Family vehicles aren't a one-size-fits-all proposition. The needs of a single mom parenting an only child in the city will be vastly different from those of a suburban couple raising a brood of five kids. One thing's for certain, though: The current crop of family vehicles is incredibly diverse and brimming with talent. No matter what your needs are as a parent, there's a model out there that's an ideal fit for you and your family.
Top 10 Family Vehicles for 2014
When evaluating vehicles, safety was a top priority. All our picks boast excellent crash-test scores. Many are available with the latest electronic safety features, such as blind-spot monitors and collision-mitigation systems. We also considered overall family-friendliness, and our picks offer useful amenities designed to help you and your family travel in comfort.
Best Budget Cars
With economy cars, there was a time when you got exactly what you paid for, but the Fiesta proves those days are behind us. Available for less than $15,000, this Ford is one of the least expensive new cars on the market, but it offers feature content and overall quality that belie its humble price tag. Standard features include Bluetooth, voice controls and a driver knee airbag. Upscale amenities like keyless ignition are offered as options. Its responsive handling makes the Fiesta one of the most fun-to-drive cars in its segment and it's also one of the most fuel-efficient. With the available EcoBoost engine, it gets an impressive 37 mpg combined (32 city/45 highway). It's available as either a sedan or a four-door hatchback.
Sharp handling and quick acceleration combine to make the Mazda 3 a true driver's car, but its list of assets doesn't end there. The Mazda 3's cabin is a pleasure to experience, with impressive refinement and intuitive controls. Available safety features include a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alerts, a lane departure warning system and a collision-mitigation system. The Mazda 3 is available as either a sedan or a four-door hatchback and fuel economy is exceptional with both configurations. The sedan has an EPA rating of 34 mpg combined (30 city/41 highway).
For many, the Prius is the definitive hybrid and it works hard to earn this accolade. Car buyers expect outstanding fuel efficiency from a hybrid and with an EPA rating of 50 mpg combined (51 city/48 highway), the Prius definitely delivers. It's a car that's extremely easy to live with, thanks to its spacious backseat, comfortable ride and generous cargo capacity. Amenities like Bluetooth, keyless entry and ignition, cruise control, a driver knee airbag and heated power mirrors are standard. A rearview camera, a frontal-collision warning system and a lane-departure warning system are available as options.
The Honda Accord has long been a sales leader in the four-door segment, and with good reason: The car offers pretty much everything most buyers want in a midsize family sedan. Its cabin is spacious enough to seat a family in comfort, with an upscale ambience that encourages passengers to sit back and enjoy the ride. The Accord's powertrains manage to be both engaging and efficient: handling is sharp, acceleration is brisk and the car gets up to 30 mpg combined (27 city/36 highway). Bluetooth, cruise control and a rearview camera are standard while lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems are available on upper trim levels. One particularly useful option is a blind-spot camera system that presents a wide view of the car's passenger side on its display screen when the right turn signal is engaged.
The Mazda 6 is one of the most well-rounded family sedans on the market. Quick acceleration and keen handling make it a pleasure to drive, and its strong fuel economy — up to 32 mpg combined (28 city/ 40 highway) — makes it equally amenable at the gas pump. The car is good-looking inside and out, with stylish sheet metal and a handsomely appointed cabin. Available features include adaptive cruise control, a text-message display function, keyless entry and ignition, a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic monitoring, and a collision-mitigation system.
The Outback proves you don't need a crossover to get outstanding utility. This wagon's cabin offers lots of room for both passengers and cargo — with an impressive 71.3 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity, the Outback's interior is spacious enough to accommodate even outsize gear. This Subaru is capable even in light off-road travel, thanks to its standard all-wheel drive and impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Fuel economy is decent despite the all-wheel-drive transmission — 26 mpg combined (24 city/30 highway). Available safety features include adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigation system and a lane-departure warning system.
Redesigned for 2014, the Rogue offers loads of practicality and personality, and is a compelling choice for buyers seeking a small family crossover. It's affordably priced but doesn't look it, with a cabin that boasts design and materials quality you'd expect from a vehicle costing thousands more. Though the Rogue's footprint is compact, there's lots of room for belongings — up to 70 cubic feet of cargo space is available. With a two-row Rogue, you can opt for a cargo-dividing system that includes an adjustable rear cargo area with storage compartments, multilevel shelving capability and up to 18 different cargo-carrying configurations (note that three-row models aren't eligible for this upgrade). The Rogue gets up to 28 mpg combined (26 city/33 highway) and drivers who frequently face inclement weather will be glad to know the crossover is available with all-wheel drive. Standard features include Bluetooth and a rearview camera, and options include a blind-spot warning system, a lane-departure warning system, a forward-collision warning system and an upgraded camera system that provides a top-down 360-degree view of the Rogue's surroundings when parking.
For families that need maximum passenger capacity and maximum room for cargo, the best bet is a minivan like the Honda Odyssey. It's large enough to seat up to eight passengers but handles like a much smaller vehicle — this king-size hauler is surprisingly nimble on the road. Fuel efficiency is just as impressive, at 22 mpg combined (19 city/28 highway). This Honda's cabin is quiet enough to easily facilitate chats with the kids and its second row may be configured to suit your needs — you can remove sections to create an aisle down the center or leave the seat as is to accommodate up to three car seats. Bluetooth, a rearview camera and text-to-speech functionality are standard, while options include a chilled storage box, a blind-spot camera system, a forward-collision warning system and a lane-departure warning system. Parents familiar with the struggle of keeping a family vehicle clean will appreciate the Odyssey's optional integrated vacuum cleaner. It's located in the rear of the minivan but its hose is long enough to allow you to clean the first row.
If you'd rather not purchase a minivan but need a vehicle with similar passenger capacity, the Traverse is an excellent choice. It seats up to eight passengers and offers impressive cargo capacity. With the third row folded flat, there's 70.3 cubic feet available for cargo, and that figure jumps to 116.3 cubic feet with the second row stowed. An all-wheel drive transmission is available for drivers who often tangle with rain and snow. Fuel economy is respectable, with the front-wheel-drive Traverse getting 19 mpg combined (17 city/24 highway). Bluetooth and a rearview camera are standard and options include a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic monitoring, a forward-collision alert system, and a lane-departure warning system.
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai's Santa Fe may not be the first model that comes to mind when you think of a seven-passenger SUV, but it should be. With its refined cabin and long list of standard features (including Bluetooth, satellite radio, a sliding and reclining second row, and heated front seats), the Santa Fe delivers a lot for a relatively modest price. The front-wheel-drive Santa Fe gets a respectable 21 mpg combined (18 city/25 highway) and all-wheel drive is available. Options include rear parking sensors and a blind-spot monitoring system.
These vehicles didn't quite make our top 10 but are also worth considering for those seeking family transportation.