There a many cars that get great gas mileage. Many are even affordable, fun to drive, and reliable too. The problem is that if you need transportation for a family of 6 or more, many of these vehicles just don’t cut it. A Mini Cooper S may be a great car for the daily commute or running a canyon road, but trying to fit a family of seven in one is akin to practicing for a circus act.
What do you do if gas bills are killing you, but you really can’t drive a Honda Fit, Mini Cooper, or Prius Hybrid? What if your transportation duties run the gamut, from running 3 or 4 kids to school, soccer or swimming, picking up 10 bags of groceries, and running the whole family for weekend trips to Grandma’s? Even a normal sedan, such as an Accord or Taurus just isn’t big enough.
Here are the top vehicles to drive if you have to move more than the average number of people and their gear.
Best Gas Mileage Vehicles to Buy if You Have a Large Family #6
2009 Chrysler Town and Country Minivan – 4.0L V6, 6-sp auto, 17city / 25highway / 20 combined MPG, Base MSRP: $24,195.
The latest from the ones who started the minivan revolution (but didn’t actually invent it, that goes to VW), the latest Town and Country comes in at number 7 on the list. It also demonstrates the importance of an advanced transmission (see my post on technology to increase fuel economy) in the quest for better gas mileage. The 4 liter engine with the 6-speed actually gets better EPA fuel economy ratings than it’s smaller engined counterpart, which is mated to only a 4-speed auto.
The relatively good mileage, coupled with the utility of such innovations as Chrysler’s “Stow-n-Go” seating make this one a winner if you have a large family and need to get them around town.
Best Gas Mileage Vehicles to Buy if You Have a Large Family #5
2009 Ford Flex Crossover SUV, FWD – 3.5L V6, 6-sp auto, 17 city / 25 highway / 19 combined MPG, Base MSRP: $28,295.
One of the main reasons so many drivers eschewed minivans in favor or SUVs in the last decade and a half is that they don’t want to be perceived as dowdy, un-cool, or devoid of style. Well driving the new Ford Flex definitely won’t get them pigeonholed into any of those categories. It drips of style, but still delivers enough room inside to get the whole brood to their little league practice and the swim meet without having to sit atop one another.
The Flex is a (very) modern interpretation of something right out of So Cal in the ‘50s. It’s not a minivan, but replaced on in Ford’s lineup, the never really popular Freestar. In a land of all the same, derivative products, Ford looks to have broken the mold for large family transportation. All that and it has suicide doors and returns very respectable gas mileage for a quasi-large people mover.
Best Gas Mileage Vehicles to Buy if You Have a Large Family #4
2009 Mazda 5 Minivan FWD – 2.3L I4, 5-sp auto, 21city / 27 highway / 23 combined MPG, Base MSRP: $18,665.
The 2009 Mazda 5 has one real ace in the hole; great fuel economy for a vehicle that can hold your entire family. It also looks pretty cool, with little of the boring, me-too styling that so many others in the genre find themselves draped in, and you can get one at a bargain price compared to other vehicles that can hold 6 people. It has two things going against it that kept it from finishing higher in this list of great vehicles for transporting a large family while getting excellent MPG; it really isn’t that large, and it really isn’t that quick. In fact part of the reason it gets such great fuel economy is a result of precisely those two traits.
If you have a family of 6, and 2 of the family members are small kids, this will definitely do the trick. It handles well, a hallmark of most Mazda products, and should be very reliable, if past reliability stats are any indication. If your group includes teenaged twins that happen to play tight end on the high school football team and a few more kids over about 10 years old, you should probably find another mode of transportation however. The Mazda will simply be too tight of a squeeze.
Best Gas Mileage Vehicles to Buy if You Have a Large Family #3
2009 Chevrolet Traverse FWD – 3.6L V6 direct injection, 6-sp auto, 17city / 24 highway / 19 combined MPG, Base Price MSRP: $30,810.
The Chevrolet Traverse is the latest iteration of the GM large SUV platform that’s also spawned the GMC Acadia and the Saturn Outlook. It’s modern, with a 3.6 liter V6 that includes direct injection fuel delivery, one of the reasons a 288hp vehicle that transports 8 full sized people can get such good gas mileage (for this sized vehicle). The interior is modern as well, proving again that American vehicles can deliver in this department, even if it took 30 years for U.S. automakers to figure it out.
The 2009 Traverse has a great combination of ride and handling for such a large vehicle, and is by most reports, relatively quiet too. All in all it’s a great place to spend time on a long road trip with the entire family, providing you can still afford to take one, with the high price of fuel these days. At least the Traverse burns regular gas, currently the least expensive liquid motivator you can get at the local filling station.
Best Gas Mileage Vehicles to Buy if You Have a Large Family #2
2009 Honda Odessey LX Minivan FWD – 3.5L V6, 5-sp auto, 17 city / 25 highway / 20 combined MPG, Base MSRP (LX version): $26,255.
Honda has wrought a vehicle that consistently finishes at the top of its class with the Odyssey minivan. Honda has always created spectacular power plants, and the 3.5 liter in the Odyssey is another example of one of their sewing machine smooth, internal combustion, creations. The only nits that kept this one from finishing even higher on the list is that it’s a mite noisy on the freeway and could be a bit larger if you’d like to transport 7+ people. It has a cockpit that is a fantastic place to spend time, with everything falling readily to hand, and large, easy-to-read instrumentation that’s been a hallmark of Honda binnacles since the early ‘80s. The Odyssey even handles fairly well for vehicles in the minivan category.
Best Gas Mileage Vehicles to Buy if You Have a Large Family #1
2009 Chevy Tahoe SUV Hybrid 4×2 – 6L V8, CVT, 21 city / 22 highway / 21 combined, Base MSRP: $50,490.
The new hybrid Tahoe is a technological tour de force, enabling a huge, vehicle with a 6 liter V8 engine to return 20mpg. If you have to have a large vehicle to transport 8 people, and all their stuff, on a long trip, while towing a trailer, this is about the only vehicle to be driving. It uses a hybrid power train, combined with advanced transmission technology to wring every last bit of energy from a drop of unleaded regular and use it for getting down the road. About the only downside, and it’s considerable, is the monster MSRP of $50,490. That’s for the 2-wheel drive version; you’ll pay more to deliver power to all the wheels, should you want to.
The new Hybrid Tahoe is really expensive, but if you need the combination of this much size and towing capacity, nothing else makes the list while delivering anywhere close to this kind of fuel economy, especially if you do much of your driving in urban areas. In stop and go driving the hybrid power really comes into it’s own and saves gas. It comes with every option under the sun, and if you check all the boxes, you can rapidly find your bank account depleted by an even larger sum, so exercise some restraint.
Until next time………..