Once upon a time, when families were shopping for a vehicle, a station wagon was the obvious choice. Then the minivan burst onto the scene, which was particularly popular with mothers of children playing a certain sport, with full-size sedans remaining for families less on-the-go. The latest favorite? The ubiquitous crossover SUV that everyone seems to love, regardless of demographic. In other words, there is no shortage of choice when it comes to shopping for a people hauler. Here’s a guide highlighting the strengths of each class.
The Modest Minivan
There is arguably no better vehicle for flying under the radar than the minivan. Long regarded as a favorite of soccer moms, there’s good reason for that, as the van’s inherent boxy shape is perfect for shuttling a full load of people, as well as hauling a ton of sports gear in the back.
The Dodge Caravan, first released in the early 1980s, is the perfect example. The fifth-generation long-wheelbase Dodge Grand Caravan has seating for seven and a whopping 144 cubic feet of cargo space. Contemporary models are becoming increasingly technology-forward, such as the Honda Odyssey, which comes complete with an optional rear-seat entertainment system and on-board vacuum cleaner.
The Sensible Sedan
While sedan sales are not as strong as they once were, there is still a strong case to be made for these four-door five-seaters. They’re usually lighter in weight compared to utility vehicles, which translates to better fuel economy. They also are the most mature-looking in appearance, meaning they are equally well-suited transporting the family to dinner as they are pulling up to a business meeting.
Looking for something with a little zing? There are a number of attractive sport sedan options. The range can be anywhere from a six-cylinder Subaru Legacy, to a tarmac-peeling twin-turbo V8 BMW M5. Pining for extreme levels of luxury? Korean automakers have come a long way, now producing executive cars including the Kia Cadenza and Hyundai Equus.
The Do-It-All Crossover
No auto segment has exploded more in the last few years than the crossover. Unlike traditional SUVs that were basically trucks without a bed, modern iterations are based on passenger vehicles, so they drive and handle similarly to smaller vehicles.
They’re also available in a multitude of sizes now: the recently introduced small subcompact (Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3), medium compact (Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4) and large (Honda Pilot, Audi Q7). Originally, SUVs had a reputation for being able to venture into rugged terrain for a little muddy fun, and certain brands continue the tradition by outfitting specialty equipment to its products.
Top of mind are the Jeep Cherokee, which has always been offered in four-wheel drive and continues to be perfect for weekend off-road excursions. The Nissan Pathfinder, among others, features hill descent control that automatically applies the brakes during steep declines so the driver can focus on steering.