*Sponsored Post. All opinions are our own.”
When you log as many miles at the wheel of the newest family cars like we do, you eventually figure out what works and what doesn’t?
Having driven over 100 cars in the last 2.5 years, it’s fair to say that we’ve picked up a thing or two — or 50. While some of you may say, “Well duh, that’s kind of your job.” I’m not referring to the highlights we look for when reviewing a vehicle, or the kind of bulleted features you read in a magazine. No, we’re talking about the subtle, almost subliminal little things.
We decided to take a quick look at the traits that make family cars, great family cars. More importantly, we’re also going to highlight what traits could possibly make a car less family friendly. Because sometimes you have to know what you don’t like, in order to realize what you love. Anyhow, let’s go!
Not So Good
While the following aren’t deal breakers, they’re typically frowned upon.
Cloth Seats: I know what you’re thinking, leather is typically an expensive upgrade. But, if you’re going to keep your car for a while, think that leather is much easier to clean and protect than cloth.
Rear Seat DVD Players: Call us crazy, but the majority of these expensive, built-in DVD players with wireless headphones are a total pain to operate. Depending on the age of your kiddos, save yourself the money and buy a cheaper, portable solution.
Fixed Rear Headrests: You may have never thought about this one, but when you install the same car seat in 50+ cars per year, you realize that a removable headrest makes all the difference between the right and wrong (and unsafe) fit.
Lack of Rear Vents: While most types of vehicles nowadays have them (even coupes and sedans), some still don’t. Keeping the kiddos equally cool or warm as you is important.
Lack of USB plugs: This is an easy one. Whether you like it or not, kids have energy needs and that’s not going away.
The Very, Very Good
You won’t find many family cars with all five of these qualities, but if you score three of them consider yourself triumphant. Sources like Cars.com offer a wealth of knowledge on virtually every make and model on the road. Visit them when researching for a new purchase, or seeing which minivan to rent for your upcoming family road trip!
Friendly Door Handles: Have you ever wondered what goes on inside a door handle release mechanism? Probably not. There are many handles that our five-year-old has trouble pulling. This can be an inconvenience, as well as a hazard. Make sure you let your little ones try them (and access height) when you go on test drives.
The Chrysler Pacifica features a button placed at a kid’s eye-level to open and close the rear doors.
Built-in Window Shades: Forget buying those clunky shades that fall off all the time. Built-in shades were once for European luxury cars, but now you’ll find them in many vehicles including the Toyota Prius Prime.
Cargo Flexibility: How many times have you had to drive with your trunk open because your new purchase wouldn’t fit? Most sedans, coupes, and SUVs have foldable rear seats which can extend the trunk into the cabin. Some also split 60/40 so you can choose to leave your child’s car seat side up, but fold down the other side like the Honda Civic.
Smooth Ride: There’s a current epidemic of large wheels and sporty suspensions, which equate to harsh rides. No one, and I repeat no one cares if a minivan or SUV can handle twisty back roads. Find a vehicle with a wheel-size no larger than 17 and a big sidewall. Smooth family rides are the best rides, so consider the Lexus RX450h.
Safety: Do we really need to elaborate on this? Safety is paramount. Whether it’s traditional stuff like airbags, seat belts, and child locks, or modern features like self-braking and pedestrian detection, they could literally save your life. See how the Volvo XC90 goes above and beyond in the name of safety.
Oh, and don’t forget that Cars.com also offers car seat safety check information!