Car manufacturers know this, which is why 7-seater SUVs are now a thing. Luckily they’re also working on hybrid and electric models.
These articles on female car-buying habits are interesting. These (and many other articles) note that boot space and seat comfort are big factors in making the buy decision.
As you say, 5 seaters are probably fine for most people.
If they made roomier cars I’d be all for it, but they don’t. So I have to buy something that offers room.
Some people don’t want to drive vans.
Granted the sport version power trains weren't always economically inclined, but there was always a standard option.
I drive a full-sized Volvo wagon. I've also driven a full-sized Ford Taurus wagon. Plenty of room for two tall kids (my son is 6'4", my daughter is well on her way to 6'), and in the days of my Taurus, it would carry a child, a baby seat, a stroller, even a bicycle and a trailer.
Besides a thing about SUVs versus car form factors, I have test-driven Volvo's equivalent SUVs, and while they often claim similar cargo volume to the wagons, I find the wagon's long and low profile more useful for the kinds of things I tend to carry. Bikes are a lot easier in a wagon, in my experience.
Of course, there are F-150s and Chevy Suburbans and extra-long Escalades for those who absolutely, positively want to drive a truck.
Not to mention there are plenty of towns and cities where families get around by bike. Americans need to expect more from local governments!
New car buyer are skewing richer and richer so a larger fraction of the people OEMs have to cater to can justify the luxury of not doing that.
I'm trying to offset the emissions aspect by buying a plug-in hybrid SUV - so at least my plan is to do 100% work commute on electric power alone.
I'm over 70, with ~severe arthritis, and I still love my Civic. Getting in and out requires some leverage on the wheel and seat. But driving is as comfortable as relaxing in a recliner.
Two adult homes can presumably have a big car and a small car, and prefer to take the most efficient choice for the given trip (and have the shorter commute take the less efficient vehicle), but generally, people need to occasionally move stuff around.
It is, also, safer. I've seen what a minivan does to a Corolla, and I'd much rather be in something the size of a minivan. I sit higher, have better visibility, etc.
Looking at a crash between two vehicles of very different size isn't a fair test. Smaller cars are much more able to avoid getting into wrecks in the first place. We fully expect, simply based on mass, that vans will be better at passive safety, and worse at active safety.
According to the IIHS, for example, the little 2-door Honda Civic has about the same fatality rate as the safest large SUVs.
People in small cars aren't "taking a big risk". About as many people in America die of influenza as car crashes, so if you're driving an SUV but haven't gotten a free flu shot, I don't believe you're doing it out of some calculated risk assessment.
The fundamental connection: people who drive SUVs and people who skip flu shots don't care about externalities.
It's not that I don't care about externalities, but that I'm going to weigh them against direct concerns. It's true driving an SUV might have a small percentage impact on the environment. It's also true that it slightly increases my chances of killing someone else in an accident. But if it significantly decreases the chance the person killed in said accident is my wife/kid, I'm going to prioritize that over the "dangers" SUVs provide to others.
Also if you have a big enough family there is no way to haul them around on a tiny car unless you shove some kids in the trunk.
Besides. I am no boomer either.
Thanks to ever more stringent rollover requirements modern vehicles can carry some pretty big things on the roof. You just have to ignore the part where people judge you for it (so I understand why people don't do it).
The type of person who cuts another driver off does not do a lot of thinking about the relative consequences. I've seen plenty of tiny sedans with oversized tailpipes, wings and a dozen mod stickers cutting off big SUVs.
Heck, they even dart in front of semis on the highway. They do not care if you're in an XC 90 instead of an S60.