Car Reviews

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Dude, Where’s My Star Wars Mural?

Family Car Reviews for Small and Mid-Sized SUVs

Road trips are a big part of family travel, so when it came (long overdue) time for us to buy a new (pre-owned) car, I figured it made sense to test drive a bunch of vehicles and review them based on roadtrip-ability, as well as suitability for our daily life. We live in the city, and my work is accessible by subway, so for all intents and purposes, we could live without a car. But my husband needs flexibility for work, and needs room to schlep his gear.

Any car we purchase needs to fulfill a few criteria… It needs to be fuel efficient. It needs to have good storage. It needs to accommodate my husband’s 6’7″ frame (he literally needs to try on cars). As our dearly departed Jeep Cherokee had awesome 4×4 capabilities, it has to have some kind of traction control and/or optional 4×4. That Jeep spoiled me every winter and now the thought of coping with snow and icy conditions in a “regular” car is not an option for me. Seven seats would be a bonus, but not a requirement. Lastly, it has to NOT be a mini-van… simply because I am horribly vain and it conflicts with the image I have of myself. Luckily, my husband hasn’t comfortably fit in any mini-van he’s sat in!

And Mr. Have Baby Will Travel has graciously offered to do the comprehensive family car reviews of all the cars we test drive! Check out his write-ups below:

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2012 Mazda CX-9

Mazda CX-9
In the world of 3rd row crossovers and SUVS (aka I want something, anything, other than a mini-van) there are 3 distinct tiers: 1) 3rd row available but must be the approximate size of a LaLaLoopsy Doll to fit (if you have a daughter you definitely know who, or better “what” that is), 2) 3rd row is reasonably functional for normal-sized adults (not including me at 6’7” but I always get to drive), and 3) Full-fledged 3rd row but you need to sell one of your children to feed it gas. It appears to be a compromise for the most part, the larger the 3rd row and internal space the larger the vehicle and engine and fuel consumption so comparing vehicles with this feature can be complicated. Read more…

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2012 Toyota RAV-4

Toyota RAV-4
In Tim Burton’s version of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory the Oompa Loompas are all played by one actor and, through the magic of green-screen, this one fellow is magically transformed into a legion of elf-like identical helpers. Excuse the somewhat convoluted film reference but it is a feeling that I can not shake when I look at Toyota’s RAV-4. This ubiquitous compact sport utility vehicle seems to everywhere at once when I am out and about – in fact there are three parked on our street right now. It’s a very popular vehicle, and after spending a week in one I now know why. Read More…

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2012 Chevy Orlando

Chevrolet Orlando
I like the Chevy Orlando. It does what needs to be done in the fact that it is an efficient people hauler with seating for 7, is an easy size to maneuver in the city, and the price tag doesn’t involve a 7 year payment plan. I like its styling for the crossover field. And I like that it is being marketed towards Canada, Europe, India, and Australia (it is not available in the US) which means Chevrolet is starting to grasp the need for more fuel efficient vehicles in places where gas is more than $4 a gallon (a LOT more). Read More…

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2012 Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V
I did not understand the CR-V and it’s appeal.  Pre 2012 it looks like an egg on wheels, and pre 2007 it looks like a little school bus (to me neither ringing endorsements).  When you look at them and then see how much they are, for both new and used (the value they hold used is mystifying) , they just don’t convey value or styling or luxury. And yet, despite all of this, they are EVERYWHERE and their owners and professional reviewers seem to love them. I was, therefore, looking quite forward to getting a CR-V for a week to see if I could grasp what all the hub-bub was about. (Read more)

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2012 Mitsubishi Outlander

Mitsubishi Outlander
The Mitsubishi Outlander has always been on our short list of compact SUVs for numerous reasons – reliability reputation, switchable control over the all wheel drive (with their fancy-pants Super All Wheel Control), the option to have a 3rd row if need be, and finally, and perhaps most importantly, the amazing resemblance between the Outlander’s front grill and the mouth of a Cylon Centurion from the 1978 sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica. It is an impressive list of feats for an entry into the small SUV / crossover platform that is home to vehicles like the CR-V and Rav 4(read more)

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2013 Mazda CX-5

Mazda CX-5
So here is the scenario. There is a popular girl at the junior high dance (the customer). A bunch of fellows are jockeying for position to dance with her (the crowded compact SUV market). Some of the fellows are pretty certain they will dance with her (CR-VRAV-4, Grand Vitara). Then in walks the new exchange student (the Mazda CX-5) with his fancy duds and sophisticated-sounding accent and it is pretty much game over for all of the rest. (read more)


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2012 Kia Sorento

Kia Sorento
Hands down (and to me oddly enough) my week with the Sorento generated the most questions and comments (and oohs and ahhs) of any of the vehicles that we have had so far… and for a carmaker that can’t be bad. The standard dialogue went like this – “hey, what is that?… A Kia? Hmmm!” It is the 2nd year of an all-new design (there was no 2010) and they appear to have created a very competitive, well reviewed, SUV with, from what I learned, much curb appeal. (read more)


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2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Suzuki Grand Vitara
I will come out right away and say I have a soft spot for Suzukis – with much of this affection borne out of my idolization of a Suzuki Samurai my friend’s brother had in the mid ’80s. I think this affection is much like my 6-year-old’s love of Smart Cars – they kind of look like something kids could drive – a bigger adult version of the ride-on cars you can buy at Toys R Us. Though only a mere distant cousin of the much smaller (and tippier) Samurai, the GrandVitara still has enough of the older Suzuki styling in its DNA to make it an admirable relative.  (read more)


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2013 Ford Flex

Ford Flex
As I sit here and ponder what to write about our time with the 2013 Ford Flex there is just no way around the 800lb gorilla in the room so I am just going to get it out of the way: styling. Ford gets points right out of the gate for doing something unusual – it certainly does not look like anything else on the road. Unique points aside, the real question is if you like it or not. When I wear something that may not be particularly flattering in fit or styling my wife refers to it as a “bold choice” which tranlates into “I would change if I were you.” I can’t help but relate that experience to the styling of the Flex. It is BOLD. (read more)


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2012 Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen Tiguan
My experience with “the people’s car” is actually quite varied: my father is a big VW fan, my main mode of transport in university was an ’80 Rabbit diesel, and recently I got a chance to put some new Volkswagens through their paces at a closed track. So I was happy to get my hands on a brand new Tiguan for a week to see how these experiences would translate into my liking of the automaker’s latest SUV offering. (read more)

One Response to Car Reviews

  1. Ken Nix at #

    Very good post, I really enjoy your site. I’m an appraiser and Admin for several auto forums and you make some good points throughout your site. Keep up the good work.