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Fuel-efficient Family Hauler

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta


I currently drive a Chevy Malibu. I'm just beginning to look for something a little bigger.

Priorities: Fuel economy / Reliability & durability / Front seat support & comfort

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 100000
Maximum age: 2011 years

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Response from NormT

9:34 pm May 8, 2018

Response from LectroFuel

1:13 am May 9, 2018

For a family hauler minivans can't be beat. If buying used, the Toyota Sienna is the best minivan. Honda Odyssey is best for buying new. If you can't live with the minivan stigma, there are SUVs, which are not as practical as minivans but they are better looking. Style over substance.

For SUVs, I suggest checking out the Toyota Highlander. It is reliable and has plenty of space for a family of four (maybe five in a pinch, minivans are better if you have 5 people). If the Highlander is too big for you the 2017+ Honda CR-V is a smaller, reliable, and more efficient SUV. It does everything very well. 2012-2016 CR-Vs had some problems so I'd look at the 2013+ Toyota RAV4 if you can't afford the 2017+ CR-V.


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Toyota Highlander
Honda CR-V
Toyota RAV4

Response from AcuraT

10:41 am May 9, 2018

Unfortunately, you were not clear on what type of "slightly bigger" car/SUV/minivan you want. Lectrofuel assumed an SUV or minvan, Norm suggested one new car - showing the confusion over your question.

You did write in your question that you are in the market for 2011 or newer and a maxium of 100,000 miles. If you want a slightly bigger car, there are a couple in the marketplace that are reliable that are bigger. They are the Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, and Buick LaCrosse. They are the only three I would consider as they are more reliable than the Chrysler offerings in the large car segment, and the Camry, Accord, and Legacy are really not much bigger than the Malibu.

The Toyota Avalon was redesigned in 2013 and it is a stretched version of the Camry which is one of reliablle Toyota's more reliable cars. 2015 in particular had more electronic issues, and 2013 through 2016 all had some electronics issues - but that was really it. Overall a very reliable vehicle as 81% of those surveyed in CR thought it was reliable. A good bet from 2014, 2016-2017 in the used car market.

The Chevrolet Impala was only slightly lower, with 75% regarding it as reliable. Redsigned in 2014 it also has some minor issues with electronics, particularly in 2014. It has some minor squeaks and rattles but nothing else major was reported. It is a good used car best as well for 2015-2017.

Now, the Buick LaCrosse as a used car is a very good bet as well. From 2013-2016 of the last model run are particularly reliable. Just avoid the 2017 redesign as that has been problem plagued out the gate in this case. Transmission and electroincs issues have been somewhat significant in the redesign. Before that, the powertrain was solid and electronics were better. So in cars that is a safe bet as well used (just not new right now).

Regardng SUVs and Minivans I would follow Lectrofuel's recommendations if that is what you are interested in as I don't disagree with anything he put down.. Best of luck.


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Toyota Avalon
Chevrolet Impala
Buick LaCrosse

Response from Suppin

10:35 am May 10, 2018

I'm going to come from "left field" and give you the other recommendation. There is a "mini" mini-van, pretty good gas mileage, good reliability, fun to drive, seats 6 with 3 rows of seating. What is this mythical creature? Mazda 5. The car i've been recommending to friends who are in "expanding families" that still wants somethng sporty.


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Mazda Mazda5

Response from AcuraT

6:54 am May 11, 2018

I second that - the Mazda 5 cannot be beat as a used car option. Just note it is a littler smaller than the Malibu and you mentioned you wanted bigger.


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Response from Suppin

10:50 am May 11, 2018

I would argue the Mazda 5 hauls 5 people and their cargo much more comfortably than the 5 seater Malibu. In 5 seater mode with the 3rd row partially down it will haul more cargo than the malibu will. In 2 seater mode it can make your ikea runs, and haul equipment for the school. In 6 person mode it will move 4 adults and 2 small-medium kids in decent comfort and safety. Although dimension wise it is not bigger than the malibu, I argue in interior space and flexibillity they are world's apart.


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Response from mkaresh

11:11 am May 11, 2018

Most likely the OP will be looking for recent years of the Mazda5. For anyone who might be looking at the first-generation Mazda5, offered through the 2011 MY, those are prone to rust and suspension problems.


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Response from LectroFuel

12:16 pm May 12, 2018

Keep in mind that the Mazda5 has 44.4 cubic feet of cargo with the third row folded. The Odyssey and Sienna have 93.1 and 87.1 cubic feet respectively with the third row down. These minivans are bigger, but not by that much. The Mazda5 only gets 1-2 MPG better than the bigger minivans.

Behind the third row the Mazda5 only has 5.5 cubic feet of space, which is almost nothing. The Odyssey has 38.4 cubic feet behind the third row. So with the Mazda you can drive with 6 people and almost no cargo or you can haul 4 people with some cargo. I'm a Mazda fan but this car makes little sense to me unless you are a family of 3. The interior of the bigger vans have more features, are nicer, and have more comfortable rides. The only thing you get with the Mazda is better handling, easier parking, and a 1-2 MPG benefit. A wagon like an Outback or Sportwagon sounds more practical.


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Response from Suppin

11:53 pm May 12, 2018


Fuelly has the Odyssey at around 21 MPG on average.


Fuelly has the 5 at around 24 MPG on average.

So what you are getting from a mazda 5 is about 3 MPG better mileage,
more sporty, and easier to handle car.

Let's examine the Outback on Fuelly.


Whoa the outback for 2014 gets about 25 MPG average from users? So what's the advantage fo the outback vs. the 5? 1 MPG and AWD. I would argue the mazda 5 is more practical due to flexible seating.

That said I do really like the Outback. if that is your cup of tea go for it. They are reliable, fun to drive, and great in the snow, but for family hauling, and livability I don't see the large advantage. That said the OP probably isn't even reading this anymore so I'll just say... um. Love the Outback. If you like this car as a family hauler go for it. Love the 5. If you ever thought I want a small hatchback with 3 rows of seats this is it. Love the Odysey. If you need to haul lots of stuff and family, or even have a business this is a value deal.


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Mazda Mazda5
Subaru Outback
Honda Odyssey
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