The Family Car Blog

A Dad’s quest to find the perfect family car

MPG and ULEV

So we’re coming to terms with the fact that practically every car maker does not have a really fuel efficient option in the minivan of SUV category. The mpg ratings of the cars are better, but really not where they should be for the conscious consumer. So we’ve switched part of our analysis from mpg efficiency to emissions and we’re looking at ULEV II (ultra low emission vehicle) ratings. The good news is many of the vehicles we’re looking at, including the VW Routan, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna all have ULEV II ratings.

The 2009 VW Routan is now our top pick

The 2009 VW Routan was our top pick, but the SE model didn't drive well

In our research, we admire the efficiency of clean diesel cars in Europe. Even the VW Jetta TDI gets 40-50 mpg and has ultra low emissions. Future concept cars like the Renault Ondelios look… well… futuristic, but efficient with “fuel consumption at a frugal 4.5 litres/100km and CO2 emissions at a lowly 120g/km.” This is equivalent to slightly more than 52 miles per gallon. Wow. And it seats six passengers. Why aren’t we there yet? The cars we’re stuck looking at today only get half this efficiency at best.

We have been thinking that one solution is to down size our car seats. This would allow us to fit into the Jetta TDI. As former Jetta Wagon owners, we’d be happy to go back. But we’d only be able to transport ourselves. There’s no room for grandparents, other parents or kids. A family car would help us get others around. In fact this raises an interesting point. One article I read suggested that minivans get 144 passenger miles per gallon making them more efficient if you’re travelling with many people.

Still lots to think about…

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October 19, 2008 Posted by | Candidates, Research | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is there a family-sized car for the eco-conscious?

We started this blog because we really want a vehicle that will accommodate three car seats. As an environmentally conscious bunch, minivans really don’t have the fuel efficiency we want. Sedans and station wagons are often too small, as are many smaller SUVs.

In our past posts, we’ve explored the Toyota Highlander Hybrid as our best option, but having learned that this vehicle is not manufactured in North America (yet) means that a great deal of energy and effort must go into shipping it overseas for sale here. We’re also in a unique circumstance where whichever car we purchase while living in the U.S. will eventually move back with us to Canada. This adds some considerations.

When a car is imported to and registered in Canada, owners must pay tax (PST and GST) on the value of the car, and duty (6.1% of the value) on any car manufactured outside of North America. So ideally we’d purchase a North American manufactured vehicle. This rules out the Highlander Hybrid if we want to save the duty fees. We’ll see.

October 13, 2008 Posted by | Candidates, Research | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Still a major price difference between Canadian and US car dealers

My father-in-law keeps encouraging us to buy a car in the U.S. because the prices are so much better. He’s right. I just priced out the Highlander Hybrid Limited in Canada (through a friend’s dealership) to compare against the U.S. version I posted yesterday. The price difference is about $10,000. That’s substantial. Here’s a screen shot from the Toyota Canada site.

Highlander cost estimate from Toyota Canada

Highlander cost estimate from Toyota Canada

October 7, 2008 Posted by | Candidates, Research | , , , , | Leave a comment

Toyota Highlander Hybrid on “severe back order”

Building our black and tan 2009 Toyota Higlander Hybrid

Building our "black and tan" 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

A couple of days ago, I built a 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid online and decided, “What the heck, I’ll request a quote.” Our local dealership was quick to respond via email and telephone.

Allen contacted me to see if we could get out for a test drive. The hybrids are in such demand that there aren’t any on the lot and there’s a “severe back order”, so we probably won’t be able to get behind the wheel of a hybrid. That’s too bad. We’ll aim to get out there at the end of the month to see what we can test. I was informed that there is a 4-6 month delayin receiving a vehicle once it is ordered. This is actually a good time frame for us since we won’t need the car until Spring 2009. We’d need to put 10% down.

Allen also indicated that there is a four cylinder Highlanderin the works but he wasn’t sure if the Hybrid would be available with this more efficient engine. The Highlander Hybrid is currently a V6. I can’t imagine this would be the case, but you never know. It’s amazing how fast all of this changes.

We’re also going to visit the VW dealershipclose by on our test drive day to check out the Passat Wagon and the new Routan minivan. We’re not as keep on the Routan since it’s actually made by Chrysler and simply tricked out with VW aesthetics. Chrysler is the master of the minivan though so it could be a decent marriage. What’s that saying though, “You can put lipstick on a pig…”?

October 6, 2008 Posted by | Candidates, Research | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2009 Family Car Fuel Efficiency

Buying a family car requires a bit of compromise for the eco-conscious family. If we were just buying any car our options for finding a fuel efficient vehicle would be easier.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we need a car that can accommodate three car seats. This either means we need a wider car that can fit the car seats or a larger car like an SUV or minivan that has a third row of seating.

When we consider fuel efficiency, the choice becomes pretty obvious. Here’s a chart I pulled together with the city and highway miles per gallon for some of the models in consideration and others mentioned to us as we’ve begun our research.

2009 Model Year Fuel Efficiency
Make Model City Highway
Chrysler Town & Country LX 17 24
Ford Explorer 14 20
Honda Odyssey EX-L 17 25
Toyota Highlander Hybrid 27 25
Toyota Sienna 17 23
Volkswagen Passat Wagon Turbo 23 32
Volkswagen Routan SEL 17 25
Volvo XC90 3.2L 14 20

The VW Passat Wagon is quite efficient with 23 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. We’re going to be doing more city driving thought which may make the Toyota Highlander Hybrid the best choice with 27 mpg in the city and a respectable 25 mpg on the highway.

When we get out for our test drives, we’ll see how we’re swayed. That should happen towards the end of October 2008.

October 4, 2008 Posted by | Candidates, Other Cars, Research | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook reveals Honda fans

I got a great response from friends on Facebook regarding my inquiry on finding a great family car that can accommodate three car seats. There seem to be many Honda Odyssey fans out there. I was kind of surprised by that. I’m still in the minivan resistance stage. They seem so 1997.

And my eco-friendly car inquiry? Not so much of a response there. That’s a huge consideration for us. A high mpg (miles per gallon) rating is important, but more because of reduced emissions. The potential cost savings on fuel is a perk.

Making a responsible purchase is going to become a theme on this blog. We’re proud not to have a car right now. From an automotive point of view, our footprint is very light. We don’t want to suffocate the environment with our new car.

Later this month, we hope to get out for some test drives. In the meantime, research continues.

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Other Cars, Research | , , , | Leave a comment

Finding the perfect car takes time

We’re just starting our research into the next great car we own. The purchase will probably happen in early 2009, so if you’re interested in how we proceed and want to offer advice or simply follow the adventure, stay tuned.

Here’s a starter question. What’s your most valuable tool the influences your car buying decision? Why?

October 1, 2008 Posted by | Research | , | Leave a comment

The cars in consideration so far

Here are some of the cars we’re considering. There are five so far. What do you think? Any comments? Others we should add to the mix for research and test drives?

Volkswagen Passat Wagon

Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Volkswagen Routan

Volvo XC90

Toyota Sienna

October 1, 2008 Posted by | Candidates | , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments