As a young girl, I had unrealistic dreams of kicking conventionality and carting my future children around in a Volkswagen Bus. Now I'm an adult with two daughters, and I was more than happy to cart them around in the 2012 Volkswagen Routan minivan.
The 2012 Volkswagen Routan is no Bus; it's a modern family hauler that caters to parents with its versatility and safety features.
The Routan proudly wears the VW emblem on its grille. It's basically an upscale version of the Dodge Grand Caravan or Chrysler Town & Country. My family took the Routan on a road trip from Los Angeles to Arizona. Accelerating onto the highway felt effortless even when the Routan was filled to the brim with people and luggage. Braking the fully loaded minivan took a little getting used to as I could feel the weight of the van and its contents.
My test car was the SEL Premium trim level, which afforded me not only leather seats and touch-screen navigation but also a rear entertainment system and a blind spot monitoring system. All those little luxuries were reflected in my test car's price. The Routan starts at $27,020, but my top-of-the-line test car cost $44,280. That price stings a little.
I like the look of most modern minivans and the boxy 2012 Routan is no exception. I also recognize that with its boxy shape the Routan might as well have the "Baby on Board" emblem etched onto its rear, but the mom-mobile look comes with some serious perks.
First and foremost are the optional power sliding doors that open with the push of a button. I'm pretty sure the power sliding door was invented to save the oldest child from the humiliation of having a pajama-clad parent get out of the car and open their door for them at the school drop-off lane. I have been in denial for three years that I'll ever be "that" parent, but now that I'm expecting my third child, power dual-sliding doors are looking quite nice.
The Routan's step-in height was perfect for my 3-year-old to climb in on her own, but it wasn't too high that I struggled to buckle up my 1-year-old in her rear-facing car seat. A power liftgate comes standard on the SEL and SEL Premium trims.
The 2012 VW Routan has a 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine with a standard six-speed automatic. It gets an EPA-estimated 17/25 mpg city/highway. Thankfully, only regular unleaded fuel is required.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
My fully loaded Routan left me wanting for few things when it came to the interior. The optional leather seats were soft, the Bluetooth-enabled sound system was clear and thanks to the optional rear entertainment system, the kids were quiet. It all added up to road trip bliss.
Not only could my girls watch movies while seated in the second row, but the screen also could be split to allow them to play video games. To top it off, there was a second screen available for the third-row passengers. As if that wasn't enough, the wireless headphones made it so my husband and I never had to hear any of it.
The van's storage compartments were so ample and numerous that my husband and I lost our house keys and camera for more than an hour because we couldn't remember which of the compartments we had put them in. The rear cargo area was adequate enough for the luggage for our road trip or a mega-grocery trip with two cartloads of goodies.
My husband and I found the legroom in the first two rows to be a good fit for our family of four with two kids in convertible car seats. However, once we started using the third row, things started to get a little cramped. An adult would have a hard time sitting behind a second row filled with car seats because we slid the second-row captain's chairs all the way back to fit the car seats. This was disappointing considering a minivan's key feature is the usability of three full rows.
The Routan has some versatility when it comes to the third row's folding capability. With the push of a button the seats fold forward, disappearing into the minivan's floor. I was frustrated by the second-row captain's chairs, though. They're supposed to tumble forward and out of the way, but once folded they were cumbersome and stuck out, making it difficult to climb into the third row.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The 2012 Routan has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A car must receive the top score of Good in frontal-offset, side-impact, rear and roof-strength crash tests to receive this safety nod. It also received four stars out of five in a rollover crash test conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There are two sets of lower Latch anchors in the second row's captain's chairs and a third set in the third row. Installing my convertible car seats in the second-row captain's chairs was a breeze, thanks to the easily accessible Latch anchors. However, it was frustrating when installing a convertible car seat in the third row. It was cumbersome to access the back row and the Latch anchors were off-center in the three-seat bench, making the car seat take up half of the bench so one less person could sit there when a car seat is installed. Normally I'd recommend a booster seat for the third row, but the seat belt buckles are floppy, making it difficult for younger ones to buckle up by themselves.
The 2012 Routan has standard front-wheel drive, all-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, a backup camera and seven airbags, including side curtains for three rows and a driver's knee airbag.
Get more safety information about the 2012 Volkswagen Routan here.