Station Wagons vs. Minivans mileage?

HI -

As a general rule, do station wagons get better mileage/fuel economy than minivans? Or vice versa? Or is there no general rule? Thanks!

I would say there is no general rule.

There’s no hard and fast rule about it. It’s going to vary from model to model.

No hard rule…BUT…Most SUV’s are 4wd…and that adds weight and thus lowers gas mileage. SUV’s in general are boxier and thus have more wind resistance…which equates to lower gas mileage. The problem is finding an SUV and a comparable station wagon for a good comparison. I can’t think of one.

As a general rule, vehicles with a smaller aerodynamic profile (station wagons) get better fuel economy than vehicles with a larger aerodynamic profile (minivans), but for that to be a rule, all other things must be equal. There are other factors, like engine size, vehicle weight, vehicle age, and technology. If you look hard enough, you can probably identify a particular minivan that gets better fuel economy than a particular station wagon.

Fuel economy shouldn’t be the most important factor in your choice of a new vehicle. Decide for yourself which vehicle, of the available station wagons and minivans, best suits your needs.

Station wagons do get better mileage than minivans. But there are diesel station wagons available, which increase the wagon mileage. The definition of station wagon is also looser than minivan. For instance, the Kia Soul and Mitsubishi Lance Sport Back are listed as station wagons. Some might consider them hatch backs. And those that get similar mileage are luxury and/or sport models, like the BMW 328i Sports Wagon. The Subaru Outback and Infiniti EX35 might be considered SUVs, yet they are classified as station wagons. The source for this information is The government doesn’t classify the vehicles; the manufacturers put them into government-defined catagories. But one thing you can be sure of: a minivan will haul more cargo and people than a station wagon ever will. So in that sense, the minivan is a more efficient vehicle.

I would say it depends upon the vehicle weight and engine size. If the wagon is lighter and has a more economical 4 cyl, sure. But, there may be a Mazda “mini” that may be the smaller compared to a Venza for example. Nothing firm…

What Mazda wagon would be smaller than a Venza?

All else being equal (and it rarely is), station wagons would get better mileage than minivans - they should be lighter and have less frontal area, so there’s less wind resistance.

However, wagons are not easy to find - they are now few and far between, so they tend to hit more of a specialty market (luxury or AWD, etc), making direct comparisons difficult.

You can probably thank our gov’t for that - CAFE makes it difficult to justify wagons as they count against car fuel economy averages, so they tend to drag down the fleet average - minivans count against truck averages, so they tend to pull up the truck fleet average.

Whether you blame the government regulations or the auto companies’ chosen methods to meet those regulations is a matter of opinion. It all depends on who you listen to. According to managers, nothing is ever their fault. If management can help it, they never take blame, only credit for good things.

Other than the Mazda CX9, a Highlander size car based suv, I don’t believe any other “wagon” in their line up with lower model number compares to the 4k weight of the AWD Venza. This includes the Mazda5 minivan curb weight (lbs) 3389. Also, many compact SUVs including RAV, CRV and Rogue are 5 to 700 lbs lighter. My point is still…you can’t categorize which is more economical, SUVs,wagons or minivans etc. The auto industry would like to label them as all “different”; in reality, they are mostly cut from the same cloth and platformed on their existing sedan models.
Wagons are easy to find…they are now 4 door hatchbacks.

When in doubt…blame the govt. It’s a safe bet you’ll get 30-40% agreement, right or wrong. Trust me :=), if there were a market for the traditional “low” wagon, we’d have oodles of them. But dislocating the old back while bending over to load a wagon disappeared years ago in favor of the upright, easy to load SUV and minivan. Again, they are disguised as 4 door hatchbacks now.

Before E10, my wife’s 91 Taurus wagon got about 22-23 mpg with a 3.0 V6. Its replacement, a 98 Windstar minivan got around 20-21 mpg with a 3.8 V6, when E10 became standard year round the mpg on the van dropped to 19 mpg. Highway mpg was about the same, 25 mpg.

The Windstar’s replacement, a 2006 Toyota minivan gets about 21 mpg on E10. If Ethanol free gas was available I suspect the mpg would be comparable to the Taurus wagon. At the speeds driven by my wife (40-50 mph), I believe engine size and weight are more of a factor than aerodynamics for gas mileage.

Ed B.

Sorry, dagosa, four door hatchbacks are not the same thing as station wagons. Some companies, like Volvo and Audi, still sell real station wagons, which have more cargo space than four door hatchbacks.

You do have a point about demand. Most Americans would rather have a minivan or an SUV. However, real station wagons are making a comeback, thanks to today’s fuel prices. When fuel hits $4/gallon again, they will continue to increase in popularity.

The other favorite whipping boy of those who like to blame the government would be unions. As a student of management, it never fails to amaze to see how managers blame everyone but themselves. Henry Ford once said giving his factory workers a pay raise (doubling their pay), was the smartest thing he ever did. It allowed him to get more from his workers and be more selective about who he hired, which helped drive his competitors out of business. Yet today’s auto makers, like Ford and GM, love to blame the unions for their high labor costs. The age of managerial accountability is pretty much over, unless you get caught stealing.

What some conservative people don’t seem to get is that corporations have liability protection just from the veil of being a corporation that only govt. agencies and class action suits can penetrate. And yet, we continue to hold the govt. and the lawyers in contempt when they are often the only shield we have from the “company store”, pollution and general servitude. Henry Ford and LL Bean seem to be a few of those who actually valued public trust.

I don’t intend to make the gov’t a scapegoat for everything, because they aren’t to blame for most things people DO blame them for, IMO.

But CAFE was tremendously poorly setup. Wagons, pure and simple, are larger and heavier than the sedans they are based on. Some of the old midsize wagons, like the Taurus wagon, actually had more room than nearly every midsize SUV on the market during the SUV craze. However, they were classified as cars, and dragged down the CAFE standard. To meet higher mpg requirements, there is a very strong incentive to shift those buyers to something that can be classified as a truck. You could easily hit truck mpg requirements in a midsize SUV, but you couldn’t hit the car mpg requirements with a midsize wagon.

One proposal I thought Bush had right (and I rarely said he was that right on anything) was to restructure CAFE to have an mpg target based on the size of the vehicle. Then a midsize wagon and a midsize SUV would have been in the same category for CAFE requirements, and makers would have had an incentive not only to offer wagons, but to do something to make them more attractive (and not an afterthought in design, like Taurus wagon)…

When comparing city mileage, aerodynamics will mean little… on highway, it makes a great impact.

The problem using just the vehicles you’ve owned is that you’re going 91->98->06, and significant improvements were made in that timeframe… Even just the 98->06 you’re jumping decades in base engine design.

Who is fooling Who? Basically there all station wagons !

You do make a compelling argument for CAFE reform.