The Differences Between a Sports Wagon and an SUV

December 5, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

You know you want a vehicle that can comfortably hold your family and hold everything you pack for that awesome road trip. What type of vehicle should you buy? If you find yourself torn between an SUV and a sports wagon, consider the key differences between these two classes of vehicles. 

Fuel Efficiency

With gas prices on a constant roller coaster ride, you need to take into account how much you’ll get out of every drop you put in the tank. Sports wagons have a definite edge over SUVs at the pump. Depending on the size of the wagon you choose and its engine type, you can get well more than 30 mpg. A hybrid compact SUV might get around the same, but a full-size SUV hybrid will average between 20-25 mpg.

Handling

The very names of these two types of vehicles speak to the difference in the way they handle. The way a sports wagon handles stays true to the “sports” part of its title. With its low center of gravity, it can smoothly handle curves at high speeds. When you drive a sports wagon, it’s easier to imagine that the road is your racetrack than if you were driving an SUV.

SUVs sit higher, which makes their maneuverability suffer. However, if you buy an SUV with a juicy V8 engine, it wouldn’t have much trouble keeping up with a sports wagon on a straight stretch.

Size

If you often have a car full of people, you might lean in the direction of an SUV solely because you don’t want any of your passengers getting the air squeezed out of them. Full-size SUVs can usually accommodate a minimum of six adults without anybody having to get too friendly. Sports wagons, on the other hand, aren’t suited for as many bodies. Four or five adults is the capacity for most models. However, some sports wagons like the Mercedes E-class wagon have a rear-facing third-row seat.

Storage is an issue, as well. One source points out, “In most cases, wagons (and hatchbacks) are just extended versions of existing sedans.” That extension does provide a little extra storage space compared to a sedan, and in many models you can fold the seats forward to make extra space. However, SUVs really are the king when it comes to cargo space.

The dimensions of the car itself is another thing to consider. If you’ve ever driven a large vehicle in a congested downtown area, you know what a pain it is to find a suitable parking space. While sports wagons aren’t exactly park-anywhere-eligible, their smaller dimensions can make the difference between being able to open your door once you squeeze into that tiny space and crawling out the car’s back end.

Comfort

Size is only one factor when it comes to comfort. An SUV from a top manufacturer can include everything you didn’t know you wanted, from an entertainment system in the backseat to automated climate control and beyond. However, like a luxury SUV, a sport wagon can include all the gadgets and gizmos that take a vehicle from being a tool to being absolutely cool. Hence, in this category the biggest thing that separates these two types of vehicle is personal preference.

Safety

Thanks to the laws of physics, there’s no arguing with the fact that larger cars are safer than smaller ones. Speaking about collisions, an article at Edmunds.com uncovers that a “heavier vehicle will typically push a lighter one backward during the impact. As a result, there will be less force on the occupants of the heavier vehicle.”

Of course, car manufacturers work hard to make sure that any vehicle protects its occupants as much as possible, using features like blind spot detection systems and side curtain airbags. Both sports wagons and SUVs can include tons of extra safety features, not only to protect you during a collision, but help you prevent a collision in the first place. Looking up car insurance rates online is a great way to save money but also to protect yourself in the financial realm.

So, SUV or sports wagon? As you stroke your chin and ponder the question of what type of vehicle is right for you and your family, think about the above factors and how well they fit with your transportation needs.