Meet the Family: The Ravelingeens

For Erin and Nicholas Ravelingeen, the Compact SUV Shootout was a chance to test-drive the candidates for their next car purchase. The Ravelingeens plan to buy a compact crossover later this year to replace their 2001 Chevrolet Tracker.

They've already started crafting a list of wants for their next car: They need "something sizable enough to fit both our kids and their stuff comfortably," Erin said. "Since we are done growing our family, we didn't feel the need to have a third row. That and price led us to a compact crossover."

Erin and Nicholas live in Chicago with their two children, Trudy, 4, and Mason, 2. In addition to the Tracker, they also own a 2001 Oldsmobile Alero. The Ravelingeens use their cars for running errands, taking the kids to school and longer road trips, said Erin, a stay-at-home mom. Nicholas, who works in downtown Chicago, doesn't use either car for commuting. The family puts about 8,000 miles a year on each of their cars.

Erin and Nicholas Ravelingeen, and their children Trudy and Mason, helped the Cars.com editors with the comparison tests.

They haven't had a chance to start shopping for a new crossover, so the Compact SUV Shootout exposed them to a variety of contenders. "We probably wouldn't have considered the Mazda [CX-5] since we've never owned one, but we are interested to see how the cars really measure up to each other," she said.

What's on the Ravelingeens' list of must-haves for their new crossover?

  • Reliability. It's "the most important feature we are looking for," Erin said. "We drive our cars for a long time, and we are hoping to get a good 10 years out of our next purchase. Maybe it can be Trudy's first car?"
  • All-wheel drive for tackling Chicago's tough winter weather
  • "Decent" gas mileage
  • Interior space
  • Family comfort. "Legroom has been a major issue in the Tracker, and that is what we are hoping the new crossovers have to offer us," Erin said.

Erin and Nicholas Ravelingeen get some seat time in one of the compact SUVs.

After spending a day test-driving the crossovers, the Ravelingeens were surprised by how many features they could get for $25,000. "One car had leather, another had a sunroof, and one had a full navigation system," Erin said after the Shootout.

We won't reveal the Ravelingeens' favorite crossover just yet (see the Results story), but they chose what they believed was the "most well-rounded" crossover. "It didn't have all the bells and whistles, but it had a lot of features that mattered most to our family: comfort, reliability [and] good and efficient features," she said.

© Cars.com 07/23/2012