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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Finding the Perfect Family Car

Looking for a new family car? This might help...

In late 2006, and expecting our third son, we decided to upgrade our current car to one that would fit a baby capsule, booster seat and car seat across the back.

The car we thought we were going to buy was the Toyota Kluger. However, after test driving it, we gave it a miss. At the time, the Kluger had no...grunt. No power. In fact, it was nothing short of frustrating to drive. We ended up with a Ford Territory instead.

Recently, Toyota gave me one of their new Klugers to drive. I was excited. Just the thought of enjoying the new car smell again had me all a flutter with anticipation. (The Ford smells more like...well, a car three boys have been inhabiting for almost five years.)

Here's the stuff I loved about the Kluger:

New car smell
(I know that's not really a consideration if you're already planning to buy a new car, but I just wanted to point that out. Again.)

Inbuilt blue tooth 
Heaven. The first thing I did was call Hubby and say, "I'm on my blue tooth!" Such a handy device to have if you're stuck in traffic and you need to make a call. Safer too.

Great stereo system 
Admittedly, my 2006 Ford's stereo system is nothing short of TERRIBLE, so what a nice change to hear music again in a car with a bass. Also, you can access your iPhone's music just by pressing a button. Unfortunately, I only have one song on my iPhone at the moment. Must do something about that.

Well finished interior 
You can just tell by looking at the Kluger it's well made. Seams match perfectly. It's faultless, actually.

Spacious interior
LOTS of leg room for the kids in the back. This surprised me, actually. The car doesn't appear cumbersome from the outside, so I immediately assumed it would be small inside. Not so.

The boot is large too - not with the third row of seats up though. You wouldn't fit much at all if you had to have the third row up all the time. But when the 3rd row is down....you'd fit pretty much anything in there. I don't even think the following pic gives it justice!

Easy to put up the third row seats
Simply pull a cord situated at the back of the seat to pull the seat up, pull up the headrest and you're done. Easy-peasy. 

Split extra back row seats
This means, I didn't have to have both up. So I could still utilise the boot space even when the 9yo was sitting in the back. Of course, you have to be careful what you store in there next to your child. If anything goes flying around....

Seat warmers
At the touch of a button, my bum - and my passenger's - could be warm & toasty.

Option to lift the back window of the car
We have this with our Ford. If you just want to throw something light in, it's easier to open the window rather than the whole boot door. It's just great to have the choice.

Incredibly Fuel Efficient
In the two weeks I had the car, even though I didn't do as much local driving as I would have normally (the kids were all sick at one stage or another, so we missed sports etc), I did a lot more driving during that two week period than I would have over the same amount of time. I drove the car from Toyota to my house (a 40 minute journey), then back again, and then Jen and I did our Palm Beach road trip as well. By the time I returned the car, I hadn't filled the car up once, and I STILL had half a tank of petrol left!!! That's amazing! (In my current car, I fill up roughly every 2 to 3 weeks.)

Here's the stuff where I thought the Kluger had room for improvement:

Extra back row of seats not as easy for passengers to access as they could be 
Even though the back seat would fold down, I still found the space to hop in to the very back row was rather small and awkward. Even for the kids. I ended up getting the boys to jump in to the boot to access the seat, which obviously wouldn't be ideal if I also had a load of something in the back (bags, soccer equipment etc).

Middle seat in back row narrow
I have a friend who swears you'd get three car seats comfortably across the back row of the Kluger. I just can't see it - but I haven't tried it. In theory, it should be possible, as the width seems correct, but when using the 4yo's car seat on one side, and with the 9yo & 7yo in the middle and other outer seat, the 7yo was very cramped in between his brothers. But the two outer seats? Wide and completely comfy.

Rear heating & cooling controls
At first, I thought this was handy. The back row passengers can adjust what temperature to set the heating or cooling to for the rear of the car from the back of the centre console.

However, my boys continually wanted to play around with it (often setting it at ridiculously high temperatures), and the 4yr old used his foot to play with it way too many times for my liking (I got cranky, people). So, it was a little annoying for me, seeing that I could adjust it from the front anyway.

I imagine once the novelty wore off, it might not be an issue, and certainly for older, less curious passengers, it would be an advantage rather than a disadvantage of the car!

The steering didn't feel as smooth to me at first as it could have. Having said that, once I'd been driving the car a few days, I got used to the steering, so it could just be that it's different to my current car. (Hubby talks more about the steering further down here though.)

No reverse sensor
Although the Kluger had a reverse camera, there was no reverse sensor - which I have to say is incredibly handy to have. You can, however, purchase this at an extra cost.

So, what did Hubby think of the Kluger? He drove it a little...although not nearly as much as what I did. Here's what he thought...

I can't show you Hubby's face, but he totally looks something like this in a helmet.

Me: What did you like about the Kluger?

Hubby: I liked the look of the Kluger. It looks quite stylish. The upholstery finish was really good. The paint work is very finely done. In fact, the panels and finish you couldn't really fault. The car is elegant. The engine was a big improvement over the previous 3 litre Kluger engine as well.

Me: What didn't you like about the Kluger?

Hubby: The steering. It didn't feel natural. It felt very artificial to me. There was some lag in the way you steer and the way the car moved.

Me: Would you recommend readers of my blog buy a Kluger?

Hubby: It depends what you're after. If the look and finish was more important to you in a car then you should definitely buy one. It has plenty of power, plenty of space and it was finished nicely. However, if your readers are like me, then the steering might be an issue for them. Nothing a test drive couldn't determine though.

There you have it.

Check out the Toyota Kluger homepage for more information, and thanks again Toyota for my Kluger. I really did love every minute I had it!



Mrs Woog said...

Excellent, thorough review. I have always liked the look of them x

Megan Blandford said...

Great, honest review. I'm struggling to move past these words, though: 'seat warmer'. I want one of those.

Jenna Kuan said...

Congratulations on your new car! I guess I fell in love with it when you mentioned about its great stereo system. It's one of the most important factors I consider whenever I drive a car or maybe buy one in the future.

Now the bonus there is that it's spacious which is perfect for any road trip with your kids!

What's the color you chose?

Jodie Ansted said...

Hey, Jenna - thanks for your comment! But it was only on loan. Damn Toyota didn't let me keep it. ;) But if I were to choose a colour, I'd go with the blue. Gorgeous!

Maxabella said...

I felt exactly the same about the steering and the middle row seating, which is why we went for the Terror rather than the Kluge in 2008. The fuel efficiency I could do with, the Terror is a heavy drinker, but you just can't compare the ease of handling the Terror with the 'truckie' licence required for the Kluger. x

Kymmie said...

When we went to purchase a new family vehicle the Kluger was far too much like a spaceship, the Terror, far too churny on the fuel, and so we bought a Holden Captiva (7 seater). AWESOME! But it doesn't have seat warmers. But pretty much everything else.

And one can't go past the new car smell!!

Great review.