Any Advice on Buying a Cool Mom-Mobile?
November 23, 2011 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a cool, tech friendly, roomy, family car. Help us find perfection, oh hive mind...

This will be a second car for our family. Both my wife and I are about 5'8", and we currently have a 3 year old. We're also at the beginning of the adoption process, and thus hope to also have an infant in the next year or so.

Our current car is a 2004 Prius, which has worked great for our family. But I'm starting a new job that will require both of us to have cars. We're thinking along the lines of an SUV or crossover, but are open to other suggestions. Some things we would like to have:

- Room enough for toddler plus baby, along with friends and/or supplies.
- Safe, secure, reliable (obviously!)
- We're a pretty techie family, so in-car technology is actually fairly important to us. For example (although I know it's controversial), we'd prefer a great factory navigation (GPS) system than attaching a Garmin. We also like to listen to streaming music (think Pandora, Spotify, etc.)
- Thinking of around $30K, but a little flexible (of course, lower is never a problem...)

I'm still torn on the "new" vs. "used" argument, as I've done both in the past and can see each has issues.

Some random possibilities we've considered are: Toyota Highlander, Mazda5, Ford Edge. But we're really open to anything at this point!
posted by neurodoc to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Subaru Forester
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:50 AM on November 23, 2011

I came in to say Forester. I'm on my second and I love it. Don't know about GPS or streaming but mine has a line-in for an MP3 player, heaters on the side mirrors and wipers, an option for an iPhone interface, AWD, and heated seats. It's perfect both for my short commute to the train station, hauling my kid around, going camping, trips to Home Depot, trips to the recycling center, or road trips with friends. Great in the snow too.
posted by bondcliff at 11:56 AM on November 23, 2011

We have an older Sienna - with two teens, all their friends and the dog, it's fabulous. Gas mileage is pretty good too. And the new ones are even better. I highly recommend them.
posted by saffronwoman at 11:58 AM on November 23, 2011

Scion xB? You can add on all kinds of gadgets, including a navigation system.
posted by jabes at 12:01 PM on November 23, 2011

Audi A3.

The diesel engine should get you 42 MPG on the highway, letting you have best-efficiency competitions with the Prius.

Oh, sorry; that's a turbodiesel engine, mated to a 6-speed DSG transmission with paddle shifters. Unlike the Prius, it's actually fun to drive. :)
posted by bhayes82 at 12:18 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

We had a Mazda MPV (the predecessor to the Mazda 5) and I still can't believe I loved a minivan as much as I loved that vehicle. If we hadn't needed to trade up to something that can tow a horse, I have no doubt we'd still have the Mazda.
posted by COD at 12:45 PM on November 23, 2011

Toyota is going to release a new, crossover style Prius sometime soon I believe. They are turning the Prius into a brand, not just a model. I know they have a compact version out now, so checking that out might be good. It sounds like you want an appliance type car that just works and has some cool tech features. Congrats, you are exactly the customer that most cars in the 20-30k range are designed for now so you should find something. I would stay away from anything German if you want reliable and low cost of ownership. I drive a 5 series BMW, it is a great drivers car and I do most of my own maintenance and repairs. I would not recommend it too anyone who justs wants a car-it is a lot of hassle for the gain you get in driver involvement and vehicle capability, it appears that audi's are even more of a hassle. I would look at the Mazda CX7, Honda CRV (new this year), Toyota RAV4(outlcassed by the honda), chevy equinox, Jeep grand cherokee (might be a bit TOO much truck), and several different KIAs and Huyndais. They are surpisingly nice cars for what they cost and a real surprise to anyone who dealt with either 10 years ago when they were barely disposable cars (more like 1 year cars). Go and look over a bunch of cars and look at used ones (even if you intend to buy new) as you can tell which ones have held up better and have better build quality and what they will be like in a couple of years-like crappy seats that sag, or cheap plastic that cracks, or doors that don't shut good after a winter or two.

You might look at B class cars, as they fill a great niche between compact and Crossover. The B class is a really useful size for lots of people and this includes the Nissan Cube, Kia Soul (my pick for a family), Scion Xb, Honda Element (sadly discontinued-but not very old-good used car pick), basically anything that might be a bread truck on a FWD car chassis.

Last advice-this is a popular segment and desirable used cars in it are going to be pricey, probably too the point of not being worth the risk for the small price discount. Now, if you are going to get a minivan, the used market is awash with them as all the cool kids are getting crossovers, despite a lot of minivans being more practical for famalies. It is also a good idea to check the parts cost for stuff like batteries, tires, wiper blades, brake pads as none of these are covered by warranties and every car will need them, but the price can vary wildly (this will be enough to keep you away from ANY thing German).
posted by bartonlong at 1:36 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really like the Ford Edge in that segment, and Ford seems to be stuffing their cars with interesting technology lately, especially for a given price point (for instance, you can get all sorts of cool gadgets in a Ford Focus now, when you'd think they'd be the sort of stuff you'd find on a BMW).

I don't have an Edge, so I can't personally recommend it, but I've thought about buying one in the future, and with the ecoboost engine, it'll get 30MPG on the highway.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:32 PM on November 23, 2011

Don't get an xB. I have one and as much as I like it, it's no good for a family of four.

I love my Sienna minivan. Not cool, I know, but it sure is a delight.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:14 PM on November 23, 2011

I will get blasted here for this since it's not a a Toyota, Subaru, or Honda.

I just bought a new 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited with a $30K sticker price.

I did not pay $30K for it.

It has a full navigation system, 10 speaker audio with a graphic equalizer, surround sound and more audio optimizing controls than my home stereo, Bluetooth for my Android phone which automatically downloaded my contact list, full voice command for nav, music and phone functions, computer which tells me my fuel mileage, anticipated range in miles based on the amount fuel in my tank, and more.

Leather interior, all electronic driver's seat movements, heated front seats (individually controllable), individually controllable climate control for passenger side and driver side, compass within the rear view mirror (in addition to the one in the nav system), automatic garage door opener, cruise control, audio, phone, and voice command switches all on the steering wheel.

After three tanks of gas I am averaging over 23 miles per gallon with mostly around town driving.

Hyundai has the best warranty of any manufacturer.

This was a leap of faith on my part, since I've always owned japanese or American cars. The Santa Fe was designed in California and was built in Georgia.
posted by imjustsaying at 4:43 PM on November 23, 2011

I love my Mazda5. Love. It's not super cool, I suppose, but it is SO practical. It's perfect for two kids plus extra carseats for carpools. Or two kids plus grandparents. Or two kids plus kid bikes shoved in the back. The doors and hatchback are easy to use, the seats fold down easily for extra hauling at Home Depot, and it's actually pretty easy to put car seats in, even in the wayback. Plus! It's got a wayback! My seventies childhood swoons in delight.

But honestly, I mostly got it because it fits people like a minivan, but drives (and parallel parks) like my Civic.

Did I mention I love it?
posted by instamatic at 4:58 PM on November 23, 2011

Thanks for all the great advice!
posted by neurodoc at 10:54 PM on November 25, 2011

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