It's time for me to change cars. My trusty Subaru Legacy wagon has developed a number of faults which are going to be too costly to justify (repair the torque converter, replace the steering rack, do the cambelt - around $5k all up) given it's age and current value. It's 13 years old and has done just under 200k, so I'm aware that it's likely to start developing other faults as time wears on. Plus, I now have a need to transport my partner and our combined four kids more often, so having something with six+ seats would be very handy - though it won't be an everyday thing, so I'm also weighing up whether six+ seats is a must-have or simply a nice-to-have.
So I've started looking around to see what is available. I'm not terribly keen on SUVs (don't want a big, heavy, thirsty car), but there don't seem to be many options that aren't SUVs. There are the dreaded "vans", which are a straight-up "nope" from me, and then the proto-vans - Mazda Premacy, Honda Odyssey, etc - which seem to blur the line between SUV/van. I'm after something which drives like a car, isn't too large, but is still able to seat six people without feeling cramped.
Some additional info - kids range from 6 to 16, so we have a couple in booster seats for another couple of years, and some who will "age-out" of needing to be driven all the time, in a couple of years. My budget is around $20-25k max.
I guess I'm looking for suggestions of cars to look at. I've done some searching on Trademe, have taken a couple for a test-drive, but what I've seen and experienced so far hasn't exactly filled me with excitement. I drove a Mitsubishi Outlander which has 7 seats. It was fine, but it felt quite bulky on the road (especially compared to my Legacy wagon). I drove a Volkswagen Tiguan which was 7 seats too, but felt a lot less imposing to drive. It handled very nicely and had a nice interior. But it was also a 2020 model and priced around $15-20k more than the same age Outlander (but, admittedly, with better specs and toys). I quite liked the Tiguan, but it's out of my price range. I drove a Honda Odyssey which was mediocre. Plenty of space in the cabin for the kids, and with convenient options for seating. But it felt more like a van, and pretty dreary to drive. While this isn't my number one criteria, I do much prefer a car that isn't a depressing place to be. I'm not doing massive commutes, but if I'm going to be behind the wheel I'd like to feel comfortable and enjoy the experience. I do admit, however, that this is a very subjective criteria.
I found what seemed like a pretty good compromise - Subaru Exiga. It has six seats, but is about the same size as my existing wagon. On paper, and in photos, it looks similar and should handle similar. But the 2012 model I drove last weekend was terrible to drive, horrendously uncomfortable, and a very "bleh" driving experience. Which was surprising, given close it is to my current Legacy.
If I drop the six-seater requirement, then another wagon would be my preference - something with good boot space, capacity to tow the occasional trailer, and something that is enjoyable to drive. But it seems like finding a wagon these days is getting harder, with SUVs tending to dominate the space. Which brings me back to looking at six+ seaters.
So I'm guessing I'm looking for suggestions of cars to go and look at. Other than the Outlander and the Exiga, are there any good six+ seaters which aren't "vans"?