By Miki Goldenberg of Sigma Motors, Chevrolet Dealers
About twenty years ago, if you needed a car with more than five seats, you had a choice between a good old station wagon (with that rear-facing hard-as-a-board bench in the trunk) or a VW bus (with a sliding door only on the sidewalk side). They both did the job, but one had you fighting nausea with every turn, while the other offered passengers a great view but not much in terms of human engineering on the inside. Today, seven and eight seater vehicles are all over the road, with various three-row seating formats and a wide range of specifications inside and out. The numerous choices out there—including MPVs, SUVs, minivans, microbuses and even traditional estate cars (the station wagon reincarnated)—make it difficult to know which one is right for your mishpacha beruchat yeladim. Sigma Motors, leading Chevrolet dealer in Talpiot, Jerusalem, recommends that before taking any car for a test drive, it’s worthwhile to add a few points to your checklist.
It’s not enough to assume that because a car has seven seats, it must be safe to transport children. Some seven-seaters are just that: seven seats with an engine and wheels. If you’re going to be using your seven-seater to transport the most precious cargo in the world, be sure to check for the highest possible safety rating, including airbag protection that extends all the way to the rearmost row and other safety features.
BIGGER IS BETTER, FOR SOME
Consider how often you take everyone out at the same time. Families in frum communities often have four or five children below the age of six! This means that you’re probably going to pack everyone into the car just to pick up some milk and bread from the supermarket. Sigma Motors recommends looking for a full size MPV like the Chevrolet Traverse (available in both seven- and eight-seater versions). Not only because you might need to fit three booster seats side-by-side but also because you’ll be grateful for the extra elbow room when you have to buckle and unbuckle those little people a few times a day. When you go to view a car, take your car seats with you to see if they actually fit. Another pro of having a full-size MPV is the extra trunk space. If you have an infant, a toddler and some elementary school kids, you’re going to need space for all the trappings – and you don’t want to have to tie a stroller or two onto the roof every time you go out.
If you’re out and about, carting a busload of kids on carpool every day, full-size MPVs are definitely more convenient. You’ll be making numerous stops along your route, and you’ll be glad your passengers can alight easily without you having to go out and open the trunk at every stop. (Note the walk-through access of middle-row seats that swivel, slide back and forth at the pull of a lever or even come out altogether.)
DYNAMITE IN SMALL PACKAGES
If you catch yourself peering into the tinted back windows of every minivan you see, you’re not alone. You and other owners-to-be of a seven-seater will notice that it’s hard to tell some five- and seven-seaters apart. The truth is that some seven-seaters are really just five-seaters with an option for a third row of seats in the trunk for “sha’at had’chak” (rare occasions). Usually, the rearmost seats have thin bases and not much lateral support. Others only have two usable middle-row seats. That makes many of them uncomfortable for adults on all but short journeys, while some will only be able to accommodate smaller children. If you make most trips without older children who are in yeshiva or seminary most of the week or old enough to use public transportation, compact MPVs like the Chevrolet Orlando are a good option. These have benefits when it comes to running costs and maneuverability, making them the best value for money option. What you lose in terms of leg and headroom, you gain in flexibility. The back row can remain collapsed most of the time (or you can collapse just one of the two seats if you have five passengers), giving you a huge trunk for grocery shopping.
CROSSING OVER INTO 4X4 TERRITORY
Recent years have seen an explosion in the number of seven-seat 4x4s and SUVs. Actually, the modern day 4x4s are really 2x4s serving the same purpose. Drivers in Israel rarely use the 4×4 function, and it therefore adds an unnecessary expense. The 2×4 will give you the same look and general effect but at a more affordable price. Despite their off-road terrain capabilities, these seven-seaters are still designed for passenger comfort, although the usefulness of their rearmost row of seats can be compromised. Compact crossover SUVs are a great choice for families who need seven seats for day-to-day trips around town but want to enjoy the great outdoors when they get together for vacation.
EIGHT SEATS AND COUNTING
Sometimes seven seats just aren’t enough. Today there are a few options with eight or even nine seats. These tend to be either large vans converted for passenger-carrying duties or super-size MPVs with all the bells and whistles, including modular seating, overhead reading lights for each seat and individual air-conditioning vents to ensure comfortable climate control of the large cabin space. As with anything in life, it may seem daunting to make a decision when there are so many options. So prioritize what’s most important: your budget and your family’s real medium-term needs (be honest, you’re not going to have the same car for more than ten years), and then say a silent Tefillat HaDerech that your seven or eight passengers let you get safely from point A to point B with your sanity intact!
Sigma Motors is located on Rechov HaTasiah 1, Jerusalem. They can be reached at 02-565-8888