The American Automobile Association likes BMW, Volvo, Subaru, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Mini, Ford, Kia and Nissan. But the AAA likes the cars other drivers like for speed, innovation and reliability for another unique, important reason. The manufacturers’ cars have gone to the dogs.
More precisely, the AAA has selected its newest list of 11 cars in six lifestyle categories that dog owners prefer when transporting their pets.
According to the AAA, 45 million households in the United States have a dog and more than 80 percent of dog owners take their best friend with them when they run errands or drive their cars for leisure.
“There several vehicles with features that can help keep pets safe, comfortable and easy to clean-up after while also addressing other driver desires such as sportiness, adventure or luxury,” said John Nielsen, AAA National Director of Auto Repair and Buying Services.
The AAA’s experts drove and reviewed hundreds of vehicles and compiled a list of their top car picks for dog owners based severals factors: crash test ratings, safety features, fuel economy, ease of animal ingress and egress, cargo area size, availability of tie-down hooks and easy-to-clean interiors.
Here’s the list in six categories and a brief comment on each vehicle:
BMW 3 Series Wagon – Handling and agility that rival some sports cars and a comfortable, if firm, ride and quiet cruising . . . A wide range of accessories, including rubber mats and sturdy dividers, to make the car more suitable for pet transport.
Volvo XC60 – A roomy cargo area ideal for transporting most canines in comfort and a nicely finished interior. Rubber mats for the cargo area and a pet barrier that fastens securely above the raised rear seats to keep pets from distracting the driver.
Subaru Forester – Roomy, comfortable accommodations for people and their pets. The ride is stable and comfortable, the handling is predictable, and the all-wheel drive delivers reassuring traction under all conditions. Cargo capacity with the rear seats folded is impressive and inviting (for pets) at 68 cubic feet. The floor is lower than many SUVs, making it easier for many dogs to get in and out. Also ample tie-down points to secure a kennel.
Hyundai Santa Fe – Third-row seat option is no longer available, but the cargo space is good for even some larger breed dogs. Buyers will find that both Hyundai and aftermarket suppliers offer many accessories to make rides with the family pet easier and more comfortable — rubber mats for the cargo area to beds and pet dividers that will keep the dog in place.
Kids, Dogs & Everything Else
Honda Element – Clamshell side doors also can make getting pets in and out easier. The Element offers a pet lovers’ accessory group that includes a ramp, ideal for helping older dogs get in and out, second row seat covers even easier to clean than the standard upholstery and a soft-sided kennel that can be secured to the vehicle. It features a spill-resistant water dish and an electric ventilating fan.
Toyota Venza – Somewhere on the team that developed the Venza is at least one pet lover. Consider the long list of pet accessories that Toyota offers for this cross between a station wagon and a crossover utility vehicle. Among the items are a ramp to ease getting in and out through the rear tailgate, waterproof seat covers, an adjustable harness/booster seat pet restraint system, an adjustable pet barrier and a dog tether to keep canines from jumping into the passenger area.
Efficient and Fun
Mazda3 5-Door — Exceptionally flexible, though its suitability for larger breeds is in doubt. Still, the wide opening rear doors, tailgate and robust interior makes this yet another vehicle that would be attractive to many pet owners. These buyers, however, will have to go to aftermarket suppliers for many pet accessories. Fortunately, there they will find a wide range of mats and kennels that both fit and enhance the Mazda3’s utility.
Mini Clubman – Consider this the Maxi of Minis, at least until the Countryman arrives. The longer body structure, foldable rear seat and rear barn doors all contribute to making it easy to get even a larger breed in and out of the vehicle. And once in, dogs will find more than 33 cubic feet of space with the rear seat folded. Most kennels will fit with ease and, once in, can be secured using the factory-installed tie-down points.
Ford Escape Hybrid – The large and squared-off SUV cargo area is perfect for dogs of nearly all sizes, while the hybrid drivetrain delivers fuel efficiency that few SUVs are able to approach. Ford actually promotes the cargo area as being ideal for “…a big, wet dog…” and offer photographic evidence that even the largest canines fit here comfortably. Floor mats and a pet divider head the list of items that make the Escape more “pet friendly.” The ride is a little choppy but, for overall practicality, the Escape Hybrid is hard to beat.
Kia Soul – It’s roomier than its exterior dimensions suggest, which makes the Soul a good choice for transporting smaller and mid-size breeds. Aftermarket accessories to make the trip easier on both the pet and its owner are also easily acquired. These include thick, heavy-duty mats and pet-resistant seat covers. Some owners also have gone for vehicle-specific pet cages and dividers, often imported from Europe.
Nissan Cube – This vehicle casts a small shadow at noon, but its height and boxy design more than compensate. The interior is surprisingly roomy and should be good, with the back seats down, for even larger breeds. Note, however, that when folded, the rear seat does not form a flat load floor, so owner supplied padding to level the cargo area would probably be necessary.
Source: American Automobile Assn.