Buying a family car used to be as simple as choosing a summer holiday. You were heading to a beach for sure, but it was just a matter of getting the kids to agree on whether to go north or south.
Buying a car also used to be a choice between very few options. If you wanted a family car you bought a sedan, if you were shopping for larger family cars, you bought a station wagon, which was basically a stretched version of the sedan with a bigger load space. And if you had more than three children, you had to choose a people mover as your family car.
SUVs, meanwhile, were bought by people with thick beards and even thicker socks and were as rare a sight in big cities as cows and sheep.
Today, of course, SUVs make up nearly half of all vehicles sold in Australia, as people in need of family cars have flocked to them in ever-increasing numbers. Porsche, once a sports-car company, is now largely an SUV brand, with more than 70 per cent of its sales made up of big Cayennes and mid-size Macans.
But there are some people who still love their sedans, and not just because they’re sentimental about them. The fact is that sedans and SUVs each have their advantages, and which one you choose when buying a car is very much about which of those features appeal to you.
So, let’s have a look at the two and see what makes them different and why they might be the best family cars for you.
Why would you buy an SUV as a family car?
Considering how many people do make the SUV choice when buying a family car these days, the advantages must be pretty obvious, and largely they come down to one word - space.
Even smaller, city-focused SUVs, like Subaru’s funky and cool-looking XV, come with generous amounts of space, with the XV offering up to a whopping 345 litres. Step up to a bigger SUV, like the Subaru Forester, and you’re looking at up to 509 litres of load area.
As anyone with growing children will tell you, the amount of gear that little people seem to require each time you leave the house is so unimaginably large that it’s hard to believe anyone ever coped before SUVs became the common choice for family cars.
The other obvious advantage of buying a bigger, taller car like an SUV - apart from the ability to tackle tough tracks with your higher ground clearance and, in Subaru’s case, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive - is what’s known as the Command Seating Position. There’s something about sitting up high, looking down on creation, and over the roofs of lesser cars, that really appeals to people when buying a car. And not just short people.
Why would you buy a sedan as a family car?
While sitting up high is one of the big selling points of an SUV, the advantage of a sedan, like Subaru’s sporty but affordable Impreza range - and its fantastic performance weapon the WRX in particular - is how close it sits you to the ground.
If you enjoy driving, close to the road is where you want to be, because the low centre of gravity allows you to corner with more involvement and less body roll. You might have noticed that the supreme levels of motorsport, like Formula One, use cars that are just a few inches off the ground. The lower you are, the harder you can go, basically.
As a family car, of course, sedans still work - they have four doors, you can still get a capacious boot and you also get plenty of space for a family.
Happy passengers AND a very happy driver. That’s what a sedan is all about, and why it might be the family car you want to buy.
21 May 2021