Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Yes, You Can Still Have a Small Car With a Family

By Scott Huntington

Can you name the truck with four-wheel drive, smells like a steak and seats thirty-five? If you’re not a “Simpsons” fan or you somehow missed this episode, check this out.

The long-running animated series may have lost a step in recent years, but “The Simpsons” was never more on-point than it was with the satirical SUV archetype. Even in the 1990s, this is what it took for people to ask the question: “Does a typical family really need a seven-seat SUV?”

Compact Is Cool

The answer is “no.” Of course you don't need a land-barge with four-wheel drive just to cart your kids and their stuff around. There are plenty of small cars that feature intuitive design and enjoyable driving dynamics. As an added bonus, you’ll spend a lot less time at the gas pump than your friends who drive SUVs.

Before the SUV rose to popularity, people chose all different types of cars for their families. There were hatchbacks, full-size cars and even station wagons — remember those? You can still have all three and transport your family in them enjoyably. You can even have a crossover, which is just a wagon with an extra inch of ground clearance.

A Value Proposition

Not only can you do ninety percent of the things you would do in an SUV in a compact car, but you’ll also save lots of money on a compact car. Of the eight cars U.S. News and World Report lists as the best compacts for families, six have MSRPs of under $20,000. Try and find six SUVs you would want to drive for that price. Plus, a bigger car usually just means more room for a mess. Keeping your car clean with kids is already hard enough to do on its without having all that extra space for wrappers, fries, and mud.

The savings don't stop with the initial purchase, though, because compact cars are more fuel-efficient. They are often cheaper to insure and repair than their all-terrain cousins, too. But do you really want to drive these cars? Let’s check out a few options.

Popular Compacts for Families

Mazda has been killing it for the past five years, and it’s largely due to the success of their 3 line. The 3 Sport hatchback looks great, offers a practical and feature-rich interior with enough space for toys, and can easily transport five. In the segment, the 3 has to compete with the Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic. All three are superb cars that can do family duty in hatchback guise.

Looking for something more rugged or roomy? The Kia Soul offers van-like space in a compact, city-friendly package. Nissan has a cash cow on their hands with the Rogue, which has taken Europe by storm. Even though it's less popular in the states, plenty of room and a high driving position make it an attractive compact crossover for families.

If you’re into being environmentally friendly, the compact segment is for you. Toyota’s Prius is a veteran of the segment that is ridiculously functional. For those who just want to be different, there’s the Chevy Bolt — but it does cost nearly forty large.

As you can see, there’s no shortage of options for those who are willing to abandon the myth of SUV mania. The only question is, which will you choose?


Darryl said...

I would also like to add the Mini Clubman lineup to the list. I drove one for a week and couldn't believe how many parents with one or two kids pass this vehicle up! It covers a wide swath of powertrains and prices... you can even get an AWD manual (!) and theres plenty of space. Brand new they get pricey, but one just out of service loaner status usually gets you an S version with AWD and Minis new 7-year unlimited mileage powertrain warranty for about $4k off!

Anonymous said...

Only problem is when you have your fourth kid (like I did) and run out of seatbelts in a 5-seat car...