Beyond the Minivan: The Best Family Cars We Could Find

Families deserve more than beat-up minivans that smell like spilled coffee and stale Goldfish. Every parent should have a car they can love: a ride that’s smooth, spacious, sexy and safe. Here are ten of the best family cars, from compacts to three-row SUVs.

The Best Small Family Cars

Model Base MSRP Gas Mileage Seating Capacity IIHS Safety Rating
2017 Kia Soul $16,100 28 mpg 5 Good
2017 Prius Prime $27,100 54 mpg/133 mpg 5 Top Safety Pick +
2017 Honda Civic $18,740 36 mpg 5 Top Safety Pick +

Who said a family car has to be big? For families with one or two kids, a compact sedan or hatchback is the perfect run-around vehicle. Plus, they can take the money they’re saving on gas and splurge on a girls’ weekend getaway.

best small family carsThe Kia Soul is a perennial favorite mom car for its melding of cute style and practicality. Fun exterior in colors from Alien Yellow to Inferno Red? Check.

Solid 24/31 city/highway gas mileage? Check.

Luxury and safety options like a panoramic sunroof, a lane departure system and forward collision warning? Check.

It’s affordable, too, and was named one of U.S. News’ 2016 Best Cars for Families.

The Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid, turns heads with its new profile and futuristic headlights. Eco-minded parents will love its ability to travel up to 25 miles in EV mode before switching to gas. It’s also a star for fuel efficiency: 55/53 mpg city/highway. Car and Driver calls the Prius Prime “a dolphin on roller skates.” We think it’s pretty cute — especially in the aqua “Blue Magnetism” color.

Your parents probably drove a Honda Civic in college, but this sporty little car has grown up along with them. The Civic earns a place on every list of the best small family cars by hitting all the essential sweet spots: appealing looks, tight handling, superb safety ratings and great gas mileage. Plus, the turbo hatchback version is back in 2017.

Buy the Honda Sensing package, Kelley Blue Book urges: “Honda Sensing includes an enlightened suite of safety/convenience features that are rare — almost non-existent — in compact cars. These features include adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist and frontal crash warning system.”

The Best Mid-Size Family Cars

Model Base MSRP Gas Mileage Seating Capacity IIHS Safety Rating
2017 Kia Optima $22,200 31 mpg 5 Top Safety Pick
2017 Hyundai Sonata $21,600 31 mpg 5 Top Safety Pick
2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid $24,120 40 mpg 5 Good (acceptable rating for small overlap front crashes)

When your kid starts kicking the back of your seat, maybe it’s time to upgrade to a bigger sedan. Here are three of the best mid-size family cars that any parent will love.

Kia has made its name selling luxe-feeling cars for budget prices, and the Kia Optima is a perfect example. Redesigned in 2017, the Optima has an upscale interior and comfortable seating. Optional safety features include Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), which automatically brakes when it senses a crash is imminent; a Surround View Monitor; adaptive cruise control; and a forward collision warning system. It also gets 25 city/37 highway miles per gallon.

favorite family carThe Hyundai Sonata is one of the best family cars for a comfy interior and smooth ride. The trunk is roomy, the seats are cushy and the price is right, with a remarkably low base price for a midsize car. It’s also highly rated for safety.

The Ford C-Max Hybrid is a spacious wagon with all the headroom and legroom a family needs. While it doesn’t look like a super-sporty family car, “its agile handling and fine-tuned suspension make the C-Max Hybrid fun to drive,” U.S. News says.

It’s cute in an ugly-duckling kind of way, and its 38 city/42 highway gas mileage is appealing.

The Best Family SUVs

Model Base MSRP Gas Mileage Seating Capacity IIHS Safety Rating
2017 Subaru Forester $22,595 28 mpg 5 Top Safety Pick+
2017 Honda PIlot $30,595 22 mpg 7 Top Safety Pick+
2017 Chevrolet Tahoe $47,215 19 mpg 7-9 n/a
2017 Volvo XC90 $45,750 23 mpg 5-7 Top Safety Pick

best family suvIt’s hard to beat SUVs for space and safety. The Subaru Forester is a Top Safety Pick + and one of Consumer Reports’ best all-around cars of the year. Once a boxy wagon, the Forester has evolved into an athletic-looking small SUV that will keep the kids safe whether you’re embarking on a road trip or just running Sunday morning errands. “There’s nothing super flashy about this crossover, but Subaru is a believer in offering functional simplicity,” Edmunds says.

If you have three or four (or more) kids, a third-row SUV is the way to go. But these don’t have to be behemoths! The Honda Pilot is one of the best family SUVs — and one of the top three-row SUVs for the money, U.S. News reports. It’s sleek and fun, and seats up to 8. The kids might fight over the heated second-row captain’s chairs, but you can distract them with the built-in entertainment system.

The Chevy Tahoe also seats up to 8 and ranks as one of Kelley Blue Book’s best buys of 2016: “In the end the Tahoe’s unique combination of style, comfort economy and value again found it placed at the head of the class.” It’s cushy, it’s spacious and it drives like a dream.

The Volvo XC90 stands out as U.S. News’ best luxury 3-row SUV for families, which means it’s also the best family SUV for those who want style plus safety. If Scandinavian design makes her swoon, she’ll love the leather and birchwood details on the interior. The Excellence model includes massage seats and a tiny fridge in the rear with two handcrafted crystal glasses. Volvo calls it “part car, part spa” — and to help Mom relax, it comes with park assist pilot, an optional built-in booster seat and ultra-advanced safety features.

The Best Car Insurance for the Best Family Cars

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