Hooniverse Asks: Will wagons really make a comeback?

Pictured above is 2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country. Its review is coming soon but I can tell you this – I really like it, almost love it. It’s great. It’s all of the things the Volvo S60 sedan was, sans the power (different engines, T6 on the sedan, T5 on this wagon), and all the benefits of a longroof.

Today we ask – will people ever return to the conventional wagon?

We don’t mean the Ouback-ified, jacked-up wagons with plastic body cladding, sort of like this V60 Cross Country. No, I mean like wagon versions of conventional sedans.Following the logic of “don’t drive what your parents drove”, people currently aged 10-15 should be drooling over wagons soon. But I somehow don’t see that coming. Thoughts?

Notice the line of SUVs parked in front of that Whole Foods. It’s almost like I staged it.

22 Comments

    1. I sort of see it as a similar convergence to what we’re seeing with racial differences among humans, albeit much faster. Racial differences are diluted the more global the world becomes and the more cultures intermingle. Similarly, the more cars become global platform, they seem to converge around the most versatile type, which we seem to have decided is the SUV. It’s got the wagon body, complete with a real hatch, not some weird integrated window-trunklid thing, and most have available AWD, so they can get around with more confidence (real or imagined) in more weather conditions.

      I’m not saying I like it — viva la difference — but both of my cars are SUVs currently, and for good reason. One is an AWD crossover (’14 Pilot) that is reliable as the sunrise, brilliant in snow and ice, and a champ road tripper with just 144k on the ticker. The other is an old dog truck-based SUV (’92 4Runner) that’s more fun than well-controlled in snow and ice, can climb a mountain with 31s and low range gearing, but is cantankerous with possibly the worst V6 Toyota ever installed in a vehicle, and gets 12mpg thanks to those 31s and an automatic transmission.

  1. I don’t think the old adage necessarily holds true. My mom drove my sister and me around in station wagons, and I love them. My sister now drives a Ford Flex EcoBoost, which is pretty much a modern version of a Ford Country Squire.

    The popularity of vehicles is determined by the masses, not enthusiasts. The masses are interested in versatile point-A-to-point-B transportation, and the modern crossover/SUV fits the bill perfectly. Space is adequate, seating is adequate, performance is adequate, visibility is adequate, all-season drivability is adequate. Most people don’t give a whit about what makes for a good driving car, as long as the vehicle gets them there in comfort. Crossovers come in a variety of sizes to suit, and there are are enough luxury models out there now for those who need to show off their money. One of the regulars on this site recently said that the modern crossover is really the evolution of sedans of the 40s and 50s– tallish cars with good visibility and high hip-points for ease of entry and egress, and decent room for luggage. Truth.

    Cars were once fairly unique in providing a level of personal freedom and expression, but today that need is more often filled by smart phones and social media. Some teens don’t even care about getting their license, because they don’t need to physically be with their friends to hang out or share experiences. I don’t think they care as much about what they drive, or in some cases even if they drive. Several of my son’s friends are 17 and still don’t have their licenses, and we don’t live in the city where public transportation is the norm. If there’s that much indifference to driving in the upcoming generation, then the predominant vehicle is going to be the best transportation appliance.

    Personally, I think the station wagon is the ideal car (at least, for my priorities), but I don’t expect its popularity to resurge. I think the automotive spectrum is shrinking, and it’s centered on the crossover.

    1. Ha! People don’t buy truly practical cars, even though they will look disdainfully at enthusiasts “silly” sports cars, people still buy cars based on emotive appeal like status, being “sporty” (sic), youthful or “secure”. If people actually bought cars as “transportation appliances”, you’d see more of this sort of wagon..R

      https://c.ndtvimg.com/hia7a2ao_maruti-suzuki-electric-car_625x300_07_September_18.jpg

      I mean it’s got everything for a lot of people, even that high hip point (but with a low floor), it’s easy to park, but most people wouldn’t be seen dead in one.

    2. Ha! People don’t buy truly practical cars, even though they will look disdainfully at enthusiasts “silly” sports cars, people still buy cars based on emotive appeal like status, being “sporty” (sic), youthful or “secure”. If people actually bought cars as “transportation appliances”, you’d see more of this sort of wagon..R

      https://c.ndtvimg.com/hia7a2ao_maruti-suzuki-electric-car_625x300_07_September_18.jpg

      I mean it’s got everything for a lot of people, even that high hip point (but with a low floor), it’s easy to park, but most people wouldn’t be seen dead in one.

      1. No, people don’t buy truly practical cars. But they don’t buy purely emotive cars either, else they wouldn’t be buying crossovers. If a Honda Pilot or RAV4 is an “emotional” purchase, then I feel sorry for the current psychological state of the average driver. Families where I live that let emotions influence their car purchases are buying Macans and Stelvios, not Corvettes and Mustangs. Those that want status are buying G-Wagens and Velars.

        As for the kei car above, I wouldn’t mind driving it as a commuter, but it doesn’t look suitable as a do-all family car. It appears to have space for either butts or stuff, but not both. For my family, it would be less practical than a pickup truck, and I can’t even talk my wife into that.

      2. I couldn’t agree more. Rationality and practicality trump hardly anything among the “common carbuyer”. For the first time ever, I find myself in the situation of not owning a van or wagon. The lack of practicality is pretty hard to adjust to – I can’t just stop anywhere and pick up large objects, for example.

        Yet with more and more people living in tiny apartments, I don’t see them needing practical vehicles (or vehicles at all?) in the long run.

      3. No, people don’t buy truly practical cars. But they don’t buy purely emotive cars either, else they wouldn’t be buying crossovers. If a Honda Pilot or RAV4 is an “emotional” purchase, then I feel sorry for the current psychological state of the average driver. Families where I live that let emotions influence their car purchases are buying Macans and Stelvios, not Corvettes and Mustangs. Those that want status are buying G-Wagens and Velars.

        As for the kei car above, I wouldn’t mind driving it as a commuter, but it doesn’t look suitable as a do-all family car. It appears to have space for either butts or stuff, but not both. For my family, it would be less practical than a pickup truck, and I can’t even talk my wife into that.

        1. It’s got more useable space than a lot of sedans, or even small crossovers that are wildly popular here. People tend to overestimate their “needs” vs what’s actually used most the time and you can make alternative arrangements that one time, but yeah, of course it’ll be a bit too small for some, which is why there was a Wagon R+ and similarly extended versions of such 1 box cars, but it doesn’t make a Pilot or RAV4 suddenly an example of purely rational functional industrial design. People make the decision, the rationalize after the fact with most consumer purchases, I doubt I’m much different.

          These cars are largely emotive, selling a lifestyle, maybe not an obviously exciting one like a two seat sports car, but perhaps of middle class respectability and rugged self reliance in an insecure world, and yeah, that does say some worrying things about the psychological state of population…

          Even at the height of the Wagon era, the same tactics were being employed, Think about the “Ford Country Squire” nameplate you mentioned. Why not just call it a Galaxie Wagon?, but no “Country Squire” seems deliberately chosen for vaguely aristocratic horsey set associations and if you look at old marketing from the time, this is exactly how it was portrayed. I’m sure Amercians convinced themselves they needed rather than simply wanted this (admittedly glorious) land yacht, while Europeans somehow managed to pack a family and their holiday stuff into a Ford Escort MK1. 😉 …not that I blame them, we’d have probably all done the same had owning a V8 wagon been an affordable option.

        2. It’s got more useable space than a lot of sedans, or even small crossovers that are wildly popular here. People tend to overestimate their “needs” vs what’s actually used most the time and you can make alternative arrangements that one time, but yeah, of course it’ll be a bit too small for some, which is why there was a Wagon R+ and similarly extended versions of such 1 box cars, but it doesn’t make a Pilot or RAV4 suddenly an example of purely rational functional industrial design. People make the decision, the rationalize after the fact with most consumer purchases, I doubt I’m much different.

          These cars are largely emotive, selling a lifestyle, maybe not an obviously exciting one like a two seat sports car, but perhaps of middle class respectability and rugged self reliance in an insecure world, and yeah, that does say some worrying things about the psychological state of population…

          Even at the height of the Wagon era, the same tactics were being employed, Think about the “Ford Country Squire” nameplate you mentioned. Why not just call it a Galaxie Wagon?, but no “Country Squire” seems deliberately chosen for vaguely aristocratic horsey set associations and if you look at old marketing from the time, this is exactly how it was portrayed. I’m sure Amercians convinced themselves they needed rather than simply wanted this (admittedly glorious) land yacht, while Europeans somehow managed to pack a family and their holiday stuff into a Ford Escort MK1. 😉 …not that I blame them, we’d have probably all done the same had owning a V8 wagon been an affordable option.

    3. With the number of baby-boomers buying them, i’d give it 10 years max before crossovers become considered “geriatric vehicles”…

  2. The problem with bringing back the station wagon is the product planners have to make them. While the original BOF SUV was obviously a truck, the majority of current “SUV” vehicles are unit body crossovers based on cars. This makes the modern CUV effectively a jacked up hatchback or station wagon depending on size so rather like the joke of the T-Rex evolving into a chicken, the station wagon has largely evolved into the crossover. The market wants tall vehicles and pedestrian safety and crash regs force higher hoodlines and heavy bumpers that are better suited to the “rugged” aesthetic. I just wish we could get more interesting looking crossovers like the Citroen Cactus instead of the recent jack it up and stick black angular bits on it look from Toyota and Hyundai.

  3. Considering I want a wagon, my money is on never.

    Also, I’m an older Millennial, and even though my generation already grew up with SUV’s, we don’t seem to be rejecting them (I personally grew up with minivans, but I like those just fine).

    I don’t see anything changing until the marketers find another format they can hang aspirational messaging on, and are given financial incentive to do so. Basically, either CAFE has to change its metrics, or China has to decide they want something else and the rest of the world has to figure out how they’ll deal with that.

    1. Crossovers are becoming the choice vehicle for “old people” (baby boomers), simply due to ingress and egress issues increasing numbers are experiencing with lower vehicles.

      The “low crossover” (aka wagon) may very well become popular with a younger generation who don’t want to be seen driving a geriatric vehicle, while families may revert back to the minivan (which really is more practical than any crossover). Along with a growing demand for wagons, high riding SUVs will probably remain popular for “active” lifestyles.

      In addition there are fuel efficiency considerations, which are more challenging for crossovers. I think a wagon (and hatchback) comeback is more likely now than it’s been in decades, though the terminology may change to something along the lines of “break” or “longroof”.

  4. Not as long as CAFE says that a crossover of given size can get [feasible, X] MPG while a wagon the same size but 5″ closer to the ground has to get [improbable, X+5 or +10] MPG.

    1. THIS! I don’t believe that it’s “the masses” that demand CUVs, I think it’s just that car corporations have decided CUVs help with CAFE and because it is a “new concept” they can talk people into paying more for it than for an equivalent wagon/minivan/sedan.

      What percentage of vehicle commercials these days feature pickups (highest profit margin) or CUVs (second highest profit margin) versus what percentage advertise sedans/wagons/minivans?
      The masses buy what the masses are told everyone else is buying.

      1. So if it’s just a regulation issue, you guys have a political problem – surprised faces – that could change at any national election?

        The funny thing though is that wagons are losing to three-letter-classes everywhere, Urop included.

        Just last year I watched a German comparo-review of “the standard family choice” – a bunch of diesel wagons competing. This would have changed in 2019 already. And half of them wouldn’t be manual anymore; the real transmission would now be the odd one out.

        Even in Norway, with very strict regulations, manufacturers do well with what customers want: Hybrid and electric SUV. That’s how Jaguar made it to the country’s top 10 sold brands, at least a few months this year.

      2. So if it’s just a regulation issue, you guys have a political problem – surprised faces – that could change at any national election?

        The funny thing though is that wagons are losing to three-letter-classes everywhere, Urop included.

        Just last year I watched a German comparo-review of “the standard family choice” – a bunch of diesel wagons competing. This would have changed in 2019 already. And half of them wouldn’t be manual anymore; the real transmission would now be the odd one out.

        Even in Norway, with very strict regulations, manufacturers do well with what customers want: Hybrid and electric SUV. That’s how Jaguar made it to the country’s top 10 sold brands, at least a few months this year.

  5. Judging from the rebates slapped on Buick TourX languishing in lots across the country, I’d say not now. I single out the TourX because it is a very well sorted car with a diminishing audience and they are an absolute steal right now. I have a coworker how recently purchased a leftover 2018 model in the mid 20’s. The Volvo V60 may be an outlier due to being a premium car and appealing to more well heeled buyer. The real problem is that the gulf between CUV/SUVs and traditional sedan/wagons in fuel economy/ride/convenience is so close now that the wagon appears to be an afterthought in many buyer’s minds.

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