EXPERT REVIEW

Mother Proof's view

Photo of Kristin Varela
Former 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 Varela


My 6-year-old daughter recently declared that she will never go away to college like her Uncle Hunter, but rather will live with me forever and be a “business girl,” helping me write car reviews. (Read into those italics as you like.) Since that discussion, she’s gotten a head start, beginning with the 2007 Saturn Outlook AWD XR. Her review sums up my sentiments quite well:

“I like this car because it has lots of room for my bike and I like that my sister and my friend can sit next to me in the middle row. I do not like how the air fans are not right over me. This car comes with good songs on the radio.”

The funny thing is, she really picked up on something key. The good songs she’s referring to were the ones pouring out of the optional $199 XM Satellite Radio; the Outlook comes with three months of free XM service. I find that satellite radio in the car improves my sour Monday-morning mood, and there’s evidence to back up that observation: I came across a study recently that found that distraction via music is one of the most effective ways of regulating mood. Frazzled moms and flustered kids can quickly redirect their energy with the right choice of music. Try it -it really works. If your kids are testy, tune into a little “Cha Cha Slide” on XM’s Radio Disney, and before you know it they’ll have forgotten the frenzy that ensued over not being allowed to bring chocolate milk inside the pretty new car with the nice, clean carpets.

The Outlook has other benefits besides its good songs. It’s a crossover that can seat up to eight real, live, three-dimensional people, meaning it doesn’t restrict the backseat to the cardboard cutouts that usually fit in a crossover’s third row. Seating drops to seven if you opt for captain’s chairs instead of a bench seat in the second row.

With all that space, the Outlook is a great choice for full-sized families. Plus, with a big menu of standard safety equipment, families on a budget won’t have to break the bank purchasing features a la carte -a system better suited to dining at a steakhouse than purchasing life-saving systems in a car, if you ask me.

I love the multitude of storage bins and compartments in the Outlook. The trend starts with in-door storage with bottle holders up front. An in-dash storage compartment that’s easily accessible for the driver is great for hiding stuff I’m tired of seeing, and a two-tiered back-of-seat pocket system in the second row keeps all kinds of kid stuff neatly contained. Get this: These pockets are located on the back of both seats, not just one or the other like in so many cars, meaning the sharing -and fighting -will be kept to a minimum. It’s the little things in life that really thrill me, especially because I seem to have a touch of OCD that extends from the pockets in my car to the closets in my home. Don’t laugh; it’s a personal problem that I’m diligently working out in therapy.

In the cargo area, a compartment hidden under the floor is lined in plastic, making it the perfect spot for storing dirty… well, dirty anything, really. Even with the third row in place, the Outlook’s cargo space is large enough for bikes, as my daughter already pointed out. When extra space is needed-for example, to haul home the new bed I plan on purchasing later this week-the third row folds in one simple step. When I have my arms full of bedrails, opening the tailgate to access the cargo space will be a snap thanks to a remote-operated liftgate. Folding the second row is a bit trickier, as there’s one mechanism to fold the entire seat, one to slide it front and back, and another to slide and fold it for access to the third row. The sliding mechanism itself is a bit clunky and awkward.

Driving in the Outlook gets a mixed review from me. The clear view of the road and good rear visibility, combined with an optional rear park assist system, make me feel like this car is smaller than it actually is. However, the fact that this thing is called a crossover had me expecting a crossover-ish drive, meaning one that’s smooth and carlike. That’s pretty much what you get in the Outlook -so long as you drive in a straight line. Once you need to turn, though -a terrible inconvenience that seems to present itself every time I drive -the Outlook tilts and sways in a floaty, minivan-like way.

Still, the Outlook is a functional family car. With loads of flexibility, storage, comfort and safety -plus plenty of good songs -the Outlook is one new crossover that’s worth a second glance.

*For more information on the Saturn Outlook and its safety features visit Cars.com.

LET’S TALK NUMBERS

Latch Connectors: 2

Seating Capacity (includes driver): 7/8

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample – Galore

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample – Galore

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Good Times

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