To steer you toward the best choices, Parents teamed up with the experts at the American Automobile Association (AAA) to pick the 15 top family vehicles of the year. These models meet all the driving demands of busy parents-reliability, value, style, convenience, comfort, and superior road performance. And they'll keep your family safe: All score at or near the top in government and industry crash-test ratings.* We also recruited Parents editors and readers to take every selected vehicle for an extended test drive—and to weigh in on everything from how easy it is to install a car seat to how the trunk space measures up for a family trip. So before you get in the driver's seat, read on.
These family-friendly models handle as well as many passenger cars—and fit five (or more) easily. A number of new features have beefed up the safety factor of these SUVs too.
$35,985 to $46,090
15 mpg city/22 mpg highway
Family Attractions: With side-impact and side-curtain air bags, a rollover prevention system, and whiplash-protection seating all standard, the XC90 is one of the safest SUVs on the road. The middle seat in the second row slides forward so you can retrieve your baby's Binky more easily. Carpoolers can opt for the third-row add-on-and increase seating from five to seven. Luxury features include 12 cup holders, grocery-bag hooks, and three power outlets for your electronic essentials.
Real-Life Road Test: "The seats are so plush that my wife, who was seven months pregnant, stayed comfortable on a three-hour drive, and the optional built-in booster for our 6-year-old saved us extra schlepping."
-David Sparrow, senior editor, Parents
Safety Rating NHSTA: 9 out of 10 frontal; 10 out of 10 side; 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good; also listed as a Best Pick.
$27,580 to $30,030
20 mpg city/25 mpg highway
Family Attractions: High seating makes even shorter-than-average moms feel confident at the wheel. Yet the Murano still hugs the road well. Storage bins are handy for wipes and toys. There's no third row (which limits seating to five), but the rear seat and cargo area can easily handle a week's worth of groceries. Side-curtain and side-impact air bags are standard, and stability control is optional on some trim lines.
Real-Life Road Test: "The Murano fits in parking spaces bigger SUVs don't. Its peppy response is great for merging into traffic. And since I'm always cold and my husband's always hot, the optional individual temperature controls made us both happy."
-Lynn Castro Kosinski, senior designer, Ser Padres
Safety Rating NHSTA: Frontal and side not yet tested; 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good; also listed as a Best Pick.
$27,845 to $36,486
14 mpg city/21 mpg highway
Family Attractions: Don't be fooled by its rugged looks; the Durango is really a minivan in bad-boy clothing. The interior has all the cup holders, trays, and storage bins you'd expect from a family vehicle. Second-row seats recline-perfect for older kids who need a nap. Antilock brakes are standard, and true four-wheel drive is available for those who like to go off-road.
Real-Life Road Test: "Loading our 6-month-old son was a breeze thanks to the extra-wide doors and the easy-to-use LATCH system anchors. The Durango is a great Mom-mobile for carpooling—with the third row installed, you could fit five kids with car seats in back."
-Heather Gowen Walsh, senior editor, Parents
Safety Rating NHSTA: 10 out of 10 frontal; not tested for side; 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Not tested.
* Crash-test results from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are not available for all vehicles. NHTSA ratings are on a ten-point scale for frontal and side ratings and a five-star scale for rollover. Some ratings refer to prior model years, but only when the design is the same as the 2005 version. For the most up-to-date safety ratings, log on to safercar.gov and iihs.org. Prices include delivery fees and represent base prices for all trim lines. Mileage rates vary depending on engine. Some options listed are not available on all models.