For a while during the nineties and noughties, it began to feel like station wagons had become less popular. There were so many suitable family alternatives – like the SUVs, crossovers and people carriers or MPVs. Soccer moms were no longer able to throw kids in the back of the wagon – they all had to have their own seat and restraint to travel in. And of course, these safety issues are still relevant, but gradually it seems that there are more people going back to driving a wagon – or estate car as it’s called in the UK.
This might be a fashion thing – people may have tired of driving MPVs that look more like minibuses than cars, and sometimes feel like that to drive too. With a wagon, you have the sensation of driving a car much more than you do with an MPV – with more control on the curves of the road, and without the kind of overly bouncy suspension you get with some MPVs. Added to this, a lot of the newer station wagons can safely seat seven, so you get the practicality of an MPV without having to drive one!
Many of the new eco cars that manufacturers are producing now cater for the larger family too. Toyota brought out its Prius V in the States in October 2011. The US version only seats five, but the same vehicle will be produced to seat seven in Europe and Japan.
The seven seat model Prius has middle and back row seats which split and fold to offer greater flexibility to carry passengers and cargo. If you have all three rows of seats full of people, then there is a space for 200 litres of cargo in the trunk. If you have two rows of seats and drop the third row, this frees up 505 litres of cargo room.
It seems that there’s an ever increasing range of options for today’s family driver – whether they have a number of people or more stuff to move around in their car. And with the introduction of more hybrid station wagons and MPVs, it’s getting easier to be green even if you have a big family.