Recommendations for a used car that's more spacious than a Honda Fit?
July 22, 2017 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Because of a drunk driver totaling our perfectly functioning 2007 Honda Fit last weekend, we find ourselves in the market for another used car. Added wrinkle: I'm expecting a baby in early September and were thinking about maybe buying a somewhat more spacious car the next time round.

We were perfectly happy with the Honda Fit. We're both definitely "cars are to get you from Point A to Point B" type people, though I guess we wouldn't mind a bit more comfort now that a baby is on the way. We were hoping to make this decision once the baby got here and we'd have a better idea what we really need, but because of the accident, we're having to make this decision a bit earlier than we expected and are turning to the hive mind.

What we're looking for:
Reliable - we were really happy with the Honda's performance given that we bought it for $6500 back in 2013. It now had 160,000 miles on it and was still going strong; inclined towards purchasing another Honda
We're going to buy used with no financing
Car should be comfortable for 4 adults plus 1 baby (my parents will be visiting for an extended period)
Not very wide - we park in a shared garage that is reached via a narrow driveway
Suitable for urban living - we live in Somerville, MA, which is rather dense and we often park in tight parking spots
Good for toting around our strollers and other baby gear (we'll have an Uppababy Cruz and a BOB) and works with our carseat (Chicco Keyfit 30 - though that seems to work with pretty much any car, so not much of a limitation).
Specific model years?

Thanks for your help! We know pretty much nothing about cars.
posted by peacheater to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I really like my Mazda5. It is very flexible seating (fold-flat 3rd row, hatchback) which works well for guest and hauling stuff. The passenger doors are sliding doors like a minivan, but it is a car chassis, so smaller footprint than a minivan. I've had mine since 2008 and the only qualm I have is there isn't heat in the back (baby won't mind, but your adults with feet on the floor in the dead of winter might get cold toes). Newer models than 2008 have heat in the back.
posted by jillithd at 10:15 AM on July 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

And one important factor I forgot to mention in my original post - budget. We're thinking of spending $10-12k, but are open to hearing about why that's not the right budget also.
posted by peacheater at 10:30 AM on July 22, 2017

I'm a "get from A to B" car person. I've had a Ford C-Max for about a year. Why I like it:

Hybrid. Good gas mileage. I get 38 around town without trying, and higher if I pay attention.

Low price. Apparently Ford doesn't even bother advertising them so it's a buyer's market. I have yet to have somebody ride with me that has even heard of them.

Lots of trunk space and seats that fold completely flat for massive trunk space.

All the bells and whistles. Leather, heated seats, Bluetooth, navigation, alloy wheels, touch-free powered hatch, backup camera, the list goes on. The only thing I don't have is parking assist. If you get the SEL trim level it's pretty much loaded.

Much more comfortable than the competitors you know about. It doesn't feel cheap or like they gutted it to save weight. My mom had the big Prius and traded it in on a C-Max after she rode in mine.

It checks all your boxes, although 4 adults and a car seat will be tight (I've done it). There's a plug in version that I was really tempted by (25ish mile range on electric) but the battery pack ate a big chunk of the trunk room.
posted by jtfowl0 at 10:47 AM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

For snow reliability, safety, reliability, comfort, and get from Point A to Point B -- used Subaru.
posted by mmf at 10:53 AM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just about everyone makes a medium-sized 5-person sedan. Accord, Camry, Legacy/Outback, Sonata... In expectation, all of them are stupid reliable. All of them will be about 6-8 inches wider than your fit and about 30 inches longer.

If that's too long for your urban driving and parking, then you can't really move up in size from the Fit. You could look at other compacts like the Civic (maaaybe, maybe it should get lumped with the midsize cars these days),, Ford Focus / Mazda 3, Impreza, etc. But you can reasonably expect that anything in that range will not be comfortable with 4 adults + baby for more than, say, half an hour. Or however comfortable you think a Fit is when filled up, no better than that.

If you're really point-a-to-point-b and don't care about style and trends and whatnot, you definitely want to be in a sedan because Lord known nobody else does about now so you can expect lower prices for similar features compared to the in-demand crossovers.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:55 AM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Four adults and a car seat is kind of at odds with narrow car that fits in tight spots. That said, the car I just got, a 2006 Subaru Outback, ticks all your boxes. Mine was $4500 with 165K miles on it so you'd be able to find one with more life in it, I'd think.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:56 AM on July 22, 2017

To clarify, a sedan is fine parking wise. Had noticed that they didn't seem very popular at the moment, but if it's just a style thing, we don't particularly care about that.
posted by peacheater at 10:57 AM on July 22, 2017

Please don't make the same mistake we did. We bought a smaller car when I was pregnant and you won't realize how small your car is until you put a carseat in. Then try to add anything more than one adult back there. No way. Small cars + car seats = Very Limiting. You will end up having to rent a car every time you have guests. I speak from experience.

If you are considering more than one kid-any of the cars I am seeing mentioned above are too small. Even if you only have one kid I think most of these cars are too small.

You should consider cars with 3 rows-there are some compact ones. Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Honda Pilot (ok maybe not so compact, but the newer ones aren't so bad). You can find more options just googling "3 row compact car".

I know the Fit is an awesome car, I am so sorry you lost it. But you probably would have grown out of it very fast anyway.

One last thing-we went from car to minivan and one of the best things about a van or taller car is getting baby in/out of carseats is WAY easier on your back. Something I didn't even think about when we got a minivan and it was so huge. So huge.

Goodluck and congrats!!!!!
posted by 58 at 11:07 AM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

We have a Honda CR-V and love it. It's reliable, gets pretty good gas mileage, and is good in the snow. Even used, it may be a bit above your budget, but you should look.

That said, the "comfortable with 4 adults and a baby" is a tough constraint for a smaller car (even a car like the CR-V). It depends a bit about your definition of "comfortable," but it was never great in that back seat with 2 adults plus the Keyfit 30. I mean, it was totally fine for a 20-30 minute drive, but it started to get a bit uncomfortable for the person sitting in the middle seat after much longer than that.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:08 AM on July 22, 2017

I love my roomy, super reliable used prius hatchback. Lots of space for whatever you need. $14k for 2012 model with 70k miles, I'm sure you could find something similar that matches your budget.
posted by goodnight moon at 11:17 AM on July 22, 2017

Mazda 5 is the answer. My SIL has one and it's like the Tardis. It's a seriously well designed car/minivan hybrid and brilliant for kids. I think most of the suggestions above are from people who have not had to wrestle car seats much. Look for a used one in your price range you should be able to find one.

I would not get too hung up on the 4 adults and one baby thing. Your parents are there temporarily and honestly you will hardly ever go places as a group, someone will always want to stay home and nap. If it's just for short jaunts like to the baby's christening and around town don't let that influence your decision too much. If you need a car that can make the trip to the family cabin 10 times a year with 4 adults and a baby then you need a minivan anyway. Otherwise Mazda 5 is the answer.
posted by fshgrl at 11:23 AM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

The smallest car that I have been in recently that can handle a car seat and four full-sized adults was a Ford Edge. That was OK for a four hour round trip to the zoo and had lots of room in back for stroller etc. Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Chevy Traverse etc. are in that class.
posted by leaper at 11:25 AM on July 22, 2017

Nissan Rogue! Small crossover, spacious and good gas mileage.
posted by retrofitted at 11:38 AM on July 22, 2017

Another point in favor of the Mazda 5 - if your folks have any mobility issues, they should be able to just slide in without having to climb up or fall in. My mom had limited mobility and no trouble getting in and out of my friends' Mazda 5, she could just slide straight over (I was going to get one until it became a moot point).
posted by joycehealy at 11:58 AM on July 22, 2017

I'm leaning towards the Mazda5. Question: with the three rows of seats in action, would there still be room for a stroller in the back? Seems like trunk space is limited with all three rows of seats down. Alternatively, could the baby seat be put in the middle of the second row, with an adult on either side? (And then we could have the third row of seats up and more storage).
posted by peacheater at 12:02 PM on July 22, 2017

The second row in the Mazda 5 has only two seats. Baby can go on any of the seats in second or third row. There is room for an umbrella stroller behind third row seats if up, but not e.g. a City Mini.

But if you have only four adults and one kid, you can put one of the third row seats down and then have plenty of room for storage (similar to the trunk of a sedan I'd say.)
posted by wyzewoman at 12:32 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Got it! I watched a video and being able to move each seat independently makes things really flexible. Think we're going to go with a Mazda5 - thanks everyone!
posted by peacheater at 12:42 PM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not a specific car recommendation, but general advice:
1. Bring your car seat with you, so you can see how far forward you need to put the front seat to fit the car seat. Later, when you get to a front-facing seat, this isn't as big a deal, but it'll be a couple of years that you'll have to live with this.
2. Look to see how the seats fold down. Can you fold down just one seat? How flat do they get? It's super-handy to be able to keep the kid's seat up while folding the seat next to them down. But if you have to flip the whole seat cushion forward to let the seat back fold flat, that doesn't help you as much.
3. LATCH anchors are usually only for the seats on each side, and they tell you not to use them for a center seat. You can usually use the seat belt in the center seat to install the car seat. For a semi-permanent installation, you'll only need to do this a couple of times anyway, BUT! Remember that installing a car seat in the middle may require you to move both front seats forward. So, again, check it with your car seat.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 12:43 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yep with the third row seats all in use there is no trunk left in he Mazda 5. And they're pretty kid sized seats. Fine for squeezing an adult in to run to dinner, not for long trips.
posted by fshgrl at 4:03 PM on July 22, 2017

You might want to check out the Honda HR-V, which is like the CR-V but more compact. I test drove one and was really impressed; not sure it would meet your 'compact yet enough room for baby and baby stuff' requirement, but certainly worth considering if you like Honda (waves to fellow Honda fan).

I think it was introduced 2-3 years ago, so there should be some used ones on offer.

Sorry you lost your Fit; that's a hell of a car.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:09 PM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

My generic advice is to swing by a CarMax, because they will have a bunch of different kinds of cars and you can just walk around and look at them/sit in them. The store in Norwood has a Malibu, a Camry, a Sonata, a Fusion, an Altima, an Escape and a Fit for under $12,000.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:45 PM on July 22, 2017

The sliding doors on the Mazda 5 are the shizz for toting kids around. So much easier for getting them in and out of car seats.

We generally have the baby in the second row (right behind the driver, since you're on that side when you get out anyway) and then we'd put the fourth adult in the third row. Which, as people noted, is cramped for a grown adult, but fine for running errands to Target or heading out to dinner. For our family of five we're able to travel on reasonably long trips with luggage the third row folded half down. This also fits plenty of groceries, or a whole Costco run, since on a daily basis I have the baby behind me in the 2nd row, 8-year-old in the 2nd row, and 6-year-old in the 3rd row.

And yeah, with the third row seats both in use, you're restricted to an umbrella stroller. But I can fit a big jogging stroller with the third row half folded.

My husband actually drives a Mazda 3 hatchback, and we can fit five of us in there too, with relatively narrow booster seats for the kids in the rear. Baby in the center, booster on either side. Adults can also fit comfortably on either side of the baby seat. It's not QUITE as much room as the Mazda 5 but you do get the whole hatch area even with five passengers, instead of "losing" it to the third row of seats when you have a fifth person.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:52 PM on July 22, 2017

E McG, I seem to remember that you were talking about buying a used rental car (from Hertz?) - we're thinking of doing the same as we found such a Mazda5. Was the Mazda5 the car you bought like that? Are you still happy with the whole experience?
posted by peacheater at 7:59 AM on July 23, 2017

Never mind, I see that you did buy from Hertz. This is giving me more confidence in our decision. But we'll get it checked out first by an independent mechanic of course.
posted by peacheater at 8:16 AM on July 23, 2017

Yep, that was exactly what I did and it was delightful and I will probably buy my next car the same way! Zero complaints.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:46 AM on July 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

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