I must get this question about once a week. Seriously, what is wrong with you people? You know you need a minivan. You know the minivan is the best family hauling car for the money. Yet for some strange reason you have this complex about driving a van and would rather sacrifice convenience and flexibility so you can look “rugged.”

Here we go again:

I need a family car with three rows of seats. I just can’t bring myself to get a minivan despite it being the better tool for the job. The default choices of the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot don’t seem much better. Are there any fun family hauler alternatives for around $40,000?

Of course, you just hide your vanity behind the “But I need to have four-wheel-drive!” Okay fine, I know better than to fight this battle. You want some crossovers, here are some crossovers.

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Kia Sorento

The Kia Sorento and its Hyundai cousin the Santa Fe are really just the Korean take on the Highlander and Pilot, but they do have a few advantages. Primarily, you will get more equipment for your money, and Hyundai/Kia dealers are more likely to give you a bigger discount off sticker than your Honda/Toyota stores.

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For example, if you wanted leather, navigation, and blind-spot monitoring in a Highlander, you are looking at a Limited trim with an MSRP of $42,535. You can have all that in a Sorento SX V6 for $40,595. In addition to the value, what’s great about the new Sorento is a lot of people won’t recognize it as a Kia. A well equipped car could blend in just fine in a parking lot full of Volvos, BMWs, and Audis. (For the most part.)

Dodge Durango

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Maybe you find the Koreans too mainstream and you need something with a bit more muscle, or at least the appearance of muscle. You can get yourself a well equipped Durango V6 Limited AWD for $40,490, but let’s be real; you are getting the Durango instead of the Highlander because you want to go fast and look mean.

So ditch the all-wheel-drive and pony up the extra cash for the R/T model with the 360 hp HEMI V8 at $40,990. Then you can tell all your friends you got the V8 so you can “tow stuff.” Now if you want to go full bad-ass, I would also suggest tossing in the $295 Blacktop Package. There isn’t a Hellcat version of this yet, but there should be.

Mitsubishi Outlander

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Remember that Evo you almost bought in college, but couldn’t afford it because the insurance cost would bankrupt you? Well, life is full of second chances... sort of. The soon to be discontinued Lancer Evolution puts power to the ground via a system that Mitsubishi calls “super all-wheel control.” Opt for the AWD version of the Outlander, and you get the same S-AWC setup. That way you can pretend you are Tommi Mäkinen when you blast down that dirt road on your way to whatever activities you take your kids to.

Perhaps the best thing about the Outlander is the price. A loaded GT (see it even has a sporty name) with the Touring package will only set you back $35,195. That car comes with leather, navigation, and all those alphabet soup safety features that parents say they want.

Ford Flex

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We can focus on how the Flex is less expensive yet has more usable cargo space than its Explorer stablemate, or how the styling invokes both the classic slab-sided giant wagons your parents (or grandparents) would take on cross-country road trips. I could mention that the $37,700 Flex Limited comes with a slew of safety features, including inflatable seat-belts. But the most important feature you need to be aware of is the twin-turbo 365 hp 3.5 liter V6. That’s the same engine configuration found in the upcoming Ford GT supercar. Just make sure all your grocery store runs begin with a Le Mans start!

Which one should you pick if you absolutely can’t bring yourself to get a minivan? It all depends on your priorities. If you want luxury car style and features, but aren’t hung up on having a badge, go with the Kia. Perhaps you prefer to do burnouts while you are waiting for the kiddies to of out of school. In that case, the Dodge is your ride. If you’re looking to live out some rally driver fantasies and keep your budget to a minimum, the Mitsubishi is your crossover. Finally, if you are aiming for maximum cargo space, turbo-charged goodness in a well-equipped package... the Flex is where it’s at.

So take a few for a test-drive; bring the kids and all your junk. Make sure everything fits and everyone is comfortable.

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Then go drive a minivan and see how much better it is.

If you have a question, a tip, or something you would like to to share about car-buying, drop me a line at AutomatchConsulting@gmail.com and be sure to include your Kinja handle.