Great mileage and a comfy interior?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 1990

Dear Tom and Ray:

A few years ago we purchased a Dodge Colt Vista. We like the three rows of seats, the four doors, the hatch, and the great gas mileage. We'd like to get another car just like this one, EXCEPT we'd like to upgrade the quality of the interior (lots of things have fallen off), get less rattling, but most importantly, we want better safety features. I've heard about about anti-lock brakes and different grades of steel. We want the best of both. Any recommendations?

TOM: This is a tough one, Melissa. My first thought was to suggest a mini-van like the Dodge Caravan or the Mazda MPV. Both have three rows of seats, and both are better put-together than the Colt Vista. The Caravan's advantage is that it makes better use of it's interior space, but doesn't have the anti-lock brakes you want. The MPV has the rear anti-lock brakes. It also drives more like a car than a van, and that makes it safer because you're better able to control it. But I don't think the MPV will meet your criteria either.

RAY: It sounds like you're looking for invulnerability, not just safety, and you're not going to find that in any mini-van--at least not until 1992 when the safety requirements change. Mini-vans are currently classified as trucks, and therefore don't have to meet passenger car safety standards. They don't have to come with passive restraints, they're not required to have shoulder harnesses for all passengers, and they don't have to meet side-impact protection standards that passenger cars must meet.

TOM: If you're looking for three rows of seats and invulnerability, Melissa, the car that comes closest to meeting your needs is a Volvo station wagon. It's not as tall as your Colt Vista, but it's a roomy car. You can get an optional third rear seat for it (although it faces backwards). I can't promise you fewer rattles, great creature comforts, or cheap repairs, but the Volvo is a durable, sturdy, safe car.

RAY: If safety is really an overriding concern, than you're going to have to compromise elsewhere. So get the Volvo wagon, and once the kids move out of the house, write to us again and we'll recommend something less stodgy.

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