japanese wagonsIn reading a review of the new Mazda 6 today I found a disappointing fact; it won’t be offered as a wagon anymore. A couple of years ago Subaru also stopped offering a wagon option for their sporty sedan, the Legacy, but kept the rough-&-tumble Outback. Honda stopped making the Accord wagon in the US in 1997.

Too bad, because this leaves US consumers no good choices for carrying lots of cargo besides a minivan or an SUV. The “crossover” SUV market has grown enough to push wagons out of business. But every crossover I see has less horizontal cargo space than a mid-size car’s trunk. The vertical space is taller, so there’s more cargo blocking the rear view. This is why they need to equip these vehicles with electronic detection and back-up cameras.

I’m reading the 2002 book “High and Mighty: SUVs: The World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way” and it’s a sad story of the history of the SUV. It’s sad because it outlines the trade regulations that encouraged domestic automakers to build bigger vehicles, and the difference in regulation of light-trucks vs. cars and how it affects the damage they inflict. One of the author’s main points is that US consumers are under the mistaken impression that SUVs are safer than cars, when in fact they’re more prone to risk of rollover, take longer to stop, aren’t as nimble and cause much more damage to other people when they hit them.

The author’s biggest fear isn’t so much new SUVs hitting the 2002 market, because they were bought by middle aged families who tend to drive safer. It was the higher proportion of SUVs that would hit the used car market over the coming decade. These trucks would be more likely to be driven by young men and may not be as well maintained, posing a greater threat to people who share the road.

While I don’t think many young guys would pick a used wagon as their daily driver, I do think that the Mazda 6 and Subaru Legacy GT were pretty cool sport wagons. “Combi” cars in Europe rule the road but wagons in the US have a Brady Bunch stigma. Too bad, because they would serve people well, without the poor fuel economy and danger that tall SUVs have.

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