Family vehicles: Alternatives to the minivan

Is your family growing? Congratulations! Few pleasures in life compare to being a parent. Yet it’s not easy. Many adjustments have to be made with the arrival of new children, including buying a vehicle that will have the room to suit everyone’s needs. Is it really time to buy that super-practical minivan? Maybe! However, you don't have to go with the minivan. There are a number of options available.

1. SUVs

Sport utility vehicles are a popular choice among Canadians. Sales climbed by 17% between 2014 and 2015,1 and the demand is simply not going away. Should you be thinking about an SUV for your growing family? Let’s take a closer look at the features of an SUV to give you a better idea.

• Why choose an SUV?

There are many reasons sport utility vehicles have won the hearts of Canadian families: a roomy interior, storage space that rivals that of some minivans, all-wheel drive, and power that helps you deal with the unpredictable weather conditions of our Canadian winters. This model has everything to please young parents who need to feel comfortable and safe on the road. An SUV is a versatile vehicle that can hold up to seven passengers, based on the model. And it doesn't have a reputation for being suburban or boring like the minivan.

• Why choose against an SUV?

The reason we still see minivans on Quebec roads is that not everyone likes the SUV. An SUV is not perfect. The most frequent criticism is its cost. Compact and low-end models cost about $30,000. 2 Based on your budget and needs, you can find models priced as high as $100,000.

There are two other frequent complaints about sport utility vehicles. Not only are they expensive to buy, but they're also costly to maintain. Although they're robust and reliable, your visits to the garage will often be hard on the pocket book. The gas tank is expensive to fill and it leaves a significant environmental footprint.

• Which SUVs offer the best value?

The following information is limited to SUVs under $40,000. Two models received a perfect score for reliability and safety in the online Car Guide, namely, the Subaru Forester and the Toyota RAV4. The best rating was given to the Mazda CX-5, which costs between $24,900 and $34,700 to buy new.3 The Hyundai Tucson and Ford Escape were also rated highly in 2017. From a consumption point of view, none of these models stood out. SUVs are hard on gas by nature; there’s no getting away from it. Your most cost-effective options are the Toyota RAV4i and the Subaruii Crosstrek, two models that cost more up front, but that will pay off in the long run.

2. Other choices

An SUV doesn’t suit your budget? You spend a lot of time on the road and the fuel consumption scares you? There are other options available:

• CUVs

What is a CUV? The crossover utility vehicle is a hybrid between a car and a sport utility vehicle. It is built on a car chassis but has several SUV features, such as the storage space much coveted by families. The CUV costs less and is more energy efficient. The 2017 Kia Soul is valued at between $19,150 and $35,395,4 depending on the options. The MINI Clubman5 (also known as “the most spacious MINI ever produced”) is another affordable model with loads of style—perfect for young families! The CUV has been gaining in popularity over the past few years, because it offers many of the benefits that the SUV offers—without the drawbacks.

Family models: Spacious and economical

Need the most space possible for your kids? Are you the type who brings the kids camping with a bunch of their friends? If so, the Subaru Outback6 is designed with your needs in mind. It not only has tons of space, but it consumes just 7 litres per 100 kilometres in economy mode, which is quite amazing for a vehicle of this size. You should also have a look at the Volkswagen7 Golf Alltrack, chosen as the best family vehicle in 2017. It consumes very little gas, thanks to its hybrid engine.

• Environment-friendly models

Are you prepared to invest a little more in a hybrid? There’s nothing more suited to an active family who enjoys the outdoors. Once again, you have a choice. Hybrid and electric models generally cost more, but they qualify for a host of rebates and tax credits. You’ll also save money in the long run because of their fuel economy. The Toyota Highlander,8 as well as the RAV4 (mentioned earlier), and the Mazda CX-5 are the best rated and most affordable hybrids on the market. The purchase price may be a little scary, but make sure to look into the incentives available.10 A green vehicle is a great choice!

3. Why choose a minivan in spite of it all?

The minivan is simply a model that never goes out of style. It has lived on, despite being criticized for its lack of character. The reason is simple: it's designed with families in mind. Everyone has their reasons for liking it. Mom and Dad find it comfortable. The kids have the room they want and even onboard entertainment (some models have screens built into the front seats). Seats retract into the floor to make for more space. To heck with style—the minivan is made so that families can travel without the headaches!

In terms of space, you’ll always come out ahead if you choose a minivan. But is it really more affordable than the SUV? Not really. The price tag is consistently between $25,000 and $40,000 in both cases, and we’re only talking base models. The cost can climb very quickly when you add options. It’s a matter of personal choice and priorities. Some SUVs offer style, comfort and drive, but the SUV is designed to meet other needs as well. You won’t find it as practical as a van.

The different SUV formats and the minivan are relatively equivalent options when it comes to cost, but they’re dramatically different in all other respects. Which will you choose? It’s up to you!

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