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May 27, 2011 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Which vehicles are very similar to the Ford Flex?

Long version to weed out extraneous responses:

We don't want an SUV. We don't want a crossover. We don't want a minivan. Yet "sedans" in a traditional sense of the word are too small (I never thought I would ever make that statement).

We currently have a mid-size car that we barely make do with. We also have a full-size car that we make-do-with-but-it-will-literally-blow-up-soon-and-we-can-do-much-better-for-our-needs. The [Ford Flex-type] would replace the latter in a year or two, so I am looking for vehicles that are new now, so we can get it used in a few years.

I have fallen in "like" with the Ford Flex because it is way too big to be a station wagon, even though people call it a station wagon. It is way too car-like to be even a crossover, even though people call it a crossover. I would just save my pennies and get one in a few years, but my wife likes choices, so I need to find more options.

To me, the Flex is in its own genre, and I feel like it was made just for my family. However, I read an article dated a few years ago that the Flex makes so much sense that most car companies are going to be making cars just like it very, very soon, making minvans and small SUVs extinct. (I read this in a doctor's office recently, so I don't have a link or anything, sorry. And when are car articles ever accurate in the first place, right?)

Are there any other models of cars out there that are strikingly similar to the Ford Flex?

Our livestyle isn't stereotypical suburban or urban--we are just a really tall family with some stuff to haul around and my wife likes to just keep everything we own in her car instead of taking it out every time. So, we need room for four very tall people/kids, multiple strollers, accumulation from multiple shopping trips, and random junk that is never used yet kept in the vehicle.

[Maybe irrelevant: I know far more than average about cars inside and out, so you don't have to dumb anything down whatsoever. But, having two new kids, keeping up with current vehicle product lines isn't really a priority for me, which is why I am asking here.]

posted by TinWhistle to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say Honda Element which is being discontinued after 2011 model year.
posted by zeikka at 7:50 AM on May 27, 2011

There's the Chrysler Pacifica.

It fits your criteria. My neighbors have one, and I drove them to the airport in it once -- not too bad to drive. Definitely felt closer to a minivan than an SUV, and had the absolute worst rear-view visibility of any vehicle that I've ever driven (and I used to drive a cargo van!).

Personally, I'm partial to minivans for families who need the extra space. A Toyota Sienna has more usable cargo and passenger volume than most SUVs, and there are times when I feel like there crossovers with less usable space than my compact sedan. Vans aren't thrilling to drive, but I'd still take one over a traditional SUV.

That said....I'm finding it hard to list the ways in which the Flex is not a minivan, apart from the fact that it isn't a blatant ripoff of the Dodge Caravan or Renault Espace. It's a crossover only in the loosest sense of the phrase. (And, at that, there's not really much of a technical distinction between a crossover and a minivan)
posted by schmod at 7:56 AM on May 27, 2011

Honda Accord Crosstour?
posted by modernnomad at 7:56 AM on May 27, 2011

No love for the Scion xB? The headroom and legroom are great for it's size.
posted by designbot at 8:13 AM on May 27, 2011

Hmm, maybe the Fiat Multipla? It's said to be the most amazing car ever, and the looks grow on you.
posted by krilli at 8:19 AM on May 27, 2011

Response by poster: I actually LOVE the Scion xB, but my wife can't stand it, and she will be the primary driver. We also need the third row of seating as we bring my wife's parents around town with us more than occasionally (we make use of all six seating positions in our DeVille quite frequently: two cars seats + four adults).

Interesting that the Toyota Sienna was mentioned because that is still a blip on my radar, whether I admit it or not.

I completely agree that most SUVs/Crossovers are a waste of logical space usage. I swear that I was able to fit more into my compact ION that my brother-in-law could fit into his mid-size SUV at the time.
posted by TinWhistle at 8:23 AM on May 27, 2011

Nissan Juke
posted by glaucon at 8:51 AM on May 27, 2011

My brother has a Flex and although I mocked it at first (on general "brothers be ragging" principles) I actually enjoyed driving it quite a bit and can see the appeal - enough that I tried to get my wife to consider one as a replacement for her Honda CRV. She rejected it as too big; she also rejected minivans as an option, but she eventually came around on the Mazda 5. It's certainly not a wagon, but it's smaller than most minivans. Every time I drive it I'm actually surprised at how much fun it can be. It's a nice size, too. Much prefer the 2010-older design to the new "Nagare" style bodywork though.
posted by cairnish at 8:51 AM on May 27, 2011

The Accord Crosstour (and it's cousin Toyota Venza) only seat 5, so I think they're a no-go.

I think the Dodge Journey or the GMC Acadia/Chevy Traverse/Buick Enclave (all built on the GM Lambda platform) might be the closest you'll find from the other American makers if you're looking for a full-size crossover that is more wagon or van than SUV and will seat 6/7.
posted by clerestory at 8:56 AM on May 27, 2011

Poster wrote in comment #2690686">> Toyota Sienna was mentioned because that is still a blip on my radar, whether I admit it or not

I love love love my Sienna, if you do decide to join the dark side. I also like my Scion xB, so maybe we have similar taste in cars.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:58 AM on May 27, 2011

The Flex isn't selling all that well, so the prediction in the article you read is not coming to pass. The only similar car that's being sold now is the Dodge Journey.

The Flex offers no practical advantage over a minivan (other than being "cooler"), especially as they get pretty much the same gas mileage. My wife's parents have a Flex, and we have a 2011 Sienna, so I've been able to directly compare the two. The minivan has more usable cargo space. The minivan's third row is FAR easier to get in and out of due to the higher roof and sliding doors. You can't have car seats in the 2nd row of the Flex and also be able to get into the 3rd row. In a minivan you can. The sliding doors are much more practical as you don't have to worry about dinging other peoples' doors. The power sliding option, which we thought was an indulgence at first, is really useful. The higher floor makes loading kids into the car seats earlier. Simply put, minivans are optimized for parents with kids.

The newest generation of minivans from the Japanese companies (Sienna, Odyssey, and Quest) all have much better, edgier, less "bubbly" styling that made it a lot easier for us to swallow our pride and just buy a damn minivan when our family suddenly outgrew our smaller vehicles. We've thought about getting one of these bumper stickers.
posted by zsazsa at 9:23 AM on May 27, 2011

Kia Soul?
posted by JesseBikman at 10:27 AM on May 27, 2011

We don't want an SUV. We don't want a crossover. We don't want a minivan.

You sound like exactly the sort of family mentioned in this review of the Flex:

Of all the conundrums faced by car-shopping friends, this spurs the most calls for my advice: “We need room for the family, but we don’t want a giant S.U.V. And no matter what, do not tell us to get a minivan.”

Mounting a halfhearted defense of the minivan’s virtues but making no headway, I’ll finally suggest that the van-averse couple try out General Motors’ solid three-row crossovers, including the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, or the equally capable Ford Flex.

I know you said no crossovers, but since you're basically ruling out everything there is on the market, I'm going to ignore that for a second and suggest you look at this article about three-row crossovers to see if you like anything there. Others have mentioned the XC-90 and the Pilot.

My only really original contribution will be to suggest that you look at the Mercedes R-Class. Personally, I'm not so hot on the looks, but it sort of defies categorization in a way no other vehicle I know of does. They call it a crossover, but it doesn't seem like one to me. The big bonus with the R-Class is that it's available with an excellent clean diesel engine. I'm sure you'd agree that you'd be crazy to get a vehicle of that size with the gas engine.

The other option is to bite the bullet and take the really practical approach: get a Honda Odyssey. It might not make you feel cool, but it will move your family in greater versatility and safety than any other on the road.
posted by Dasein at 10:47 AM on May 27, 2011

What do you think of the Subaru Tribeca?
posted by CutaneousRabbit at 10:49 AM on May 27, 2011

The Flex is a biiiig beastie - it's a halfway step back to the wagons of yore, and as such, very practical and comfortable without being too thirsty.

So, tons of room + Low roof height (essential if you're a kayacker or someone who needs to get bulky items up on the roof rack) + Car-like ride + cargo capacity is the criteria.

Closest match:

Toyota Vienza

More car-like:

Mercedes E-Class Wagon
Volvo XC-70
Honda Crosstour

More SUV-Like:

Honda Pilot
Toyota Highlander
Hyundai VeraCruz
Volvo XC-90
Lexus RX
Jeep Grand Cherokee (With the Pentastar V6)
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:58 AM on May 27, 2011

I've driven two Siennas. The first (I think a 2002 or 2003?) drove kind of like a van. The second (a 2006) drove very much like a car, and had a turning radius that was better than our Volvo. The second one also had "normal" windows in the back that could roll down, and other car-like accouterments. It also had a neat parking assist feature that told you when you were about to bump into something, which I miss greatly. It made parallel parking a breeze in even the tightest spots.

You could easily sit 6 adults very comfortably, and still fill the trunk up. Moreso than any SUV that I've seen (seriously, try getting a full-sized adult into the 3rd row of a normal SUV; it's not pretty). Getting in and out was further made easier by the power sliding doors, which are a godsend in tight parking spaces.

That said, both of these vans were critically flawed. The first had chronic problems with the power sliding doors, which were new that year and obviously hadn't been perfected yet. Neither was terribly great in the snow, and the second had some rather serious weight distribution issues that made it difficult to get traction on wet or gravel roads, and chewed through tires like candy. It should be said that the AWD version didn't have that problem, and that it was corrected in the FWD version in the next year. Still, the whole experience, combined with a scummy dealer soured me on Toyota for a while.

I seriously don't get the minivan hate. They're a tad "uncool," but still lightyears more practical than anything else on the market.
posted by schmod at 11:16 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Sienna also comes in an AWD version, which makes it a little bit more like a crossover.
posted by Ostara at 11:24 AM on May 27, 2011

You may also want to look at the Hyundai Veracruz. It has seating for seven.

I drive a Hyundai Santa Fe that has been far more reliable than our Civic. It has 100,000 miles on it. I would recommend a Hyundai without any hesitation.
posted by Ostara at 11:26 AM on May 27, 2011

I know several families with kids who have the Mazda 5 and love love love it. It lives somewhere in the realm between station wagon and minivan. There's tons of room inside for people and stuff, but it still drives more like a car than a van, and perhaps most importantly at all it doesn't feel at all like a minivan.

As an example, my brother, a musician with two young children, got the Mazda 5 because there was enough space to haul his gear to gigs without removing the car seats, but the vehicle is still maneuverable and reasonably-sized enough to easily drive and park in places like Boston and Brooklyn.

Seriously, I don't know anyone who has one who doesn't love it.
posted by dersins at 12:09 PM on May 27, 2011

Seconding mazda5. We almost got one before settling on a Toyota Matrix. This class of small minivans is set to expand shortly, as it is something that most car companies already sell everywhere but the US.
posted by rockindata at 1:50 PM on May 27, 2011

My sister in law has a Mercedes R. It's horrible and drives like a pig! Totally a huge mini-van. It gets terrible gas mileage and takes premium fuel.

A friend of mine has a Mazda 5 and if I needed something like you do, I would seriously consider that.

The flex looks like a refrigerator. ;)
posted by reddot at 8:20 AM on May 28, 2011

+1 Mazda 5. IIRC, it is built on Mazda 3 platform, only longer. It is slim enough to park in a compact space. I don't love it - no legroom for driver, small engine = poor acceleration, doesn't handle particularly well on wet hills, looks like a mom car. But it is great for families and would meet your family's requirements.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:40 AM on May 28, 2011

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