Skoda Octavia RS Station Wagon

The argument for station wagons over SUVs

New Zealand loves an SUV (and a ute… but that’s another story). You can see why – these ‘sports utility vehicles’ are designed for and marketed to those who desire practical vehicles. It’s all well and good to get a small hatchback for easy maneuverability and efficient running, but the moment you need to load it up for the family holiday, fill it with gear for your outdoor hobby, or simply pick up that furniture piece you just bought on impulse.

Skoda Octavia RS Station Wagon Rear

Given this, it’s easy to see why SUVs regularly take the top spots in the most popular cars in New Zealand (excluding utes, the Toyota RAV4 was the top selling car in New Zealand last year, followed by the Mitsubishi Outlander).

Skoda Octavia RS Station Wagon Dashboard

Or is it? For all practical-use purposes, there’s another option: a station wagon. Station wagons (aka estates) often provide similar or better interior space – the Škoda Karoq mid-size SUV offers 1,630 litres of boot space to the Octavia’s 1,740 litres – with the advantages of a lower boot entry for easy loading, a lower roof for easier handling of bikes on roof racks, better handling thanks to a lower centre of gravity, and typically less total weight when comparing like for like.

Skoda Octavia RS Station Wagon

The problem is that, thanks in part to New Zealand’s obsession with SUVs, station wagons are a dying breed. Reasons for this can include:

  • A higher driving position allowing better view over obstacles
  • Easier physical transition in and out of the car, handy for those with bad backs
  • A better structural capacity for battery packs as manufacturers shift to electrified drivetrains

Popular station wagons in other countries – and in some cases, in New Zealand’s recent history – include Toyota’s Corolla station wagon, Volkswagen’s Golf and Passat station wagons, and plenty more. While some of these may still be available in NZ, they often either make up just a small part of the range – easily outnumbered by SUVs – or are only available to order. An example of a great station wagon that didn’t even make it to New Zealand is the Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake, which looks amazing.

Skoda Octavia RS Station Wagon Digital Dash

Having said that, there are some excellent exceptions. Interestingly they tend to be the more specialist models (either performance models or those designed for offroad adventures) that sell well enough to remain in New Zealand’s showrooms. These include the Audi RS 4 Avant and Audi RS 6 Avant, the Subaru Outback, and the Škoda Octavia RS (plus of course the Škoda Superb which is a staple amongst the New Zealand Police).

Skoda Octavia RS Station Wagon

That brings me to the car that I’m currently driving in my marketing role for a group which includes Škoda. In my personal opinion, the current Škoda Octavia RS is one of the best looking, mainstream vehicles on the road, and one of the best examples of ‘sport’ balanced with ‘practical’. I’m a huge fan of its design, both interior and exterior, and its appealing proportions from every angle. The engine delivers ample power, combined with all you need in terms of handling, features, and safety. The boot is huge and packed with the practical ‘simply clever’ features for which Škoda is so well known, like a clever boot screen, boot nets, bag hooks, dividers, tie down hooks, and more.

Skoda Octavia RS Station Wagon rear seats

It’s not one for those more inclined to exploring the gravel roads of North Canterbury, however. Better suited to highways and city driving. For those more oriented to adventurous exploration, the Superb Scout may be better suited from within the Škoda range, with the Octavia Scout sadly no longer available.

Those looking to reduce the environmental impact of their driving have PHEV options in both Octavia and Superb models.

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