There are two challenges you face as a parent with a car in the big city.
First there’s city driving itself. It’s best suited for tiny cars that can easily whiz in and out of traffic and slide into the tiny spaces in the cramped parking garages and street meter spaces out there.
Then there’s driving with your kids. Have you seen the size of carseats these days? Lugging those giant things in and out of the car makes it feel like anything that isn’t a massive minivan is going to require you to push the front seats all the way up.
So you have a conundrum. How do you find a car that’s spacious enough for your family’s needs but that still works for the craziness that is city driving?
That’s the question in my new series CARPOOL IN THE CITY, driving for the urban parent.
I’m starting off today by looking at the new Toyota Rav4, which I got a chance to see at the New England Auto Show.
First off let’s just take a moment and appreciate that perfect tomato-red color. I used to always want neutral colored cars, but now that I own a dark-gray one, I find myself wishing it was brighter and easier to pick out in a parking lot. (It also conveniently matched my tomato-red shirt.)
The RAV4 has been around for a while and was one of the first crossover SUV’s. The small SUV is a good choice for city driving, I like being high off the ground on busy streets, but I also like not having the massive size of larger SUV’s. And a hatchback is ideal for parallel parking.
For 2013 the RAV4 got a makeover and I’m digging the new design. While it does look more like many of the other crossover SUV’s that have been redesigned lately, I think it has a nice mix of sleek and boxy without being too round or too square.
The biggest difference in the redesign is they’ve moved that spare tire inside so now you’ve got a liftgate for your trunk instead of the side opening door. A big plus, that was one of the gripes I had with the old RAV4. The nicest thing about this: you have loads of trunk space even though the car is actually shorter than the old version.
Nice, right? You could easily fit your stroller and your groceries in there.
Backseats and Carseats
What about carseats? This is another gripe I have with loads of cars, including my Toyota Matrix. To get Tessa rear-facing we have to move the passenger seat up really far AND get a seat adjuster from the manufacturer. Right now the first thing I do when I look at a car is check out the space in the backseat. I don’t mean the legroom, I mean the space between the seats. And I grilled the Toyota guys at the Show. We have carseats. We need room. And they delivered.
I love the space in there. It comes with LATCH, of course. And one other feature I dig: check out how one back seat is reclined. You can adjust the recline in the BACK. I think this could come in handy when you have kids rear-facing who are starting to get long legs…
8 standard airbags, including a new style of airbag to protect the driver’s legs. Currently the crash-test scores aren’t in for this new model yet. Hopefully we’ll get these soon.
And I am really excited that a rear backup camera comes standard. Despite my years in the city I still always get nervous parallel parking. I am dying to get a backup camera and I love that I don’t have to pay extra for it. (Because I’m cheap, so I won’t.)
There are three models: the LE, the XLE and the Limited. What stood out to me? The XLE comes with two-zone climate control. And the Limited has some of those things you drool over: automatic liftgate for the trunk, memory for the driver’s seat positions and heated seats. (HEATED SEATS!!!! That is basically my dream in life. When we visit Eric’s parents, their car has heated seats and it makes me so happy. Especially because we’re usually visiting in the winter. And did I mention they live in South Dakota?) There are also options including navigation and a blind spot monitor.
Price & Specs
The new RAV4′s start at $23,300 for the base model LE and go up to $28,410 for the All-Wheel Drive Limited.
179.9 inches long, 65.4 inches tall (without roof rails), 72.6 inches wide, 6.3 inches off the ground. (All of those are smaller than the previous model.)
15.9 gallon gas tank. Leg room: 42.6 inches in front, 37.2 inches in back.
24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway.
More to Come
I’ll be taking this baby for a test drive complete with kids, carseats and strollers in the coming weeks so I’ll have an update for you when we’ve had a chance to try it out on the not-so-open road.
I’m excited to get this series started. I looked at a bunch of cars trying to see what would work best for city parents and I’m looking forward to telling you about them in the months to come.
So you tell me: what do you look for in a city car? What are the features you must have? What do you definitely avoid? Crossover? Sedan? SUV? Wagon? Do tell…
Thanks to Toyota for inviting me to the Media Preview of the RAV4 at the New England Car Show. I was provided with passes to the show and a gift for attending. They are also providing me with a car to test drive.