Finding the best family car means more than just counting seatbelts and cup holders. Even what qualifies as a "family car" isn't so clear cut these days. Minivans are an obvious choice, but not if you don't need all that space. SUVs are great, but that extra cargo room's a waste if you don't use it. Then there's the good ol' family sedan: Would you like that in regular midsize, or upgrade to full-size? On the flip side, just because something's big on the outside doesn't mean it's useful for families inside. So we had our work cut out for us when we decided to identify the Best Family Cars available in America for 2014.
Happily, we had a good place to start. Based on our Expert Ratings of all the vehicles - more than 300 of them - that we test each year, we gathered the 21 vehicles from across classes we believed had the stuff to be top-shelf family haulers. The selection of the 21 was a rigorous process itself. Each of our nine editors received a list of candidates, then individually voted for up to 20 of them, and they were given the opportunity to nominate any additional vehicles that they felt should be included. We culled the responses, tallied the votes, and the vehicles that received four or more votes were invited to participate in our driving-and-usability test. We requested mainstream models from each manufacturer for our test, and most complied, although we did receive a few fully loaded exceptions. We were careful not to give added advantages to those heavily equipped vehicles, because we wanted the test to be as "real-world" representative as possible.
The resulting list included seven sedans, six small SUVs, five midsize SUVs, two minivans, and one hybrid wagon, from a total of 11 different brands. With these all on premises at our Kelley Blue Book offices our staff installed and uninstalled car seats, loaded up the cargo area with various objects, and even brought their kids down to climb in and out, and maybe test out the rear-seat entertainment. When we were done, we tallied up our results, compared notes, and picked what we thought were the best of the bunch.
Here, then, are the 12 Best Family Cars of 2014:
What did we learn? Certainly it is not surprising to most that the 2014 Honda Odyssey and 2014 Toyota Sienna minivans were at the top of everyone's favorite family car lists, since the sole purpose of minivans is to be as good at family car duties as a Porsche 911 is at sports car ones. The assembled full-size SUVs also proved their mettle as popular family car choices, with the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder, 2014 Honda Pilot, 2014 Ford Flex and 2014 Chevrolet Traverse all winning honors. As a choice for smaller families, smaller SUVs demonstrated they had what it takes as well, with the 2014 Honda CR-V, 2014 Nissan Rogue, and 2014 Subaru Forester all making our list of honored vehicles.
What was surprising was the number of sedans that we feel qualify for the highest accolades as family cars. Once upon a time, sedans were the family car of choice before minivans and SUVs showed up on the scene. Yet the modern sedan still makes a fine family car, and the 2014 Honda Accord, 2014 Chevrolet Impala, and 2014 Nissan Altima each impressed us enough to land spots on our list.
So what about the other nine on our original list of 21? Well, as you might surmise from the fact that we chose to nominate them, we believe they have many attributes that qualify them as good family-car choices. But compared to the vehicles that did make our honored Best Family Cars list, they were either lacking features available in the cars listed above or were too narrowly focused to provide the array of features that marked our top choices. That said, if you need excellent fuel economy, want to tow heavy loads, or just want to go farther off the beaten path, there are some solid alternatives worth checking out on the included list of what are essentially our semi-finalists.
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