Small Moonroofs Are So 2001

By Kristin Varela  on March 11, 2014

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Test-driving the latest cars on a weekly basis is generally wrought with highs and lows; there are moments of being surprised and impressed as well as being totally disappointed and wondering "What were they thinking?" One of those regular disappointments lately is the small moonroofs that still seem to be hanging around. They're just as sad as Vanilla Ice's new home improvement show on the DIY network.

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I drove the 2015 Volvo V60 recently. While I generally loved the familiar feel of its ride quality, I was baffled by how small the "normal-sized" moonroof looked. If Volvo can put a panoramic moonroof in the XC60, why not carry this feature through to the V60? Panoramic moonroofs are indicative of contemporary automotive design and certainty not something that's a budget-buster. The Toyota Venza I drove recently had not only one but two small moonroofs, as if that's any better.

I'm not the only one bothered by this leftover feature. A coworker recently complained about the small moonroof in the Lexus RX 450h, griping, "I not only don't like small sunroofs but also hate ones where the opening is so far back from the windshield your head doesn't even get much sun or wind. At least the panoramic ones give the cabin a better sense of openness, plus give light and [a] breeze to backseat passengers."

Of course, there are contributing factors to small moonroofs in cars. Often, vehicles might have DVD entertainment systems that extend down from the roofline behind the front row of seats. This would prohibit a panoramic moonroof (although entertainment screens on the back of the front head restraints would not only suffice, but also prevent visibility issues). One of my colleagues wondered if the added weight of the glass and its effect on the center of gravity could also be a factor.

When I asked Volvo about this, I was told that the size of the V60's moonroof is based on the fact that the wagon is essentially the same design as the S60 midsize sedan from the front of the car to the rear seats, "so from a parts perspective, it makes sense to fit it with the same sunroof as S60 since that is what that particular roof was made for. It's not due to weight issues."

Still, other car manufacturers with the agility to move quickly enough to appeal to today's discerning consumers are managing to juggle all of these factors. Kia, for example, was able to squeeze a panoramic moonroof into the 2014 Soul Plus with Primo Package, and Hyundai is offering it as an option to just about any car it can — the Veloster, Azera and Santa Fe, for example.

Sit in the Azera's backseat for a ride down a tree-lined street and you too may start to see how much pleasure a panoramic roof can add even to mundane drives.

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Senior Family Editor Kristin Varela blends work and family life by driving her three tween-teen girls every which way in test cars.  Email Kristin