For the fifth year in a row, Parents has partnered with the car experts at the American Automobile Association (AAA) to select the top 15 family vehicles of the year. Safety is our number-one concern: These SUVs, crossovers, minivans, sedans, and economy cars performed strongly in government and industry crash tests, and they offer the latest safety technologies to keep you and your little ones secure. Our own driving tests (conducted by Parents staffers and readers) confirm that our picks provide a perfect mix of performance, reliability, comfort, and bang for the buck. We made sure car seats fit without a struggle and that there's plenty of space to stow our kiddie gear.
These models offer the best of both worlds: the sure handling of a car with the space and storage of a small SUV -- and decent gas mileage too.
Price: $21,495 to $26,420
Mileage: 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway
Family frills: This crossover darts in and out of traffic like a nimble sedan, yet it's roomier than you'd expect. Among its clever features: a concealed bin beneath the cargo area and two large glove compartments for all your extras. The rear seats slide forward and back, so you can have your kids ride closer to you -- or give adults more legroom. They also recline for naps and fold down in a jiffy in case you need to reach the optional third row. The cushy front seats and armrests are a blessing during long drives. And the RAV4's standard safety package includes side-curtain air bags and stability control.
Real-life road test: "It's an ideal pick for families who don't want to spend a fortune -- or guzzle gas. The cargo space is outstanding, and the optional V-6 engine gives it amazing passing power on the highway. Plus, the RAV4 fits into small parking spaces an SUV never would." -- David Sparrow, senior editor, Parents
Safety ratings: NHTSA: 9 out of 10 frontal, 10 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good frontal, good side.
Price: $14,135 to $21,080
Mileage: 23 mpg city/32 mpg highway
Family frills: The Caliber's kid-friendly options include stain-resistant upholstery and a refrigerated beverage holder that works nicely for formula. Standard features include side-curtain air bags and a sliding center armrest that accommodates drivers of different sizes. Definitely opt for the side-impact air bags to improve its safety factor.
Real-life road test: "There was room in back for my two boys and our big dog, and I love the multiple storage areas." -- Judy Goldberg, senior editor, Parents
Safety ratings: NHTSA: 10 out of 10 frontal, 10 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good frontal, marginal side.
Price: $26,055 to $29,805
Mileage: 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway
Family frills: The Edge has the rugged feel of an SUV, but its cushiony seats and responsive ride make it seem more like a sedan. The V-6 engine is potent yet quiet. The sizable cargo area fits all the soccer gear in your kids' carpool. And the Edge comes with side-impact air bags, side-curtain air bags, and stability control.
Real-life road test: "The rear seat is roomy enough for three child safety seats, the center console in front holds a ton of stuff, and I liked the high, SUV-like seating." -- Jeffrey Saks, creative director, Parents
Safety ratings: NHTSA: Not tested for frontal, 10 out of 10 side, not tested for rollover. IIHS: Good frontal, good side; also listed as a Top Safety Pick.