Best Family SUVs

The Top-Rated Family SUVs for 2021
February 9th, 2021

Best Family SUVs for 2021

When you're looking for the best SUV for your family, you have to consider a lot of different factors. Size, safety, performance and the availability of all-wheel drive are all part of the equation, but even top-rated SUVs and crossovers make some compromises. There are dozens of choices in almost every category, so picking the right SUV for your family can get complicated.

To help you narrow down your search, let's look at the latest results from the Edmunds testing program. Our vehicle testing team subjects approximately 200 vehicles every year to a full battery of tests and gives each one its own rating. Only the finest performers make it onto this list, which explains the absence of household names like Subaru and Toyota. To make the cut, an SUV has to be outstanding in its segment regardless of brand reputation.

About the Best 3-Row SUVs for Families

If you plan to use the third-row seating in your family SUV, we recommend the midsize 3-row SUV class because these vehicles use car-like platforms for refined driving dynamics. But if you also plan to do some serious towing or hauling, we'd point you toward true full-size SUVs with truck-like underpinnings.

Midsize 3-row models offer enough room in the third row to seat children comfortably, and there's typically enough room for adults back there too, at least on shorter trips. As for full-size SUVs, they offer industrial-grade toughness and even more room, along with plenty of usable cargo space behind the third row. Note that these family SUVs typically offer all-wheel drive that's "always on" to ensure you have traction when you need it most.

About the Best 2-Row SUVs for Families

If you don't need a third row in your family SUV, a lot of smaller, more manageable vehicles come into play. You can still enjoy plenty of functionality with one of these SUVs, but you'll have a much easier time parking in tight spots and navigating twisty roads or city streets. Chances are you'll save some money too. Unless a third-row seat is a must-have for your family, there's a lot to be said for downsizing to a 2-row SUV.


Best 3-Row SUVs for Families

Starting price:
$33,415
Fuel economy:
21-23 mpg combined

2021 Kia Telluride

Starting price:
$33,710
Fuel economy:
21-22 mpg combined

2021 Hyundai Palisade

Starting price:
$33,725
Fuel economy:
22-23 mpg combined

2021 Honda Pilot

Starting price:
$50,720
Fuel economy:
18-19 mpg combined

2021 Ford Expedition


Best 2-Row SUVs for Families

Starting price:
$26,525
Fuel economy:
29-30 mpg combined

2021 Honda CR-V

Starting price:
$26,370
Fuel economy:
24-28 mpg combined

2021 Mazda CX-5

Starting price:
$33,965
Fuel economy:
21-22 mpg combined

2021 Honda Passport

Starting price:
$32,050
Fuel economy:
22 mpg combined

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport


Finding the Best Family SUV for You

Before you start shopping, we recommend identifying must-have features for your family so you can dispense with any SUVs that don't deliver. Size is a good starting point. How big is your family and how willing are your loved ones to share their space? Most compact and midsize SUVs seat five in two rows, but many also offer the option of a third row.

Cargo room is important, too, since all those passengers are bound to have plenty of stuff to carry with them. The smallest SUVs and crossovers have enough room for five and not much else, while the biggest family SUVs can accommodate up to nine passengers and whatever they might bring with them.

Don't forget that size is inversely correlated with gas mileage, generally speaking. So if you need maximum mpg, go with the smallest SUV that still meets your needs. Also, keep in mind that all-wheel drive generally hurts fuel economy by 1 or 2 combined mpg.

Family SUV Safety and Technology

When your family is involved, safety is a top priority. All of the best family SUVs will keep you safe, but you should consider available features that go beyond basic crash protection, including the all-season traction of all-wheel drive. Advanced safety systems such as automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection are now widely offered, and they can drastically reduce the severity of an accident. Then there are options such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist that can minimize driver fatigue on longer trips.

Furthermore, the best SUVs for families offer an impressive range of consumer technology, so be sure to look for features such as second- and third-row USB ports, rear-seat entertainment systems and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

Child Car Seats

The LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) protocol was introduced in 2002 to simplify the installation of child car seats. If you're shopping for a family SUV that's good for car seats, one thing to check is whether your child safety seat mounts easily to the vehicle's LATCH anchor points. Another question is whether there's still enough room for adult passengers up front with a safety seat installed in the second row. We recommend bringing your child car seat to the dealership to see how it fits.

Top Family-Friendly Features in SUVs

When you're in the market for a new family SUV, the array of available features can be dizzying. Here are four features that we consider to be especially important for the family-minded SUV shopper.

Hands-Free Power Liftgate
When your hands are full and you're approaching the car with kids in tow, the last thing you want to do is wrestle with the liftgate. The solution is a hands-free power liftgate that opens by itself, typically when you wave your foot under the rear bumper with the key fob in your pocket. It's an increasingly common feature across the SUV landscape.
Rear-Seat Entertainment System
Nothing's better for keeping the kids occupied on a long trip than a rear-seat entertainment system with display screens and headphones. Some systems feature screens that are mounted to the front headrests, just like on a plane, while others have screens that flip down from the ceiling.
USB Ports
Families have a lot of devices that need to be charged, so the more USB ports a vehicle provides, the better. Many SUVs have enough USB ports for both front and rear passengers to stay juiced up.
Rear Window Sunshades
Typically a higher-end feature, retractable rear sunshades help protect your little ones from the heat and rays of direct sunlight. Why buy those goofy aftermarket suction-cup sunshades if you don't have to?

Time to Test-Drive!

Now you know what our experts think, and you've got our shopping advice. But at the end of the day, there's no substitute for firsthand experience with all of the family SUVs you're considering. Get out there and start test-driving -- find out for yourself what the best family SUVs are today. See our full list of the Best Family Cars.


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