What is a good, reliable, good MPG SUV or station wagon that's not too high or low off the road

My friend is looking for a car that’s not too high up/low enough, so that her elderly mom can get in and out; big enough trunk or space to hold a wheelchair; plus a car that’s good for adventure and kids. She says that the Outback is on the list. Outback is more expensive than the RAV4 & CRV, but the height on the RAV4 and CRV seems like it would be difficult for the elderly mom.

The Outback is a Number one consideration for your use and is one of the better ones mileage wise. Another consideration is the Venza which has a lower still entry height then the Outback but still has uoright seating. Older people seem to like them lots. It is built on the Highlander chassis which means it is roomy. The four or the six culinder motors are moderately thrifty mileage wise but they are expensive to buy new.

Subaru makes a Forester which is less expensive, but a little smaller and the Crosstrek which is slightly smaller than the Forester with the improved 2.0 engine that gets even better mileage, but costs the same as the Forester.

One big advantage to the Subaru is that the door hinges a little further forward which makes it much easier on people that are having limited range of motion in their joints as a lot of the elderly often suffer from.

New or used?

Mazda cx-5

She should try to sit in the Rav4 and CR-V. I had a neighbor with a bad back and he drove a CR-V because he could just slide right in. A friend of my wife has bad knees and she owns a CR-V because she can slide right into the seat.

On the other hand, I own a CRV and my (short) elderly mom finds it too high to get into easily. We bought her a Suzuki Crossover AWD which is lower and she likes it a lot. Unfortunately Suzuki then went out of business.

I’ve rented a few Dodge Journeys lately. Good size, right height. Not as large as most of what passes for a minivan these days, but big enough to easily fit the elderly and their accoutrements.
They aren’t big sellers, so you could probably negotiate a good price. I have no idea how reliable they are. You can rent one from Hertz to try it out.

I would suggest that you offer to go along to help with the wheelchair and her mother look at vehicles that they want to look at. The last time I suggested a car for someone which met all the requirements they wanted they test drove one and bought it. A few weeks later every time I saw him he told me what a lousy car it was.

Thanks everyone for the comments–I will forward them to my friend. SOmeone asked if she’s looking for new or used… she would consider either.

I second taking a wheelchair with you to test how well it will fit in the potential new vehicle before making a decision. One car possibility is a Toyota Venza if you are leaning more towards a car like vehicle over a SUV

Stop by the local bookstore, pick up a Consumer Reports New Car Buyers’ Guide, and you’ll see all the vehicles available on the market as well as get lots of good comparative information on them all. Then you and your friend can take her mom out for a weekend and test drive those that looked interesting to your friend. Make a day of it. If her mom is up to it, she’ll probably love the adventure. If she tires readily, simply use more days. Take her out for a good meal too. I’ll bet she’ll love it.

And bring the wheelchair to be sure it fits. Don’t be afraid to, as it is, after all, an important consideration for the purchase. I guarantee the salespeople won’t mind.

My 88 year old mom loves her minivan. The oddest part is it has leather seats, and she has a lot of trouble trying to slide the old rear end on to a fabric seat.

I also think the Venza is the perfect height for sliding into. No climbing, no dropping. The interior is lovely and it has all the virtues of the Camry it’s based on. My only reservation is its price, but it’s worth paying a little extra for something this well made.

The Subaru SV CrossTrek is essentially an Impreza hatchback with a raised suspension and some other bits to make it look more like an SUV. It’s very similar in height to the Venza, but is overall a smaller vehicle and might be a bit less good for carrying a wheelchair in back. If you live in a cold climate where awd is desirable, the Subie may be your most affordable option. The Venza and others offer awd, but sometimes only in the more expensive trim levels.

In the luxury SUV ranks, the Infiniti EX37 is more like a tall hatchback than an SUV. It’s very easy to get in andd out of. It doesn’t have a whole lot of rear seat or cargo space, so you’d have to try out the wheelchair. It’s a beautiful and luxurious vehicle with a price to match (about 10k more than the others we’ve listed.)

The Toyota Matrix has just been discontinued, but there are no doubt some out there at dealers It’s always been more like a raised Corolla wagon than a crossover. It’s very practical and reliable, if not especially pretty, but is almost the perfect height. The back deck is covered in ribbed plastic so stuff slides in easily and the cargo area is easy to clean (both sound good if you’ll be putting a wheelchair back there), but carpet is quieter and helps keep things from sliding around. I believe there are some anchor points back there as in most new cars. It’s a good affordable choice.

Another budget alternative would be the Scion xB. It’s only slightly raised, but has gobs of headroom and the driver’s seat adjusts for height, so you can put the seat up where you want it. It also has a roomy back seat, and plenty of cargo space, too. In the case of the Scion there is only one trim level, decently equipped, and a lot of fairly useless dealer-installed options, so it’s theoretically possible to get one at a very favorable price, especially since Scion sales have been terrible. Mechanically this is straight Toyota, with a lot of Corolla/Matrix in its ancestry, so it is super reliable. It just may not be tall enough (for the passenger, especially.

The Kia Soul, just redesigned to much acclaim, could do very well. It’s a tall, boxy car with massive headroom and also has an adjustable height driver’s seat. At this price level passengers don’t get that. In its fancier trim levels you can even have a a power driver’s seat. The styling of the Soul is trying to be more youthful (and aren’t those hamsters great), but even with that the average buyer is 50ish. Practicality sells to all ages.

Another possibility is the Mazda5, which is like a shrunken minivan seating six in three rows. The back row is strictly for little kids. With it up there is very little cargo room. Keep it folded and no problem. This is based on the popular Mazda3 and gets very good gas mileage because of it. This one is quite different from the others I’ve listed, but the seating height is similar and it’s a good, practical vehicle.

Another in this category is the Ford C-Max Hybrid. Alas, it seems to have the same reliability problems as other recent Ford products, especially the buggy electronics of the Sync system that integrates nav, audio, phones, etc. They only sell this as either a regular hybrid, with the rear deck slightly raised (a couple of inches, or a plug-in hybrid with the rear deck very high. I wish they’d start selling regular versions, not that their hybrid implementation is bad. But it makes this a fairly expensive choice. The good news is that the height is excellent, styling quite nice, and interior attractive and well-made. It may not be quite as nice as the Venza, but it’s close. If it weren’t for the reliability gotchas, this would be one of my top recommendations. It has been a popular model in Europe for many years.

Happy hunting. This has been a growing category in recent years as truck-based utes disappeared and some people didn’t like having to climb up into their cars.

Others I can’t recommend that sort of fit in this group are the Mini Countryman (much bigger and taller than other Minis) and the similar Fiat 500L. They both offer interesting takes on the small crossover, but they cost too much and reliability is likely to be a problem. The new Buick Encore mini crossover is stubby and tall and generally quite weird, especially for Buick. It’s loosely based on the more conventional Chevy Sonic subcompact, but taller. It was designed mainly for China, where GM sells the great majority of Buicks. At the other size extreme is the Ford Flex, the closest thing sold to an old fashioned big station wagon, though it sits up a bit higher and is sold as a crossover. As a family vehicle it has attractive features, but it’s far more car than you’re looking for.

Look at a used 2013 Venza. It is very easy getting in and out and is very room for four with a huge hatchback style trunk with easy loading height. It’s built on the Highlander chassis but lower… Look for one off lease. They have been out a while now. Also, regardless of their asking price, they are not selling a lot of them because of the competition from other CUV makes ( Outback, Freestyle, Morano etc) Negotiate.