Advice about SUVs

Parent Q&A

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  • SUV that fits 3 carseats?

    (7 replies)

    We are expecting another baby and will need a larger car. Any recommendations for an SUV that can fit 3 full size car seats?

    This isn't a car recommendation, but you could try narrower car seats that can fit 3 across. In the Lucie's List guide here there's a section towards the bottom for "3-across":

    Had this same problem last year. Our second go around were twins so we needed three car seats in one bench.

    we got a Honda Pilot. It’s been real good to us and fits the three seats well. It has lots of space in the back for the double stroller and a third row for when we need to travel with the dogs too.

    We have a Hyundai Tucson that fits our 3 car seats in a row. They are all using the diono radian 3xt. Have had it for only a month and so far really like it!

    The VW Atlas is one of the only SUVs with a 3rd row that you can easily access by folding forward half the 2nd row without disturbing a carseat there. It’s amazing. It stays plugged in (even the over-the-seat tether) and you could get a kiddo into the 3rd row. I love our Atlas for lots of other reasons, too. I don’t think you could fit 3 car seats across in the 2nd row, however… unless they were really/uncommonly narrow? 

    Every SUV where we’ve tried it, we’ve been able to get in 3 car seats - Honda CRV, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru (either Outback or Forester - can’t remember which), several other rental cars too.

    The issue is less often the car and more often the car seat. We used skinny car seats installed with seatbelt not latch to make it work. We used a Clek Fllo seat and a MaxiCosi Rodifix booster when we needed to do this. There are other skinny seats too - I think the Diono and some others.

    I will say it’s a pain to get everyone in 3-across. Especially with boosters where it’s tough to get to the seatbelt buckle (we buckle the belt with the seat empty and have the kid wiggle in under it). If we had 3 kids and this wasn’t an occasional thing, I think a minivan would be more practical and not more expensive than an SUV.

    We have a few friends with 3 kids - most have minivans, one has a Subaru Forester, one uses a pickup truck. Just depends on how much hassle you’re willing to deal with.

    I have a smaller SUV (Hyundai Tucson) and it can fit 3 Diono Radian seats. The Diono Radian would even fit in the back of a car, they are heavy (steel frames) but more narrow than the plastic seats we used to have. We've also had 2 car seats in the back with an adult being able to fit between them. There is no way a regular Graco or similar seat would fit 3 across in my car.

    My oldest is now into a backless booster seat, and that booster is much wider than the Diono.

    We fit 3 car seats into the back of a Honda Fit - not an SUV by any means - 2 Diono Radians and a Maxi Cosi or something like that. Not trying to dissuade you from an SUV is possible to get by with a smaller car. And much easier to park it! So if anyone out there is wishing they didn't *have* to get a big car to manage life with kids - you don't! =)

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Looking for a fuel efficient SUV or wagon

jan 2007

Hi - We are looking into getting a 2nd car and are contemplating between an SUV and a wagon. I really want a more fuel efficient car, but can't really afford a hybrid. Cars we are considering (all used): Ford Escape ('06), Subaru Outback or Forester ('05's or '06's), Toyota Highlander ('04), Hyundai Santa Fe ('05 or '06), Mercedes C class wagon ('04 or older), Lexus RX 300 ('01 or '02). Does anyone have any experience with these cars that they can recommend one over another? Main purpose will be driving around town with the dog and baby, and occasional trips to Tahoe during the winter, so really probably need AWD. Looking for at least 20+ MPG in terms of fuel-efficiency. Also, if you have a used car dealer that you would recommend working with, that would be great as well. secret SUV lover

I've driven an Subaru station wagon for a few years and it does well in the snow. The other SUV's are too dangerous for taking kids around town because they roll over so frequently. Safety Conscious

Honda CRV vs. Chevy Equinox

Apr 2005

We're looking to buy a new car. We thought we had decided on the Honda CRV. Then my husband went to the Chevy website and discovered the Equinox. The only reason we're considering it, is because my husband gets a pretty good discount on GM cars because of his business. We know the CRV has great ratings in crash tests and by Consumer Reports. I've had a Honda Accord for 13 years and it still runs well. We have yet to test drive the Equinox. But our bias is against it, because American cars don't have such a good reputation. Does anyone out there own an Equinox? Does it require a lot of service? How long have you had it? Would you buy it again? We're looking for a small SUV because we have a 19 month old son and we find a normal trunk vs a SUV trunk is too small to lug around a jogging stroller or other baby things. We're getting rid of my husband's small Saturn coupe that is definitely not a family car! We may have another kid and we may not, so we don't want a huge SUV or minivan. Any thoughts on this? Any recommendations? Thanks. Jodi

My new company car is a chevy equinox and I think it's great (had it since November). Ofcourse I didn't pay for it but I saw the sticker and its pretty inexpensive and I find that the quality is good. I have the LS model without AWD. The seats are comfortable, the back seat moves back and forth so you can have lots of legroom in the rear seat or have extra storage space in the way back. Its pretty fast and it drives really well considering its list price is $21K. I would actually consider purchasing this car for myself if I needed an inexpensive vehicle that was decent, good size, easy to drive and rated 5 star for front and side impacts. It does suck gas however...approx 20 mph for me but I drive up and down the hills. ian

I would like to encourage you to rethink your choices a little bit, and factor in gas mileage. If you've been driving a Honda civic and a Saturn coupe, you've been getting great mileage -- far better than you'd get with either of the cars you're considering. I'll tell you why I think that's important in a minute, but first let's think about what you need in terms of room.

You have one 19 month old kid, and may or may not have another. Now at 19 months, kids still need a lot of gear. But by 3 they need much less and by 4, they hardly need anything. So rather than buy a bigger car to fit the jog stroller, it might make more sense to buy a more compact jog stroller -- it's not going to be a part of your life for that much longer.

I have one kid, but I drive a carpool so I frequently have three kids in my car ranging in age from 3 to 6. My kid likes to bike, as do my husband and I, and we camp and backpack frequently. We drive a Prius and a Saturn SL2. Small cars by today's standards, but perfectly roomy for us -- particularly the Prius which is amazingly spacious. I can easily fit three kids in my car, plus bikes on top (my son's bike fits in the hatchback of the Prius.) And I get close to 30 mph in the Saturn and close to 45 in the Prius.

Now, why should you care about mileage when you really want that roomy trunk? I assume you already know about global warming (as I type this the news ticker at the bottom of my screen is flashing the headline ''Study Shows Anarctic Glaciers Shrinking'') and about the immense consequences our children will have to face as a consequence -- killer storms, mass extinctions, raging epidemics, and water shortages among them. You also probably know that if American cars averaged 40 mpg, we would save 4 million gallons of oil per day -- more oil by far than is in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, for instance. But what you may not know is that gas prices are about to get much much higher. We will hit $3 a gallon any day now, and what isn't being talked about in the US press, (but is a big topic in the international press) is that this is just the beginning of the End of Oil. It seems that Saudi oil fields are already bottoming out and as the reserves get lower, it gets more expensive to get oil out of the ground. Combine that with the increasing demand worldwide (because of our own appetite for big cars, and because of China's ever-increasing oil consumption) and you have gas prices that will continue to go up for the forseeable future.

Just my two cents. nelly

SUV vs. Station Wagon

Feb 2005

Hello there, I need advice on what type of car to buy at the end of my current lease. For the past 10 years I have enjoyed driving 3 different Land Rover Discoveries. The problem? GAS PRICES!! I pay upwards of $50 to fill my tank. I get 13 miles to the gallon and feel like I am filling my tank every few days. I am not interested in moralizing about SUVs and gasoline consumption, I am just looking for advice. I have 2 children ages 3 and 6 months so I carry a fair amount of gear with me. My husband is also 6'4'' which limits our options. I am considering a wagon rather than an SUV because I feel like it will give me the cargo space but save on gas and drive more like a car and less like a truck. My lease is up in about 6 months so I want to start looking around now. Is there anyone out there who LOVES their wagon? Please tell me what you love about it. Any recommendations would be appreciated! And, please don't recommend a mini-van - I'm way too vain :o) Wagon wannabe

We are very satisfied with our 1999 Mercedes E320 Wagon, a lease-return we got a couple years ago via an Oakland-based broker ( New they're very expensive, but if you can find a good deal on a used one it makes a terrific family car -- easy to drive, comfortable, OK gas mileage and safer than an SUV. It also has a fold-up double bench seat (with seatbelts) in the rear cargo area, so we've been able to fit as many as five adults along with two large carseats for our little ones. Morris

We LOVE our Audi Allroad wagon. It has all-wheel drive, so we can go to the snow with no trouble. It is much easier to park than our previous SUVs (an Explorer and a Mercedes), drinks far less gas, drives great, and fits us, our 2 kids (with carseats) as well as all our luggage/junk and 2 big dogs in the back when we go to Tahoe. I'll never go back! I would say if you did need more space for stuff you could always get a cargo box for the top. Sidenote: if you decide on an Audi: it's worth the trip to Carlsen Audi in Palo Alto. They had by far the best pricing and best trade in policy around the bay area. Good luck! Ellen

''Is there anyone out there who LOVES their wagon?''

I DO! I'd suggest you run out and test drive a Passat Wagon. I love love love my car. You list your car issues as; 1. Gas Prices/Gas Mileage, 2. Need to carry 2 kids and all their gear, 3. Tall Husband

1. Gas Prices/Gas Mileage. My tank holds about 12 gallons and I've been averaging around 28 mpg. My driving is a pretty equal mix between city and highway. During the week it's mostly city driving (through Oakland and Alameda) and on the weekend it's much more highway driving (to get outta here!) The VW Passat Wagon requires Premium Unleaded....bummer. So you'll certainly be paying more per gallon, but a fill up has been running me $27- $30 and I fill up about once a week or sometimes I can go a little over a week, I don't really drive far from home during the week. The car has a cool little computer function which will show you the average mpg you're getting at any given moment or during a ''trip'' so if I believe the computer in the car, it's about 28 mpg...not too shabby! Much better than the 13 mpg you're used to.

2. Need to carry 2 kids and their gear. I only have 1 kid (at the moment) but I've put my friends kids back there and we've gotten 3 carseats in the back. Sure, it was a tight squeeze with the 2 roundabouts and the booster seat for the 4-year old, but we got everything buckled in, threw a double stroller and a single stroller plus 2 diaper bags, 2 moms took a couple hours shopping, and still managed to get all the shopping bags in the car as well. Before kids when we first got the car, we didn't have a bike rack yet but were able to lay the back seats down and put both of our mountain bikes in the back. We've also been camping with all our gear, bikes, stroller AND bike trailer back there. I don't typically fill the car like that, usually it's just me, one carseat, and the stroller permanently lives in the cargo space. I have plenty of room for groceries and lots of space left over.

3. Tall Husband; Me too. Which is why I let him pick the car. When we were test-driving we first tried the Jetta Wagon but the Passat Wagon was soooo much roomier. He's over 6' and the ''shortest'' of his family. My father-in-law is quite tall and doesn't feel cramped in my car. After we got our wagon, he and his wife bought the sedan, they liked it so much. My husband can fit in the backseat without too much discomfort. When we have a full car, since I'm the shortest of the family, I usually sit behind my husband while he's driving with the seat all the way back and I still have room for my legs.

We're actually on our 2nd wagon now, we were leasing the first. The prices went down last year so we turned in the leased wagon, paid a penalty for ending it early and bought the new wagon without any price difference. (By the way, we did that through and had a wonderful experience! We'll never buy a car without the internet ever again!)

Good luck with your wagon search. We really enjoy our car and hope you find one that you love as much as we love ours. mattiff

We just went through the same thing, only were moving up from a tiny car. Not too many wagons out there these days! We looked at Subarus and Hondas (who aren't making wagons right now). We opted for the CR-V. It's not a ''big'' SUV, so it gets good mileage, it's super safe, and is almost tied with the Forester for best small SUV. We opted for it over the Forester because it's super spacious on the inside (you said your husband was tall?) and it doesn't need maintenance until 100k. So far we love it! I recommend getting a Consumer Reports membership (you can get a monthly one for $4.95) and comparing the cars there, it'll tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about the specs on all the cars out there. Good Luck! happy new car owner

We love our Audi wagon. It drives like a car but has really good cargo room. We've taken it on several car-trip vacations around the state and it is very comfortable. We had a Volvo wagon before that and loved it, too. Many wagons come with 4-wheel or all-wheel drive now (Subaru, Audi, Volvo), so if you do go to the mountains or anything else that might require SUV-like capabilities, you can get it in a wagon. Signed, Driving a wagon like my mother did--and loving it

We have a BMW 5-series wagon that we love. Handles well, lots of room for 2 kids and a dog and gets about 25 miles to the gallon. (Although the car I am REALLY in love with is our new Prius...) I would under no circumstances consider an SUV--they are incredibly unsafe for you, your kids and other cars on the road because of the roll-over factor. Not to mention the waste of gas, which I will refrain from moralizing on, no matter now tempting ;-) anon

We have a 2002 Passat wagon and we love it. Gas mileage is great and it is roomy enough for my husband, who is six foot five inches. We even got the sun roof and he still fits into the car comfortably.

It's even plenty zippy without the bigger engine (ours is standard, not automatic.) Plenty of room for us, our two-year old, and the dog in the back. Wagon Driver

Check the new ford Freestyle, a new ''crossover'' station wagon, which I just got and LOVE. It has 3 rows of seats, and lots of cargo space . It drives like a car and has great mileage. I have never bought american cars, but this one has a volvo platform and feels solid.... Check it out at lots of info JoCo

Get a wagon! We just got a used 99 Volvo wagon and we LOVE it. Cargo space (and passenger space) in SUVs is seriously overrated. We can fit tons in our Volvo, PLUS 3 adults and 2 carseats. Wagon convert

Hi - I have a Volvo V40 Wagon, my husband has a small SUV - a Honda CRV. So I can give you my/our thoughts on both.

First of all, even though my husband probably gets more politically misinformed glares driving his CRV, it gets about the same gas mileage as my Volvo, and is a certified LEV (Low Emissions Vehicle) to boot. We considered waiting until the Toyota Highlander hybrid came out, but found out that the gas mileage would be about the same. We get about 22-25 mpg with either vehicle.

For zipping around town I like to drive my Volvo. It's low to the ground & drives like a sports car. Even though the CRV is not a huge SUV, it defintely feels taller and more tippy. The Volvo is fancier on the inside and more comfortable to sit in - for the driver. So, yes, I would say I love my wagon. It's no problem to carry your basic parent stuff. I generally drive around with a large stroller AND my golf clubs in the back at all times.

However, we just took a long road trip and there was no question - we took the CRV. It just holds so much more without blocking the rear window, and is more comfortable for the kids. They like being higher up and more able to view the scenery.

Now, the CRV is small compared to a Land Rover, so if you decide to go with a smaller SUV, there will be an adjusment. We can just barely fit a young teen between the two carseats in the back, and once our kids move up to the bigger carseats there will probably be no room between them.

Have fun comparison shopping. We have found sites like to be very helpful. anon

In response to your query whether anybody loves their wagon - we do! We got a 2004 Passat Wagon (V6) that my husband and I totally love. It holds a lot - the rear seats split so you can get even more stuff in if you need to. It has lots of wonderful safety features (which I really notice since my car is now 10 years old and since we got the Passat I don't feel halfway as safe as I do when we're driving in my husband's Passat). It's very comfortable, has a great sound system, excellent interior design particularly on the dashboard. It was very highly rated by Consumer Reports at the time. We couldn't be happier. Mind you, we only have one child and not as much gear as you, but the car is really excellent. I know that Consumer Reports just came out with the annual car buying issue, so you should probably check that out as well to see what they rate the best these days. Every year, there are great new features it seems. Good luck! Wish I could get a new car, too...

Minivan vs. SUV

Jan 2005


We have 3 children (two in car seats) and a 5 passenger car. We need to move up to something larger so that our children can occasionally bring a friend along or so that we can take my parents out for a family dinner once in a while.

A: It seems that many of the smaller 7 passenger products out there place their third row right up against the rear window. This seems a little unsafe to me (what if we were rear ended?).

B: And then there are social issues... SUV drivers and minivan drivers both seem to get a lot of bad press. On one side there are environmental issues and 'what do you need a truck in the suburbs for' (even though there are hybrids available - most taunters can't differentiate)... and on the other side there is a perceived total loss of coolness/hippness...

How can we cart all of these people around safely and drive something that doesn't make my husband and I feel that we have become styleless chauffeur?

This note is not meant to offend SUV or minivan drivers. We are interested in knowing what made other people choose so that we can also.

Thanks! Van or SUV?

We are the happy, extremely satisfied owners of a Chrysler Pacifica. The reasons we bought it are pretty much the same ones you listed - need more room, but wanted something safe and stylish. It has 3rd row seating that conveniently folds down when you don't need it, making for tons of cargo space; when you are using it, it feels comfy and not squashed - friends who have ridden in that back row have told me that usually they get carsick when in the back of minivans, but not in the Pacifica. It's a dream to drive, the gas mileage is quite respectable, incredibly comfortable and airbags galore - it has an EXCELLENT safety rating. Check it out - we couldn't be happier with ours! Stylish non-van/SUV driver

If you're looking for a bigger yet environmetnally responsible car, try the new Ford Escape Hybrid. It uses the same time-tested technology as the Toyota Prius (what I drive) and has a big ''HYBRID'' mark on it so everyone will know. Sadly, the salespeople at the Ford Dealership in Downtown Oakland were utterly clueless (not to mention rude) when I asked about the hybrid SUV so try another dealership. Green-Minded Mom

I am a minivan owner and its nice that we get to feel morally superior to, if much less cool than, those SUV owners (see article reference below), but there are good reasons to go for minivans over SUVs, if they match what you are looking for. SUVs are usually a lot noisier inside, a lot less comfortable inside, less roomy, less safe (though it is unclear if this is due to the cars or the people who drive them) and they typically seat fewer passengers. Adult extra passengers greatly appreciate the comfort of the captain's chairs in the second row of minivans. Or you can opt for a bench seat in some minivan models and get eight seats which means that each of your children will be able to take a friend along. I'd say the choice boils down to what is more important to you: not wanting to feel like a styleless chauffeur, or chauffeuring in style. Take an SUV and minivan for a nice long test drive and make sure you get on the highway, pick up some drinks and check out the convenience of the holders :). Chances are you'll be much more comfortable in the minivan even though you don't feel hip. After all, minivan makers, according to the article below, are trying to make you feel as if you have returned to the womb. Since my parents live at Lake Tahoe and we go there many times each year we opted for the Sienna AWD (you can't get this model with 8 seats, sadly). Maybe you could go for that to ease the pain of being a minivan driver. After owning a Subaru AWD station wagon (which we considered hipper than a minivan) I can say that the minivan is so great that it was easy to make my peace with it.

You may get referred to this article several times. It is interesting to see how the SUV and Minivan makers see their markets.,local/37749c26.716,.html

For example, minivan buyers tend to be more comfortable than sport-utility buyers with being married; sport-utility buyers are more commonly concerned with still feeling sexy, and they like the idea that they could use their vehicles to start dating again, said David P. Bostwick, DaimlerChrysler's director of market research.

''We have a basic resistance in our society to admitting that we are parents and no longer able to go out and find another mate,'' Bostwick said. ''If you have a sport-utility, you can have the smoked windows, put the children in the back and pretend you're still single.'' 3 kids, love my van

After much deliberation myself, I am getting a minivan (Toyota Sienna). My self esteem allows me to get past the boring/un- hip reputation of minivan drivers. The Sienna is insanely parent friendly with so many gadgets that my husband thought it was cool. SUVs are fine, but not really geared for easy access to the third row if the car seats are put in the middle row. Also, the hybrids really don't do much for gas mileage (really, what is the point of a v-8 hybrid? So, you two miles to the gallon better gas mileage...I guess that you must be an environmentalist now...Oh, I drive an SUV now, so I am not knocking SUV drivers...I just think the hybrid thing is funny). soon to be horribly unhip

I would like to recommend whole-heartedly to get a minivan over an SUV. We just bought a new minivan (we have three children and two large dogs), the Toyota Sienna and absolutely love it. It doesn't feel like a minivan at all, more like a BMW. We do not care about style, image or what other people think but we went for safety, reliability and convenience. While many of the SUV's now have a third row, it is very hard to reach it,i.e. there's a lot of climbing over the 2nd row which is hard when you have a car seat there etc. Also, a third row virtually eliminates storage in the trunk. Finally, I believe that many minivans still get slightly better gas mileage than SUV's but I could be wrong. There is also a difference in size among the minivans, the new Sienna, Odyssey and Freestar being among the largest, but the Mazda MPV, the Kia and some of the other American vans are smaller. And yes, there is that dilemma of having a large vehicle but how will you transport all of your children and gear safely? Hope that helps! love my minivan

We are in the same predicament, but we have 3 carseats. I am considering the acura mdx. To us, the back seat is in a similar position, if not better than most minivans. I am pretty much sold on it, but i would like to talk to some actual owners to get their opinions. so anybody out there that has an mdx--7 seater. Let us know how you like the car. erika

We were in your dilemma, and broke down finally and got a minivan! Now we are wondering what took us so long! We absolutely love it. Our parents and the kids' friends can all comfortably join us in a drive about. The nice thing about the minivan vs. suv is access. Getting into the third row of the SUV is not easy - our friends bought a new Toyota Highlander with third row, and it's cramped and hard for the kids to get in - they have to climb over seats, etc. With the minivan, we have 2 car seats in way back (with space in between for another!), and then 2nd row, we have two bucket seats, with one car seat. So very comfortable. I love it - and with all the storage and the driving you do with the kids - this is by far the best way to go, in my opinion! Good luck. Melissa

When we discovered ourselves pregnant last year, my husband and I immediately realized my '95 Civic hatchback nor my husband's '90 Acura hatchback was going to cut it once a baby arrived. I really wanted a stationwagon but my husband cannot get his head around a station wagon having any redeemable qualities; we both weren't ready for the mini-van. After much thought and research (and examining our budget, of course) we decided to buy a used '96 Pathfinder and sell the Acura. One, we have 2 dogs and camp a lot, and we just bought a house we are doing a fair amount of work on. Two, that SUV is going to be on the road regardless. Granted, so are the millions of other cars with far better gas milage, and that reasoning was more my husband's than mine, but that's what I was left with when all was said and done. My husband drives the Honda to work every day, and since I work from home on work days the Pathfinder sits in the driveway quite a bit. And to be honest, I still feel like a jerk driving the SUV a lot of the time, though whenever we went camping or I went to the tool lending library and Home Depot for a house project, I absolutely loved it. So there is our example. Good luck. anon

We too have 3 children to drive around town. 2 are in car seats and will be for at least another 4 years. We opted for the Chevy Suburban. It is the best thing we could have ever done! Not only do we have the space to house our kids and car seats, but we have plenty of room to keep strollers, book bags, groceries and 2 or three other adults if needed. The seats can also be re-configured to make room for almost anything you might need to carry. This SUV is SAFE, SAFE, SAFE. Did I mention safe? We have side curtain airbags, front passenger, driver airbags, etc. We opted for a DVD player for long car trips (a life saver). The gas mileage is not as bad as you would think. If we fill up, we can get about 460 to 480 miles out of a full tank of gas. Very comfy ride and handles great for the size. True, Suburbans are not for everyone, but if you would like to be a formatable opponent on the road, keep your kids and passengers safe while still looking cool, it is a definate winner. I'll never buy any other SUV, even when the kids get older. Suburban in the City

We gave up a very ''cool'' car for a minivan a few months ago. I thought we would miss the car. We don't! The space, convenience and comfort outweigh any coolness we have lost. ALthough, I think ours is quite cool for a minivan. To all those saying we are wasteful gas guzzlers--we make less trips in our car b/c we can fit so much more in it when we are out, we can fit our friends and their kids in with us and eliminate the need for more than 1 car on a lot of trips, and we get just about the same gas mileage as our last car did. I have never noticed any snide looks from other drivers and a lot of people ask about it. It's an '04 Nissan Quest. There is a lot of room behind the 3rd row seats so you aren't close to windows. The 3rd row seat is very comfortable too. We test drove the Honda and Toyota versions and thought Nissan was the best fit for us. It has had some small recalls, nothing major. Overall, we are very happy with our choice and highly recommend it. Nicole

I drive a minivan, and while I don't like the ''loss of coolness'' factor, minivans are safer than suvs which are on a truck body. I talked this over with my brother who is an excellent consumer and he looked up safety ratings which I found compelling. Since you expressed concern about the safety issue (i.e., back seat being too close to rear window in some cars), this might be relevant for you. If it's a choice between being nerdy and unsafe/environmentally unfriendly, I'll pick nerdy. Finally, there is recent literature pointing to the hazards to *other* cars when a collision occurs with an suv. Elizabeth

well we just took that plunge with our second child on the way in march and our best kid car a 4 seater nissan sentra. we just bought ourselves a mini-van. Not an SUV because many don't really seat more than 5 comfortably - just have lots of leg room and some cargo space. The mini-vans are more versatile since you can take out the back seat for more stuff and put it in for trips with more than just the family - kids friends will soon need rides and sometimes our friends and relatives. We want something that will still be good a few years from now for all these activities. My husband became something of a ''mini-van snob'' (his words, not mine) during the search - we can't afford new. The safety records of honda oddessy and toyota sienna are great, though the reports don't differentiate between the various seats. There are lots of new safety features added to the odessy as of 2002- anti- lock brakes, side air bags in the front - not sure what else. good luck as for being ''taunted'' well you have to do what is practical for you, don't you? I think the problems a lot of people have with all the large vehicles is that people buy them and then don't use all the extra space. all that extra gas, parking space and road visibility (for other drivers)is kind of a waste when just one or two people ride the vast majority of the time. that doesn't sound like the case for you. if people want to judge you they will find some reason to do just that - let it be their problem ilona

About 6 years ago, I was single and needed to buy a new vehicle. As an artist, I wanted something that I could use to haul large paintings around in. I thought an SUV would be perfect, test-drove a few and was close to getting the Toyota 4- runner. Then I saw a Toyota Sienna on the dealer's lot and discovered it would hold as much as a small cargo van if its seats were taken out. So I test drove it, felt it handled the road MUCH better than the SUV, and decided to buy it. Boy did I have to defend driving a minivan to my single friends - that is until they needed help moving... I once fit the contents of my friends entire apartment in my van!

Today, I'm married, have 2 toddlers and (110,000 miles later) still have and love my Sienna! I can load it up with carseats and all the kids gear, and have room for friends and family to travel with us. It gets better gas mileage than an SUV, handles like a Toyota Avalon (same chassis), has a great safety record, and has been completely reliable. My parents (who are in their late 60's) drove mine a few times, loved how comfortable it was and how easy it was to get in and out of, and decided to buy one for themselves instead of a great-big-american sedan. They've been extremely happy with it as well. So my 2 cents: forget the stigma, go for the minivan. You won't regret it!

Smooth ride for Honda CRV?

June 2003

We have a Honda CRV, which is ideal for our new baby and dog. However, the bumpy ride is starting to really bother my husband's back (he has a painful lower-back problem). We have looked into other options (new tires, etc.) and the one that sounds like it will be the most effective is a suspension kit. Does anyone have other recommendations? Or if you have gotten a suspension kit installed and can recommend, or steer us away from, a particular auto shop for this, we'd love to hear from you. Looking for a smooth SUV ride

I think you should test drive a Subaru Forrester. They are comprable in size and the ride is amazing. The all wheel drive is superb. It really smooths out all the bumps. It is also incredible to get into and out of. Not too high or too low. We had one for 3 years but sold it only because we bought a minivan for more room.I miss it something fierce. all wheel drive lover

Consult with Art's Automotive on San Pablo. They know everything there is to know about Japanese automobiles and they are the most responsible, trustworthy business I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. I recommend them here all the time. They have a Web site ( and they are at 2871 San Pablo Ave. Berkeley, CA, (510) 540-7093. Laura