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Fuel-efficient family daily compact SUV; towing a pop-up camper on the weekends

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

oregonbee

Looking for a car that I will drive to work every day, but also can hold my husband and two sons who are all (or will be) about 6ft tall and two 60lb dogs. And will tow a pop-up camper (~3500lbs) on the weekend. I want the smallest size and best gas mileage I can get. I also want it to last as long as possible. I've had a Pontiac Vibe for 14 years and 205000 miles now; it has been an awesome car. It is a bit small (though not too small) and it doesn't tow, but otherwise, I would get another just like it! Currently seriously considering the Audi Q5 as the smallest, reliable SUV that will tow. Don't care about the luxury features; would prefer cloth seats. Have looked at a lot of other options, but they all seem to either not tow enough weight (Nissan Rogue) or to be too big (any other SUV that can tow). Jeep Cherokee seems great, except doesn't get good reliability ratings, and I really want to keep this car for another 10+ years. Other ideas? Or is the Audi Q5 for me?

Priorities: Reliability & durability / Front seat room / Towing

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 30000
Maximum age: 3 years

Maximum price: US $ 35000

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Response from NormT

11:51 am June 26, 2018

I wouldnt hestitate on a Ford Escape 2.0T as it is near the end of a long cycle and all the bugs worked out. Towing up to 3,500 lbs and more room that your current car but not much. Discounted prices should be right around low $20's and one of the less expensive with options with over 250 lb-ft of torque. Or upgrade to MKC with more luxuries and optional 2.3t turbocharged engine.

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Ford Escape
Lincoln MKC

Response from LectroFuel

2:08 pm June 26, 2018

The MKC is unreliable and the Escape reliability is hit or miss. Maybe get a Chevy Equinox with the 2.0T engine. It has a 3500 lbs tow rating. The Cherokee and Dodge Journey are junk. The GMC Terrain with the 2.0T also can tow 3500 lbs and I think it is based on the Equinox platform. The Audi Q5 will have significantly higher repair and maintenance costs than your Pontiac or the Chevy or GMC.

If you want something more luxurious, look into the Lexus RX350. It is more reliable than everything mentioned so far. It has a 3500 lbs rating.

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Response from danlisahall

3:33 pm June 26, 2018

The Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix twins are truly among the most reliable cars of their era. I wouldn't bet on any of the current crop of SUVs matching them for reliablity.

Q5s are almost as popular as Outbacks here in the Seattle area - you can hardly drive a block without seeing one. They are a very nice, comfortable car, definitely trending toward Luxury. Its gonna be tough to find a newer SUV with cloth seats (not sure if one exists), but most dog owners find that leather is easier to keep looking decent that cloth. According to Consumer Reports their reliablity is trending well and owners are very satisfied with them.https://www.consumerreports.org/cars/audi/q5/

Several friends have them with the 2.0T. My daughter has a 2014 with 50K and my son has a 2018 with ~ 10K. Both theirs are higher end V6 models. I have heard only praise from them regarding their Q5s.

The 2.0T is a very capable engine but for your family of 5 and a 3,500 camper, you may want V6. That said, if you only tow the camper a couple of times a year and don't need to crest mountain passes, the 2.0T may be sufficient. But I would definitely want to put that to a short test before purchasing the 2.0T

The daughter's car has been pretty trouble free except for chronic malfunctioning tire pressure monitor and it has now developed some creaks in the sunroof.We trade good natured barbs about her Q5 & my Outback as they are quite similar size wise. (I'd suggest considering the OB but it's US tow rating is just 2,700). The Q5 interior feels a bit tight to me but if your comfortable with your crew of 5 people and two good size dogs in the Vibe you will proably think that the Q5 is ginormous.

The Toyota Highlander is worth a look as isLectroFuel's Lexus recommendation of the Lexus Rx350 (will be more lux and bucks than Highlander).

While there are other reasonable options, I think the Q5 would be a good bet for your crew! Love to hear how you go!

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Response from NormT

8:30 pm June 26, 2018

The Vibe rusts out here near the Great Lakes with heavy road salt winters. The underbody and suspension points rust through leaving the car unsafe. This happened to the father inlaws 2002 Avalon. If you live or are buying in an area that salts the roads in the winter time please have it inspected.

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Response from Cheeseburgermania

2:27 pm June 28, 2018

I had to drive a company-owned Equinox on some trips, and I would never spend my own money on one of those. It's far from the worst cars in the fleet, but I'm sure GM was not even trying when they made production decisions on that car. The door cards (interior door panels) look worse than ones from the 1980s. The seats are the hottest of any car I've ever driven. In a road trip, the seat offers no solace from getting a sweaty bottom, even with the AC blasting. The bigger you are, the more you will hate the seats in the Equinox. It might tow 3500 pounds, but it will take a really long time to get up to speed, and it will take a pretty long time to stop without trailer brakes. The brakes on the Equinox are nothing special. The whole thing smacks of cost cutting, everywhere.
I personally own a new CX 5 AWD, but I don't need to tow anything heavy (and those don't tow).
Jeep Grand Cherokees, for all their many faults, really excel with towing. Their 4WD systems also really rock. Toyota 4Runner cost a little more than your stated budget, but those tow fairly well and never break. I know a Tahoe is flatly out of your price range, but that's also a fantastic towing vehicle.
I hear the new Chevy Blazer will come out as a 2019 model pretty soon with a 4500 pound towing package. That might be a good one.

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Chevrolet Equinox
Toyota 4Runner

Response from LectroFuel

6:05 pm June 30, 2018

It figures that the one time I recommend a GM car, someone says otherwise LOL. If you are correct, that Blazer should be a popular towing vehicle since not a lot of unibody SUVs have good tow ratings and are reliable. I recommended the Equinox and Terrain because the OP wanted a small SUV, not a Tahoe or 4Runner size, and no other SUV is reliable and tows. The 4Runner would be an ideal towing vehicle and last 20+ years.

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Response from NormT

9:05 am July 1, 2018

The old V6 3.6l in the Equinox and Terrain from 2015 or so onward is a rock solid choice. It is an older platform but the seating is very comfortable and compared to the 2018 Equinox and Terrain. The AC in the older one has no rear seat vents and can get stuffy for some.

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Response from MrSteve

10:44 pm July 15, 2018

Kia Sorento V6 has a 5000 lbs tow rating, which is what you want if you think you are towing 3500 lbs. High owner satisfaction scores with the big publication that does Reports for Consumers.

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