My husband is a Toyota man. Ever since I've known him, he's driven a Toyota. So, when we were courting and eventually married, we had a Toyota Rav 4. You know, the SUV-lite; the kind of car that you can drive and feel like you're somehow superior to the lowly sedans and sports cars that are whizzing around, yet not quite up to par with the Jeeps and real off-road vehicles whose drivers were silently giggling at us every time we drove by.

The Rav was perfect for us though. It had enough space to haul our frequent Ikea purchases home, even with a full load of groceries in the back. And it wasn't big or bulky or difficult to maneuver. The design was a touch chunky and square-looking, but it suited us just fine. When our first child came along, the car seat and all the paraphernalia that comes with an infant fit comfortably inside, without making us feel like we were scrunched in together.

Then along came the second child, and my husband decided that sporty wasn't the look we were after. It was time for ... a van. So off to the Toyota dealership we went and picked out a sensibly beige Sienna. This thing could seat eight people comfortably (or two people and four car seats, but no one was thinking that way, trust me). We were officially a family with a family vehicle, and I was well on my way to becoming a true soccer mom.

The thing was, we weren't making many trips to Ikea any longer. The times when we actually needed to haul eight people around town were very few and far between. The kids were strapped into their car seats behind us, but if they needed their noses wiped or a drink of water, I couldn't quite reach them from the front seat unless I unfastened my seat belt and practically hung myself between the two front seats. Not the safest way to travel for Mom.

Still, we kept the van as a symbol of being a family. After all, a family of four needs a gas-guzzling vehicle to transport themselves on important trips like going to the grocery store, the library, the video store, and of course, to elementary school.

All the parents at elementary school had vans, in various makes, models, and stages of disrepair. Surely we were the cool parents on the block with our brand-new, big, beige, seats more people than we'd ever chauffer at once, Sienna van. At least we thought so, and judging by some of the envious looks from real soccer moms, we were right.

But then an odd thing happened. The bills started coming in, and we realized that we were paying far more for transportation than we really needed too. And with the grocery bills, the overdue fines from the library, the frequent movie rentals, and payments for every little fundraiser the school could throw at us, we needed to rethink our vehicle choice. Did we really need all that space? And did we really need to use so much gas to get to these places and back home again?

Swallowing our pride, we once again headed to the now-familiar Toyota dealership and checked out the cars. Not the SUV's, not the vans, but the cars. It had been so long since I sat that close to the ground that it felt like we were driving the Flintstone's car, but we ended up settling on a silvery 2005 Toyota Corolla CE. It's less expensive to maintain, uses less gas, and surprisingly, we all fit into it, car seats included, without feeling like we're going to clobber each other after half an hour of driving.

The trunk is really roomy – there's a surprising amount of space back there. And the kids have loads of space in the back seat too, which is important. In fact, if we remove one of the car seats, there's enough room to climb in and change a diaper back there.

The Corolla features driver's and passenger airbags, a sporty design, and we opted for the 5-speed manual transmission. It's also available in 4-speed automatic, but the husband seems to enjoy changing gears so more power to him. Also important to us, as parents, are the revised safety standards that come with the 2005 model – namely improved side-impact protection. And the CD player rocks with four speakers. Personally I like the power mirrors too, but I'm easily impressed. The cloth interior is really easy to clean; even spilled fruit punch came right out with a little elbow grease.

So maybe I'll never be able to drive a soccer team of screaming six-year-olds to and from their games, but really, I don't see that as much of a bad thing.