Having a family and raising children is hard enough. Additional complications, such as choosing the perfect car for your family, are an unnecessary distraction.
For the prospective car buyer, finding the perfect car for your family situation is probably near the top of your list of things you need to get accomplished. You do not want to be transporting your baby in a Porsche; you also do not want to drive around in some bland vehicle that sucks the enjoyment out of life.
What, then, are the best family cars of 2017? The criteria to judge these vehicles should be fairly straightforward. They should be efficient and affordable. They should be among the safest vehicles on the road. The top family cars of 2017 should be great at almost every aspect of family requirements.
For this list, the criteria was simple. Cars were judged on value, so no luxury vehicles; safety, so no sports cars; and, finally, enjoyment, so no land yachts. Removing the unnecessarily expensive vehicles from the list takes some great car brands out of the mix, so do not expect any Cadillacs, BMWs or Mercedes’ in the list.
Also, it was important to separate different types of vehicles into a “best of breed” list to give the genuine blue-chips in separate segments a chance to shine. Finally, the segments themselves were chosen to best represent the needs of a family, so mid-size and compact cars are ignored in favor of full-sized sedans, wagons, small and medium sized SUVs and, finally, the staple of the family cruiser, the Mini-Van.
The following list is a carefully cultivated selection of vehicles that best represent each and every segment, as well as a few alternative choices for each category, just in case you test drive a top choice and find it disagreeable.
So, without further ado…
Category: Full Size-Sedans
Winner: Chevy Impala
First, a list of pros and cons:
- Spacious and roomy interior
- Comfortable and stable ride
- Excellent crash and safety ratings
- Excellent set of standard and available features
- Fun and engaging drive characteristics
- Better than average fuel efficiency
- Lacks finer appointments of more expensive rivals
- Jack of all trades, master of none
No doubt this comes as a bit of a surprise off the top. Chevy is not necessarily associated with the highest quality car building standards, but Chevy has done great work to improve their vehicle offerings over the past half-decade, and the ’17 Impala speaks volumes of the great work Chevy has done.
The Chevy Impala is a full-size sedan and it offers a full sized, roomy interior. The Impala has an MSRP ranging from the basest of the base models starting at $29,270 and raising up to a fully loaded $39,485, which is perfectly in line with its segment competitors. Impressively featured, the Impala has a number of standard and optional safety and infotainment options, as well as driver aids.
In terms of quality, the Impala is more of a jack of all trades. The Impala manages to B+ its way towards the best in class rating, substituting a particular strength for no real weaknesses. One notable weakness of the Impala is the drivetrain: there is no option for all wheel drive (AWD).
One place the Impala shines is fuel efficiency. Though roughly average compared to the segment, the Impala gets 22mpg in city driving, which just eeks out an advantage over most of its primary competition.
- Kia Codenza
- Nissan Maxima
- Toyota Avalon
Category: Wagons / Station Wagons
Winner: Subaru Outback
First, a list of pros and cons:
- Excellent in almost every category
- Best in class cargo space
- Excellent interior space
- Surprisingly comfortable
- Excellent traction and control
- Lackluster power
- Comfortable but Spartan interior
Subaru is no surprise in a “best vehicle” list. In fact, it would be far more surprising if Subaru did not manage to get one of its dependable, ultra reliable vehicles into a “best of” list, seeing as Subaru is the #1 customer satisfaction brand in America.
Unlike the Impala, the Outback earned its top spot by excelling in all but one category. With a base MSRP from the mid $20k’s and upwards to roughly $35k, the Outback offers full-size sedan comfort with a wagon’s added cargo space for additional utility.
The Outback drives like a car, though the engine performance is a bit lackluster. An available engine upgrade will give the Outback more power, but it does not come cheap. Subaru has a streamlined infotainment system, but their safety features and crash ratings are excellent. The Outback also includes Subaru’s signature All Wheel Drive, which promotes confident driving in almost any weather or terrain.
Compared to its rivals, the Outback provides excellent grip, excellent fuel efficiency and a reasonable price: unless you add the bigger engine option, you should be able to keep the Outback under $35,000. Considering the confidence, cargo space and notable Subaru reliability, that price should intrigue anyone looking for a reasonably sized family hauler.
- Jetta Sportwagon
Category: Compact SUV / Crossovers
Winner: Honda CRV
- Excellent interior room
- Excellent cargo space
- Brilliant fuel efficiency
- Great reliability
- Dull to drive
The Honda CRV comes out on top of a highly competitive field. Compact SUV sales are booming, and car companies are pouring resources into their models to get a larger share of the growing pie. In this case, Honda has proven to be the leader of the pack.
Compact SUVs are roughly larger than wagons but smaller than mini-vans. Rear leg space and cargo are both on offer. The CRV starts around $24,000 MSRP and upgrades to the mid $30k range; a little more expensive than the average in the class, but the CRVs price is not disqualifying. In fact, that extra money is almost earned back over time due to Honda’s strong reputation for reliable vehicles and inexpensive parts.
Honda builds feature rich vehicles, and the CRV is no exception. With a plethora of safety features, standard rearview camera, moving side view camera and an expansive infotainment system, the Honda CRV exceeds the expected driver comforts and adds a few unexpected ones. The CRV comes in front wheel or all wheel drive options.
Compared to other vehicles in the class, the CRV does very well. The CRV has excellent fuel mileage for its class, and it does almost everything better than other cars in this segment. The only complaint car reviewers had for the CRV was modest performance that came across as dull and uninteresting. Even this complaint was not too full bodied, however, as complaints about the CRV’s performance often centered on a dull driver experience, not an overall lack of speed. It speaks volumes to the CRV’s quality that the only complaint is more of an annoyance than an issue.
- Ford Escape
- Mazda CX-5
- Toyota Rav4 Hybrid
Category: Mid-size SUV
Winner: Nissan Murano
- Excellent interior
- Premium comfort
- Intuitive tech
- Best in class safety
- Awkward sightlines
- Dull handling
The Nissan Murano provides an excellent mixture of value, premium materials and excellent safety. Nissan is not necessarily a top-line car brand, so this choice might be surprising, but car reviews were almost universally in love with the Murano.
The Murano is a mid-size SUV. It offers third row seating with cargo space, or two rows of seating with a lot of cargo space. The interior of the Murano is notably excellent, with a comfort and upscale feel that many reviewers praised as more luxury than common. The Murano starts around $29k and can be as expensive as $38k fully loaded, which is surprisingly cheaper than many of its competitors in the class.
Nissan chose to go with a more streamlined and intuitive infotainment system, which makes the Nissan Connect system simple and easy. There are no exaggerated or unnecessarily complex manuals for someone to learn with this system; this is plug and play at its finest. The Murano is available in front wheel or all wheel drive.
The Murano is comparatively stronger than its competitors. Some SUVs in the segment are more athletic or nimble, but they have lower fuel mileage and lower interior quality. Some vehicles in this category offer creature comforts, but lack the refined finish or spacious interior.
Similar to the Impala, the Murano comes across as a vehicle that is good everywhere, but unlike the Impala, the Murano has a few categories where it absolutely shines: interior quality, passenger space and driver comfort, to name the most commonly cited. In terms of fuel mileage, the Murano is highly competitive, roughly in line with the overachievers in the class, but behind the hybrids.
- Toyota Highlander
- Honda Pilot
- Jeep Grand Cherokee
- Buick Enclave
Winner: Chrysler Pacifica
- Quiet, comfortable interior
- Feature rich
- Unusually strong performance
- Good handling
- Strong fuel economy
- Rear seats won’t fit everyone
- It’s still a minivan
There can be no discussion of the family vehicle without mentioning the standard, generic child hauler: the minivan. In this category, the Chrysler Pacifica came away with the highest ratings in the segment.
The Pacifica has a size and seating roughly in line with full-sized SUVs or regular vans, though it is better suited to accommodate a family. The Pacifica is lower to the ground than a full-sized SUV, and offers a number of other conveniences reserved for this class of seemingly endless mendacity. The Pacifica starts around $27k and can cost up to $38k fully loaded, which is less expensive than some of its rivals.
The Pacifica comes with the full suite of available options that Chrysler can offer: driver aids, self-driving aspects, a full-blown infotainment system and the option to include seat mounted monitors for backseat passengers to have entertainment. The cabin and interior is quiet and composed, with only some awkwardness for larger bodied people sitting in the back seat noted as a potential pitfall for this cruiser.
Compared to other vehicles in this category, the Pacifica offers a little more power, a little better handling and a little more style. With only the one glaring weakness of rear seating, the Pacifica shines across every other measurable category. The Pacifica offers safety ratings roughly in line with other vehicles in the segment, as almost every minivan is built to accommodate the safety requirements of a family with young children.
One exceptional strong point for the Pacifica is its gas mileage and fuel efficiency. The Pacifica is tied for the best city gas mileage, while leading the segment for highway gas mileage. At 18mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway, the Pacifica strangely competes with mid-size sedans like the Buick Regal in terms of gas mileage, an extremely impressive feat considering its size.
- Honda Odyssey
- Kia Sedona
- Toyota Sienna
These might not be the sexiest vehicles on the road, but they’ll provide reliable transportation for you and your family for years to come. These five excellent family cars will be the best of 2017, offering great values and confidence building safety to keep you and your loved ones safe and comfortable.
Obviously, any driver ought to take a strong look at a number of vehicles in any segment before making a purchase decision. At the end of the day, a test drive is the single biggest determination in what vehicle is right for each individual driver.
No matter which vehicle you choose, and from which segment you choose it from, these are the vehicles you should target for your next car purchase.