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December 05, 2012

Crossovers Moms Love at the LA Auto Show

The LA Auto Show is BIG. Each year, it fills nearly all 720,000 square feet of exhibit space at the Los Angeles Convention Center with flashy concept cars, shiny luxury vehicles, SUVs, convertibles, compacts and vans. There is literally something for everybody -- even busy moms.

We want vehicles with room to hold all our precious passengers plus their gear -- not to mention the room we need to carry home the contents of a typical shopping trip to a warehouse store. We want technology that keeps us connected to our friends, our family, our music -- without getting lost. We want safety features. We want fuel economy. 

And we want a vehicle that looks good, too. Because having a family doesn't mean we've lost our sense of style.

Fortunately, this year's LA Auto Show marked the debut of several models that met those standards. Here are a few:

Toyota's 2013 RAV4


Toyota's small crossover vehicle has sold 1.7 million vehicles since its debut in 1995. This fourth generation model is curvier and more aerodynamic than its predecessor: all the better to squeeze more miles out of each gallon of gas pumped. It makes the car company's new tag line come to life: "Let's Go Places."

But my first notation after the vehicle was unveiled was this: "It's pretty." 

Many of the RAV4's new features were esthetic, like a more luxurious interior, French stitching and a soft touch intrument panel. Others have a dual purpose, such as brighter lights that add to vehicle safety and a repositioned spare tire that adds to its new sleek silhouette while offering easier cargo area access.

The RAV4 offers better performance, thanks to a six-speed automatic transmission and features like dynamic torque control (which give the vehicle better traction when accelerating quickly).

With a push of a button, drivers can choose between Sport mode for performance or Eco mode for fuel economy (which can help the front-wheel drive version attain up to 31 mpg on the highway -- up from 28 mpg on the 2012 model).

Best of all: the 2013 RAV4 comes with a 6.1-inch LCD touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity and a rear backup camera -- all standard! Options include Entune entertainment and navigation, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert. Also standard is ToyotaCare with two years of complimentary maintenance and roadside assistance.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

119_4032Hyundai President John Krafcik began the company's LA Auto Show presentation in an unusual manner: by apologizing for the company's recent admission that it had been inflating fuel economy figures.

Owners of affected vehicles have received letters from the company explaining how Hyundai plans to make good with a fuel reimbursement program that will last for the length of their ownership. (Hyundai's sister company, KIA, made a similar announcement at the start of their press conference.)

That task over, Krafcik unveiled the latest generation of Hyundai's popular crossover vehicle, the 2013 Santa Fe, which will be offered as both a 7-passenger full-sized CUV and a 5-passenger Sport model. Both continue Hyundai's sleek, aerodynamic design language, and both come with standard features like a tire pressure monitoring system and Blue Link telematics system.

Options moms like include winter weather features like heated outside mirrors, windshield wiper de-icers, and heated front and second row seats, touch-screen display with BlueLink telematics that can give you everything from turn-by-turn navigation and restaurant recommendations to collision notification and assistance and vehicle diagnostics. A rear-camera system is also an option (but not standard except on the highest-end model).

2014 KIA Sorento


Families who need to seat up to seven passengers will want to take a look at the 2014 KIA Sorento, unveiled with fanfare at the LA Auto Show.

"With more than 80 percent of the 2014 Sorento including new or significantly redesigned parts, it’s obvious that the improvements are not just skin deep, " said KIA executive vice president Michael Sprague. 

These include an all-new chassis designed to improve the way the vehicle rides and handles, a new gasloine direct injected VG engine (which aids in fuel economy and performance), and a redesigned interior and room for the next generation of UVO, KIA's Microsoft-powered infotainment system.

Sorento's front and rear sit lower and are wider. The KIA grille now comes in either anodized silver metal or black mesh. Available fog lights been moved to the far corners of the front bumper for better forward and side visibility. Horizontally positioned rear LED tail lights have also been upgraded and redesigned.

Inside the vehicle is a new, ergonomic instrument panel, which allows room for the new larger touch screen for KIA's optional electronic features, like navigation, SiriusXM Traffic™3 Infinity®4 audio system, SiruisXM™ Satellite Radio5, Bluetooth® hands-free connectivity6, vehicle settings and UVO eServices, which Kia describes as its next generation of infotainment and telematics.

Other new available features in the 2014 Sorento include Kia’s first-ever programmable power liftgate, a redesigned panoramic sunroof with a one piece power-operated shade, integrated 2nd row sliding sunshades, available dual ventilated air-cooled front seats, a 115-volt power inverter, and illuminated door handle pockets. 

2014 Subaru Forester

119_4154_croppedMy sister drives a Forester for the same reasons other Subaru buyers cite as their reason for purchase: the automaker offers a lot of bang for the buck. Forester has also been redesigned for 2014. It's on a new, longer platform and stands slightly taller, with new headlights and a new front bumper and grille.

But I think the most significant change is how much roomier the interior feels. There's more passenger legroom and the slope of Forester's new hood increases driver visibility. Subaru says the vehicle's new front seats are more comfortable on long drives.

Forester still comes with standard all-wheel drive, and features the same tight turning radius that makes parking a delight. Mileage for the base 2.5i model with six-speed manual transmission is 27mpg combined. Top-of-the-line Forester models are equipped with Hill Descent Control and X-Mode, which provides extra control in certain driving situations. 

All but the base 2.5i model have standard rear view cameras and multi-function display. (This is a trend I am absolutely LOVING -- I can't wait to see this standard on ALL new cars.) Options include power rear gate, EyeSight driver assist system, and navigation system with Aha® smartphone integration. 

2014 Mitsubishi Outlander

Mitsubishi is celebrating 30 years of US sales with a special Limited Edition of the 2013 Outlander Sport. They also unveiled redesigned 2014 seven-passenger Outlander.

Mitsubishi President Yoichi Yokozawa announced that the 2014 Outlander is more fuel efficient than its predecessor, thanks to more aerodynamic styling and lighter materials that have shaved 200 pounds of weight. (However, as of this writing, official fuel efficiency figures are pending). Continuous variable valve timing on all 2014 Outlander models means that fuel efficiency on these vehicles is coupled with a reduction in harmful emissions -- a bonus for anyone who wants to breathe cleaner air.

Optional safety technologies include adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system and Forward Collions Mitigation, which uses radar to warn drivers of obstacles ahead and even applies brakes to avoid a collision.

This is really just a taste of what I saw over two days at the LA Auto Show. Yes, there were cars a mom could love that do not fall into the SUV/Crossover category. I have a habit of lingering near the displays of cute small cars, like the MINI, Fiat, and smartcar fortwo, and VW showed up with some fabulous new Beetle convertibles. But I'm a practical woman. Those will have to wait until the kid is all grown up and out of the house. As long as I have to drive a carpool, I'm glad I have so many roomy, fuel efficient and stylish crossovers to choose from.

Donna Schwartz Mills 



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