Like a great many things, buying a car is easy when you’re young. You’re really only worried about yourself, you’ve got no money, so your choices are limited, and you’re clearly more worried about the colour and what your friends will think of it than you are about practical concerns like boot space and child-seat anchoring points (indeed, you probably find the whole idea of children and family cars alarming).
Sizing up a family car
Buying a family car, a decision that arrives later in life and usually not long before children launch into your world like little rose-cheeked missiles of joy, is different. There’s just so much to consider when it comes to family cars that younger versions of you would have laughed at, as you skipped away for another carefree day in your cheap and probably tiny vehicle.
One of the big questions is what size car is right as your family car, and that’s going to depend, at least in part, on what stage your brood is at. Unless you really like spending money or feel the need to intimidate other motorists, you really don’t need a huge, hulking seven seater when you’ve only got one small baby in the house.
Your main concerns when you have really little ones are safety and having a high hip point, which means the height at which you have to lift things into the vehicle, particularly small children. This will greatly affect how much your back hurts after you’ve fiddled around with the fastenings on a child seat for a while as your baby gently kicks you on the nose. (Technically speaking, the hip point is the height of the hip from the ground when seated).
Making the hip choice
A high hip point, of course, is one of the big advantages of SUVs (although in really big ones, the hip point can be so high that you have to climb up into the car, so that’s not ideal for parents either). What you’re looking for is a kind of Cinderella-sized car, with room for child seats in the back that’s also high enough off the ground.
Step forward the modern city SUV, best exemplified by big sellers like Toyota’s RAV4 and Mazda’s CX-5. The real pick of the SUV bunch, though, as a family car for those just starting out is the Subaru XV, which is not only practical, attractive and fun to drive, but inherently safe, thanks to its legendary Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive.
Safe for all the family
While you might assume that all SUVs are all-wheel drive, it’s not the case at brands other than Subaru.
As your children grow, of course, you and they will need more space for their bigger bodies and time-consuming, load-hauling hobbies. At that point you’ll want to move up to something the size of Subaru’s Forester, or the Outback, both of which give you loads of space for a family and all their gear.
20 May 2021