Those backpacks ain't gonna haul themselves
March 6, 2012 5:48 AM   Subscribe

With kid #2, and our current car hitting the "out of warranty" mark, I'm looking to move onto another vehicle this late-sprint/summer. So please give your opinions on what brand & model you think I should shoot for given my criteria.

My questions is similar to this question, I'll provide a few points of interest and if you would be so kind please share your opinions. My mind has been edging towards a Subaru Outback for a while, but I want to be sure I'm not just jumping on a band-wagon when there are other choices that are just as good. I currently drive a non-hatchback Mazda 3, which has served me well, but Mrs. Z just had our kid #2 in Jan, and the current vehicle has become too small for even easy trips if we're both going anywhere.

Again, I'm open to makes and models outside of a Subaru Outback, so please offer what advice you have.

points of interest:
* I'm an outdoorsy guy, so I want a hatchback and AWD to make life a little easier
* two kids + stuff = need a backseat + trunk space that is worth it
* I live in Minneapolis, so snow driving is a key factor, though obviously not this year
* I would prefer a 25+ MPG rating
* automatic trans

I think that basically covers it. I haven't test-driven anything, nor have I visited a dealership. Sadly craigslist is out of the question for me, since we only have one car I need to trade it in towards the next one.
posted by zombieApoc to Shopping (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Consider the Forester. It's a bit larger than the Outback, with significantly more truck space.
posted by valkyryn at 5:54 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

And cheaper, if I'm not mistaken
posted by zombieApoc at 5:57 AM on March 6, 2012

The Hyundai Sante Fe is probably worth looking at.
posted by COD at 6:12 AM on March 6, 2012

You should probably look also at the Honda CRV and the Toyota Rav4, along with the above-mentioned Hyundai. They are all pretty close to each other in design and performance, but the ergonomics are different, as well as details about how well car seats are going to fit, etc.
posted by Forktine at 6:27 AM on March 6, 2012

If you liked your Mazda 3, have you looked at a Mazda 5? It's a "mini-minivan" or a "sliding-door wagon." No AWD, I don't think, but the gas mileage is good, it drives well in snow, and it's got spacious area with the third row folded. In a similar situation to yours I just graduated to the Mazda 5 and it's fantastic.

My friends in a similar situation to yours and mine just got a Subaru Outback and they love it.

One thing that drove us to the Mazda 5 is that I drive cars forever, and at some point in the less-carseatty future, there will be extra children in the car with mine, and the flexibility to move between six seats and lots of cargo space will be helpful. I didn't feel like I needed a "real" minivan and I definitely didn't want an SUV, but the "mini minivan" with its good gas mileage is just about right.

My friends who go the Outback do less car-travel than we do, and more commuting. (Also the wife did not like the sliding door on the Mazda 5, because she thinks it makes her look like a minivan mom, whereas to me the sliding door is the BEST PART.)

(Everyone I know with a CRV or a RAV4 also loves it. Like, passionately attached. But they mostly have older kids so I can't speak to the young kids part.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:39 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Actually, the new Outback is larger than the Forester.

I have the 2011, which is the same as the 2010 and 2012. I get 30 mpg on the highway (or more) and over 25 mpg locally. I got the weather package, which is good for outdoorsy stuff to keep the car easier to clean. It drives really nice and has lots of extras all for under $28k.
posted by rich at 7:03 AM on March 6, 2012

How much stuff will you lug around with the kids ? We found we did fill our outback (08) trunk with pack'n'play et al easily for long trips with the kids.

But I still recommend the outback. Highway is ~27 mpg (4 cyl) and was ~$23k out-the-door (ie not sticker, but after tags, taxes, etc etc etc)
posted by k5.user at 7:17 AM on March 6, 2012

I'm more concerned with my weekly activities of working with a Parks and Rec Dept, Natl' Park Service (shovels, buckets, dirt, clothes, packs), and sping/summer/fall backpacking backpacks and a cooler for three dudes. Regarding kids and travel it's mostly from our place to the in-laws or grocery/clothes shopping, and sometimes music festival trips. It's not that I need a ridiculous amount of space but rather I need more than the Mazda now offers me with two car seats in it and I want a vehicle that won't get stuck in the snow (in-town) or mud when I'm on back-roads in the northwoods.
posted by zombieApoc at 7:28 AM on March 6, 2012

It's a luxury brand, and definitely more expensive than what you're currently considering, but have you looked into any Audi's? The A3 is a hatchback, and the A6 as well as the AllRoad are available as wagons. All of their models are available with Quattro (AWD) and the smaller cars are typically fitted with a 4-cylinder engine mated with a turbo. This means good MPG and tons of fun.

You should also consider the Volvo V70 (AWD Wagon) and maybe the Honda Accord CrossTour?
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 7:30 AM on March 6, 2012

You might like the Hyundai Elantra Touring, which is a good-sized station wagon. It has a similar interior capacity to the small SUVs (CRV, Rav4, Tucson etc) but drives like a car and costs several thousand dollars less. We got one last summer for use as a family car, and have been really happy with it--there's lots of trunk space, and the back seat is roomy enough for 2 adults plus an infant seat in the middle. Don't know if it has an AWD option and I can't say how it does in the snow, since we didn't get any this winter. We're getting around 24-25 mpg with all city driving, and somewhat better mileage on the highway.
This model has only recently been sold in the US so you might have some trouble finding a used one, if that's an issue. But we got a great deal on a new one, towards the end of the model year.
posted by Jemstar at 7:30 AM on March 6, 2012

Very pleased so far with a VW Jetta wagon. I was also considering the Elantra Touring but there was a great lease financing deal in place last year on the Jetta. Looked at the Mazda 5, but no flat floor in back with seats folded, and the front end's hideous grin knocked it out of consideration.

In general, station-wagon type vehicles will get better gas mileage than a SUV. That said, I was also pretty happy with the 2005 Hyundai Tucson I drove a few years ago, except for the gas mileage.
posted by omnidrew at 8:19 AM on March 6, 2012

Lots of great suggestions here, I have some good homework to do, and I hope it doesn't come down to "here's the one I want, but this other one has way better financing" :)
posted by zombieApoc at 8:30 AM on March 6, 2012

Honda CRV! I asked this question last summer, leaning heavily toward getting a Subaru, and ended up with a CRV. We love it! MPG for our mostly-non-highway driving seems to be around 24 or so which I am pretty sure is better than the Subaru, and those Consumer Reports comparing Subaru to Honda are really solidly in favor of the Honda. We got our 3-year-old CRV for about $16K.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:38 AM on March 6, 2012

Oh, almost forgot. BMW (and I think Mercedes) offer AWD. In BMW parlance, an "X" in the model number denotes AWD. Example: 335i vs. 335iX.

The previous generation of 3-series was available as a touring model (wagon), and was made from 2006-2011. The 5-series also offers a touring variant.
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 8:41 AM on March 6, 2012

Oh, haha, I didn't realize you actually linked to my question in yours! Oops! I should add, because it wasn't in my original question, that we have a young'un and his seemingly enormous Britax Marathon 70 fits in the CRV just fine, with enough space to bring home a bunch of furniture from IKEA (two weeks ago we put his new crib, his new dresser, and his new chair in the car along with him and it was fine).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:42 AM on March 6, 2012

Were it me, for smallish I'd be looking hard at the Suzuki SX4 AWD. It is a small vehicle but comfortable and nicely built. I have a close friend with one who has put 75K miles on it without a single problem.

Second, I'd look at the Volkswagen Tiguan. Then on the the CR-V and RAV4.
posted by bz at 8:44 AM on March 6, 2012

BMW/Audi: I don't think I could, without flinching, drive a BMW to a music festival or onto the backroads in northern MN. Or for that matter throw a muddy coat and boots into the trunk

rabbitrabbit :) We have the same car seat for our older kid. It fits well enough in our mazda 3, but just barely accommodates the kid
posted by zombieApoc at 8:44 AM on March 6, 2012

barely accommodates the kid in that car I should say. We just need a deeper backseat.
posted by zombieApoc at 8:46 AM on March 6, 2012

a friend got a Kia Sportage recently - very nice interior! roomier than I thought it would be.

I'm a Subaru fan too - the new Outbacks are roomier than the Forester, with good leg room in the back seat. Probably best bet for snow, I think.

right now I'm in a Mazda CX-9 (for the 3rd row and legroom) - not sure what the CX-7 is like as far as MPG, but might be worth a look. Also, they evidently have a new small SUV coming out that's being marketed as a fuel-efficient CUV - the CX-5?
posted by hms71 at 8:49 AM on March 6, 2012

I know this isn't a hatchback, but...I LOVE my mid-2000s CRV. It gets 28 MPG (even loaded with all of my earthly possessions driving across the US), has nice seats, has the automatic trans placed next to the wheel (everybody comments on how great this is), feels super roomy, has 4-wheel drive, and still looks nice without giving off that 'BMW/Mercedes' vibe you mentioned upthread. I've driven mine for 4 years now, and it hasn't given me even a little bit of trouble.
posted by 200burritos at 9:31 AM on March 6, 2012

If you're at all serious about the "backroads in northern MN", I'd keep the Mazda3, and buy a used Jeep Cherokee for the winters and those family excursions. Those Cherokees will survive any kind of upcoming apocalypse (yeah, even zombies); they have a real, honest 4WD system (unlike the rubbish in those car-based "SUVs"), and they're cheap enough now that you can treat them like a truck. The MPG on my '94 was closer to 20 than 25, but as a second car, it's no big deal.
posted by bhayes82 at 10:05 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Regarding the BMW 328i/xi sports wagon, I just bought one. Love it to bits and no regrets, but I don't think it's right for you.

1) It's expensive, both in the short- and long-term.
2) Its cargo volume is pathetic compared to other wagons/crossovers/SUVs
3) Its 3-litre inline-6 engine is buttery smooth but not that economical...barely 25mpg if you drive it really lightly.

But you could certainly drive it to a music festival or throw dirty gear in the back. Bimmer wagons don't look as haughty as the sedans/coupes, and just get a cargo bed liner to keep the carpet clean.

On the off-chance that you want one, order it immediately because the current generation is being phased out and there will be a gap of about a year before the next generation wagon is available (unlike the next-gen sedan which is already here).

BTW, the 5-series wagon hasn't been available in America for a few years, though there is some talk of eventually bringing it back.
posted by wutangclan at 11:44 AM on March 6, 2012

We just picked up a used Mitsubishi Outlander and love it. AWD, lots of room in the back and a big back seat for our little one and dog, but it doesn't feel like we're driving some huge SUV. It's also gotten great safety ratings, especially stopping distance.
posted by tr33hggr at 12:01 PM on March 6, 2012

Get the subaru. There is a reason why they are so popular in snowy areas.
posted by pintapicasso at 2:15 PM on March 6, 2012

Seconding rich. We bought our 2011 Outback in August and love it for camping and trips to the mountains. Plenty of room for our two kids (big-for-his-age human boy and a large dog) plus stuff. We got almost 33 mpg on a 1,600-mile road trip, too.
posted by DakotaPaul at 3:32 PM on March 6, 2012

Last October I bought a new Hyundai Santa Fe Limited after looking hard at nearly every vehicle in its class. I got it pretty well loaded, and the price/features/warranty combination was what drove me to it. Since pretty much any new vehicle is going to be fine for the first 50 to 100, 000 miles, who knows how it will be in the long haul?

In the short haul, I love it and have no regrets. Nav, bluetooth, high end audio, heated seats, and 20-25 mpg all work for me.
posted by imjustsaying at 4:06 PM on March 6, 2012

The new car editionof Consumer Reports just came out-pick one up. Subaru is their highest rated car brand across the board. We have put 170K miles on our forester in 5 years, almost 0 maintenance, and I still love it. I get 30 mpg highway. Handles beautifully on snow and ice.
posted by purenitrous at 8:15 PM on March 6, 2012

Thank you all for the great responses. I have some homework to do regarding all the brands mentioned above, including Pro/Con lists for all models that I don't immediately toss out for one reason or another.

thanks again! I'll post back regarding what my choice was and why.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:37 AM on March 8, 2012

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