Orlando, Florida – With more than 80 per cent of dog owners taking their pets along on errands, the American Automobile Association (AAA) has released a list of its top vehicle picks for dog owners.
“More than 45 million households in the U.S. have a dog, and many are taking Fido along for the ride on a regular basis,” said John Nielsen, national director of auto repair and buying services. “There are 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.”
The vehicles were chosen based on a wide variety of factors, including crash test ratings, safety features, fuel economy, ease of entry and exit for dogs, cargo size, availability of tie-down hooks and easy-to-clean interiors.
The vehicles are:
BMW 3 Series Wagon – The wagon offers handling and agility rivalling some sports cars, along with a comfortable if firm ride, and quiet cruising. A wide range of accessories include rubber cargo mats and sturdy dividers, including some that have an added division to transport two dogs while keeping them apart.
Volvo XC60 – This is the first vehicle in the U.S. with “City Safe,” which compensates for driver inattention by automatically applying the brakes at low speed to eliminate or mitigate a rear-end collision. The roomy cargo area can be accessorized with rubber mats and a pet barrier that fastens securely above the raised rear seats.
Subaru Forester – The Forester offers roomy, comfortable accommodations, with a stable and comfortable ride, predictable handling, and all-wheel drive. The wagon is even up for mild off-roading treks to get the dogs into the country. The floor is lower than many other SUVs, making it easier for many dogs to get in and out, and there are ample tie-down points to secure a kennel.
Hyundai Santa Fe – This offers a nicely-finished interior and competence both on- and off-road. The third-row seat option is no longer available, but the cargo space is good for even some larger-breed dogs. Available accessories include rubber cargo mats and pet dividers.
Kids, Dogs & Everything Else
Honda Element – The interior features surfaces and upholstery that can be hosed out if necessary, and the clamshell side doors can make getting pets in and out easier. The Element features a pet lovers’ accessory group that includes a ramp, second-row seat covers, and a soft-sided kennel that can be secured to the vehicle. The ride can be choppy and the vehicle has higher-than-average noise levels, but handling is good and the utility factor, including the height of the cargo area, makes this relatively small car suitable for large breeds.
Toyota Venza – Toyota offers a long list of pet accessories for this vehicle, which is a cross between a station wagon and an SUV. These include a ramp, waterproof seat covers, adjustable harness/booster seat pet restraint system, adjustable pet barrier and dog tether to keep the animals from jumping into the passenger area. Handling is predictable and cruising is quiet, but styling takes a toll on rear visibility, and the available backup camera is recommended.
Efficient and Fun
Mazda3 5-Door (Hatchback) – The Mazda3 is a standout among compacts, with sharp handling, good ride, and an interior that is small but nicely done. The wide-opening rear doors, tailgate and robust interior make it attractive to many pet owners, but hey will have to go to aftermarket suppliers for many pet accessories.
Mini Clubman – The “maxi of Minis,” the Clubman has a longer body structure, foldable rear seat and rear barn doors to make getting even a larger breed in and out of the vehicle easily. Most kennels will fit with ease and can be secured using the factory-installed tie-down points.
Ford Escape Hybrid – The large, squared-off cargo area is perfect for dogs of nearly all sizes, while the hybrid drivetrain delivers fuel efficiency few SUVs are able to approach. Floor mats and a pet divider head a list of pet-friendly accessories.
Kia Soul – Roomier than its exterior dimensions suggest, the Soul is a good choice for transporting smaller and midsize breeds. Aftermarket accessories include heavy-duty mats and pet-resistant seat covers. The ride is firm, but the handling is good and the engine is reasonably responsive and economical.
Nissan Cube – The interior is surprisingly roomy and, with the back seats down, should be good for even larger breeds. Note that when folded, the rear seat does not form a flat floor, so owner-supplied padding to level the cargo area would probably be necessary. Available accessories include cargo area mats to hair-shedding seat covers.