You need a 7-seat vehicle: for your family plus the grandparents. And for your weekly outing to the orchestra with your child's friends and their cellos. Is there an alternative to the very large minivans now wielded by moms everywhere in the US?
As the Talking Heads song goes, "....and you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile". In this case a very large automobile. Indeed, an automobile that has experienced inexorable growth since the "multipurpose vehicle" or the minivan, was first introduced to the US, and I'm not talking about sales: In 1997, the Toyota Sienna was 4.84m (191in) long; now it reaches lengths more than 5.10m (200in). With the bodies, the engines have grown. And that means a decreasing fuel economy.
Rather than asking ourselves, "Well, how did I GET here?", perhaps it is well to start asking, "How do I get out of this?". You may teach your children to ride a bike to the orchestra, but how will their cello get there? And grandparents: only selected ones do bicycles. So you still need a vehicle that will carry seven.
Consider asking for a smaller minivan. For instance, consider a Toyota Estima, just 4.80m long (189in) or nearly a foot shorter than the Toyota Sienna (the larger Sienna is made specially for the US market and is available nowhere else). Go the extra step, and go for the Toyota Estima Hybrid.
No, CelloMom has not taken a test drive in an Estima: it would require going to Japan, or to Australia (where it is known as the Tarago). But the table below shows a comparison between the Sienna and the Estima Hybrid. The 2.4L hybrid gets a fuel economy of 42mpg according to the JC08 standard which tends to be an overestimate; CelloMom estimates a real-use mileage of 30-35 mpg, very good for a car this size. The price tag looks high, but check the post on how to read MSRP outside the US.
The non-hybrid Toyota Estima has a Japanese MSRP of $35,200; its 3.5L conventional engine puts out 280HP power, but gives a fuel economy of only 24mpg (JC08). Using a smaller engine (giving up a little bit of the power) would raise the mileage, and make the car less expensive to buy.
The cello would easily fit in the back cargo space. More than one friend, even with their cellos, would be comfortable if you position the sliding seats cleverly on their rails. And you don't have to be a grandparent to appreciate the optional airplane seats with footrest.
Toyota Sienna compared to Toyota Estima Hybrid
|Toyota Sienna||Toyota Estima|
|City/Hwy (mpg)||19 / 24|
|avg. quoted||20 mpg||18.0 km/l JC08
|avg actual||22 mpg (DOE)|
|Engine||2.7L DOCH 4-cyl||2.4L DOCH 4-cyl|
|Power||187 HP @ 5800 rpm||150 HP @ 6000 rpm|
|Length, mm(in)||5088 (200.3)||4800 (189)|
|Width, mm(in)||1984 (78.1)||1820 (71.7)|
|Height, mm(in)||1765 (69.5)||1760 (69.3)|
|Weight, kg(lbs)||1939 (4275)||1990 (4387)|
|Trunk volume, liters(cuft)||(39.1 / 87.1 / 150)|
|Turning radius, m(ft)|
|Top speed, kph(mph)|