Check Out 6 New Dog-Friendly Cars From the New York International Auto Show
Car manufacturers have learned that they have to sell a car not just to one person, but also to the entire family. And that includes the family pet. Those of us who share our lives with pets know that their needs are an essential part of every car-buying decision. That explains why Subaru offers a Dog Matchmaker on its Facebook page and why you’ll see dogs co-starring in ads from Land Rover and Chevrolet, among others.
Jean Jennings, editor-in-chief of JeanKnowsCars.com and Automobile Magazine, has been taking her four dogs along in a wide variety of test cars for years. She notes, "Cars today are so much more dog-friendly: from technology such as air bags and traction control that make cars safer than ever to seats that fold easily so you can fit dog crates in back. That, and the proliferation of tall wagons and SUVs, means you are much less limited in your car choices as a pet owner than in the past."
At the New York International Auto Show, which will be open to the public April 18-27, you’ll see a wide variety of cars, from dreamy supercars to the latest high-tech concepts. But what is there for someone who has an animal companion along for the ride? Good news: Here are six great possibilities, each of which will make a splashy debut at media previews in New York this week. They run the gamut from a pair of subcompacts that have surprisingly usable space in back to a couple of SUVs that will take you and your dog just about anywhere you can dream of. One might be just right for you and your pets.
1. 2015 Honda Fit Crossover: City Car With Country-Size Room in Back
Believe it or not, this all-new version of the subcompact is enough car to let you bring your pets wherever you’re going. The hatchback, shown here, went on sale April 14. At the New York International Auto Show, a small SUV version, out this fall, is making its debut. Both will be built at a dedicated new plant in Mexico. Interior space was the goal, and Honda met it. “Man maximum, machine minimum” was the watchword in creating the completely new 2015 Fit, says Jeff Conrad, senior vice president and general manager of Honda Division, but “man’s best friend maximum” also applies. Conrad calls it Honda’s “packaging magic.” Your dog gets maximum space in the back seat, even in a crate, once you fold the 60/40 split seats. With both folded, which can be done instantly by flicking a switch, you get a surprising 54.1 cubic feet of space back there, handily accessed through the easy-open hatchback. If you need a subcompact but also need your pet to ride along, one of these Fits might fit your needs perfectly.
2. 2015 Jeep Renegade: Rugged for Active Outings
If rough-and-ready is what you’re looking for, the new Renegade Trailhawk offers it in spades. It seats five — "comfortably,” Jeep promises — and you won’t feel hemmed in, thanks to an optional My Sky dual-panel sunroof that can be removed and stored flat in the rear cargo area. Jeep’s Active Drive Low 4×4 system, skid plates, off-road wheels and tires, and red tow hooks complete the rugged package. “It has a good mix of being playful, but with real capable, serious bones,” say its designers, Ian Hedge and Jeremy Glover. “Like a dog — just shaking it off.” The Renegade made its debut at the Geneva Auto Show in March, is being built by Jeep’s corporate owners in Italy and will export its all-American looks all over the world. New York marks its U.S. introduction. It will be on sale here in late 2014.
3. 2015 Kia Sedona: Flexible Seating and a Smart Tailgate
The minivan is not dead, and that’s good news if you want serious carrying space without feeling like you’re driving a giant truck around town. Kia has completely overhauled its Sedona, which it wants you to call a “multipurpose vehicle.” You’ll call it gorgeous when you look inside. Available to seat seven or eight, its measurements are little changed on the outside from the old model, but it has much greater versatility, especially in the flex seating that will let you accommodate pets way more easily. Slide-n-Stow tracked seating can slide or fold upright; no middle seats to remove if you need them out of your way quickly. Even better, you can slide the second row of seats back, first-class airline style, and riders can enjoy retractable leg rests.
Meanwhile, the third row is 60/40 split folding and retractable, so your passengers can ride in executive comfort, while pets and their crates have ample room in the back. Don’t be fooled by the luxurious-looking fabric; it’s antimicrobial, anti-static and stain-repelling due to YES Essentials fabric technology — a first in the segment, Kia says. We applaud the spread of the easy-open tailgate onto the marketplace, and the Sedona’s Smart Tailgate automatically opens when the key fob hovers nearby for three seconds. It’s even programmable by your height preference. And there are so many other creature comforts, such as a high-power USB charging port, a dual glove box with a cooled lower half and a real-time Surround View camera. All this usability comes with no penalty in the looks department, thanks to the continued leadership of Kia design chief Peter Schreyer. The vehicle goes on sale later this year, with pricing to be announced closer to launch.
4. Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept: Premium Go-Anywhere Vehicle of the Future
This is strictly a “future vision,” but pet and nature lovers of all kinds should keep an eye on Land Rover’s premium SUV ideas, even if only out of curiosity. These high-end adventurers are rugged enough for your pets and more than luxurious enough for you. The Discovery Vision concept previews a future family of Discovery vehicles, plus a future set of technologies that boggles the mind.
For example, there is a set of cameras under the grille that offers what Land Rover calls “an augmented reality view of the terrain.” In plain English, that means you can see what’s below the front end of your car and avoid obstacles you’ve never been able to see before. The animal lover in us applauds that extra bit of safety.
Other nice touches: a one-piece, power-operated tailgate; a deployable rear sill step; a folding bench seat in the loading area in back; and washable, oil-repellent Foglizzo premium leather that, Land Rover promises, "can be cleaned in seconds." That, and the Harris Tweed accessory trim, is the kind of thing you buy a Land Rover for.
5. 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen: Nice and Low in Back
There are lots of Volkswagen cultists, and they have a point. Jean Jennings showed how well her Jetta SportWagen works for her family and its four dogs in a video review. If you have dogs to bring along in your car, VW’s SportWagens let you think outside the box and have the sleeker, lower wagon experience without losing SUV-like practicality. As part of a clean redesign, the new Golf SportWagen has a lowered height at the tailgate and a wide rear window, and that means better load-in for you and your dogs. The Golf SportWagen is a preview of a larger, yet more fuel-efficient VW to replace the Jetta that Jennings reviewed. It has a new TDI Clean Diesel or a 1.8-liter turbocharged gasoline engine. This concept has it all: all-wheel drive, up to 17 percent better fuel economy and as much cargo space as a compact SUV. The Golf SportWagen goes on sale in early 2015, VW says.
6. 2015 Subaru Outback: Tall Wagon From a Dog-Loving Company
If you know anything about dogs and cars, you already know that Subaru wants to be the dog lover’s brand of choice. Although the official unveiling isn’t until April 17, teaser images released ahead of time show that the 2015 Outback will have similar breed lines to the five generations of Outbacks that came before. That means a tall-wagon look and more ground clearance than most wagons, plus Subaru’s expected all-wheel drive to make it a go-anywhere, do-anything, take-your-dog-with-you vehicle. Both 2.5-liter flat-four and 3.6-liter flat-six engine choices are expected to be offered, along with improved, more luxurious interiors — but Subaru practicality is sure to be an important part of the package.
JeanKnowsCars.com is a new partner of vetstreet.com.
Jean Jennings, editor-in-chief of JeanKnowsCars.com, is also president and editor-in-chief of Automobile Magazine, the leading lifestyle auto-enthusiast publication in the United States. The goal of JeanKnowsCars.com is to share a love of cars and help everyone have a positive experience in buying, servicing, selling and living with cars. And they love dogs! You can follow JeanKnowsCars.com on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.
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