When you’re thinking about parenting you might not spend too much time considering cars, but the truth is that your ride is inevitably wrapped up with every stage of parenting. From the magical (and nerve-wracking) moment when you buckle your baby in and drive home as a family for the first time, to school-aged carpools, teen sports practices and eventually college drop-off, your car will be with you through the ups and downs of parenting.
Still, there’s a stigma attached to the “mom car” (especially if you’re a dad!). Parents want to know that their little ones are safe, and they want plenty of room to load carriages, sports equipment, or camping supplies. It used to be that parents who wanted it all were destined for a minivan, but these days there plenty of kid-friendly vehicles that are stylish and fun to drive.
Here are five of our favorites, vehicles that will fit the whole family without ever feeling boring.
The minivan is the ultimate kid-friendly car, and if you’re ready to take the plunge, the Chrysler Town and Country is a great option. This minivan is marketed as luxury and many features, including a touch-screen display and audio system, are standard. Parents will also find perks designed just for them like stow-and-go seats. The Town and County seats seven and can easily accommodate car seats in both the second and third row, making it a good choice for families with lots of small children and who could use a bit of extra space.
If you want space and storage but aren’t quite ready to commit to a minivan, a cross-midsize SUV is a good kid-friendly option. The Toyota Highlander is consistently ranked among the best in that class for safety and affordability. The Highlander is capable of seating 7 to 8 individuals, although most adults will find the third row a bit too cozy to comfortably ride in. An optional V6 engine (which comes with a tow package standard in 2016 and later models) gives added power, without compromising the Highlander’s fuel efficiency. The Highlander is a great kid-friendly car for families who don’t necessarily need seven seats, but want additional room for friends or extra gear.
Families don’t come in one size, and neither should kid-friendly cars. The Kia Soul is small enough to make city driving and parking a cinch, while giving enough room for car seats and baby gear. In fact, U.S. News and World Report named the 2016 Kia Soul the best compact car for families and the best hatchback for families. A nice bonus is that the Soul is affordable. It’s also very safe, with forward collision and lane departure warnings available on models made in 2016 or later.
When you think of family-friendly cars, you’re probably not picturing a sedan. However, if you have a small family or need a car that will mostly be used for commuting but needs to accommodate occasional family outings, a sedan is a great option, and among sedans, the Hyundai Sonata is one of the most family-friendly.
The Sonata has a spacious back seat, which makes it easy to fit car seats, even when you need to install a rear-facing seat behind the driver (something that is often tough in sedans). The large trunk allows you to take all your kids’ gear without cluttering the cabin, and the Sonata is affordable to buy and maintain while having great safety ratings.
If your family is both adventurous and practical, a Subaru Outback is the perfect family-friendly vehicle for you. Although the idea of a wagon might give you flashbacks to your own childhood, the Outback boasts a sleek design that even the pickiest drivers wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in. The standard all-wheel drive helps when you have to get the kids to school and practice all winter long, and Subaru manages to deliver it while keeping fuel consumption relatively low. Of course, the Outback benefits from Subaru’s stellar safety record, with updated steering, lane assist, and other safety features added in 2016.
With more family-friendly car options than ever before, you can choose reliability and safety for your family, while also matching your personal style.