The fact that we can now buy cars with Wi-Fi, vacuums, satellite TV and refrigerated storage spaces says something about how much time we’re spending on the road. No one would argue that, for some families, those features make life easier.
However, no matter how many pieces of gee-wiz technology or cup holders a car has, if it doesn’t have enough space, it’s not going to work for families. If a car isn’t safe, it’s not the right choice for carrying a parent’s most precious cargo. If a car is constantly in the shop, it won’t help busy families live their lives. Finally, if a car isn’t enjoyable to own, the parents driving it will be miserable, even if the kids in the back seat are having the time of their lives.
The 2014 U.S. News Best Cars for Families awards highlight cars, SUVs and vans that have the best combination of family-friendly features, space, safety, reliability and strong reviews from professional car reviewers. The awards cover 19 different classes of vehicles, so if you need a minivan for car pool duty or a small car that can handle both commuting and occasional use by your teenager, there’s a winner that will suit you.
Here are some of the highlights from the 2014 Best Cars for Families Awards. You can also view the full list of winners.
Best Compact Car for Families
The 2014 Mazda Mazda3 is the Best Compact Car for Families. While compact cars and families may not seem to go together, the Mazda3 impresses reviewers with its well-done interior and long list of available safety features, including lane departure warning, forward collision warning and automatic braking. The hatchback version of the Mazda3, which won Best Hatchback for Families, has good cargo space that can handle all the gear small families need to carry.
Best Luxury 2-Row SUV for Families
There’s no rule that families don’t deserve a little luxury. According to most car reviewers, the 2014 Lexus RX, the Best Luxury 2-Row SUV for Families, delivers luxury in spades. In addition to a coddling, quiet interior that reviewers love, most critics agree that the RX has a smooth and comfortable ride that makes commuting or car pooling easy. The Lexus RX also has an excellent reliability rating, so when a family is ready to hit the road, odds are that the RX will be too.
Best Compact SUV for Families
For most families, a compact SUV is an excellent choice. Most small SUVs have the cargo and passenger space families need, plus they tend to be easy to drive, with good safety ratings. Reviewers say the Mazda CX-5 goes further than most compact SUVs by having performance that’s not only easy to live with every day, but exciting enough to thrill little ones in the back seat on back road Sunday drives. It’s the 2014 Best Compact SUV for Families.
Best 3-Row SUV for Families
At some point, most families will enter the car pool zone, when parents will be driving their kids’ friends and teammates around. For families who need plenty of seating space, the 2014 Buick Enclave, the 2014 Best 3-Row SUV for Families, works. Not only does the Enclave seat up to eight, but reviewers praise its upscale and stylish interior. Features like rear-seat entertainment and tri-zone climate control will keep all those back-seat passengers comfortable and happy.
Best Minivan for Families
Almost any minivan is going to have the space, seating and available features that most families are looking for. However, the 2014 Honda Odyssey won Best Minivan for Families by going above and beyond what most minivans offer. Not only does the Odyssey have a great reliability rating and seating for up to eight, but it also has performance that many reviewers say is the best in the class. Available features like a cooled storage box for snacks and a built-in vacuum also put the Odyssey ahead of other minivans.
Best Hybrid Car for Families
Taking care of the environment by lowering your carbon footprint is something that appeals to a lot of parents. After all, who doesn’t want to leave a better world for our kids? However, a lot of hybrid cars are small and uncomfortable, which doesn’t make them ideal family cars. The 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid is the Best Hybrid Car for Families. Reviewers say that, unlike many other hybrids, it has plenty of passenger space in its comfortable and quiet interior. Many critics also report that, compared to other hybrids, the Fusion Hybrid drives more like a regular car, which should make it easier for parents making the switch to greener driving.