The first unofficial family car was the station wagon. In the 80’s and early 90’s the wagon was king, and nearly all the major manufacturers wanted a piece of the pie, Buick, AMC, Peugeot, Renault, Mercury, Datsun, Toyota, VW, Audi, Honda, Oldsmobile, Ford, Chevy, Mitsubishi, Geo and Subaru all had renditions of wagons that a consumer was able to purchase in the US and enjoy along with his VHS Player and portable pager. Then came the minivan, and made the wagon an endangered species. Now if you want a wagon you only have a handful of manufactures to turn to instead of nearly 20.
The Dodge Caravan that replaced many of these wagons was more spacious, was easily to configure and versatile for any occasion, whether carrying kids or plywood. However, what the minivan and the wagon both lacked was off road capability, the ACR Eagle came with AWD, but it couldn’t shake the dated appearance. Sport utility vehicle to the rescue! The SUV gave customers the freedom to go anywhere and do anything, along with family and gear. Customers bought in wholeheartedly, quickly forgetting the days of sliding doors and wooden cladding. However, when gas prices started to rise the big, thirsty SUV was losing popularity and sales started to dwindle. Companies like Honda and Toyota saw a huge opportunity and seized it. Their reasoning went something like this; why not offer AWD capability in smaller more efficient package, welcome RAV-4 and CR-V. The crossover utility vehicle was born, and now rules the market. These smaller SUV’s or lager wagons are loved by many for their size, comfort, efficiency and affordability. Yet, the throne is being threatened once again. Or is it?
When Nissan introduced its Juke in 2011 the automotive world reacted better than anyone including Nissan anticipated. In the first year, in America alone 30k Jukes were sold. The polarizing styling aside, the consumers loved the smaller packaging, higher seating position and AWD capability. Nissan bottled up the same virtues that made the original CR-V and RAV-4 great and produced a product that the masses loved, mainly because of its size. It wasn’t long that the rest of the industry began to notice, and just like the original wagon craze automakers began coming out with their own version of the compact crossover utility vehicle. Now Honda makes the HR-V Mazda has the CX3, Fiat the 500m, even the legendary off-road king Jeep has a player in the game called Renegade. These AWD vehicles are not a sedans nor a SUV’s or even a CUV, but something smaller, more attractive, efficient and affordable. This subcompact crossover segment is the hottest in the game. Just how hot? Honda alone is projected to sell close to 130k HR-V’s in the first year. Naturally with all this buzz I was intrigued by these little wagons that could. After taking a closer look this is what I found.
Most of these little trucks have an all wheel drive system (AWD). Meaning most of the time they’re front wheel drive only. Jeep is the only one to offer locking differentials and an actual 4×4 system. So as far as capability goes tackling the Mojave Desert isn’t on the to do list, for these wagon trucks. No, most of these CCUV’s will be driven around cities and mall lots. That brings up one big question. Why chose them over its based on? The Honda Fit is one of the best small hatchbacks in the world, and I’m not exaggerating one bit. In fact it was so good Honda decided to use the same platform and lots of other bits in the HR-V. Same goes for Mazda 3, which is the CX3 essentially.
Comparably these hatchback also, offer a lot more room inside. That just seems redundant. Better fuel economy, handling, cheaper to insure, and are safer. Other than seating position, and a bit more capability, what are you really gaining? Don’t get me wrong, the Renegade is the exception, because you can genuinely use it off road, but everything other cute little CCUV makes very little sense at all. For about tree grand more you can get the large sibling like the CR-V or CX5, and live happily ever after, or not bother at all and enjoy your hatchback.
This trend is the hottest thing in the Automotive Industry, and I have nothing against it. I just wanted to share my very valuable opinion. If I was in the market for a car that is fuel efficient and capable I wouldn’t be looking at the compact cross over segment. They’re adorable to look at it, but that’s pretty much it.