Inexpensive family vehicle - suggestions?

We’re really excited about expecting our first baby, but no way can we fit a baby and both our dogs in a sedan. So we’re looking for a vehicle that will comfortably fit two adults, a baby, and two dogs (55 and 70 lbs). The baby needs to be separated from the dogs, and the dogs can’t feel on top of each other (or they’ll play/fight the entire trip). So far we’re considering the Toyota Matrix, Kia Rondo or Sportage, Honda CRV, Mazda 6 or Tribute. Any opinions on these or other suggestions?

Our requirements: fuel efficient, safe, large cargo area for dogs, under $22,000 (preferably new but will consider used)

Thanks, I appreciate any help!

I know this is not what you want to here, but a mini van with the third row of seats removed is going to be your best bet.

You answered your own question: “Toyota Matrix, Kia Rondo or Sportage, Honda CRV, Mazda6 or Tribute.” Any one of these should suit you just fine. Now you just have to narrow the field, using whatever criteria are most meaningful to you. There is no need to look at additional candidates (although it sure is fun to do so).

I agree with Americar. The choices you’ve listed will become way too small almost instantly. Withe the stroller, the diaper bag, the toys, …and remember, if you have this car for any number of years you may have a 5 year old, a baby, and two huge dogs to squeeze in!

Been there, done that. I traded my beloved 1976 Corolla 2-door in for a new 1982 4-door Civic when my first was born because it was so hard to get the baby into the rear seat. Four years and another pregnancy later that had to get traded for a 1986 Toyota Minivan. It was just too small. I never regretted getting the van.

I agree with the minivan suggestion. I think the Matrix and 6 would be too small for you. The SUV’s would probably be okay, but you can get more room for the same price and gas mileage with a minivan.

However, if you do still want an SUV, I would add the Hyundai Santa Fe to your list-- it’s cheaper than anything but the Kia’s and has got very good reviews and I know a couple of people with them who like it a lot. Also, in case you didn’t know, the Pontiac Vibe is the same as the Matrix and the Ford Escape is the same as the Tribute, so look at those too, especially if you end up buying used because the domestic versions end up being cheaper after a year or two of depreciation.

If you plan on expanded the family a minivan is your best long term purchase hands down.

If your looking for a wagon I would highly suggest the base model Subaru Outback which retails for around $22k but can be had for <$19k brand new with incentives. Another great choice is a the new model basic RAV4 in your price range. Toyota Matrix is way too tiny for two dogs of that size in the rear.

Are you going to put up a wire mesh wall between the cargo area and the back seat? If so, minivans probably aren’t the best idea. If not, you should be able to find a minivan with a stowable rear seat in your price range, like a Dodge Grand Caravan.

I never again want to drive anything but a Toyota, though I can imagine possibly getting a Honda if it came to that.

However, they do cost more. Plenty more. I want a Toyota because I drive a lot. Only 22,000 miles per year, but over six months of that year, the 2002 Sienna barely moves here in Mexico so that 22,000 miles is sometimes 1,500 miles in two days when I am back from Mexico, and do it again in a few days. I leave McAllen in the Rio Grande Valley in the morning, and sleep in Virginia the second night. I don’t want to be worried about trivial repairs. And, I want it to start first time, every time. At 140,000 miles, it has never failed to start and run.

If my needs were less stringent, I would seriously consider a Caravan. I believe most owners, up to say 120,000 miles, some say 150,000 miles, will more than cover any extra repairs with the much lower original price.

And, the new Caravans really aren’t that bad. My eldest daughter and her husband have one, a late 90’s, and have no real problems with it around Amarillo and to McAllen for scheduled time off. Two kids and dogs, too. It is possible to put dogs on a leash short enough to keep them in their corner of the back, if that is a real need.

If you want to drive one 250,000 miles, then you want a Toyota or Honda.

My 1995 Dodge Caravan now has over 200K on it - it starts the first time every time and always has, and it trucks us many many many miles at a time (also a good 20K/yr) over and over again without complaint or problem.

The only bad legend about the Caravan is the transmission - but all minivans have tranny problems including the Hondas and Toyotas.

In general response to the initial post: go with the flow here - you need a minivan. Certainly do your research about the different companies, but you will pay more for a Honda/Toyota and not necessarily for good reason.