Car Talk: Best Family Models on the Market

Your family car is a home away from home. Here’s a look at some of the best family models on the market.

Between commuting, errands, school, sporting events and road trips, you might sometimes feel that you and your family are practically living in your car. in addition to spending a lot of time in your car, it’s also likely one of your biggest expenses. And although it may seem like a routine task, driving may be the riskiest activity in your family’s lives. 

Keeping all this in mind, you want to be sure that your family car is comfortable, affordable and safe. Here are five of the best models for different families’ needs.
Each of these models is a strong value in its class, with a roomy interior and relatively thrifty in its fuel economy. Each offers the latest accident-avoidance technology, along with strong crash-test performance. And each earned a high score from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for the ease of installing a child seat.

hona fit 2018

Best Budget-Friendly Family Car:

2018 Honda Fit ($16,190)
It’s easy to write off a subcompact car as too small for a family. But don’t do so until you’ve checked out the wizardry of this little Honda. Although it’s one of the smallest vehicles you can buy today, the five-door Fit hatchback makes the most of each little square inch. Thanks to a high roof, low floor and stubby little nose, it squeezes in more passenger volume than some SUVs. Yet its petite size and little engine keep it affordable and let it reach 36 miles per gallon in mixed driving.
The Fit also offers the “Honda Sensing” suite of advanced safety features. So equipped, the Fit can warn you of an impending collision, and slam the brakes to mitigate or avoid it. It also alerts you if you drift out of your lane, and can steer you gently back into place.

Runner-up: 2018 Kia Soul ($16,200)
You may think of Kia as cheap and basic, but the Soul actually brings a quieter ride, richer interior trim, more high-end options and more power than the Fit. And it uses its tall, boxy shape to offer unexpected interior space. But the Honda gets better fuel economy, and most of the Soul’s advanced safety features are limited to fully loaded models.

Runner-up: 2018 Hyundai Elantra ($16,950)
You don’t have to get a funky-shaped hatchback to get an affordable family car. The Elantra compact sedan offers classy styling, decent interior space and respectable refinement at reasonable prices. But like the Soul, you need a fully loaded model to get the best safety gear.

 

2018 Subaru Outback Crystal Black Silica copy

Best Five-Passenger Family Car: 

2018 Subaru Outback ($25,895)

The Outback is a midsize station wagon that’s optimized for the midsize family. It’s long and wide enough to comfortably fit five adults, and offers ample room for cargo. Recent upgrades improved the ride quality, and there’s a choice of a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine—(rated for 28 mpg mixed driving) and a powerful, quiet six-cylinder. 

It comes standard with all-wheel-drive and a generous 8.7 inch ground clearance, making it an affordable, fuel-efficient alternative to an SUV in tackling messy weather or going off-road. For maximum safety, choose the EyeSight package, Subaru’s equivalent to Honda Sensing.

Runner-up: 2018 Honda CR-V ($24,250)
This compact crossover is a class standout for interior space and fuel economy, with EPA ratings of up to 30 mpg in mixed driving. And it includes the Honda Sensing safety suite on almost every model. The wider Outback holds five passengers better, though.

Runner-up: 2018 Toyota Camry ($23,645)
There’s a lot to like in the redesigned Camry. It boasts a posher interior, sportier driving dynamics, and greatly improved fuel economy: up to 34 mpg in mixed driving with the base engine and 52 mpg as a gas-electric hybrid. These strengths join its past virtues of a spacious interior, a serenely quiet ride and ample standard safety equipment. No sedan can match a wagon for cargo space and versatility.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Best Seven-Passenger Family Car:

2018 Honda Odyssey ($30,090)

It’s easy to think of a seven-passenger crossover as just a minivan without sliding doors. But the difference is obvious inside: Minivans fit seven passengers more comfortably than even the biggest crossovers, and they have room for a lot of luggage, even behind their rearmost seat.
The Odyssey is today’s leading minivan. Newly redesigned this year, the Odyssey offers improved ride and handling, a fancier interior, and new technology and features. And it fits an eighth adult more comfortably than the competition. The Honda Sensing safety features come standard on most Odysseys, and upper trims include neat in-cabin communication features: a camera to spy on the rear seats, and a microphone to amplify the driver’s voice in the back.

Runner-up: 2018 Honda Pilot ($30,900)
If you want all-wheel-drive or just don’t want a minivan, the Pilot crossover offers similar comfort, refinement and safety. It seats up to eight passengers more comfortably than most crossovers, all without being overly bulky. But cargo space pales against the Odyssey’s.

Runner-up: 2018 Mazda CX-9 ($32,310)
The CX-9 crossover blends a usefully comfortable interior with the panache of a luxury car, along with an excellent 24 mpg in mixed driving. Sleeker and more fun to drive than the Pilot, it’s more than just a family-carrying box. The tradeoff: It’s not quite as roomy.

 

2018 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Momentum TrimBest Premium Five-Passenger Family Car:
2018 Volvo XC60 ($41,500)

Volvo’s boxy station wagons were historically associated with affluent families. Now, its station wagons have become sleek sporty models, and its crossovers have assumed the mantle of high-end utility.
The compact XC60 offers generous space and gorgeous interior details, along with top-notch safety. Both mechanically and visually, it’s a slightly smaller version of the award-winning midsize XC90. And it provides an appealing mix of quick acceleration and reasonable fuel economy of up to 24 mpg in mixed driving with a gas engine—or better still with the available plug-in hybrid variant.

Runner-up: 2018 Lincoln MKX ($39,035)
Spacious and quiet, the MKX is a luxury version of the family-friendly Ford Edge midsize crossover with additional refinement and some extra high-end features. But it’s less opulent and fuel-efficient than the XC60.

Runner-up: 2018 Audi A7 ($69,700)
If you don’t want a boxy, bulky crossover, Audi lets you keep some utility in a much sleeker package: the A7 hatchback, a rare blend of style and substance. Alternatively, you can enjoy a similar effect—minus some interior room—from the smaller A5 Sportback ($42,600).

2017 VolvoXC90 new newBest Premium Seven-Passenger Family Car:
2018 Volvo XC90 ($46,900)

The XC90 shares all the great qualities of the XC60 but fits in third-row seating to make this appealing package accessible to two more passengers, for a total of seven.
Some competitors offer still more interior volume or a more polished driving experience, but this Volvo is a compelling blend of family-friendly virtues, high-grade luxury and relatively attainable prices.

Runner-up: 2018 Audi Q7 ($49,900)
The Q7 won’t fit seven adults, but if you don’t mind leaving the third-row seat to children, this Audi rewards the driver with supremely composed driving dynamics whether you hustle or drive gently.

Runner-up: 2018 Ford Expedition ($51,790)
While a Ford may seem out of place alongside an Audi and Volvo, the price tag doesn’t lie. Compared to the Q7, the Expedition’s luxury stems from generous dimensions and towering seating position, rather than ride quality, handling or interior quality. If you crave this experience, or need the towing capacity of a true truck, the Expedition’s class-leading passenger accommodations and unexpectedly acceptable 20-mpg fuel economy rating make it a winner.

—Brady Holt