Ur-Turn: Shopping For A Family Hauler

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

Reader Daniel Latini is a car guy and has a baby on the way. He’s looking for your advice on a new ride that can carry around his family.

My wife is one of those generally temperate souls who has a few firecrackers strewn about her personality. New challenges can spark a little friction in any couple, and something popped when we saw the ultrasound pictures of our still-developing first child.

Her current steed, a middle-aged Korean compact hatch, lost a lot of luster that day. I’m sure the B&B will pelt me with shop manuals for trading a car with less than 100,000 miles, but I think there are some sound reasons to consider an upgrade.

We’re young, clueless and enthusiastic – click the jump and join us as we begin the misadventure of finding our first family hauler!

As the owner of a 2008 Kia Spectra5, my wife has spent the last few years learning about the difference between “spec-sheet” cars (those that have a lot of listed features) and quality cars (those that do not cheap out on everything else). To be fair, the Kia was almost perfectly reliable during its 53,000 miles of service with us (86k in total so far). It did provide a few ongoing headaches though. The Kia giveth and the Kia taketh:

  • Fuel economy has consistently varied between “marginal” (29 MPG highway) and “disappointing” (19 MPG city)
  • The stereo features a 6-disc changer, but it sometimes withholds the CDs like a stubborn dog playing tug-of-war
  • The transmission appears to be gaining sentience as it is takes more and more time to ponder the four forward gears. To make up for the time wasted during the decision process, it slams home every shift
  • The dash is squishy, but it buzzes like previous owners installed an aftermarket beehive

Annoyances aside, there are more practical reasons to upgrade as well. Space is a big one. A weekend trip for the wife, dog and I fills the whole cargo hold and part of the back seat. Home improvement runs can be a challenge. We also periodically drive elderly family members, so something with improved ingress and egress would be appreciated.

Safety is the larger concern though. Jack’s recent wreck has driven a lot of conversation, and the few parents I know who lost young children in car accidents say they are changed individuals as a result. While the NHSTA scores for the Spectra5 seem okay at first glance, it is important to remember that the test was toughened in 2011. The IIHS metrics are both more current and more critical, especially when concerning side-impact performance. The Kia might be acceptable in a crash, but this is not a treasured sports car or weekend toy. Because we have the means, I am struggling to justify not providing something more robust.

So while I normally keep cars for most of their useful lives, my wife and I have agreed to see what the market has to offer. I hope to share some of our experiences on these pages, but I want to propose a question first – what is the deal with new moms wanting seven seat trucks?

Daniel: “Any idea where you want to start the search? Crossover? Sedan?”

Wife: [enthusiastically] “Tahoe!”

Daniel: [laughs] “Only if we were going to live in it. Wanna start with the CX-5? I think you might like it.”

Wife: “Tahoe! All my girlfriends want one.”

And that is mostly true. A quick poll of my wife’s friends carrying children (whether internally or externally) indicated a universal “need” for a seven-seat vehicle, usually an SUV. These are all young women in their twenties, so I imagine the SUV boom of the 90s conditioned them to some degree. Some hope to have large families, but they all currently have two kids or fewer.

The situation, to this young IT worker, does not compute. Large seven-seaters like the Tahoe strike me as an unnecessary waste of both resources and money for a family starting out. Small seven-seaters, like the redesigned Nissan Rogue, seem to fall between two stools.

What say you, B&B? Am I overblowing the safety concerns about the Kia? Are these women on to something my Y-chromosome prevents me from seeing?

Daniel Latini is twenty-something with a child on the way. A Millenial without a Twitter account, he was trained as a journalist but now works in IT. His passion for cars was ignited while helping work on his father’s Alfa Romeo Spider and was nearly extinguished when he got to drive it.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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  • Mnm4ever Mnm4ever on Mar 03, 2014

    One thing I notice about the Tahoe and other full sized SUVs and trucks is they are very roomy for larger people, which I think is one of the appealing traits. Some of my friends are bigger, football player build type of guys and they complain they do not fit well in CUVs or crossovers. I can attest to one guy who changed from a car to a full size truck because of this. He's about 6'5", 250 lbs or so, used to drive an Altima but got an F150 extended cab and is thrilled with the room.

  • Bryanska Bryanska on Mar 03, 2014

    2013 Caddy XTS. White pearl tricoat over cashmere leather. Like a rolling Coach purse. Looks like $$$ in the dropoff lane. She'll look 100% woman. The SUVs may look empowering to the other moms, but a pearlcoat Caddy will make them straight up jealous.

    • See 12 previous
    • Kyree Kyree on Mar 03, 2014

      @PonchoIndian I'll submit that there is a significant difference in materials quality and design between the XTS and the Impala. And you can get a lightly-used mid-trim XTS for less than what you'd pay for an Impala LTZ...

  • 3-On-The-Tree Lou_BCsame here I grew up on 2-stroke dirt bikes had a 1985 Yamaha IT200 2-strokes then a 1977 Suzuki GT750 2-stroke 750 streetike fast forward to 2002 as a young flight school Lieutenant I bought a 2002 suzuki Hayabusa 1300 up in Huntsville Alabama. Still have that bike.
  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.