The Best Family Cars of 2008

Are you in the market for a new car? We teamed up with Edmunds.com to rate the safest, most kid-friendly, comfortable, affordable, and cool-to-drive cars out there this year.

  • Courtesy of Honda

    Best Crossovers: Honda CR-V

    Buying a new car is one of the most important decisions you'll make for your family. It's also one of the toughest. There are hundreds of models on the market. How do you find a vehicle that's safe, kid-friendly, comfortable, affordable, and cool to drive?


    Simple: Read our guide. This year, Parents has joined with Edmunds.com, the leading online resource for car buyers, to make your selection easier. The 15 vehicles on our list cover a range of sizes, styles, and price points. What they share is a commitment to safety: These crossovers, SUVs, minivans, sedans, and best-value cars rank at or near the top in government and industry crash tests*, and all offer cutting-edge technologies to protect you and your kids. Our winners also have a strong track record for reliability and performance. But just to be sure, we asked parents who own these models to weigh in on factors like storage space, ease of car-seat installation, and handling. Ready for your test drive? Check out our slideshow.


    Best Crossovers: Honda CR-V


    It's easy to see why these versatile models are gaining popularity: They provide a carlike ride, the roominess of a wagon, and impressive standard safety features.

    Price: $20,700 to $29,035


    Mileage: 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway


    Family features: Don't be fooled by its slick styling. This crossover has everything you need for a young, growing family: spacious and reclining rear seats, comfortable captain's chairs, eight cup holders, and more than a dozen storage nooks for your kids' gear (and yours). Stability control, antilock brakes, and side-curtain air bags are standard. Affordable options include a moon roof and a cool cargo organizer in the rear. The perky four-cylinder engine gives you good gas mileage, and the ride is so smooth your kids will fall asleep quickly at naptime.


    Owner feedback: "The CR-V drives as crisply as my old Accord did. Putting in car seats is a breeze. And I like that the rear seats shift forward when we need extra storage space in back."
    -- Jennifer F.; Houston, Texas


    Safety ratings NHTSA: 10 out of 10 frontal, 10 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good frontal, good side; also listed as a Top Safety Pick.

  • Courtesy of Nissan

    Best Crossovers: Nissan Rogue

    Price: $19,250 to $21,870


    Mileage: 22 mpg city/27 mpg highway


    Family features: The brand-new Rogue has two irresistible qualities: a sleek, modern design and a very modest sticker price. The interior is bland but functional, with lots of storage compartments, easy-to-use controls, and room for three car seats in back. The advanced transmission makes for a quiet ride and quick acceleration, so it's a blast to drive. Stability control and side-curtain air bags are standard, and the option list is long, including all-wheel drive, a hands-free Bluetooth phone system, steering-wheel controls, storage organizers, and a high-tech audio system.


    Owner feedback: "This is the family car to own. The handling is superior, the seats are roomy, the car-seat system was easy to use, and the rear climate control keeps my boys comfortable -- while the outlet for their DVD player keeps them happy."
    -- Colleen H.; Deptford, New Jersey


    Safety ratings: NHTSA: 9 out of 10 frontal, 10 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Not tested.

  • Courtesy of Toyota

    Best Crossovers: Toyota RAV4

    Price: $21,250 to $27,505


    Mileage: 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway


    Family features: The RAV4 has lots of storage space, cushy front seats, and great standard safety features (including side-curtain air bags and stability control). But what really sets this crossover apart is its agility in traffic jams and crowded parking lots. The reclining rear seats slide forward and back, so you can move your baby closer to you or give adults extra legroom. Toyota has even managed to shoehorn in an optional third row, which is handy for carpooling. And if you want a little extra power on the highway, you can spring for the powerful V-6 engine.


    Owner feedback: "The drive is smooth, with a terrific turning radius for its size and great stopping ability. The cargo area is very easy to load. My son's car seat installs easily on either side, but fitting three in back is a squeeze."
    -- Adam R.; Mansfield, Connecticut


    Safety ratings NHTSA: 9 out of 10 frontal, 10 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good frontal, good side.

  • Courtesy of Saturn

    Best SUVs: Saturn Outlook

    Do you have a big crew? These safety-packed models have a standard third row, making them nearly as practical as a minivan (with more style). Each also offers all-wheel drive for better traction on bad roads.


    Price: $28,995 to $33,405


    Mileage: 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway


    Family features: If you think Saturn doesn't make stand-out cars, this one is bound to change your, well, Outlook. It handles like a midsize sedan yet has all the space you'd expect in a full-size SUV: There's room for eight (with a middle-row bench seat), the third row is big enough for grown-ups, and the storage options are seemingly endless. The second-row seats slide forward, so you can comfort your infant without straining your neck. Stability control, side-curtain air bags, and rear-seat temperature controls are standard. And if you want a plusher cabin, you can try the Outlook's upscale cousin, the GMC Acadia.


    Owner feedback: "After owning two vans, we worried about the interior space. But there's plenty, even in the third row. My kids love the excellent DVD system and the glass roof, and I'm happy with the responsive steering and nice ride." -Craig A.; Roanoke, Virginia


    Safety ratings NHTSA: 10 out of 10 frontal, 10 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Not tested.

  • Courtesy of Toyota

    Best SUVs: Toyota Highlander

    Price: $27,300 to $40,635


    Mileage: 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway


    Family features: The newly redesigned Highlander is bigger and more powerful than ever -- and better for families too. Simplified controls mean less fumbling to adjust the temperature or wiper settings. There's a heavy emphasis on backseat comfort, with standard rear heat vents and second-row seats that recline as well as slide forward and back. The middle portion of the second row converts from a seat to a console, providing extra storage (or separation between feuding siblings). And stability control and side-curtain air bags are standard.


    Owner feedback: "We drive to Vermont every weekend during ski season, and there's room for all our gear. It's super quiet, so our kids stay asleep through the road bumps, and I'm getting even better mileage than the EPA estimates."
    -- Peter C. L.; Southbridge, Massachusetts


    Safety ratings NHTSA: 9 out of 10 frontal, 10 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good frontal, good side; also listed as a Top Safety Pick.

  • Courtesy of Hyundia

    Best SUVs: Hyundai Veracruz

    Price: $26,900 to $36,445


    Mileage: 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway


    Family features: If you like getting more features for the money, check out the Veracruz. The base model of this well-made "family-mobile" includes rear A/C controls, heated mirrors, and cushy carpeting. Add a sunroof, heated seats, and a backup warning system and you'll still spend less than $30,000. But this is more than a bargain SUV. It has a luxurious ride, and safety is a high priority, with side-curtain air bags and stability control included on all models. You'll also appreciate the deep cargo capacity and high, commanding view of the road.


    Owner feedback: "It's a pleasure to drive and as easy to park as a sedan. The legroom is generous, we can fit two car seats plus a booster in back, and I like that the third row folds down for extra storage."
    -- Lisa S.; Fallston, Maryland


    Safety ratings NHTSA: 10 out of 10 frontal, 10 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good frontal, good side; also listed as a Top Safety Pick.

  • Courtesy of Honda

    Best Minivans: Honda Odyssey

    For carpools and road trips, minivans still offer the most passenger space, storage nooks, and flexible seating options. And with their great safety ratings, you can drive with confidence.


    Price: $25,860 to $41,245


    Mileage: 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway


    Family features: The Odyssey puts every square inch of space to good use. There are so many storage crannies (including two glove boxes, a well under the floor, and 13 cup holders) you may never find them all. The third-row seat folds flat in two sections with a flick of the wrist, so you can store all your luggage. Side-curtain air bags protect all three rows, and stability control is standard. The ride is supersmooth. And the convenient add-ons include power sliding doors and a three-zone climate system.


    Owner feedback: "I love the nimble handling, the illuminated dashboard, and the fish-eye mirror, which lets me keep an eye on the kids in back. My wife and I appreciate the dual-zone climate controls, since I'm always hot and she's always cold."
    -- Steve Peterson; Washington, Illinois


    Safety ratings: NHTSA: 10 out of 10 frontal, 10 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good frontal, good side; also listed as a Top Safety Pick.

  • Courtesy of Dodge

    Best Minivans: Dodge Grand Caravan

    Price: $22,470 to $40,455


    Mileage: 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway


    Family features: The redesigned Grand Caravan undercuts its top competitors by several thousand dollars. But it doesn't skimp on safety (side-curtain air bags and stability control are standard), cool features (including power windows on the sliding doors), or quality (the ride is stable and quiet). This van has generous storage space and mom-friendly touches, like removable cup-holder liners you can throw in the dishwasher. The second- and third-row bucket seats can fold flat, a plus for runs to Home Depot. For long trips, the optional "swivel and go" second-row seats -- which spin around to face back-row passengers and include a table that pops up for games or meals -- can turn this minivan into a mini RV. And the nifty options include heated seats and a remote starter.


    Owner feedback: "The adjustable steering wheel and pedals make me feel more comfortable than I normally am driving a large vehicle. The back-up camera is great for parking. It's easy to put in our car seats. Plus I love the grocery-bag hooks."
    -- Nicole M.; Union, New Jersey


    Safety ratings: NHTSA: 10 out of 10 frontal, 10 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Not tested.

  • Courtesy of Toyota

    Best Minivans: Toyota Sienna

    Price: $24,340 to $38,325


    Mileage: 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway


    Family features: The Sienna is quick and stable on the road, and it has more gizmos than you ever knew you needed: a folding tray between the front seats, a stowable third-row seat, 14 cup holders, three outlets, even a special storage nook for your garage-door opener. It's the only minivan available with all-wheel drive (side-curtain air bags and stability control are standard), and the neat trick-out options include power sliding doors and laser cruise control, which causes the vehicle to slow down automatically when it detects a car ahead.


    Owner feedback: "Since we drive our kids to preschool in Minnesota winters, we love the all-wheel drive and heated outside mirrors. Plus, the car-seat system is easier to use than in other minivans we tested."
    -- Theresa O.; Prior Lake, Minnesota


    Safety ratings: NHTSA: 9 out of 10 frontal, 10 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good frontal, good side.

  • Courtesy of Honda

    Best Sedans: Honda Accord

    Just because you prefer a standard 4-door car doesn't mean you have to give up a roomy feel. These sedans are comfy, powerful, and easy to maneuver in traffic and parking lots.


    Price: $20,360 to $30,895


    Mileage: 19 mpg city/31 mpg highway


    Family features: The Accord has long been a safe, reliable crowd-pleaser. And the newly redesigned '08 model, which has a sleeker design, extra space, and clever touches like a sliding front armrest and a radio system that stores music, is bound to be another blockbuster. The base model comes with side-curtain air bags, antilock brakes, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls (which make it easier to keep your eyes on the road). While a revved-up V-6 engine is available, the four-cylinder is plenty peppy for most families and gets better mileage. The roomy rear lets you install car seats without straining your back, while the Accord's superb handling makes the driving part easy.


    Owner feedback: "It's a lot of car for the money -- spacious, fun to drive, easy to park, and very stylish. The front seats are supportive, the trunk space is huge, and my kids, 4 and 6, can climb in and out easily."
    -- Michael H.; O'Fallon, Missouri


    Safety ratings: NHTSA: 10 out of 10 frontal, 9 out of 10 side (8 out of 10 with all-wheel drive), 5 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good frontal, good side; also listed as a Top Safety Pick.

  • Courtesy of Ford

    Best Sedans: Ford Fusion

    Price: $18,010 to $25,350


    Mileage: 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway


    Family features: The Fusion is a top sedan at a mid-range price. The cabin is just right: large enough to install car seats without a hassle but compact enough to reach back to wipe your little one's nose or replace a Binky. You'll appreciate the grocery-bag hooks, a two-tier armrest that accommodates both short and tall drivers, and the hidden storage box atop the instrument panel. The ride is smooth yet sporty, and the safety factor gets a boost from standard antilock brakes and side-curtain air bags. Want more pizzazz? Opt for a leather steering wheel, power seats, heated mirrors, and automatic headlamps, and you'll still drive away for about $20,000.


    Owner feedback: "The trunk is large for a sedan, and the rear is roomy: You can fit a car seat in the middle and adults on either side. The engine has plenty of oomph, and the fuel economy is excellent."
    -- Michael Lavander; Westland, Michigan


    Safety ratings: NHTSA: 10 out of 10 frontal, 9 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover (5 out of 5 with all-wheel drive). IIHS: Good frontal, good side.

  • Courtesy of Chevrolet

    Best Sedans: Chevrolet Malibu

    Price: $19,995 to $26,995


    Mileage: 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway


    Family features: This is not your mom's Malibu -- and that's a good thing. The all-new 2008 version has hip styling, a spacious interior (three fit in back without elbow-knocking), and thoughtful features like large rear-seat pockets for your kids' books or toys. The four-cylinder engine is very perky. The Malibu's early safety numbers are strong, and we like the fact that antilock brakes and side-curtain air bags are standard on all models. But why not treat yourself to heated seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a remote starter that lets you get the heater or A/C going before you get in? After all, you're a lot cooler than your mother.


    Owner feedback: "This car is better than its competitors. The handling is exceptional, and the ride is supersmooth. The OnStar navigation system is very helpful, and it's easy to click a car seat in and out -- a big plus considering I have six kids."
    -- Adam H.; Las Vegas, Nevada


    Safety ratings: NHTSA: 10 out of 10 frontal, side not tested, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good frontal, side not tested.

  • Courtesy of Honda

    Best Values: Honda Civic

    Don't be fooled by their price tag. These models -- perfect for small families and as second cars -- get high marks for safety (all come standard with side-impact and side-curtain air bags) and dependability.


    Price: $15,010 to $23,235


    Mileage: 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway


    Family features: Why has the Civic made our list for six years running? Because it provides amazing bang for the buck and because it proves that thrifty doesn't have to mean dull. The funky instrument panel -- speedometer on the top, tachometer on the bottom -- mimics a handheld video game. But the Civic is no toy. Its highway performance feels like that of a bigger sedan, and the can-do little engine gets great mileage. Antilock brakes and advanced frontal, side-impact, and side-curtain air bags are standard. Rear heat ducts will keep your kids comfy, and a brilliant parent must have thought of the scuff-resistant material behind the front seats.


    Owner feedback: "It has plenty of room for our two kids plus an occasional friend in back. My daughter loves the MP3 input jack for her iPod, while my son adores the sunroof. And I'm partial to the leather seats, responsive steering, and great gas mileage."
    -- Chris W.; Rosedale, Maryland


    Safety ratings: NHTSA: 10 out of 10 frontal, 9 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good frontal, good side.

  • Courtesy of Kia

    Best Values: Kia Rondo

    Price: $16,995 to $20,795


    Mileage: 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway


    Family features: Call it the minivan lite. This oblong model offers tremendous versatility and strong safety ratings in a tidy, affordable package. The cabin has split-folding rear seats, hidden storage beneath the cargo area, and front and rear power outlets. An optional third row boosts the seating capacity to seven, which is unrivaled in this class. The Rondo's ride is sturdy, though the V-6 engine is a worthwhile upgrade for drivers who want a bit more dash. And options such as keyless entry, leather upholstery, and heated seats give it a posh feel, especially for the economy price.


    Owner feedback: "Our family of five did a round-trip to Colorado quite comfortably in our Rondo. It's less clunky and lower to the ground than a minivan, but it still has lots of storage space. The pickup is nice, and I find it easier to install car seats in it than in any vehicle I've ever driven."
    -- Stephanie P.; Valparaiso, Indiana


    Safety ratings: NHTSA: 10 out of 10 frontal, 9 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Not rated.

  • Courtesy of Nissan

    Best Values: Nissan Versa

    Price: $12,630 to $15,630


    Mileage: 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway


    Family features: Most subcompacts are so light they blow around on the highway in a stiff breeze. Not the well-built Versa, which has surprising room and a strong safety resume. The base model is lean, but if you opt for power windows and locks, cruise control, a center storage console, front and rear armrests, and antilock brakes, you and your little ones will feel quite cozy. And the ride is surprisingly comfortable on the highway. If you plan to do ginormous grocery runs, go for the hatchback version, which provides easier loading and rear seats that fold flat.


    Owner feedback: "Our car seats were easy to install, there's lots of storage space, and our fold-up stroller fits easily in the trunk. My 4-year-old loves the fact that she feels close to us but still has plenty of playing space in back."
    -- Carmen P.; Jacksboro, Tennessee


    Safety ratings: NHTSA: 8 out of 10 frontal, 8 out of 10 side, 4 out of 5 rollover. IIHS: Good frontal, good side.


    *Crash-test results, adapted from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), are based on a 10-point scale for frontal and side-impact crashes and a five-point scale for rollover resistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) assigns cars four ratings for frontal and side: good, acceptable, marginal, or poor; it also designates top-performing cars as "Top Safety Picks." Not all cars are crash-tested. Some ratings refer to prior model years but only when the design is the same as the 2008 version. For the most up-to-date safety ratings, visit safercar.gov and iihs.org. Prices include delivery fees and represent base prices for all trim lines. Mileage ratings vary depending on the engine. Some options listed are not available on all models or trim lines.




    Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the March 2008 issue of Parents magazine.