Is there any alternative to an SUV or minivan?
November 25, 2012 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Fuel efficient car for dog and future baby?

We're two adults (one 6'2") with a 40lb dog and trying for a mini-human. We have a 13-year old car in ok shape that averages ~22MPG that we'd like to replace within the next year. We're finding there's virtually nothing in the US market that gives us what we want - better than 22MPG, with three rows of seating, (the back row can be tiny for the dog but usable for occasional human), and doesn't look like a minivan (the Mazda5 is out) or a giant SUV. The Kia Rondo seemed to fit the bill except the gas mileage issue, and they don't make it anymore. I'd love a slightly stretched-out Toyota Matrix with a third row. We recently visited Japan and were drooling over allll the cars they seem to have that fit these requirements, NONE of which are available here.

We'd like to stay in the used, 10k-15k range, but if there is the "perfect" car coming out for 2013, we maaaybe would consider it.

Seeking any and all advice, and what cars people with a dog and a baby like most.
posted by wannabecounselor to Shopping (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you want it stock, a "crossover" is what you want is basically a wagon with SUV styling (or a small SUV with wagon styling.) Here's a good list set to your requirements: link

True wagons haven't been made with third rows for the US market in a number of years. However, aftermarket third rows can be installed for a number of the bigger wagons but query how many would meet your fuel efficiency needs or would be safe.
posted by MattD at 8:02 AM on November 25, 2012

You really don't need seating for seven for three people and a dog. If you give up on the third row (and put the dog in the back) you'll have a lot more options available.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:23 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a Honda CR-V (2012), 2 45lb dogs, and a 6'2" boyfriend. We also take our friend and his 75lb lab with us lots of places. While the CR-V doesn't have a third row, the rear compartment is HUGE and the dogs happily ride in the back for longish trips. I have even fit 4 dogs and 4 people in for a ride to the mountains. That was probably pushing it for the number of dogs but another person would have fit easily. I also get 25mpg in the city and better on the highway. The 2012 CR-V is quite a bit more than you are looking to spend but Honda did a fairly big redesign for 2012 so it might be worth it. While it is not the sexiest car, I love it and the MPGs are really good (I think) for a crossover.
posted by rachums at 8:32 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure you could fit a dog, carseat, and two happy adults in a five-door Ford Focus hatchback. The dog could happily hang in the trunk, and the kid could go in the backseat. It's a nice, fuel-efficient car -I've had mine for 8 years, and I can fit a lot in the hatchback.
posted by k8lin at 8:37 AM on November 25, 2012

Do you think there will be just the one future baby? I ask because our Scion xB was fine when we had two small kids, or would be fine for two adults -- including one who's 6' 2" -- a baby, and a dog, but as my kids got bigger we outgrew it. We can still all fit in it just fine for tootling around town, but not if we're going anywhere overnight and have suitcases or tents or what have you.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:49 AM on November 25, 2012

I 2nd the xB and if you can find the 1st generation model, even better.
posted by cowmix at 9:16 AM on November 25, 2012

I have a five year old Ford Focus sedan (not the hatchback that k8lin has). With careful driving I can squeeze 41 mpg out of it on the highway, about 34 city. It's a great little car. If you're willing to go with a smaller car I'd recommend the hatchback version along with k8lin. I'm 6 feet tall and fit fairly comfortably. It's a little tight for my brother, but he's 6 foot 5. No problems with reliability.
posted by lharmon at 9:58 AM on November 25, 2012

Protip: Know anyone with two kids who will lend you their car seats, preferably one infant rear-facing and one forward-facing? Borrow them. Then stop at the grocery store, pick up two 25lb bags of potatoes. Now each of you take turns, one installs the car seats while the other holds the two sacks of potatoes and the dog on a leash. Once the seats are in, you can share the potatoes and load the dog in the boot - however, you need to keep the dog out to simulate the squirminess of two bundles of joy. Do this with every vehicle you can find that meets your requirements. Then go try it in a Honda Odyssey, preferably with automatic side doors, and possibly the tail gate. You can further increase the authenticity of this simulation by using an air horn while you load the sacks of potatoes into the car seats. You can turn off the air horn only if you test drive a model with a DVD player.

Not saying that all parents should get minivans; however, I am saying that it is a very good idea not to discount the van until you see how difficult it is to navigate a car with a kid - let alone too.

Before we had our van (and we only had one kid), we drove a 2005 Toyota Matrix AWD. It was painfully small and insufficient for much. We routinely needed to drive two cars for holiday trips. Also with the load of everybody in the vehicle, it was painfully slow to accelerate.

Also, notice how little attention I have paid to the fact that you have a dog. Don't misunderstand me, I love your pet (and I love mine); however, your relationship with your pet will fundamentally change when you have a baby, and it will take a good number of years to revert to what you currently know. Think of the number of kids you intend to have, and the age distance between them when picking the car. Figure out how to make sure your fuzzy friend has enough room for him/her and that the pup isn't directly on top of your baby. 40lbs of exuberant dog can sometimes be a bit overwhelming for newborns.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:46 AM on November 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

I wanted to second nanukthedog's comment. Give the minivan(s) a try. There is a reason why minivans pretty much killed station wagons in this country for several years (until the vans became uncool). They are such practical vehicles. I have seen several of my coworkers go from never on a minivan (because it isn't cool and they aren't THOSE kind of people). Minivans have so many, many advantages for a young family and a (childless) friend of mine got one for hauling stuff around for his pottery business and hobby farm. That said the mazda5 is a pretty non minivan minivan and the first gen honda odyssey's are also non minivanish. Also the honda CRV and element are really great and fairly easy to get into and out of but not in the same league as a minivan with two sliding doors and a rear hatch, nor do the get as good of mileage under the same conditions (the price of an all wheel drive system).
posted by bartonlong at 11:47 AM on November 25, 2012

What about something imported from Japan? Something like a Delica would fit your needs perfectly.
posted by mannequito at 12:20 PM on November 25, 2012

Subaru tribeca?
posted by pintapicasso at 1:43 PM on November 25, 2012

I have two kids [admittedly not in car seats, mid- and late- teens] and a greyhound, and all five of use have driven to my parents' two hours away in our Versa hatchback without bloodshed. When the kids were in cars seats [well, just one], I drove them around in my GEO Tracker 2-door.

We bought a 1995 Honda Odyssey when the kids were small for mostly the same third-row considerations, so then used it to carry 7 people maybe a half-dozen times. Usually, that third row sat empty.

Go have a look at the Nissan Versa Hatchback. It's four-doors, so car seats in the back won't be a hardship. The hatchback will hold my 15-year-old's hockey bag [and a second for a friend], so your dog ought to be fine.
posted by chazlarson at 6:47 PM on November 25, 2012

Three rows of seats for a family of two that might someday be a family of three? That seems like overkill. That extra row of seats is a lot less practical than some decent space in a hatchback.

I know tons of folks who bought gas-guzzling SUVs because they couldn't stand the idea of a minivan. But have you driven a minivan lately? My family rented one a few years ago and it was awesome! But most folks I know don't think a minivan is necessary until you have three kids. One kid and a dog? Any fuel-efficient Japanese car will be great.

Get a Honda Fit and see if works for you all to have the dog in the backseat and, when baby comes, in the way back.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:27 PM on November 25, 2012

(I should have also added: we are a one-car family with two elementary-aged kids and a 15-pound dog, and except for occasional multi-week trips, our Honda Fit always has plenty of space.)
posted by bluedaisy at 7:28 PM on November 25, 2012

Ten year old first generation Prius (4 door, looks like a Corolla). Dog and baby happily share the backseat.
posted by judith at 10:00 PM on November 26, 2012

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