By Samuel Smith and Mark Borlace
Published: Thursday, August 13, 2020
Buying a baby-friendly car ranks highly on the to-do lists of most first-time parents, but with so many SUVs and 4WDs swamping the used-car market, it can be extremely hard to know where to start.
While welcoming a child into the world is an undeniably exciting experience, buying a car to cart them around often isn’t.
To help take the stress and uncertainty out of your first family-car purchase, we’ve rounded up four cars that fit the bill in terms of safety, practicality, aesthetics and value for money.
2015 Kia Sorento SLi: The Sorento gets the balance just right, blending the high-riding aspects of an SUV with the functionality and versatility of a traditional people mover.
2015 Kia Carnival SLi: The Carnival has come a long way since its origins as a commercial van. Today, it’s a comfortable, practical people mover designed to carry up to 8.
2015 Honda Odyssey Vti-L: The Odyssey is the most attractive of the bunch and features a huge range of tech. Its build-quality is exceptional.
2015 Ford Territory TX: The Territory is hard-wearing and no-nonsense, perfect for families with young and at times – dare we say it – messy kids.
|Specs||Ford Territory TX||Kia Sorento SLI||Honda Odyssey VTI-L||Kia Carnival SLI|
|Engine||2.7L V6||3.3L V6||2.4L I4||2.2L I4|
|Average price now||$19,200||$26,700||$25,200||$28,700|
Whoever’s captaining the Sorento gets a commanding view, while the straightforward controls and versatile cabin make it user-friendly throughout – perfect for young adults and kids. While not exactly class-leading, front and second-row seats are comfortable enough, while the third row can be very easily folded down for more cargo space.
The Odyssey’s near-regal comfort levels can be experienced by all seven occupants – even family members who’ve been banished to the dreaded rear row. Furthermore, its build quality is exceptional, and it drives more like a slick station wagon than a chunky people mover. The top-spec VTi-L has class-leading standard equipment and all variants have logical, well-laid out driver controls.
The Carnival’s seat-comfort and overall space is top-notch, and even when fully loaded, there’s room for luggage. While not perfect in design, the seats provide plenty of versatility, and there’s the bonus of a power-operated tailgate and sliding rear doors. The SLi comes well-dressed with leather trim and an infotainment, navigation and connectivity package.
The Territory is built on the Falcon platform, making it the first Australian designed and built SUV. Inside, there’s plenty of room for passengers and cargo, a decent amount of head room, comfortable seats and multiple storage spots. That being said, it doesn’t feel quite as premium as the Honda or even the Kias.
The Kia Sorento, Honda Odyssey and Ford Territory all have 5 star ANCAP safety ratings, so you can rest assured your family will be in safe hands.
All come standard with electronic stability control, curtain airbags and traction control and all scored highly in frontal, side and whiplash impact tests. The Kia Carnival has a 4 star ANCAP safety rating.
The Sorento has the gruntiest engine, producing 199kW of power and a peak torque of 319Nm. Coupled with a smooth-changing 6-speed automatic transmission, its performance is a real plus.
The Territory’s 2.7L turbo-diesel V6 engine is also a great performer. On the road, its Falcon underpinnings are obvious, with a decent ride and respectable handling. Its powerful engine makes it great for towing caravans or trailers.
The Odyssey’s 4-cylinder petrol engine does a respectable job, but stronger performance would be welcome. Under load, you can feel the engine and transmission working hard, and while the ride is comfortable on smooth roads, it’s nowhere near as polished over rough terrain.
Despite its relatively small size, the Carnival’s 2.2L diesel engine performs decently.
It’s not the fastest in its class, but it has a broad spread of strong to mid-range torque, a smooth 6-speed automatic gearbox and respectable fuel consumption. For a large van, it handles well.
If you’re buying a car for familial duties, looks probably aren’t at the top of your list. Still, you don’t want to be piloting an eyesore.
Luckily our line-up is relatively easy to look at. The Honda in particular has a sleek, low-slung roofline and appears, for lack of a better word, very unpeoplemoverish.
The Sorento and Territory are a little more basic with high ride heights and rounder features, while the Carnival is the quintessential tall, long people mover.
None of our line-up has major mechanical problems; however, the Achilles heel of both Kias is their dash-mounted screen which tends to fail.
Odysseys rev high and hard, so they need to be serviced on time, especially transmission fluid changes. If you’re after a Territory, be choosy as many have had a hard life, hence their lower price.
Both the Odyssey and Territory’s warranties would now have run out, but the Sorento and Carnival came with Kia’s outstanding 7 year unlimited kilometre warranty, so they’ll still be
The Honda is slightly more expensive to run than the others. Conversely, the Territory is the cheapest to run and maintain, but has a history of water leaking into the cabin and can be heavy on brake wear.
Across the board, insurance, running and repair costs are respectable, though the Honda costs a little more to maintain than the rest.
The final verdict
If practicality is your main concern, our top picks are the Carnival and the Odyssey – both boast ample seating and user friendly controls.
The Sorento, Odyssey and Territory score equally high for safety, but the Territory and Sorento are ahead of the game when it comes to driveability.
In the looks department, the Odyssey is streets ahead, but it isn’t quite as pocket friendly as its competitors.
Overall, the Sorento and Carnival lead the pack, followed by the Odyssey, then the Territory.