Am selling my gas hog Jeep in favor of a newer used car. Please help. Every time I think I've narrowed my choices, I find something else that might work. I'm thinking in terms of wagons but would consider small SUVs like the Honda Element or CRV.
Of great importance is the car's ability to hold permutations of the following:
dog + weekend luggage
dog + (future) child seat
dog + (future) child seat + weekend luggage
dog + 3 adult passengers
maybe later: 2 dogs plus any of the above

2 adults + assload of home renovation supplies

Cars I think would fit my needs (above + under $20k + reliability + ~ 20mpg or above):
Subaru Legacy/Outback
Subaru Forrester
VW Passat wagon
Chrysler PT Cruiser
Volvo V40
Can anyone share personal dog+cargo/child experience with these models? I'm especially interested to hear about the PT Cruiser, since I'm on the fence about whether it would be able to hold all I need it to and still be a comfortable ride for Orson in the way back.
Cars I'm not ready to drive (call it a personal fault):

another mid-size or larger SUV
minivans
large American-made wagons (eg., Taurus)
very new models with unknown reliability
Thanks,
Cate
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Anything Subaru is a well made machine. If it meets your size criteria. The PT cruiser has not had a good crash test rating. The Honda Element and CRV are reliable, but stiff. I have a friend who drives a CRV and has problems with vibration induced numbness. (Tailbone from sitting and hands, on the steering wheel) However, you did say no minivans, but if you could find a used (new they are 24K and 29K) Honda Odyssey, IMO, that is the most dependable, versatile vehicle on the market today. Honda has an excellent track record for everything. MPG, high resale value.
Have fun car shopping. It can be a bear.
Perry
VW Passat wagon

Can't speak to the wagon but I had a GLX sedan for a couple of years and it was a real pleasure to drive (and the dash instrumentation was gor-gee-us). It was, however, completely unsuited to rural Tompkins County and a passel of dogs.

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Anything Subaru is a well made machine. If it meets your size criteria.

Yeah, I'd buy an Outback/Legacy in a heartbeat if I didn't have a good memory of how uncomfortable my work's Legacy was. Took every tiny pothole like it was a meteor crater. I have to determine if I can overlook that, because Baltimore roads are poorly maintained. The prime selling point of Subarus for me is that I know I can drive them into the ground, ~200k miles. Resale is not a concern.
The PT cruiser has not had a good crash test rating.

Huh. I hadn't even checked yet, but just found that NHTSA gives the 2004 PT
4 out of 5 stars for both passenger and driver, even in a model withoutside airbags (5 out of 5 stars for rear side with side airbags).

What crash test ratings do you know of that are bad for the PT?
The Honda Element and CRV are reliable, but stiff.

I drove a CRV and didn't notice that, but I didn't love the ride either. Very ho-hum. Handled like a minivan. I've owned two VWs, and now DH has one, and it's hard for me to overlook that none of my other choices would be as fun to drive.
Have fun car shopping. It can be a bear.

Thanks.
Cate
@panix2.panix.com:
VW Passat wagon

Can't speak to the wagon but I had a GLX sedan for a couple of years and it was a real pleasure to drive (and the dash instrumentation was gor-gee-us).

I am a sucker for that.
It was, however,
completely unsuited to rural Tompkins County and a passel of dogs.

Understandably. What I have now is suited to that, and although my needs are mostly different, I do hesitate at buying something nice only to fill it with dog mud and, potentially, baby vomit.
If I get a Passat or Volvo I'll be holding out for leather seats.

Cate
The PT failed 5 out of 7 of the crash tests that it was subjected to when it hit the scene. Since it has been on the market for a few years, those problems may have been addressed. But, I'm skeptical, as I have seen no structural design changes to indicate a significant difference. My vote would be on anything else but the PT.
How 'bout a Mini Cooper. Excellent machine. I have done a day trip with 4 adults and it is a vehicle that makes sense. Outstanding engineering and performance.
Perry
I love my Chevy Tracker 4X4. Of course, mine is the two door convertible and it holds exactly two adults, two dog crates, two folding chairs, one training gear bag, and one bag of bumpers. ;->
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The PT failed 5 out of 7 of the crash tests that it was subjected to when it hit the ... may have been addressed. But, I'm skeptical, as I have seen no structural design changes to indicate a significant difference.

The NHTSA test I quoted was for 2004, so there must've been changes. Just about anything I buy will be an improvement in safety over my 96 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
How 'bout a Mini Cooper. Excellent machine. I have done a day trip with 4 adults and it is a vehicle that makes sense. Outstanding engineering and performance.

Oh, I wish I didn't care about some of the needs I listed before, because I've coveted a Mini ever since they debuted here. But I just can't see being comfortable for 6 hours in a Mini with 2 adults, one dog, one childseat, and 2 22" suitcases.
Cate
I'm thinking in terms of wagons but would consider small SUVs like the Honda Element or CRV.

An Element might work, especially if you get one of the special "SUV" crates for the back. Several friends have them and they aren't as spacious as you might think. The CRV also might work, depends on how much space you need for Orson. The drive on CRV isn't too great, IMHO.
Of great importance is the car's ability to hold permutations of the following: dog + weekend luggage dog + (future) ... 3 adult passengers maybe later: 2 dogs plus any of the above 2 adults + assload of home renovation supplies

Especially with the idea of two dogs, it would depend on the size of the two dogs.
Cars I think would fit my needs (above + under $20k + reliability + ~ 20mpg or above): Subaru Legacy/Outback Subaru Forresterdepends on what your definition of assload of home renovation stuff is. Long,

8 or ten foot, pieces of lumber aren't going to fit unless you hang them out ofthe back.
VW Passat wagon Chrysler PT CruiserNo where near as spacious as some people would have you believe. Ok for some smaller breeds, but no way would you fit all that stuff above in a PT Cruiser. Volvo V40

Hard to put two large dogs in crates and anything else in one of these.
Can anyone share personal dog+cargo/child experience with these models? I'm especially interested to hear about the PT Cruiser, since I'm ... it easier than storing them somewhere else. large American-made wagons (eg., Taurus) very new models with unknown reliability Thanks, Cate

Have you looked at the Scion? I saw one at an agility trial. Butt ugly, like an Element, but the woman that drove it had a dal and a jack in crates. The second seat folds flat and there is storage room under the the headrest area of the second seat. She said it got 40mpg.
Beth, who knows way more than someone should about dog vehicles and which ones will fit two or more GSDs in crates.
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