12 Best Family Cars Of 2017

  • By Website Team Technicians
  • 28 Mar, 2017

By KBB.com

Families have moved on from the family sedan.

Looking at sales trends, soccer fields and school drop-off lines it’s clear that today’s family car is actually an SUV. And the family-friendliest vehicle of them all, the minivan, continues to appeal with its purpose-built practicality.

As SUVs have grown more comfortable and more efficient over the years, families and car shoppers in general have demonstrated an increasing preference for the elevated driving position, superior cargo versatility and higher profile of SUVs. Whether it’s the sliding doors and cavernous interior of a minivan or the high-riding nature and available all-wheel drive of an SUV, each of these vehicles is simply more functional as a family car than a traditional sedan.

~ Best 2-Row SUVs for Families

2017 Honda CR-V

Totally redesigned for 2017, the CR-V is the best-selling SUV in the country and one of our most awarded cars every year.

2017 Subaru Outback

Whether you see it as a higher-riding wagon or a lower-profile SUV, the Outback is a top choice for go-anywhere, do-anything families.

2017 Kia Sportage

Totally redesigned for 2017, the roomier new Sportage checks all the right boxes for families.

2017 Honda HR-V

The most affordable entry on this list outshines its subcompact SUV competitors in roominess, refinement and flexibility.

~ Best 3-Row SUVs for Families

2017 Toyota Highlander

Updated and enhanced for 2017, the clever and reputable Highlander is among the industry standards in three-row transportation.

2017 Honda Pilot

Positively minivan-like in family-friendly features and amenities, the Pilot is also our Midsize SUV Best Buy of 2017.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Boasting an impressive array of enhancements for 2017, the Pathfinder maintains its position among the most family-oriented SUVs available.

2017 Chevrolet Tahoe

The lead workhorse of the active American family, the Tahoe combines available seating for 9 with the ability to tow the family’s biggest toys.

~ Best Minivans

2017 Toyota Sienna

The only minivan with available all-wheel drive, the Sienna has been further improved for 2017.

2017 Honda Odyssey

Even in its last model year before a full redesign, the Honda Odyssey remains a slam-dunk minivan standout in almost every aspect.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

The all-new Pacifica is the best-driving minivan on the road and offers the longest, most impressive list of cool features. 

2017 Kia Sedona

Sedona strengths include an attractive, intuitive interior and the peace of mind of the segment’s very best warranty.

Here are the key elements we considered when choosing this year's top family cars, most of which should also factor into your selection process.

Safety

Everyone wants a safe car, but family car shoppers are even more safety-minded. With the exception of the 4-Star Chevrolet Tahoe, every vehicle on this list has earned a 5-Star Overall Safety Rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While the redesigned 2017 Honda CR-V has yet to receive an official rating as of this writing, its predecessor was a 5-Star vehicle and we fully expect the new model to be even safer.

Value

Many of these vehicles are the very best in class in terms of our 5-Year Cost to Own calculations. By considering a vehicle’s Fair Purchase Price, predicted resale value, insurance, fuel and maintenance costs, our 5-Year Cost to Own figures make it easy to compare actual vehicle costs over a full buy-own-sell ownership cycle. Quite often, spending a little more on the right car can save you thousands in the long run over going for the big rebate on another car

Reputation

Most of the models on this list have been around a long time and have earned strong reputations for durability, reliability and simply treating their owner’s right. In the case of the only all-new nameplate on the list, the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, its overall appeal helped earn it a spot on the list in lieu of an established track record. In most cases, however, a few-year-old version of most of the SUVs and minivans on this list would make excellent used cars as well.

Driving Manners

Even in a vehicle designed primarily to get you and yours from Point A to Points B, C and D on a daily basis, good steering and pedal feel can make a big difference. A vehicle that goes, turns and stops smoothly and as expected is more satisfying and less fatiguing than one with acceleration delays or non-linear braking response, for instance. Good outward visibility and parking-lot finesse also contribute to stress reduction for the driver.

Comfort and Convenience

A smooth ride, quiet cabin and comfortable seats all help keep a family happy while on the move. Convenience features also make a big difference in the overall experience. The sliding doors on some Chrysler Pacificas can be opened with a wave of your foot when your hands are full. The second-row seats on some Honda Pilots will fold and slide forward with the push of a button, granting easy access to the third row. The passenger-side second-row seat in the Nissan Pathfinder can provide access to the third row even when there’s a child car seat installed. With all the loading and unloading that happens in a busy family car, the benefits of small touches like these can really add up over the years.

Cargo Versatility

Minivans and SUVs are the cargo-friendliest family vehicles on the road, but some are friendlier than others. Usable volume is a key differentiator, but we’re also looking for advantages like low load floors that ease loading and unloading of bulkier items, as well as second- and third-row seats that fold and redeploy with minimal thought or effort.

Child Seats

Child car safety seats are a hugely important consideration for car shoppers with infants, toddlers or both. Is there enough distance between the front seat and the back seat to accommodate both the seat and the child? Can you fit all the seats you need? Are the LATCH mounting points easy to access? Can you access the third row when two car seats are mounted in the second row? Do the vehicle’s seat height and door opening make it easy to buckle the child in and lift them out? Our quiver of test equipment includes popular child seats from Graco and Safety 1st, which we’ve installed in countless vehicles over the years. While all these vehicles are among tops in their respective segments when it comes to car seats, we strongly recommend taking your child car seats and boosters along with you when shopping. How well they fit could make or break your decision. If you're in or near the child car seat stage, be sure to check out the accompanying car-seat guide with useful tips and specific details regarding the car-seat strengths and weaknesses of each of the this year's 12 Best Family Cars.

Technology

Technology is an increasingly significant factor in new vehicles, and for many buyers it’s the most exciting part. This is the fun stuff. Bluetooth phone connectivity and USB ports are almost standard fare at this point, while rearview cameras, keyless entry and push-button start are heading in that direction. From the driver’s perspective, we look for capable and easy-to-use infotainment systems, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability leading the way here. Features like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assists are both helpful and comforting in town and on the highway, while backup cameras/sensors and rear cross-traffic alerts greatly enhance parking-lot navigation.

Testing Procedures

For this year’s Best Family Cars we compiled a list of last year’s winners and the best of the new and redesigned 2017 models and brought them all together for a back-to-back testing regimen. We spent two weeks driving, poking, prodding and researching all these vehicles. Our group includes several parents claiming a total of eleven children spanning a full range of ages including an adorable toddler, elementary, middle, high school and college students, and even a couple who’ve made it out into the real world. We put family cars under a group microscope once a year, but we live them every day.

Latest News

By Website Team Technicians 03 Aug, 2017

As it becomes clear they're swimming in a shrinking pool, fish instinctively take up the struggle for available space and oxygen. Suddenly, all bets are off and only the strongest and most competitive manage to rise above an increasingly agitated pack to fight another day.

 

And so it goes in the Australian new car ecosystem. The 'light' category is still one of the largest in market, where the likes of Hyundai's Accent, the Mazda2, and Toyota's evergreen Yaris live. But the line on the sales chart is ever so consistently heading south.

Year-to-date sales for light cars under $25k are down no less than 20 per cent, and that's on the back of 16 per cent drop over the course of 2016. Meanwhile, medium SUVs are up close to 10 per cent.

Enter Kia's Rio hatch, the brand's global best-seller, with claimed annual sales "approaching 500,000", which is undoubtedly a big number. But in Australia, the Rio is a middle order player in a light car field of around 15 determined competitors.

Which means the new fourth generation Rio, launched here in January this year, is critical to Kia's chances of grabbing a larger slice of the rapidly diminishing light car pie.

Not surprising then, that the entry-level S model boasts upgraded multimedia connectivity and enhanced safety tech, not to mention improved dynamics and more space. Sounds good, but is it enough to get a jump on the light car big guns?

 

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The architect of Kia's recent styling revolution is Peter Schreyer, a gifted designer that raised automotive eyebrows around the world when he upped stumps at Volkswagen Group in 2006 to join the Korean carmaker.

Under his watch, the Kia design team has internationalised and unified the look of the entire range, from the tiny Picanto to the jumbo-size Carnival people mover.

A signature element across the line-up is the tabbed 'Tiger Nose' grille, and the new Rio proudly wears a sleek and neatly refined version of it, with distinctive, raked headlights sitting either side.

From there though, the overall look is pretty much hatch by-the-numbers. Inoffensive but uninspiring, with a generic approach to the profile and rear treatment.

An odd touch is a pronounced handle on the rear hatch door. Flying in the face of the current trend towards low-key integration of this type of function, it looks like a clumsy throwback to the 1980s.

Inside, the dash is cool and clean, with the central 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen standing proud of the main fascia. Key controls are clear and simple, while the soft-form instrument binnacle houses a large speedo and tachometer, with a multi-function LCD display (including a digital speed read-out) between them.

The Rio S interior colour palette ranges all the way from grey to dark grey, with tightly woven and subtly textured cloth trim on the seats.

One small whinge relates to the four button blanks in the console. Yes, the S is the base model, but blanks in place of controls for 'stuff' fitted to higher variants really rams the fact home.

How practical is the space inside?

Measuring just over 4.0m long, 1.7m wide, and 1.45m high, the Rio fits the light car template to a tee. Its 2.6m wheelbase plants the wheels close to each corner to maximise interior space, and the result is surprisingly generous accommodation.

Plenty of space up front, with two cupholders (of different sizes) in the centre console and bottle bins (big enough for 1.5-litre bottles) in the doors. There's also a storage box between the front seats and a decent glovebox.

For powering and connecting purposes you'll find a 12 volt outlet, an auxiliary line-in socket, a USB port, as well as a drop-down sunglasses box in the roof. And if you're on the gaspers, there's even a cigarette lighter (the ashtray is removable).

Swings and roundabouts in the back, with a handy amount of head and legroom (for this 183cm tester) offset by the lack of controllable air vents, central armrest or cupholders.

Three adults across the back will be uncomfortably tight for anything other than short journeys, but there's a 12 volt power socket, USB port, a map pocket on the back of the front passenger seat (only), and (500ml) bottle bins in the doors.

Open the rear hatch and you're greeted with 325 litres of cargo space with the 60/40 split fold rear seat upright. That's enough to hold our three piece suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), or the CarsGuide pram, albeit in an awkwardly side-on position.

Fold the rear seats down (flat) and the load space increases to a substantial 980 litres. As well as the main cargo area, there's a handy storage bin on the passenger side, a light, parcel hooks, and four tie down anchor points. The spare is a space saver.

Towing capacity is understandably limited, with 450kg allowed for an unbraked trailer and 1000kg for a braked trailer.


Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

 

The Rio S manual wears a $16,990 price tag (before on-road costs) which positions it more than 10 per cent above entry-level offerings from key segment players like the Hyundai Accent Active, Mazda2 Neo, and Toyota Yaris Ascent.

For that money you'll be on the receiving end of standard features including remote central locking (with keyless entry), the 7.0-inch multimedia screen managing a six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, (manual) air conditioning, auto headlights, and reverse parking sensors.

Not bad for a five-door hatch at the budget end of the spectrum, but forget cruise control, sat nav or alloy wheels. For those you'll need to step up to the Si at $21,490, and if your heart's set on rain-sensing wipers, climate control air and a sunroof, the top-spec SLi is your only choice at $22,990.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The single Rio engine option is the 'Kappa' 1.4-litre, naturally aspirated petrol four cylinder, producing a modest 74kW at a peaky 6000rpm, and 133Nm at a relatively high 4000rpm.

It's an all-alloy, overhead cam, 16-valve design, featuring variable valve timing (inlet and exhaust). It drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual (as tested here) or four speed automatic transmission.

How much fuel does it consume?

Kia quotes combined (urban/extra urban) fuel economy of 5.6L/100km for the six-speed manual Rio S, emitting 129g/km of CO2 in the process.

That's a pretty handy number, and the other good news is the engine is tuned to run on regular 91 unleaded. At that rate, the tank's 45-litre capacity equates to a theoretical range of around 800km.

Over roughly 350km of city, suburban and freeway running, we recorded 8.4L/100km (courtesy of the on-board computer), which still converts to a handy 535 kays between fills.

What's it like to drive?

Kia claims the new Rio's bodyshell is stiffer than the outgoing model's, which has allowed a more compliant (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension set-up, and like every other Kia model offered in Australia, the Rio's underpinnings have been comprehensively revised and tweaked by local tuning guru Graeme Gambold.

The results are impressive, with a balance between ride comfort, body control and dynamic response cars costing at least twice as much would be proud to call their own.

With just 74kW on hand to shift 1.1 tonnes of hatchback, and that peak number arriving at a lofty 6000rpm, you'd hope for some low down torque to help with step-off acceleration and mid-range kick.

But no such luck. Torque is less than mega, and with the peak arriving way up at 4000rpm, when you need some extra urge for a snappy lane change or overtaking there's simply nobody home.

In terms of the driving environment, while the interior looks good, the feel bit doesn't exactly measure up. The plastics used around the dash, doors and console are so hard, it's like driving a Tuppaware container on wheels. In fact, those trusty, air-tight receptacles are probably more forgiving than the Rio's main cabin surfaces.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Warranty

Basic warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

The oversize ace up the Rio's sleeve is Kia's industry-leading seven year/unlimited km warranty, which includes seven years roadside assist and seven years capped price servicing. Whoa.

Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first), and the cost of each of those services is detailed on Kia Australia's website, including detail on everything that's replaced, inspected or otherwise checked each time. Cue applause...

For the record, (guide) costs over those seven years are - $226, $382, $277, $561, $255, $470, and $270.

By Website Team Technicians 03 Aug, 2017

The 2017 Hyundai i30 SR Premium gives you 150kW of power and a load of standard features that belie its modest $34k price. It begs the question: how much hot hatch do you really need?

You are looking at the flagship of Hyundai's hyped third-generation i30 range. It's called the SR Premium, and it's designed to make prospective Volkswagen Golf GTI buyers pause.

On paper the Korean contender looks the goods. It's quick, has thoroughly reworked suspension and standard features that belie its $33,950 before on-road costs list price.

The argument: It's not quite as fast or potent as the German, but it is about 10 grand cheaper and not a million miles removed. So how much hot hatch do you really need?

Rivals trying to do exactly the same thing include the Ford Focus Titanium, Holden Astra RS-V, Honda Civic RS, Mazda 3 SP25 Astina and Renault Megane GT-Line.

Let's break this down. Under the bonnet is the same 1.6-litre GDi turbocharged petrol engine used in the Elantra SR, making 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque, the latter from 1500rpm.

This engine sends its power to the front wheels via a standard DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox with paddles - only the base $25,950 i30 SR with less equipment gets a six-speed manual option.

Audio

Listen to the 2017 Hyundai i30 SR from 0-100km/h.

By Website Team Technicians 09 Apr, 2017

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For decades, people have been speculating on topics ranging from car colour affecting insurance premiums to outlandish service intervals. You might ask yourself why these misconceptions exist and where these myths come from. It’s partially due to the lack of transparency in the industry itself as well as the fact that most people find the world of cars to be a little confusing. Whatever the reason, we’re debunking five of the silliest misconceptions about cars, once and for all.

By Website Team Technicians 03 Apr, 2017

By Craig Jamieson

Ah, the Skyline. Against a skyline. Nice.

The Skyline, in our opinion, is the car that made Nissan.

 

Never mind that it was actually invented by Prince – no, not the ‘Purple Rain’ one, the Japanese car manufacturer, which merged with Nissan in the 1960s. Nissan kept the excellent ‘Skyline’ name – and the somewhat suspect ‘Gloria’, but we digress.

 

The Skyline nameplate dates all the way back to the late 1950s, but it’s the 1989 R32 Skyline GTR that really put Nissan on the map. Even though there had been quite a few highlights in the range over the years – the original 1969 GTR, for instance, and the R31 GTS-R – the R32 left an indelible mark, both on the road and in motorsport.

By Website Team Technicians 28 Mar, 2017

By KBB.com

Families have moved on from the family sedan.

Looking at sales trends, soccer fields and school drop-off lines it’s clear that today’s family car is actually an SUV. And the family-friendliest vehicle of them all, the minivan, continues to appeal with its purpose-built practicality.

As SUVs have grown more comfortable and more efficient over the years, families and car shoppers in general have demonstrated an increasing preference for the elevated driving position, superior cargo versatility and higher profile of SUVs. Whether it’s the sliding doors and cavernous interior of a minivan or the high-riding nature and available all-wheel drive of an SUV, each of these vehicles is simply more functional as a family car than a traditional sedan.

~ Best 2-Row SUVs for Families

2017 Honda CR-V

Totally redesigned for 2017, the CR-V is the best-selling SUV in the country and one of our most awarded cars every year.

By Website Team Technicians 27 Mar, 2017

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The Internet is a great tool to research and shop for used cars. Here's how to use online resources to your greatest advantage as a used car buyer.

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By David Muhlbaum

Cars in general have become more reliable over the years. Yet there are some models that just seem to keep rolling along, whistling past the junkyard. We bet you’ve seen one of these still cruising the highway recently. We've identified 15 cars with exceptional—sometimes surprising—endurance and value.

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