Five Family Cars That Just Aren't

February 5, 2009
What happens when a "family" vehicle turns out to be less than friendly?

I like to think creatively about vehicles that can handle my family and all our gear. Minivans are the most obvious choice, but I've taken a look at other vehicles that might just fit the bill. Everything from crossovers to small sedans to the new range of sport wagons might fit for your family--and are worth a test drive.

However, there are some that just don't cut it. They promise seating for five and don't deliver enough room for teenagers, much less adults. They look cargo-capable, but lack any kind of storage system to help keep your errands from sliding around the cabin. Sometimes, your kids just don't want to be seen in it.

These are some of the vehicles I've seen or driven that just don't make the cut:

2009 Cadillac SRX: Poor gas mileage hurts today's SRX, which is an otherwise good vehicle that blows it by sucking too much fuel every day. Our top reviewers over at TheCarConnection looked at the data and drove the SRX, and found that it didn't rate much more than 13 mpg in the city. Too costly, since most "family"driving falls into that city category. Don't forget all the idling family cars usually do at the school parking lot, too. The 2010 Cadillac SRX, a smaller vehicle, promises much better economy.

2009 Lexus GX 470: Cost... Sure, it's billed as a "family vehicle," but when middle-class families can't afford to buy the vehicle (and then insure it!), it just doesn't make the cut.

2009 Ford Edge: Phantom cargo space hurts the Edge, which is otherwise a capable crossover. "Cubic feet" that seems large in the numbers, but just doesn't pan out when you actually try to cram in the hockey gear, two backpacks and a diaper bag, you don't have room for that flat of Gatorade. For all the experts calling 32 cubic feet "cavernous," I'm not buying it.

2009 Volkswagen Tiguan: The second-row seat isn't roomy enough for teenagers--and God forbid one of them should be "hump child" and have to occupy the middle seat, which is more of an unlovely bump smack in the middle of the bench. Try sitting on that thing for more than five minutes. Your kids will have plenty to complain about.

2009 Acura MDX: Big and roomy, but it's like drivin' in a cave. It has all the perks a family vehicle needs, including a third row of seats. But unless you're exactly 5' 9" and your head rests in the ideal position, it's impossible to see out of this thing. Even TheCarConnection's test drivers couldn't back up easily without all the assists. Parents come in all shapes and sizes, and this vehicle just doesn't have the visibility to make it a joy to park and drive.

Have you been surprised by a “family” vehicle that turned out to be a little family-unfriendly? Tell us in a comment below.

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