With high-tech performance, safety, and convenience features available at all price levels, it's easier than ever to choose a car built for your family's needs.
There’s so much to consider when shopping for your ride: safety, handling, fuel economy, reliability, cup holders... seriously, the process is so daunting it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That’s why Parents has partnered for the tenth year (tenth!) with Edmunds.com, a destination for car shopping. Our top picks meet the needs and the budget of families while keeping you (and your little passengers) safe.
Best Eco-Friendly Car
Chevrolet Bolt EV
Starts at $29,995 (after $7,500 federal tax credit)
MPG equivalent 128 city/ 110 highway
At long last an affordable electric car that can travel far (up to 238 miles) on a charge. And the Bolt does so with panache, from its near-silent cabin to peppy acceleration and sure-footed handling. Screen displays deliver accurate estimates of the remaining battery charge and range. The Bolt has surprising headroom and storage space for its size. Even the base model is equipped with a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot that enables you to connect up to seven devices at once ($20 per month for unlimited data) and a 10.2-inch infotainment color touchscreen.
Starts at $21,695
MPG 26 city/33 highway
Standard all-wheel drive lets you take the Crosstrek camping and brave the snow. It has excellent all-around visibility, cushy seats upholstered in easy to-clean fabric (a huge plus for kid spills), quick acceleration, and a tranquil ride. Voice commands let you change the station without taking your eyes off the road. Are you easily distracted by dropped Binkies and sibling squabbles? For an extra $2,895 you can add helpful safety features like adaptive cruise control (which maintains a safe distance), pre-collision braking, and lane-departure/lane-keep assist functions—along with a moonroof.
Best Small Sedan
Starts at $18,740
MPG 32 city/42 highway
Despite its relatively modest size, the Civic feels substantial and sophisticated, with a roomy trunk that can handle two strollers, an extra-large windshield for enhanced driver visibility, and a continuously variable transmission that improves fuel economy. A sizable storage console conveniently holds a small bag, a tablet, or car toys that might otherwise roll around the floor. The trusty handling is first-rate, and a multi-angle rearview camera is standard. And Honda’s six advanced safety-technology features help you ward off collisions, making them well worth the extra $1,000 investment.
Best Budget Vehicle
Starts at $16,100
MPG 26 city/31 highway
If you’re down with the boxy shape, you’ll really love what’s inside: 61.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity (enough for a nursery’s worth of Ikea items). With notable attention to detail, from ergonomic controls to a six-speaker audio system, the Soul feels like a more expensive car. The entry-level model also includes a USB port, XM Satellite radio, and Bluetooth connectivity, and the ride is surprisingly stable for its size. Move up to the $22,800 Soul! edition, and you’ll enjoy a zippy yet fuel-efficient turbocharged engine, leather seating, and a voice-activated music and entertainment system.
Best Midsize Crossovers
Starts at $24,045
MPG 28 city/34 highway
It’s been one of America’s best-selling crossovers for years, and this all-new version is sure to keep it that way. The CR-V handles with ease, and the cabin is like a hushed sanctuary (well, at least when you’re driving solo). Your in-laws will like the extra rear legroom, while you’ll appreciate the generous seat-down cargo space when you’re doing mega Lowe’s runs. New frills include two ports for charging all your digital devices, an expansive center storage bin for stowing kid stuff, and fat door pockets that hold one-liter water bottles. We highly recommend the $26,695 EX version, which includes adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, and forward collision and lane and road-departure warnings.
Starts at $24,045
MPG 24 city/31 highway
The redesigned CX-5 proves that just because a vehicle is great for shuttling kids and all their stuff doesn’t mean it can’t be sporty and fun. Precise steering and handling translate to instant confidence behind the wheel. Smooth, quiet, and spacious, it comes with Bluetooth, a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen, and a 60/40 split folding rear seat (which leaves room for one child in back while transporting bulky gear). The i-Activesense package ($625) includes automated braking, radar cruise control, and lane- departure warnings, while the $29,395 Grand Touring version is a road-tripping special, with Bose surround-sound audio, heated leather seats, and navigation that beams directions and traffic info onto the windshield, so you can monitor your progress while keeping your eyes on the road.
Starts at $21,950
MPG 25 city/36 highway
Checking every box for families, the Sonata is affordable, effortless to drive, and laden with goodies, like a driver’s knee air bag, a tilt-and telescoping steering wheel, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The roomy backseat holds a trio of tweens without cramping anyone’s style, and everyone will enjoy the serene ride. The $24,350 Sport trim includes push-button start, a power sunroof, and heated front seats, while a $3,400 Tech package on the Limited edition shields little ones’ eyes with retractable sunshades, warms them with heated rear seats, and pleases drivers with seats that have memory settings (for when you switch who’s at the wheel).
Starts at $28,595
MPG 18 city/28 highway
The company that invented the minivan is back in a big way with this stylish, tech-laden family mover. The second-row seats tuck completely into the floor in seconds. Pull a lever and they tilt forward so you can access the third row, even with child seats installed. Active Noise Cancellation makes for a quiet cabin. Your kids will go nuts over the $1,995 theater option, which includes dual 10-inch rear screens (for competing viewing preferences), a Blu-ray player, wireless headphones, USB and HDMI ports, media streaming, and built-in games. And you can dispatch their spilled snacks in a jiffy with the built-in vacuum, standard on the $42,495 Limited.
Starts at $25,645
MPG 25 city/32 highway
There’s nothing quite like the Outback, which has all-wheel drive and lofty ground clearance for exploring unpaved roads yet is thoroughly family friendly, with a low step-in height (bigger kids can get in and out without your help), a folding rear armrest, and a separate climate-control system available in back. Subaru has stepped up the interior with plush seats and user-friendly touchscreens. Road trips are a breeze thanks to the cargo area’s massive capacity, low lift-over height, and a rubber mat to keep things tidy. And new for 2017, the EyeSight safety suite ($1,995) includes automated reverse braking, a potential lifesaver should a child step into your path.
Starts at $30,630
MPG 21 city/27 highway
If you have kids to carpool, the refreshed Highlander is a perfect pick. It fits your whole crew plus their strollers, backpacks, hockey gear, and more. The drive is as smooth as that of luxury SUVs costing $20,000 more, and the V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission give it extra oomph for freeway entrance ramps. A clever dashboard shelf keeps sunglasses within reach, while the enormous center console can swallow a diaper bag. Standard features include three-zone climate control, five charging ports to keep everyone connected, and a safety bundle that includes a collision avoidance system.
5 Honorable Mentions
Starts at $29,990
MPG 19 city/ 28 highway
The redesigned Odyssey has multi- configurable seats and a raft of frills, including a monitor that lets parents keep an eye on the kids in back.
Hyundai Santa Fe
Starts at $30,800
MPG 18 city/ 25 highway
Equal parts practical and affordable, this SUV has a powerful V-6 engine and lots of optional perks, from a power lift gate to an 8-inch touchscreen to automatic emergency braking.
Starts at $17,845
MPG 28 city/ 37 highway
Sedan or hatchback? Either way, the 3 has a sophisticated design, spirited performance, and lavish features at a price that won’t break your budget.
Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 SUV
Starts at $39,150
MPG 22 city/ 28 highway
Families looking for a luxury SUV should give this classy newcomer, laced with creature comforts, a serious look.
Starts at $23,820
MPG 26 city/ 33 highway
This hot-selling crossover is driver-friendly, from its supportive seats to the available hands- free lift gate and surround-view camera that provides 360- degree views (for safer maneuvering in tight quarters).