Crossover dreams

With a new arrival on the way, we’re in the market for a new vehicle. My current ride, a Mazda 6, has plenty of room for a child safety seat. Room for cargo, not so much. (There’s a reason the new 6 is noticeably bigger.)
I think a Mazda 5 would be absolutely perfect, but my wife flat-out refuses to own anything that even looks like a minivan. No prizes for guessing who’s going to win that argument. So, we’re thinking about a small SUV crossover vehicle in the RAV4/Escape/CR-V class.
Any suggestions? The RAV4 won Car and Driver‘s most recent comparison test of vehicles in this category, while Consumer Reports is high on the Subaru Forester. The price leaders, needless to say, are the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tuscon (both pretty reliable, according to CR).
The other question: is all-wheel-drive (standard on the Subaru) really worth the extra money?
Damian P.

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16 thoughts on “Crossover dreams

  1. I had an Escape for kid #1 and it was fine. When kid #2 came along we traded it in for a Ford Freestyle (now the Taurus X), which is what you end up with when you won’t get a minivan on principle. Both of these cars were AWD and for as long as I live in a winter climate with kids I will never go back to 2WD.

  2. I drive an Escape and love it. It’s great in all weather; my compact SUV has seen me safely through Alberta and Ontario winters, and it’s an SUV, which upsets the hippies – bonus!
    As to Q2, I could never go back to 2WD, unless it’s an Aston Martin.

  3. We have a 2006 Saturn VUE for the exact reasons you list, and we love it (that I wanted something that can tow). I went FWD instead of AWD.
    Minivans do have more cargo room though. And I still don’t want one.
    If money is an issue (and when isn’t it) skip the AWD and use the money for a good set of winter tires and rims instead. Even with AWD, you need winter tires. You’re bigger, heavier and you need more stopping power. AWD helps you go, it don’t help you stop. If you’ve never driven a large vehicle in snow before, you notice the difference immediately.

  4. Some friends own an Escape and love it. Uncle owns a CR-V and loves it. I don’t think you can really go wrong – in this class it seems to me that most of the contenders are solid.
    You could probably get a really good deal on a big3 product right now…

  5. I have a 2009 Subaru Forester (base model, 5-speed) and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. It is better, by far, than all my previous cars combined (and I had some pretty decent ones). It’s my first Subaru and they’ve totally won me over. The AWD is not something I was in the market for (I’m pretty good at driving through snow in a normal car), but I’m a big fan of it now. It’s a real off-road truck, not some kind of sissy city thing. Go take one for a spin. I tried the RAV-4 (the ‘sport’ model) and didn’t like it nearly as much while the Rogue was a complete dud.

  6. Nissan Rogue SL. We got one for the same reason you are looking for a crossover. We got the AWD model for the drive across the Island, but I imagine the FWD is also respectable.
    Power is soso but the handling is great. The SL comes with relatively few features, but does include heated front seats which was the winner for my wife and all the typical power options.
    The only thing I would say is the visibility looking backwards, it takes some time getting used to it. Otherwise an excellent precursor to a minivan or large SUV.
    Best part was the price – well under 30k.

  7. Bruce,
    I was opening this window to tell Damian to keep his kid as close to the ground as possible.
    I’m not against AWD per se, but I stand firmly by the first paragraph in your link regarding the safety considerations for SUVs.
    I think Damian just copped to one of my points about buyer’s motivation. What I don’t understand is why people don’t think crossovers look like minivans.
    Ok, so the doors don’t slide….. but it’s the same marshmallow shape except for a slightly higher (less safe) ride and cheap ugly black plastic cladding to emphasize this illusion of ground clearance.
    A RAV4/CR-V/mini-ute is usually no better in crash protection than the compact cars that they’re based on. A higher center of gravity and more weight don’t help.
    Subaru’s AWD system, attached to a proper car, is great, if you do need extra traction and understand that safety has very little to do with your ability to accelerate it can definitely add to the vehicle. Like others have said, snow tires and throttle control can save you some money.
    My own Subaru experience has been limited to the STi, so I would hope that Damian would be considering a driving style that didn’t rely on AWD for coping with dry pavement. That being said, wow.
    If you need cargo space, get cargo space. Don’t buy something that looks “bigger”.

  8. “The other question: is all-wheel-drive (standard on the Subaru) really worth the extra money?”
    In Dartmouth in winter, quite probably ;o)
    Congratulations, Damian — he’s scheduled on my birthday. I hope BWP’s as much of a joy as the Little Square Faced Kid is for me.

  9. Dara brings up a point I was avoiding. I agree 100% that being closer to the ground is safer overall. Its that whole mass/inertia/center of gravity thing.
    A smaller vehicle with AWD and winter tires is damned hard to beat in the snow.
    That being said, getting kids in and out of carseats is easier in a mini-SUV. Its easier on your back (and or your head if you stand up too quickly).
    However, the higher sill line means your little passengers may have a hard time looking out the window. If you don’t get an in vehicle DVD system (I don’t have one, hate the damn things) distracting the kids with the scenery is harder, because all they can see is sky. My sons much prefer riding in the wagon than the SUV just because of this fact.
    One other thing, make sure whatever you get has the most legroom in its class for the rear seat. There’s a point in your kids development where his legs will stick straight out, because his legs aren’t long enough to bend at the knee where the car seat ends. But, between the extra inches the car seat adds behind your kids back and the length of their legs, you’ll find them kicking the back of your seat as you’re driving.
    Dunno if built in car seats would solve this, but its an annoying stage.
    If you plan on only having one child, leaving the car seat in the middle is safest, and avoids the kicking backseat issue. But no-one has just one…

  10. Dara,
    I’m not a fan of crossovers, but then I have no objection to either minivans or station wagons, and I’ve never owned a 4WD or AWD vehicle. I also have no objection to people buying what they want — provided they can afford it. If Damian and spouse want a crossover, then more power to them.
    This is somewhat off-topic, but the global warming villain, du jour, is American-style toilet paper. According to Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council, in the Guardian, “Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/feb/26/toilet-roll-america
    I wonder how many of the people who practically explode at the thought of someone driving a Hummer would be willing to forgo their soft, double-ply paper for something, er, greener?

  11. Bruce,
    I’m sure that eventually we’ll all move on to the three shell system from Demolition Man.
    The point that I think the professor is making is that when you actually go about doing the math on some of our current practices, it starts to sound silly.
    The Hummer comparison is simply to catch people’s attention.
    A person from the future wiping his ass with nanotechnology and “driving” a carbon fibre pod would be equally likely to shake his head at a person taking 8,000 lbs of metal with them everywhere they went as they would at a family cutting down acres of forest to solve a personal hygiene issue.
    Of course, everyone use toilet paper and there are only a limited supply of people special enough to drive Hummers. The scale of market would definitely matter.

  12. Hershkowitz is claiming that Americans are destroying the planet because we don’t use toilet paper made from recycled fibers. Rather we like to use something softer on our butts. I don’t think nanotechnology enters into his argument.
    Perhaps, in the future, we’ll wipe our asses on nanotechnology and drive carbon fiber pods, but most of us are limited to current technology. And, with the global warming “tipping point” always just around the corner, can we really afford to wait?
    Shouldn’t virgin two-ply toilet paper be banned (along with crossovers and SUVs) and people required to use European-style recycled toilet paper?
    I mean, it’s not like trees grow on farms.

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