Do Young Parents Really Need A Big SUV?

I love family reunions because some of it involves being near lots of people who know I like to talk a lot about cars and nod politely and pretend to be interested. I need that sometimes.

Last weekend, my encylopedia-like knowledge of cars came in handy. My cousin wants something new to replace her decade-old Ford Escape. She had a baby five months ago, though, and wants the new car to be the primary mode of travel for the the two of them and her husband. It's also something the family wants to keep for maybe 10 years.

I don't have kids. I don't ask to hold babies, or play with them for that matter. And I'm still surprised how much stuff accompanies such small people.

One look in the back of her Escape showed strollers, bags, bouncy things that were practically pouring out of the car. My years of ridiculing parents with one or two children who say, "We don't fit in an Accord," and then go and buy a Pilot, ends now.

But she surprised me by saying she really wanted a Volkswagen CC, but shot it down because the 2012 she drove didn't have a center rear seatbelt. Yes, the CC is basically a family sedan. But try squeezing a weirdly shaped collapsed crib into that. I don't think much else will fit.

Now, I'm aware you can fit a child in a child seat in a lot of cars. Jason Torchinsky proved it is, in fact, possible to squeeze a kid into a Scion FR-S. My father drove a Miata when I was a toddler and I rode in it in a way that was legal. Probably. But there's no way a stroller, diaper bag, toy bag and bouncy things for the kid to sit in will all fit in a sports coupe. I'm not even sure all of it would go in the back of something as curvaceous and form-over-function as the CC.

The term "family sedan" seems to work if children don't have large car seats, can buckle their seatbelts themselves and learn to pack lightly. Even commodious sedans like the Ford Taurus and Volkswagen Passat aren't as convenient as something with a big tailgate. And since automakers say Americans hate wagons as an excuse not to sell any of them here, I'm left recommending crossovers to anyone with a kid who doesn't want a VW Jetta wagon.

Did my parents cart this much stuff around with me when I was little? If that's the case, how did my mother survive the ‘90s without a Ford Explorer?

So we're going car shopping soon and I will strongly advocate bringing the big stroller and a couple of bags. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is probably the one she'll go home with, but I'm going to advocate a turn in the Kia Sorento, maybe an EcoBoost-ed Ford Edge and push again for a Jetta TDI Sportwagen.

But what do you think? Should I narrow the recommended list to crossovers or give the thumbs-up to a 2013 CC with five seatbelts? Or do parents just bring too much stuff with their kids these days?