We’re in need of a new vehicle. We’ve been able to pull of being a one-car family to this point using Car2Go but with the arrival of our second child this fall we have come to the heady realization that we need something with a bit more gear space than our trusty Honda Fit. With one quick glance at car marketing and sales tactics on the lot, it is time we take back the test drive and provide a practical perspective to judging vehicles for our parental needs.
In this series of reviews, I’ll be looking beyond the fact-sheet layer of vehicles and much more into the design and practicality as they perform to the standards of active families in Canada. While horsepower is nice, is it really more important than effective storage or great fuel economy? I’d love to say that the vehicle with the best 0-60mph time and the largest brake discs will be the most desirable but it is likely not true.
Above all, we need our vehicle to be practical. Yes, it can be fun—you don’t want to feel like your driving a shopping cart. More importantly, a well designed vehicle will make your life easier and a car that is not up to the task will frustrate a potentially already frustrated parent.
In no particular order, here’s the initial criteria.
Layout. How easy or difficult is it to connect your phone to the car system and make a phone call or play music? Do you need to spend an evening with the manual or does it practically run itself?
Storage capacity and usability. Capacity is one thing but if you can’t use the space effectively then it’s not much use. Will the dog fit in with two car seats, an equal number of strollers and the necessary diaper bags and assorted kid detritus? No? Move along.
Ambient space. What are you and your charges able to see out the window? Are backseat views obstructed? Does the moonroof actually allow them to see the moon?
Small space storage and usability. Everything is made to sync to your phone—but is there a space for your phone to live? Where do you put mid-sized bags and purses? Does the front seat end up looking like a bad garage sale at the end of a road trip? This might seem like small things but it’s aspects like this that add up.
Fuel economy and mechanicals. Are you putting $100 in the tank bi-weekly or can you get 1100km to a tank? Does the vehicle introduce a lay-out or a technology that you suddenly can’t live without or is there an immediate annoyance that you will never get over?
What music best suits the driving experience? Are you driving with James Taylor and John Mayer or does the ride put you more in mind for a little Rage Against the Machine or L’il Wayne. Your volume speaks volumes.
How do you feel when you’re driving? Finally, an aspect that takes into consideration the fragile mental state of parents in the midst of a purchasing a vehicle? Do you want to be seen by your high school crush or do you cringe every time you’re sitting at a stoplight wishing no one would associate you with the beige piece of metal you’re sitting in.
I need your help.
I’ll be real-life test driving as many vehicles as possible that fit the family transport criteria. This means driving station wagons, SUVs, minivans and cross-overs over the course of a full week.
The amount of time we spend in our cars is considerable. Therefore, unlike traditional car reviews, I won’t be considering the number of kilometers logged as a metric but rather the performance of the vehicle over time. Thus far, I’ve logged at least 10 hours per week in each test vehicle. I have not performed any weighted ‘performance’ tests but rather, recorded impressions while going about everyday activities—shopping, commuting, rush hour traffic sulking, installing/uninstalling car seats, dog carrying; the list is ongoing.
To this end, I want to be sure to cover as many angles as possible and I need your input. What are the things you love about your current vehicle that you could not do without? Conversely, what would your ultimate family vehicle be able to do? I’ll try to include as many of your wishes and recognize key faults as I’m able.
The reviews will begin in a couple of weeks and when a comprehensive list has been compiled we’ll pull together the top three choices per price point to determine the best family vehicles in Canada. Let the testing begin.