Becoming a parent means weathering a host of life changes, including trading in your sporty wheels for a family-friendly car that will fit car seats, diaper bags and all the other accoutrements of caring for a little one.
But family friendly cars don’t have to be boring or drab. They can provide luxury, entertainment and good handling — all while saving you money on car insurance.
Here's a look at the top five family cars to consider.
Best Family Van: The 2018 Honda Odyssey
The Honda Odyssey has always been a great family friendly car since it was first released in 1994. But a combination of classic high quality Honda design, and some fancy new features geared towards tech-savvy parents make it arguably the best family car of 2018.
The Odyssey has received glowing reviews across the board, with 4.5 out of 5 stars from Car and Driver, and the coveted prize for Best Minivan for Families in 2018 from U.S. News and World Report.
The Odyssey is a great choice for families who want a minivan that’s as fun to drive as it is functional. It accelerates from 0-60 in just 6.6 seconds, the best in its class according to Car and Driver, which also labeled it “the best driving minivan.” Its braking distance is a little longer than competitors, but it does have a number of impressive safety features that make up for that shortcoming.
Features like forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring and a lane-keeping assist system provide immediate feedback to prevent a range of driving dangers. Adaptive cruise control can make long-range driving a pleasure, maintaining a safe distance from the car ahead, and even decelerating or stopping when it does.
And its automated emergency braking can literally be a lifesaver.
The Odyssey also excels at providing creature comforts. The interior is roomy, with seven plush, reclinable seats and cup holders to spare. On the downside, the seats are big and heavy, making them somewhat difficult to remove, and there are other cars in its class with more storage space.
But for the typical family trip, there’s more than enough room to fit everyone and their luggage.
But the thing families will value most about the Odyssey is its in-car technology. The 2018 Odyssey has an updated infotainment system, with an 8” touchscreen display, compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Honda also has an optional rear-seat system, featuring streaming apps to keep your kids entertained on long car rides.
Parents with young children will particularly appreciate the CabinTalk™ and CabinWatch™ systems. CabinTalk is an in-car PA system that automatically integrates into your kids sound system, even pausing streaming so you can talk to them. CabinWatch provides visual monitoring from the touch screen (you can even see children in rear-facing seats), with infrared LED sensors so you can even monitor your kids in the dark.
Best SUV: The 2018 Mazda CX-9
Sports utility vehicles are usually family friendly cars, but they aren’t always fun cars. Big SUVs often have soggy suspension and poor performance, making them about as exciting as driving a delivery van.
The 2018 Mazda CX-9 bucks the trend, combining sporty performance, modern features and room for your whole family. Winner of the Car and Driver award for Best Mid-Size SUV, the Mazda is distinguished by its handling. With its light weight (by SUV standards) and low center of gravity, the Mazda corners better and brakes significantly faster than others in its class, and provides good acceleration.
The Mazda also features a luxurious interior with nice touches like Nappa leather and reclining rear seats to make the ride a little more pleasant. The car also features a well-designed infotainment system and a suite of modern active safety features like forward collision warning and blind spot monitoring.
Tech geeks and safety fanatics will both appreciate Mazda’s innovative Active Driving Display, which projects basic information at the lower edge of the windshield. Drivers can monitor their speed, see warnings if they drift into another lane and even get navigation directions without looking down, which makes driving just a little bit safer.
The Mazda’s surprisingly sporty personality does come with some tradeoffs. Although it has space for seven, the rear seats will be cramped for older passengers, and the CX-9 is relatively short on cargo space compared to other SUVs.
Parents should think about the age and size of family members, and consider things like packing their teenager’s friends into the back before deciding if a CX-9 is right for them. Still, for many families, the Mazda is the perfect combination of fun and functionality.
Best Hybrid Family Car: The Toyota Prius
For Canadian families who are serious about saving the environment without sacrificing comfort, the Toyota Prius is a winner. Natural Resource Canada ranked the Prius as the most fuel-efficient in both the mid-size and compact categories and (the Prius C).
If you want even more in the way of efficiency, the 2018 Prius Prime model adds plug-in charging, giving it decent electric range of about 40.2 kilometers (25 miles) when charging stations are available, combined with outstanding fuel economy when they’re not. It should be no surprise that it earned the Best Plug-in Hybrid award from US News and World Report.
Whatever model you prefer, the 2018 Prius lives up to Toyota’s reputation for excellent reliability and safety. The car earned a 2018 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick, with a Superior rating for front crash prevention, and the highest rating possible for its LATCH car seat anchors.
The Prius isn’t the roomiest vehicle in its class, but still offers plenty of space to accommodate five passengers, reasonable storage capacity and a low seating height that will be welcome news for families with small children or members with mobility issues.
Best Family Sedan: The 2018 Ford Fusion
Buying a family friendly sedan inevitably involves some tough choices. Do you choose hybrid, conventional or electric? Do you opt for sporty performance or superior fuel economy? Should you spring for a luxury interior or just the bare necessities?
Whatever your preferences, the 2018 Ford Fusion can accommodate. Rated one of 2018’s Best Midsize Sedans by Edmunds, the Fusion offers a wide range of power options, including a sporty V6, gas-sipping 4-cylinder and a hybrid model.
The sedan also features five trim levels, from a solid base offering (the Fusion S) to the luxury Platinum and high-performance Sport. And with base prices starting around $24,000 Canadian, the Fusion is also a very affordable family car
That price point doesn’t stop the Fusion from packing some nice extras. Base features include voice commands, Bluetooth, audio jacks, USB support and a small center screen. You can upgrade with a dazzling array of features, including satellite radio and a premium sound system, automated parking, heated mirrors, spoilers and many others to create your perfect sedan.
Fusion is also a very safe car, receiving a Top Safety Pick with Superior front crash protection and good crashworthiness from every angle, according to the IIHS. There are two exceptions, however.
Child Seat Anchor Ease of Use received a marginal rating, which isn’t necessarily a safety issue, but will make it harder to install child seats using the LATCH system. More significantly, the headlights received a Poor Rating, with inadequate visibility in some situations. For example, with all 3 headlight options, low beams tested as having inadequate visibility on curves.
However, with good safety overall and a range of high tech and luxury features and engine options, the Fusion is still a great sedan overall
Best Used Family Car: 2014 30th Anniversary Edition Dodge Grand Caravan
Buying a used car is a great way to get an affordable family car, without sacrificing quality or safety. With a well-maintained used car manufactured in the last few years, you can get most modern features like wireless connectivity and collision detection.
As a personal finance analyst at the consumer website HighYa.com, a husband and a father to two young children, J.R. Duren has a lot of reasons to be particular about choosing the right family friendly car. And Duren couldn’t be happier about his Dodge Caravan:
"In November, we bought a 2014 30th Anniversary Edition Dodge Grand Caravan from Carvana.com. In my opinion, it's the perfect family car for a couple of reasons. First, Dodges come with a 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, which covers the engine and transmission.
Second, this particular version of the Grand Caravan has Bluetooth and a DVD player, two things that make long drives bearable (and safer.) The flip-down DVD screen was a lifesaver on our April road trip when it took us 12 hours to get from Jacksonville to north Georgia.
We also love how easy it is to fold down the back row of seats. It takes just a few seconds.
Finally, the car can take 85-octane gas, which tends to be about $0.20 cheaper per gallon than 87.
The important thing about this car is that the Bluetooth and the DVD player are a package that normally comes with the upgraded Grand Caravan, but because this was a 30th Anniversary Edition, it was available with the car's basic package.”
Finding the Right Car for Your Family
Are you a sports car aficionado looking for a family sedan that still delivers performance? A tech geek who wants an SUV with all the latest gadgets? Or a family road tripper who puts comfort and roominess above all else? Whatever you’re looking for, take your time and research all the options — when you find the perfect car for your family, you’ll know.