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The station wagon’s final period of true mainstream sales relevance in North America took place during the 1990s, though the minivan and SUV had long since been shoving the wagon aside by that point. Peak Wagon — measured by the number of new wagon models available here — occurred in either 1964 or 1977, when 47 different wagons were in American dealerships. The Ford Taurus wagon got the axe in 2005, 14 years after the Country Squire went away, with the Saturn L300 and Ford Focus wagons disappearing around the same time. Hyundai saw the writing on the wall a bit earlier, though, and gave up on the longroof here after 2000. Here’s one of those final-model-year cars, found in a Denver self-service car graveyard recently.
Around this time, many of you are sputtering angrily, “But what about the 2009-2012 Elantra Touring?” I say that car was a hatchback, albeit a slightly stretched one, designed for Europeans and then hurriedly equipped with Elantra badges for the North American market. A real station wagon should be based on a sedan, and that’s exactly what Hyundai did with the 1996-2000 Elantra.
In fact, this wagon is derived so faithfully from the sedan that you can still see the original sedan roofline around the rear doors. Why design new doors if you don’t have to?
The Elantra got a new grille in 1999, and it may well have influenced the snout of the then-in-development Pontiac Aztek. It ensured that nobody would mistake the Elantra for a Corolla (the wagon version of which was discontinued here after 1996), which probably seemed important at the time.
This 2.0-liter DOHC straight-four made 133 horsepower, 11 more than the 2000 Ford Focus wagon.
A five-speed manual was the base transmission in the 2000 Elantra, but nearly every American buyer forked over an extra $750 (about $1,300 in 2022 dollars) for the four-speed automatic.
The MSRP on this car was $12,499, or about $21,645 in today’s money. The Focus wagon cost $15,380 that year, but it came with an automatic transmission as standard equipment.
By the dawn of the 21st century (which, technically speaking, didn’t happen until January 1st, 2001), air conditioning and some kind of audio system had become no-extra-cost equipment in quite a few low-priced vehicles. The 2000 Elantra had the free A/C plus an AM/FM/cassette deck with six speakers, but this factory CD player was available only with one of several option packages ranging from $750 to $1,400.
Hyundai was still using mechanical odometers when this car was built, so we can see that just over 100,000 miles passed beneath its wheels prior to arriving at its final parking space. Perhaps nobody will mourn the passing of a rare example of Hyundai’s Last True Wagon, but this is the kind of automotive history that this series attempts to chronicle.