The vast world of passenger automobiles is comprised of sedans, SUV’s, and coupes. Deriving from the French word “couper” meaning “to cut”, a coupe (pronounced as “koop” in the United States but kooppay abroad) is an enclosed two door automobile body style with a fixed roof permanently attached also known as “hard top”. [Read more…]
Not Your Mother’s MiniVan
The original minivan market embodied car buyers who could have used the capacity of a full size van.
Original minivan buyers resisted the lack of responsiveness and parking limitations that came with full sized vans and embraced the introduction of the Dodge Caravan and the Plymouth Voyager in 1984 with relish. Many American car buyers valued the cargo space and seating space comparable to a full size van and purchased minivans because they wanted to drive cars as opposed to the truck platforms of full size passenger vans. The ability to park the car in garages and normal parking spaces as well as fuel efficiency was critical to the American consumer in 1984 as it is today. The sliding doors that prevented children from opening doors into other parked cars and the seating capacity are still the most popular features that were initially offered and are still standard on the newest models. The most popular mini vans today in order of reputation are the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Mazda 5 and the Dodge Caravan.
The 2013 Toyota Sienna ranks number 1 in reliability and safety. With plenty of space for both passengers and cargo, the Sienna comes standard with a V6 engine and 6 speed automatic transmission that delivers enough power for around town driving and highway cruising with a full load and still retain fuel efficiency of 18 miles per gallon around town and 25 mpg on the highway. The Sienna has comfortable seating for up to 8 people and also the cargo space needed for that many passengers. Other standard features include power windows, doors and a tri-zone air conditioning system. A rear-seat DVD entertainment system, rearview camera, Bluetooth and blind spot alert are available options. The interior comfort, cargo space and safety features are what put Toyota Sienna in the number 1 spot in spite of its marginal handling on curves and turns.
The 2013 Honda Odyssey is only number 2 because the standard offering includes a 5 speed automatic transmission as opposed to the 6 speed of its competition. Its V6 engine and fuel efficiency is also rated at 18 mpg around town and 25 mpg on the highway. The 2013 Odyssey seats up to 8 people and receives high marks for comfort and cargo space. The rear passenger seats fold down in a variety of ways to increase cargo area even more. It is reported that the Odyssey handles as well or better than the Sienna on turns and curves. A 6 speed automatic transmission is available as an option. Standard features include a rearview camera, USB port and Bluetooth. Available options are a cooling console, navigation, heated seats and wide screen DVD entertainment system for rear passengers. The price increases significantly as options are added.
The 2013 Mazda 5 is the lowest priced and smallest of the 2013 minivan roster. This sporty little minivan ranks higher than others because of its performance, not because of comfort and space. Mazda 5 includes a 4-cylinder engine with a 6 speed manual transmission. An automatic transmission is available as an option. Its smaller size allows for more responsive handling than other minivans that have more power and space. The overall price and maintenance costs make the Mazda 5 the most affordable minivan on the market.
Dodge Grand Caravan
The 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan is most valued for its cargo space, flexible interior and bottom line price. The Grand Caravan seats 7 and has a V6 engine with an automatic transmission. The 2nd row seats fold deep into the floor for even more cargo potential but the seats are not considered very comfortable. Standard equipment includes dual zone climate control and an extra audio jack. Bluetooth, navigation, rearview camera, rear seat entertainment and USB ports are available options.
The minivan is known for transporting people and cargo safely while still allowing drivers the comfort and security that a regular car chassis delivers. In the early days, the minivan was the perfect solution for drivers who needed van capacity but resisted the adjustments to driving required for a full size van that demanded a truck platform. For many drivers, the minivans of yore represented the transition from fun and sporty driving to accommodating family necessity. The transition was not acceptable to many drivers. The evolution of the minivan began with the introduction of a vehicle that transported families with safety and comfort. Children need space in vehicles to ride in comfort and safety in order to allow the driver minimal distraction in addition to their own safety. The minivan delivered a vehicle that was practical and affordable for families. Today’s minivan is chic and full of vitality, so much so that the minivan is also the top pick for many without human children.
A crossover combines features of cars, station wagons and sports utility vehicles. Manufacturers including Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge make crossovers for those who need something larger than a traditional car but don’t want to drive an SUV. The history of these cars dates back to the 1970s, but the popularity and availability of those models grew in recent years as gas prices increased.
What is a Crossover?
A French automobile manufacturer released the first crossover vehicle in 1977. Known as the Matra-Simca Rancho, the vehicle had a boxy little shape that is similar to the body style now found on Land Rovers. Despite the popularity of this model, it wasn’t until a decade later that Chrysler and other companies began producing similar cars. The term crossover only dates back to 2008, when a news organization coined the term. Automobile manufacturers and car enthusiasts now use the terms to describe vehicles that combine an SUV with a traditional car.
The manufacturers of crossovers typically use the same platform to build these models as the companies would use for an ordinary car. The vehicles often look like smaller SUVs, but many models also utilize some features normally found on a station wagon or hatchback. Crossovers have a hatchback that provides access to the small trunk, the same body style as an SUV and the same engine and features found on a car.
Crossovers vs. SUVs
When comparing crossovers vs. SUVs, most shoppers find that crossovers get much better gas mileage. SUVs typically have have poor gas mileage, and some of the newest models get less than 20 mpg on the highway and on city streets. Crossovers usually get gas mileage of more than 20 mpg. Shoppers will also find that crossovers handle better on the open road.
The main problem with SUVs is that these models are too large for most people. Those who need ample space for luggage, groceries, construction supplies or their families will find that an SUV is the perfect size, but those who need less space will find that a crossover is a better option. The interior of these models has plenty of leg and head room, but the smaller design offers better handling than an SUV. Controlling an SUV on the highway or in the city is sometimes difficult because these models have the turning radius of a tank. Crossovers can zip in and out of tight spaces much easier.
Benefits of a Crossover
Companies from Acura and BMW to Toyota and Volvo now make crossovers. Several automobile manufacturers, including Ford, recently introduced new models that are smaller and have a sleeker design than previous models available on the market. Ford introduced the EcoSport in 2003, and while the company refers to it as a mini SUV, most car magazines call it a crossover. The newest model can get more than 22 mpg, and some users report that it gets even better gas mileage.
One of the biggest benefits associated with a crossover is the improved fuel efficiency. With gas priced at more than $3 per gallon, most shoppers can’t afford the cost of filling up an SUV. The larger gas tanks on those models can leave drivers feeling shell-shocked at the pump. It’s easy to spend $40 or more to fill up an SUV, and drivers who put a lot of miles on their cars will find that they spend more than $100 a week on gas alone.
The cost of ownership on a crossover is also much less than the cost of ownership on an SUV. Cost of ownership includes maintenance on the vehicle, repairs, insurance and taxes and tags on the model. In the first five years that a person owns an SUV, the cost of ownership can cost $30,000 or more. The five year cost of ownership on a crossover is usually closer to $20,000. Researching those costs can help any shopper see which model if more affordable.
Crossovers combine features from SUVs, cars and station wagons, and some of the newer models have a sleek and streamlined design. While crossovers are similar to SUVs, crossovers have better handling, a lower cost of ownership and better gas mileage than most standard SUVs.