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What mini SUV/crossover/van has the best balance of comfort and size?
February 9, 2014 6:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to purchase a mini SUV/crossover/van that has a much more comfortable ride than my current 2008 Honda Fit, while still (hopefully) retaining some of the Fit's diminutive-ness.

Requirements:

Comfortable ride: I've driving my mom's Toyota Avalon quite a bit and MAN the difference in ride comfort is amazing. By ride comfort I mean the smoothness of the ride as well as a lack of road noise.

Less than $20,000: I expect to buy used given this budget and my requirements.

Reliability/Safety: I am pretty devoted to the Honda/Acura and Toyota/Lexus/Scion brands. If your recommendation is outside of that group, please convince me that the reliability is on par!

Larger than the Fit: Not a high bar, but the Fit's design does indeed allow you to fit a lot of stuff. Now that I have a 10 month old, it's just a bit too small.

Preferences:

Small(ish): I would REALLY prefer to not go with a full size minivan or SUV, or even mid-size. I love the tiny footprint of the Fit and am hoping for something that maximizes usable space in a similar way.

Fuel efficient

Thanks!
posted by argyle dreams to Shopping (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Toyota Matrix
posted by asockpuppet at 6:51 AM on February 9


I just rented a 2013 Honda Odyssey and it was a delight to drive and felt rock-solid stable. I rarely drive minivans, so I can't compare it to others, but I was quite impressed at the way it handled.
posted by spitbull at 7:15 AM on February 9


Everyone I know with a Honda CR-V really likes it. Weirdly, it is almost exactly as long as a Civic.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:22 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


(1) The CR-V (current or previous body style).

(2) Subaru's Forester (Subaru and Toyota build Subies together).
posted by NYC-BB at 7:39 AM on February 9


If you need 4 wheel drive, Subaru Forester or Outback. If you don't need 4 wheel drive (ever) CR-V without AWD for gas mileage.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:42 AM on February 9


Seconding the Toyota Matrix--we have it's clone, a Pontiac Vibe. Holds a lot within a small frame, gets good mileage, and I've enjoyed driving it--although I'm not really particular about ride and handling, so that may be faint praise. My Vibe doesn't come close to Avalon levels of road noise cancelation, but the actual Matrix may do better in that regard. Worth checking out. In 2007 I bought a 2005 model with 36,000 on it for $11,200, and it's still going strong seven years and 100,000 miles later.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:45 AM on February 9


Just piping in to say, I know the Matrix is a little bit bigger than the Fit but I need something bigger than the compact hatchback category provides.

Also, the comfort factor is really important. It's the primary reason I'm changing cars and needs to be significantly better than the Fit.
posted by argyle dreams at 7:55 AM on February 9


I don't know if the Fiat 500c is in the same class as these, but we had a great time renting it while visiting Minneapolis and a small town in Wisconsin during Wintergeddon just a couple months ago.
posted by kalessin at 8:04 AM on February 9


I have a Nissan Rogue that I've had for 3 years. It has been a rock-solid, reliable car and has had no recalls (when shopping I gridded out every vehicle I was considering partly based on recalls, penalizing vehicles more severely where the recall was something that could lead to a fatality). It is the only automatic transmission I've purchased for two reasons: the AT gets better mileage than the MT (although both stink) and it's the only AT where the transmissions didn't bug the piss out of me and this is because it has a CVT and no discrete gears. My only complaint is that backing up, the visibility out the back is craptactular. I got the accessory package that includes a back-up camera because it needs it badly.

I tried everything in its class and the cheaper ones (Hyundai, Kia, Mazda) felt crappy to drive. I drove the Honda CR-V and it felt pretty cruddy, especially in shifting and I was appalled at the CD changer that was vertical so that any detritus or liquid dropped right on the contacts.

My wife has a Honda Odyssey which is a land yacht by comparison - huge, easy to drive, nice ride, great visibility out the back.
posted by plinth at 8:09 AM on February 9


One odd & probably-minor drawback to a Fiat: those things have the largest electronic keys I've ever seen on any car, plus it was a little awkward getting that giant key in/out of the ignition --- YMMV, of course. (I rented one for a week not long ago, and that was my only complaint about it; at least to me it would not have been a total deal-breaker if I'd been buying one.)
posted by easily confused at 8:19 AM on February 9


As a fellow Fit owner who will need a bigger car someday, I've been thinking about this too.

For Hondas, I would suggest looking into CR-Vs (I enjoyed my test drive, and higher end Hondas are a lot more comfortable than the Fit, especially the Fit Sport which is built to feel the road).

For Toyota, your best bet would be a Rav-4. Decent car, decent mpg for a crossover and small SUV.

I've heard decent things about the Nissan Rogue, but one surprising brand you should look into these days is Ford. Their design and build quality has dramatically improved over the last few years and is actually competitive with Japanese cars (unlike GM, which is still struggling greatly in my opinion... you couldn't pay me to own a Chevy).

You might look into the Escape or Edge as they are both sold crossovers. It's a bummer you need a bigger car because otherwise the Focus hatchback is fantastic in my book (but it's Fit-sized, maybe a little less roomy).

Still, as a Honda guy, I'd be hard pressed to suggest anything over a CR-V for what you want. Hondas are still so reliable (and cheap and easy to fix when something goes wrong) that they are just about the most practical cars out there, in my book.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:26 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


We've been looking at the Mazda 5 and the Kia Rondo in the mini-minivan category. I have friends with the Mazda 5 and the Rondo, they are both happy with performance and durability. I'm in Canada - not sure if the Rondo is available in the USA actually. Downside to the Rondo is resale, the Mazda does much better around here. Both vans both get good mileage, have a decent amount of room, small footprints, good reliablity and the prices are in the range you are looking at.
posted by Cuke at 9:52 AM on February 9


If road noise and ride smoothness are your primary motivators, you need to get an old man sedan like the Avalon. The small SUV category as a whole is noisy and has a bumpy ride. If fuel efficiency and cargo space are more important, consider the Prius V. It has almost the same amount of cargo space as the CR-V and is much more comfortable than a Fit. The Matrix is simply bad advice, it has less cargo space than a Fit and isn't any different when it comes to road noise or ride quality.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 11:02 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


What Babe said -- what you love about the Avalon is a engineering specialty of full size sedans. You won't find many box-silhouette utility vehicles that approaches the quiet and smooth ride, period. A sedan-based station wagon might be the best choice; check out a 2009 or 2010 Toyota Venza or maybe a 2007ish Cadillac CTS wagon.
posted by MattD at 1:40 PM on February 9


In late 2008, I considered the Rav4 and the CRV. I dislike most Toyota's as I find the ride gushy and the steering disconnected from the road. If not for the Rav4 sport edition, which has a stiffer suspension, I would have gotten the CRV. I got the Rav4 Sport and have been very happy with it. While I didn't have a good understanding of the size of car-seats when I bought the car, it turns out my requirements to be able to sit comfortably in the back seat while the front seat is adjusted for me (I'm a 6 ft guy) is about equal to the needs of a rear-facing convertible car seat. The car has happily carried two adults, two kids in car-seats, and all our stuff for long weekends of travel.
posted by fief at 3:51 PM on February 9


My husband and I both like our Mitsubishi RVR (called the Outlander Sport in other countries).
posted by Deodand at 8:25 PM on February 10


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