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OK, what I mean by that is, I want a big car with lots of trunk space that seats a lot of people, but I don’t want it to be big. I live in Brooklyn. Home of narrow streets and a serious parking shortage. When we first moved here we snagged a gated spot in our condo building’s lot and were ridiculously spoiled for four years, but then we sold that place to move a few blocks away to our own brownstone. Literally the only thing I miss about the condo is the parking spot. (My husband misses the 200sf balcony, but that’s only because it took him five summers to get our backyard useable.)
Right now I’m driving a 2004 L300 Saturn Wagon. It’s a nice car, as far as non-luxury cars go. It’s got heated leather seats, a great 6-CD system, a powerful V6 engine, and a good deal of room when the back seat is folded down. I’ve crammed a hell of a lot of IKEA crap back there. But, at seven-years-old, it’s showing its age. The inside of the passenger door is cracked, meaning there’s no good place to hang on to in order to close the door. There are more scratches on it than I could ever count. It does this thing if we drive more than about twenty minutes where it jumps violently every time it shifts gears, and no mechanic has ever been able to figure out why.
The brakes have been replaced way more than usual and I’m convinced it’s because the whole car is a little crooked. I was rear ended when the car was barely a year old, and while the other person’s insurance seemed to have fixed it properly, it just never felt right after that, and I think things rub the wrong way. Other things are going out on it periodically, so when you factor in the extra maintenance costs we’re not really getting to enjoy the extra money we supposedly have from not having a car payment anymore.
I drive it about 95% of the time, so of course I’ve wanted a new car for years, while my husband was happy to let this one limp along. Never mind the fact that it’s me who has to take care of the maintenance, and me who is with it when it breaks down (including once on a very dangerous portion of highway). I’ve finally convinced him that it’s time to let go, so after playing around with the idea for a couple of years, we’re officially car shopping.
So, I want a bigger car, but I don’t want a bigger car. I’ve driven SUVs and really detest being up that high. Minivans are also just too big for my taste. I have to parallel park whatever I get pretty much every time I take it out. So, I could just go with another station wagon, but every once in a while I find myself needing to squeeze more than five people into the car. This is not a routine thing – there’s no reason to get something that permanently seats six or seven. But I would like the option.
I started checking out cars with an extra row of seats, and what I found was frustrating. Apparently there’s just not much of a market for these types of cars in the US. People either want giant gas-guzzling monsters, or tiny compact hybrid four-seaters.
I got really excited about the seven-passenger Ford C-Max, but apparently we’re not worthy. I’ve heard that the Volvo V70 is a station wagon with a third row of seats, but can’t find that model on the Volvo site. The Kia Rondo looked worth checking out, but their website just had a very unceremonious announcement that “all good things must come to an end.” Grrr…
We’re going to skip right over the Mercedes E-Class Wagon, for two reasons. One, leaving that beauty parked on the street would give me nightmares, and two, it starts at about twice as much as I want to spend.
So in the mini-minivan class I’m left with an interesting possibility, the Mazda 5. I’ll be starting my test drives out today with this not-quite-a-mini-van, bigger-than-a-station-wagon vehicle. In its normal configuration it seats four people with extremely generous trunk space (a reported 44 cubic feet), but with the third row of seats in use it seats six. Mazda is letting me borrow it for almost a week, so we’ll be taking it on our camping trip to Lake George. We’ll get to see how it does on a road trip loaded down with gear and people (honestly the V4 engine worries me), and with our gear out of the back we can load it up with extra camping companions for trips into town.
I would love to hear your suggestions on other cars you love. The criteria: it has to seat at least six; the comfort of the fifth and sixth person isn’t that important. It can’t be a Mercedes-level car, unless you know where I can get a pre-dented and scratched one for a huge discount. Not a used car, but maybe something that was damaged during delivery, to take the sting out of the first time somebody keys it. It has to be automatic (no, I never learned to drive a stick). And it can’t be so big that I feel like I’m taxiing a 747. And I’m open to hybrids but nothing that plugs in – I don’t think people walking down the sidewalk would appreciate it.
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