Wagon Wednesday: Euro Wagons of the '90s

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Wagon Wednesday Volvo Opel Volkswagen Passat Astra V40

The station wagon is a body style that is increasingly associated with luxury marques and segments in America today, but its roots obviously harken back to the days of rudimentary practicality and outright load-lugging capacity.

That is what these three wagons from the ‘90s represent: each of them is from a relatively proletarian brand (at the time) and are simply econoboxes with a bit more on the back.

Both the Astra and V40 are C-segment cars while the Passat is a D-segment, but there’s a bit more differentiation than just the size. The Astra is fundamentally a more ordinary vehicle as Opel/Vauxhall’s budget offering against the Golf and the Focus/Escort and, by the mid nineties, they were ready to release this car’s successor, the Astra G.

On the other hand, while Volvo was still very much an everyday brand at the time, the V40/S40 range based on the Mitsubishi Carisma was described as “the car that finally persuaded buyers that Volvo really could build a credible compact executive car” according to a contemporary RAC review when the car was first released in the mid nineties.

Obviously the Passat needs no introduction and this, the B4 Passat, was also an outgoing model by the mid-nineties like the Astra. Again, nothing more than ordinary, Germanic family transportation from VW here although the B4 is somewhat notable for being no more than a heavily facelifted B3 that took care of the previous car’s overly radical grilleless design.

And there you have it! Three relatively staid, boring, and run-of-the-mill estates by Siku that characterize the state of the European wagon in the ‘90s and even today. While we in the U.S. only see more premium products like the Outback, V90, E Class, etc., today you can still get an Astra wagon and a Passat wagon in Europe while the V40 has morphed into a stylish yet still practical little shooting-brake-esque hatch. Who says CUVs are the way of the future?

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