Five-star overall safety ratings are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the perks of buying one these parent-tested minivans, SUVs, and sedans that scored a spot Parents' annual best cars list.

By Karen Cicero
Updated April 08, 2020
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Priscilla Gragg

This year’s top family cars have stellar safety ratings (of course), plus the extra space, cupholders, and entertainment systems to keep your crew comfy. Here's how we ranked them:

Crash Tests We considered models that received a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which conducts crash tests on new vehicles; a few picks hadn’t received their rating at press time. You can look up results from any year at nhtsa.gov.

Car-Seat Checks Certified child-passenger safety technician Abbie Patterson, owner of the consulting company Super Car Seat Geek, installed an average-size infant seat, convertible seat, harnessed booster, and backless booster in more than 50 contenders.

Behind the Wheel Auto reporter Rob Stumpf took the cars that passed the seat check for a spin—sometimes with his 9-year-old in the back—to evaluate braking, steering, acceleration, tech, and more.

Without further ado, here are our 20 winning family cars of 2020.

Minivans

The stigma is real, but so are the perks: sliding doors that won’t nick nearby cars, cargo space galore, and kid-friendly tech.

Courtesy of Kia

$27,600+/18 to 24 mpg

The Sedona’s starting price is three to five grand less than comparable minivans, giving you a lower monthly payment or wiggle room to add an entertainment system.

How It Drives

It steers as easily as a smaller vehicle so you can pull into tight parking spaces at Target and navigate around road construction cones. The automatic eight-speed transmission, boosted from a six-speed starting with the 2019 model year, helps you shift confidently.

Car-Seat Compatibility

You can fit four to five seats: two in the back row and, if you opt for the LX ($30,400+), potentially three in the middle row. (The entry-level trim includes space for only two second-row passengers.)

Fun Extras

Score a pair of touch screens on the back of the front seats when you add the rear-entertainment package ($1,500) to the EX ($33,700+). Your kids will be thrilled that they can watch their fave Netflix shows.

Courtesy of Chrysler

$39,995+/up to 82 mpg

The only hybrid minivan on the market keeps up with its gas-powered sibling. You’ll offset the higher price with a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 (details at the EPA’s fueleconomy.gov) and savings at the pump. Your family can travel an astounding 520 miles on a full tank and a single charge, twice the distance of most minivans.

How It Drives

It’s nearly as fast as the classic Pacifica. Two electric-drive motors combine with a V-6 engine to give you around 260 horsepower.

Car-Seat Compatibility

You’ll be able to install a seat in each of the captain’s chairs and two more in the third row. Adjustable head restraints in the second row can make installation easier.

Fun Extras

By upgrading to the Hybrid Limited ($45,845+), you’ll nab heated front seats while the kids get 10-inch touch screens on the backs of the front seats that they can use to stream video from a smartphone.

Courtesy of Honda

$30,790+/19 to 28 mpg

You won’t find a vehicle more versatile for carpooling or chauffeuring around a large squad of your own. It holds up to six car seats if you opt for the EX ($34,790+) or higher trim. Plus, Honda upgraded to an automatic ten-speed transmission for 2020 to give you a smoother ride.

How It Drives

The V-6, 280-horsepower engine goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than seven seconds, the fastest of our winning minivans.

Car-Seat Compatibility

With five sets of lower anchors and a tether for every seat in the second and third rows, you can install your seats wherever you’d like.

Fun Extras

When you don’t have the max number of passengers, you can remove the center seat from the middle row and slide the other two seats together to access the back row easily. If you get the rear-entertainment system on the EX-L ($40,160+), kids can watch a Blu-ray or stream video on a 10-inch screen that pulls down from overhead.

Courtesy of Toyota

$31,640+/19 to 27 mpg

It’s the only minivan available with an all-wheel transmission. When you’re racing home from the park in a thunderstorm, you’ll be grateful that you opted for the $2,500 upgrade.

How It Drives

It’s best on the highway, where it sails over bumps with ease and accelerates quickly thanks to the powerful 296-horsepower V-6 engine.

Car-Seat Compatibility

You can fit two car seats or boosters in the second row and two more in the third row. Install a booster seat in the center or driver’s side, where the buckle stalks are less rigid.

Fun Extras

Sibs won’t bicker over whose turn it is to choose the movie thanks to the split screen on the Blu-ray entertainment center with wireless headphones on the XLE ($37,790+) or SE Premium ($43,885+). Baby Shark for the toddler, Toy Story for the older kid, peace and quiet for you!

Three-Row SUVs

They give you loads of space with a sporty design.

Courtesy of Volkswagen

$31,545+/20 to 26 mpg

Even with the lowest starting price of our three-row-SUV winners, it offers a generous four-year or 50,000-mile warranty plus two years of free regularly scheduled maintenance.

How It Drives

It feels comfortable, steering and braking with ease. Safety features like automatic headlights and heated side mirrors come standard.

Car-Seat Compatibility

Opt for bench-style seating to fit three narrow car seats or boosters across the second row and two more in the third row. If you’re installing a high-back booster or a forward-facing car seat in the third row, you may need to remove the head restraint to get the correct angle for the seat. (Replace it if you remove the car seat.)

Fun Extras

On the SE and higher ($34,095), each row has its own climate control so kids can crank up or turn down the AC by themselves.

Courtesy of Toyota

$34,600+/21 to 29 mpg

The Highlander got a makeover for 2020, improving its look, safety features, and engine. A hybrid version ($38,200+) is rolling into dealerships now.

How It Drives

Thanks to a superior suspension system, the Highlander handles far more gracefully than you’d expect for a 4,500-pound vehicle. The new safety systems—including one that displays road signs on your dashboard—come standard.

Car-Seat Compatibility

Go for bench-style seating in the second row rather than captain’s chairs if you need to install four car seats or boosters. You’ll fit three in the second row and another in the center seat of the back row.

Fun Extras

On the XLE model and above ($39,600+), you can wirelessly charge your phone in the center console, plus you’ll get heated front seats.

Courtesy of Subaru

$31,995+/21 to 27 mpg with 18-inch wheels

The entry-level Ascent comes with features—including all-wheel drive—that you’ll pay extra for on other SUVs. The new Rear Seat Reminder will help keep kids from being left in a hot car. On a lighter note, it boasts 19 cupholders.

How It Drives

Its new 2.4-liter turbocharged engine is peppy, and the gas-saving CVT transmission works well.

Car-Seat Compatibility

The Ascent’s cushions are minimally contoured, which may make installing car seats easier. You can fit three narrow seats across the second row and two in the third.

Fun Extras

The Premium model and higher ($34,395+) come with a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Courtesy of Honda

$31,650+/20 to 27 mpg

If you like everything about the Honda Odyssey except that it’s a minivan, the Pilot is a great option. On its rear-entertainment system, kids can watch Blu-ray discs or stream video on a screen that pulls down from overhead.

How It Drives

The ride is quiet and smooth. You can opt for a six- or nine-speed transmission, depending on the trim. Consider the nine if you expect to put on a lot of highway miles.

Car-Seat Compatibility

You can fit up to five car seats: three in the second row and two in the third.

Fun Extras

On the EX and higher ($34,790+), the second-row seats will fold and move forward (even with a car seat installed) when you push a button, making it easier to get to the back.

Courtesy of Nissan

$31,680+/19 to 26 mpg for the four-wheel drive

The standard model comes with high-tech blind-spot monitoring and rear-parking sensors. It was the first SUV to have a system that honks automatically if you open the back door before a trip but not after you arrive, helping to prevent children from being left in a hot car.

How It Drives

Its V-6 engine provides a lot of power, and the steering is great.

Car-Seat Compatibility

You can fit up to three seats in the second row and two boosters in the back.

Fun Extras

The SV Rock Creek Edition ($35,465+) looks swanky thanks to metallic trim pieces and orange stitching on the seats.

Courtesy of Mazda

$33,890/22 to 28 mpg

It’s the most mod-looking SUV in its price range. The curvy shape helps hide its size.

How It Drives

With a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the SUV gives you power when you need it and saves on gas when you don’t. It gets about 15 percent better gas mileage than other vehicles in its class.

Car-Seat Compatibility

You’ll comfortably fit four seats. If you need to install a forward-facing seat in the back row, put it on the passenger’s side since the tether is there. It’s okay to put a booster on the driver’s side.

Fun Extras

If you usually have to stand on your tippy-toes to close your trunk, you’ll love the feature on the Touring model ($38,910) that allows you to program how high you want it to open.

Two-Row SUVs

These models can fit two kids and all their stuff.

Courtesy of Buick

$31,995/22 to 29 mpg

Its noise-cancellation tech helps block outside sounds.

How It Drives

A robust 2.0-liter turbocharged engine paired with a nine-speed transmission offers plenty of speed for highway driving.

Car-Seat Compatibility

The back is roomy enough for three seats. FYI: The center doesn’t have a headrest, so it’s not compatible with a backless booster.

Fun Extras

The brand’s air ionizer helps eliminate odors. Fingers crossed it works for stinky sneakers.

Courtesy of Chevrolet

$23,800+/26 to 31 mpg

You can expect a smooth ride and precise handling.

How It Drives

Its engine is powerful; the Equinox handles much better for its size than you’d expect.

Car-Seat Compatibility

It’s easy to spot the tethers and lower anchors. Since the middle seat doesn’t have a headrest, you can install only a forward-facing seat or a high-back booster there.

Fun Extras

Add wireless headphones and a DVD player for $1,995 on any trim.

Courtesy of Ford

$31,100/21 to 29 mpg

The back row isn’t contoured, so it fits three average-size car seats, one of the few two-row SUVs with this perk.

How It Drives

A forgiving suspension and automatic eight-speed transmission provide a smooth ride.

Car-Seat Compatibility

Fab! We fit an infant seat behind the driver, a narrow booster in the middle, and a forward-facing seat on the passenger’s side.

Fun Extras

Opt for the convenience package ($935) to add wireless charging to the SEL ($34,355+).

Courtesy of GMC

$28,400+/26 to 30 mpg

Beginning this year, the brand’s advanced safety features like automatic emergency braking come standard on all models.

How It Drives

Braking and steering efficiently, it’s a well-rounded choice. The Denali trim ($38,300+) upgrades the suspension for a more comfortable ride

Car-Seat Compatibility

The center seat doesn’t have a head restraint, but you can position a rear-facing or forward-facing car seat there.

Fun Extras

You can add a backseat entertainment system with a DVD player for $1,995.

Courtesy of Subaru

$35,145/up to 90 mpg

You can travel 480 miles on a tank! Apply for a federal tax credit of up to $4,500 to help offset the cost; get details at fueleconomy.gov.

How It Drives

Although it’s not as powerful as its gas-powered counterpart, its suspension makes driving comfy and quiet.

Car-Seat Compatibility

Three seats just fit. A combo that worked: convertible seat behind the passenger, infant seat behind the driver, and narrow booster in the middle.

Fun Extras

The option package ($2,500) adds a power moonroof, a heated steering wheel, and more.

Courtesy of Subaru

$24,495/26 to 33 mpg

It seems tailor-made for a national-park vacay. All-wheel drive comes standard, making it easier to navigate uneven terrain and bad weather.

How It Drives

Its high ground clearance allows it to handle off-the-beaten-path, bumpy terrain.

Car-Seat Compatibility

The driver gets a tad more legroom than in the Crosstrek when a rear-facing seat is installed in the back. But the Forester is less likely than the Crosstrek to fit three car seats.

Fun Extras

The premium ($27,395+) will make a road trip more seamless thanks to raised roof rails for surfboards or other gear.

Family Sedans

For smaller families or city dwellers, or as second cars, these roomy sedans are good buys.

Courtesy of Honda

$25,620+/up to 48 mpg

It costs only $1,750 more than the regular Accord, and you don’t lose any cargo space.

How It Drives

The transition between electric and gas power is seamless.

Car-Seat Compatibility

Three narrow seats fit well. Install a forward-facing car seat or booster on one of the sides rather than the middle.

Courtesy of Subaru

$22,745/27 to 35 mpg

Every Legacy comes with all-wheel drive, giving you more traction in rain and snow.

How It Drives

You’ll get good acceleration and gas mileage thanks to the turbocharged engine.

Car-Seat Compatibility

If you want to put three kids in the back and one needs a rear-facing seat, install it in the center position.

Courtesy of Nissan

$34,250/20 to 30 mpg

Need a four-door sports car you can drive to school pick-up? The 300-horsepower engine and design deliver.

How It Drives

Crisp braking and handling make it easy to wrangle.

Car-Seat Compatibility

You can fit only two kids in the back, but passengers and drivers have legroom when seats are installed behind them.

Courtesy of Toyota

$28,430/up to 53 mpg

It’s a fun commuter car that’s still roomy enough to haul two kids around on the weekend.

How It Drives

It’s lively for a hybrid, so you can merge on the highway with ease.

Car-Seat Compatibility

The lower anchors and tethers are easy to spot. If you need to install only one seat, put it on the passenger’s side.

Browse More Best Car Winners

Want more buying options? Check out our 2020 winners for teens learning to drive and our favorite luxury car picks for the whole family:

Illustration by Francesca Spatola; Courtesy of Chevrolet
Illustration by Francesca Spatola; Courtesy of Acura

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Comments (1)

Anonymous
April 3, 2019
Great overview, Karen. I write for a lot of automotive publications and you nailed this list.