Best Family Cars of 2013

Family cars keep getting safer, smarter, and more value-packed. Good news: This year's top models are cool-looking and fun too.

If you haven't bought a new car for a few years, you'll find that a lot has changed. Higher mileage standards have pushed manufacturers to add fresh technology under the hood, helping models become more fuel-efficient than ever. And the digital revolution has made its way to the dashboard, where an impressive array of music, navigation, and other electronic options makes it easy to customize your ride on the go. To select the best 2013 vehicles for families, Parents teamed with Edmunds.com, the top online car-buying resource, for the sixth year in a row. As always, safety is our number-one priority: Our picks excel in crash tests, and all come equipped with electronic stability control (to help prevent rollover accidents) and at least six air bags to keep you and your precious cargo safe. We also selected stylish rides young parents will be proud to show off, with standard features that make every drive more pleasant for you and your kids.

Best Budget Cars

Subaru Impreza

  • Starts at $17,895
  • MPG 27 city/36 highway
  • Steering-wheel audio controls standard
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick
  • USB jack standard
  • Bluetooth capability standard
  • 5 passenger capacity
  • 2 car-seat capacity

Subaru Impreza

All-wheel drive is standard on this compact, making it a foul-weather standout -- and a great value -- for adventurous families. While the basic model is a sedan, families may find the wagon-style Sport version (starting at $20,795) more practical for toting along strollers, sports gear, and other bulky items. Expansive rear visibility helps you back up safely. The Impreza feels quick and stable on the freeway, and it boasts mileage more typical of a smaller, less powerful car. Another plus: You can add features such as a two-prong outlet for your kids' games ($260) and an organizing tray for the center storage box ($30) as à la carte options.

"The Impreza's all-wheel drive is fantastic in snow and icy conditions. It's very comfortable for a compact, and the ride is surprisingly quiet too." -- Jenny Newell; Kelowna, BC, Canada

 

Honda Civic

  • Starts at $18,165
  • MPG 28 city/39 highway
  • Steering-wheel audio controls standard
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick
  • Hybrid version available
  • USB jack standard
  • Bluetooth capability standard
  • 5 passenger capacity
  • 2 car-seat capacity

Honda Civic

Agile around town and stable on the open road, the refreshed Civic is a big winner. The slanted dashboard makes it easy to access controls without taking your eyes off the road, and the rearview camera, a helpful safety feature, is standard. It has a sliding front armrest that fits drivers of all sizes. Many buyers will be content with the base LX model, which comes with a smartphone-style LCD screen that's compatible with an iPod (so you can play your favorite tunes). Rear-seat heating ducts will keep your kids cozy, and the excellent fuel economy is sure to save you plenty at the pump.

 

Best Sedans

Ford Fusion

  • Starts at $21,900
  • MPG 22 city/34 highway
  • Steering-wheel audio controls standard
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick
  • Hybrid version available
  • USB jack standard
  • Bluetooth capability standard
  • 5 passenger capacity
  • 3 car-seat capacity

Ford Fusion

At first glance you might confuse this sporty-looking car with an Aston Martin, but the retooled Fusion is actually a versatile, roomy sedan that delivers a lot of bang for the buck. Its handsome interior will soothe harried parents, as will thoughtful touches like a storage tray that's big enough to hold a purse. The trunk can accommodate stock-up runs to Costco and even your family's luggage for a road trip; the capless gas tank keeps your hands clean during self-serve fill-ups. All three engine choices are robust four cylinders that optimize fuel economy while still providing highway passing power. All-wheel drive is available, though only on the top-end Titanium line, which costs around $32,000.

"The Fusion's tight steering is great for city driving, and the remote start is a luxury for warming up the car before taking our 1-year-old to day care." -- Kathryn Jacobi; Ann Arbor, Michigan

 

Honda Accord

  • Starts at $21,680
  • MPG 27 city/36 highway
  • Steering-wheel audio controls standard
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick
  • USB jack standard
  • Bluetooth capability standard
  • 5 passenger capacity
  • 3 car-seat capacity

Honda Accord

With its spacious cabin, taut handling, great mileage, and impressive standard features, the redesigned Accord is hard to beat. Every version comes with a rearview camera, dual-zone climate control (so you and your partner both stay comfy), and a rear-seat armrest with cup holders; push it up and you'll have no trouble fitting three car seats. The touch-screen display in higher trim lines organizes the audio and climate systems as well as customizable settings for the power windows, locks, and lights. The thrifty four-cylinder engine will keep your gas bills down while still generating ample oomph. There's also a $40,000 plug-in version that can go 10 miles on electric power before the gas engine kicks in.

 

Best Hybrid

Toyota Prius C

  • Starts at $19,080
  • MPG 53 city/46 highway
  • Steering-wheel audio controls standard
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick
  • USB jack standard
  • Bluetooth capability standard
  • 5 passenger capacity
  • 2 car-seat capacity

Toyota Prius C

This baby Prius is a terrific bargain for families with up to two kids looking to save at the dealership and the filling station. Every version comes with a whopping nine air bags, including ones in the front-seat cushions that prevent you from slipping beneath your seat belt in a crash. For another $950 you can upgrade to a trim line with conveniences like a folding rear seat, which makes it possible to stash a portable crib in back while still enabling you to transport your baby. Crisp handling makes this a fun errand-mobile, and the outstanding mileage can save a typical driver $500 annually in gas compared with a conventional compact.

 
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