“My name is Atul, and I drive a stationwagon.” At least that’s what a lot of people would want me to say in some kind of stationwagon owner’s anonymous support group. This mostly occurs because I don’t have a wife and kids. To them I say, my Saab 9-3 SportCombi wagon (and most wagons) are faster, more efficient, lighter, better-handling, safer, and definitely sportier than many so-called Sport Utility Vehicles. SUVs may have more power but the power to weight ratio is better with a wagon than most SUVs. My 9-3 even holds about the same amount of stuff as some small to mid-sized SUVs.
Even though I catch flack for owning and driving a wagon (and a hatchback), it’s hard to argue with the fact that they are more practical than sedans. For instance, I can put my bicycle back there without taking the front wheel off and I can even put two with one of the front wheels removed. I’ve had my 1997 Saab 900 for almost ten years. My hatchback has saved me hundreds of dollars in U-Haul rental expenses when I was starting off. Hand-me-down furniture fit well in the back whereas a sedan would not have been able to hold any of the dressers, chairs, and tables that I brought from Cleveland to Detroit. I fit a 32” tube TV which I purchased and my car saved the day when my friend bought a similar TV and could not get it home in her car.
On the efficiency front, my 1997 Saab has averaged 26.5 mpg with about 40% city driving and the 2006 has averaged 28 mpg with about 70% highway miles. This real world fuel economy is competitive with hybrid SUV’s like the Ford Escape hybrid and the Toyota Highlander hybrid. I think I deserve a tax credit too.
In terms of safety, a lighter, lower, better handling vehicle is better at avoiding accidents. I would rather avoid and accident and get to my destination without delay than get into one and suffer less damage, possibly hurting others in smaller vehicles. In an SUV, rollovers are more likely and those really snarl traffic, let alone putting vehicle occupants in a dizzying dangerous situation, (especially if seatbelts aren’t being used in the rear seats).
I feel I’m not alone though. The trend towards hatchbacks is catching on. In Europe, hatchbacks have been considered to be more upscale than sedans. Hatchbacks and wagons are becoming more popular in North America too. The Mazda 3, Audi A3, Honda Fit, and MINI are all considered cool and I believe my Saab 9-3 SportCombi looks sharp as well. (Notice how the Saab marketing folks had to disguise the fact that it’s a wagon by calling it something other than a stationwagon.) We are such a sensitive society.
I declare the dawn of a new era, a time when hatchbacks and wagons are not only practical, but respectable and cool. They’re not just for families with kids anymore.