Maybe you’re adding a new member to your family, or perhaps you’re tired of cramming your jogging stroller into a trunk already brimming with kid gear, but let’s face it — you’ve reached the crossover tipping point.
The crossover tipping point is the phenomena where your lifestyle no longer fits inside the sleek sedan or sexy sports car you used to drive before you had children, pets, and the unspeakable amount of injection molded plastics to haul around. You know you’ve reached it when the number of carseats you need outnumbers the adults, you’d seriously consider transporting the dog in the trunk if it weren’t full of sports equipment, and other parents give you the cold shoulder because you can never carpool. The prognosis: You need a bigger vehicle.
Purchasing a new vehicle is one of the most important — and expensive — decisions a family will make. To help simplify the buying process, Babble waded through the crowded crossover segment to find the best CUV for any driving need. We examined new and best-selling vehicles on the market, but limited our budget to $35,000. That price ceiling quickly eliminated many vehicles from our shopping list, but the selection of economical crossovers is still considerable. To help narrow the list even further, we focused on fuel economy, safety, and parent-friendly features. When crossovers were fairly evenly matched, we gave preference to vehicles that had better fuel economy, price, or were a previous Babble favorite. — Liane Yvkoff
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Top SUV for carpooling | 2013 Dodge Journey
MSRP: $22,245 – $32,740
FUEL ECONOMY: 19/25 mpg
If you frequently find yourself with extra toddlers in tow, the Dodge Journey makes it easy to carpool without doing the car seat shuffle with other parents.
The crossover is available with two engine options: a smaller 173-horsepower 2.4-liter engine with a 4-speed automatic transmission or a much stronger 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
While it may not be as stylish as some other crossovers on the market, parents like the Journey because it’s more like a minivan. It rides lower to the ground, handles more like a car, and offers tri-zone climate control – all without the soccer mom stigma of sliding doors. Plus, buyers will appreciate the new 17-inch wheels on the entry level AVP and SE models, and the fact that Chrysler lowered the price of its top-of-the-line R/T model by $200.
However, the vehicle’s steering wheel-mounted controls are a little goofy. While most manufacturers have the station and volume buttons on the front of the steering wheel, Chrysler stuck those on the back, and you may end up accidentally skipping songs when making sharp turns. Though it’s not dangerous, it could get annoying.
SEATING + STORAGE
The crossover is available with five or seven seats, but when you opt for the 7-seat configuration, the second-row captain’s chairs are available with optional built-in booster seats that pop up when needed.
One of the unique optional features of the Journey is a front passenger seat that folds flat to turn into a tray table. If you’re trying to work while waiting for soccer practice to finish, the table is good for a laptop or textbooks, and the plastic surface can also double as a diaper changing station.
Other carpool-friendly features include an air-conditioned glove box to keep bottles and snacks chilled. The front passenger seat cushion lifts up to reveal a storage compartment where you can stow away valuables or hold a stash of emergency supplies, and there’s an always-charged LED flashlight in the rear cargo area.
ENTERTAINMENT + NAVIGATION
Setting it apart from other crossovers, the Journey features the voice-activated uConnect Touch that is now available in a stand-alone option on the SXT model. The 8.4-inch touch screen is easy to use and displays directions well with vibrant graphics.
IIHS Top Safety Pick
Consumer Reports rated the 2013 Dodge Journey 61 points out of 100, and 65 percent of owners said they would buy the car again.