It’s inevitable: when the conversation turns to the possibility of becoming a parent, someone will utter these words, “I can’t wait to have kids, but I’ll never drive a minivan.” Even those who already have kids, and might be struggling to fit car seats, strollers and other gear into a sedan, tend to resist the siren call of the minivan.
Perhaps no other vehicle is as polarizing – and purchased with gritted teeth– than the minivan. Those who make the leap tend to love them, with their automatic sliding doors, extra space and kid-friendly features like built-in DVD players, individual climate controls and third-row seating. However, for those who haven’t yet gotten to the “I love my minivan” phase, the minivan is almost a symbol of defeat. Driving one is one step away from wearing “mom jeans” and getting a sensible haircut, a sign that any coolness you once had has been sucked away by your kids.
While minivans have come a long way and some are just as comfortable as luxury cars, just because you have kids doesn’t mean that you have to go there. There are actually a number of vehicles that offer similar features to minivans, without “”screaming “Mom’s Taxi.
Thanks to the available seating for eight, ample cargo room and extensive array of safety and entertainment features, the Chevrolet Traverse is a popular family vehicle. While owners report few problems with their vehicles, the Traverse is also affordable when it comes to repairs and maintenance; it’s generally easy to find discount auto parts for these models.
Active families needing a vehicle that can handle all types of weather and terrain – and carry their gear – should consider the Subaru Outback. While the Outback only seats up to five, it has ample cargo space and, among the cars in its class, is one of the easiest for child safety seat installation. It does lack, however, some of the entertainment options of other vehicles, but it’s possible to pick up some discount auto accessories at partsgeek.com to add those features later on.
With a price tag of just under $20,000, the Kia Sorento offers a lot of space and features for a little bit of money. Considered to be a crossover vehicle, the Sorento is ideal for families who might not need three rows of seating on a daily basis. The Sorento includes two and a half rows of seating; you can pull up a single seat in the rear of the vehicle when you need an extra spot for a passenger. The Sorento is also fuel-efficient, and drivers have reported exceptional maneuverability and ride comfort. The upgraded Sorento LX model does offer a full rear seat, as well as a back-up camera, and the cost is still lower than the average minivan model.
While the Toyota Sienna minivan tends to get most of the attention from family car buyers, the Highlander is also an option for smaller families. The Highlander seats up to seven with an available third row (although it’s meant mostly for kids) and gets excellent gas mileage. You can add a long list of family-friendly options, such as a back-up camera, DVD players and more, making the Highlander comfortable for those long drives to Grandma’s house.
Looks wise, the Ford Flex is one of the coolest family cars on the market – but it might not be for everyone. The large and boxy ride offers seating for seven in three rows, and the best overall safety ratings among sport utility vehicles. For such a large vehicle, the Flex gets surprising fuel economy – 17 city, 24 highway mpg – and offers a wide array of entertainment options, some included built-in.
These are just a few of the family-friendly vehicles that offer the space and features you need for hauling around your brood. While they may not offer the convenience of dual sliding doors and seating for the entire soccer team, they offer plenty of room, good mileage and the features you need to get everyone where they need to be safely, and with style and comfort.
About the Author
Molly Henson is a mom of twins and has successfully avoided driving a minivan for almost a decade. A self-described “car chick,” she writes about autos, with a family focus, for a number of publications.