hp or 175 hp—regarded as one of the best in its class. The Mazda features front-wheel drive with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-step automatic. The cheapest Mazda 6 with the entry-level 2.0 l/145 hp engine costs zl.88,700. The most expensive and best equipped version with a 2.2 l/175 hp diesel engine and an automatic transmission carries a price tag of just over zl.150,000.
Citroën C5 Tourer: French elegance
The Citroën C5 Tourer station wagon is 4,829 mm in length. It too has a larger trunk than the sedan (533 l vs. 467 l), but the difference is not massive. As with the Mazda, the station wagon is, in my opinion, more attractive than the sedan. Of course, this is a matter of taste, but the station wagon is more compact stylistically. The massive rear, thanks to the large headlights extending onto the fenders and a nicely shaped rear pillar, seems to be exceptionally light. The functionality of the Citroën C5 Tourer is enhanced by the regular shape of the trunk, which is easy to arrange and can increase its capacity to a generous 1,490 l by folding down the back seats. The luggage compartment is then 111 centimeters in width and 172 centimeters in length, with the edge of the trunk only 62 centimeters above the ground. Additional strengths of the vehicle include is its load capacity of over 600 kg and hydro-pneumatic suspension enabling easy loading without compromising navigability.
The model is offered with a choice of engines, including two gasoline units (a 1.6 l/120 hp and a turbocharged 1.6 l/155 hp) and several modern Common Rail HDi turbodiesels (1.6 l HDi/110 hp, 2.0 l HDi with either 140 hp or 160 hp, and the most powerful, 2.2 l HDi/200 hp unit). Power is transmitted to the front wheels by means of a five- or six-speed manual transmission or a five- or six-step automatic transmission. The cheapest Citroën C5 Tourer fitted with a 1.6 l/120 hp gasoline engine costs under zl.84,000. The most expensive version with a 2.2 l HDi/200 hp engine and an automatic six-speed transmission costs less than zl.140,000.
Volvo V70/XC70: Swedish conservatism
Volvo is the make most often associated with station wagons. At the start of the 1980s, the humongous, box-like Volvo 240 wagon was the American housewives’ favorite.
The Volvo V70 station wagon, on the market since 2007, has an old-school look but its luggage compartment is a respectable 575 l, growing to 1,600 l when you fold down the back seats. The vehicle can carry objects with a length of up to 3 meters. It’s enough to fold down the back seats and the front passenger’s seat.
Other selling points of the Volvo include its all-wheel drive (AWD) and a broad range of engines from 2.0 l/245 hp and 3.0 l/304 hp turbocharged gasoline units to 2.0D3/136 hp, 2.4D4/181 hp and 2.4D5/215 hp turbodiesels. The XC70 comes with front-wheel or 4X4 drive and with a choice of six-speed stick and six- or eight-step automatic transmissions. For years, Volvo has been synonymous with safety. It features a long list of both standard and optional passenger safety features—all those available on the market. The prices match the brand’s image—you need to cough up from nearly zl.164,000 for the least powerful 2.0lD3/136 hp version to more than zl.240,000 for the top-of-the-range 3.0/304 hp gasoline version fitted with an automatic six-speed Geartronic transmission.
Opel Insignia Sports Tourer: German robustness
The Opel Insignia comes with three types of body, including the Sports Tourer station wagon. This model has won over users thanks to its solidity and reliability. The designers also did a fine job. 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, lends 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 540 l luggage compartment—in fact, quite small for such a large wagon. Even though the capacity of the trunk can increase to 1,530 l with the back seats folded down, this is still a bit disappointing. However, after you fold down the back seats, the cargo space increases to 1,908 mm in length and 1,086 mm in width. The maximum loading capacity of this wagon is 555 kg. There are useful fastenings for fixing baggage in the trunk and a retractable floor with a maximum capacity of 120 kg, which makes it easier to load heavy luggage. There is also an additional safety feature when you open the trunk. Because the tailgate rises together with the headlights, additional lamps are mounted on the sides of the inner part of the trunk.
A wide range of engines is available to power the vehicle: gasoline and turbo-gasoline units, diesels, and turbodiesels, and even an LPG unit. The list begins with the baseline 1.8 l/140 hp gasoline engine and includes the turbo-charged 1.4T/140 hp, 1.6T/170 hp and 2.0T/250 hp units as well as 2.0 CDTI turbodiesels that pump out 110, 120, 130, 140 or 163 hp, and a 2.0 CDTI BiTurbo unit with an output of 195 hp. Power is transmitted to the front wheels or all wheels (4X4) by a six-speed stick or a six-step automatic transmission. The least powerful and cheapest 1.8l/140 hp gasoline version costs zl.93,750, while the most expensive 2.0Turbo/250 hp 4X4 version costs just over zl.162,000.
Just why are station wagons still popular? Is it because of their style and practicality? You bet. In the mid range alone, the Skoda Superb Combi station wagon has a luggage compartment of 633 l, the Volkswagen Passat Variant offers 603 l, the Peugeot 508 SW comes with a decent 560 l, the Ford Mondeo wagon with 554 l, the Toyota Avensis Wagon with 543 l, the Hyundai i40 with 540 l, and the Renault Laguna Grandtour with 508 l. But fashion is also important: the fashion for trips outside the city, active relaxation and for rugged individualism. These vehicles are perfect for carrying a mass of luggage 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, practical 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, what more could you possibly want?