Dear Car Talk:
Do you hear from many moms who miss their minivans? I transitioned to a Pontiac Vibe eight years ago, after driving minivans for 15 years. Although I enjoy the Vibe, and it has been a good vehicle, I miss sitting higher, as well as being able to sit four adults comfortably. Plus, those kids I hauled in the minivans may be providing grandchildren in the near future, so I want to have all available safety features in my next vehicle.
I've started researching the following, and wonder if you recommend any of these: Dodge Journey, Subaru Forrester, Ford Escape, Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. Is there any other vehicle I should be considering? I have a 12-mile daily commute, with 10 miles being highway each way. Thanks for all of the information you share in your column!
Mary, you are at the tip of the spear of a current trend. How does it feel? The hottest type of vehicle right now is the compact crossover -- which describes pretty much every car on your list.
People who've been driving sedans have discovered that sitting up higher gives them a better view of the road. Of course, once everybody is driving a compact crossover, the view will be of the rear bumper of the compact crossover in front of you. That'll lead to height escalation, and the next trend: compact crossovers with 40-inch wheels.
But until then, people are flocking to compact crossovers for the commanding view of the road, the ease of getting in and out without having to drop down or climb up, and the utility of the hatchback design -- excuse me, cargo area. And they want something cooler-looking than a minivan, without the size of a truck.
The solution is the compact crossover. It's styled like an SUV but built like a car. So get in line!
Of the cars you recommend, we like the Subaru Forrester, the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4 and the Ford Escape. We also like the Nissan Rogue and the Mazda CX-5. But our longtime favorites have been the CR-V and the Forrester.
The CR-V is a wonderfully practical car that has proven incredibly reliable over the years. The Forrester is well-designed, comfortable and has unusually good visibility.
Both of those cars have very roomy back seats, and can be purchased with the latest safety features, like forward collision warning and automatic braking system. In Honda's case, you'll need to buy the highest-end "Touring" model to get those features, whereas Subaru makes its "EyeSight" suite of safety options available on the midlevel models, too.
I'd probably skip the Dodge Journey, because its reliability record is not as good as the others. And while the Mitsubishi isn't bad, that company seems to be in perpetual danger of going out of business in the United States, and you don't want to get stuck with a car that's hard to repair or resell.
Go out and drive them, and see which ones fit your body well, feel easy to drive and get in and out of, and see out of. And congratulations on being trendy again, Mary.