16 Best Family Cars of 2016

By KBB.com Editors on February 4, 2016 2:00 AM
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The family car sure isn’t what it used to be. But then the family sure isn’t what it used to be either. Families come in all shapes, sizes and compositions these days, and we hear the word diversity a lot. Well, we are here to tell you that there is unprecedented diversity in family cars these days, and while that is nothing but a good thing, it does make picking the proper conveyance for your family unit a bit more daunting. Which is why we at Kelley Blue Book have put together this incisive look at the Best Family Cars of 2016.

How did we arrive at this list? How did we choose these from among the 250 models that can make some claim to good-familycardom? The truth is it is an exhaustive and exhausting process, but also a very satisfying one. We know there are few more important choices that you will make as a consumer than the choice of a car, truck or van for your family. Safety, comfort, convenience and financial well-being are all wrapped up in that choice, since a family car, in many ways, is a rolling version of your house – and these days some family vehicles can cost as much as a house.

Choosing the contenders

The process of picking the best of the best began with our Kelley Blue Book editorial staff identifying two dozen vehicles that in our vast experience we believed worthy of a look for the coveted accolade of “Best Family Car.” We then sought out a representative example of each of those models and brought them all together in a family-car conglomeration.

Real-world test for real-world families

For two weeks’ time we drove, lived-with, folded-down-seats-of, paired-phones-to and installed-baby-seats-in each and every one of the contenders. We loaded cargo, contorted ourselves into third rows, watched movies on rear-seat screens, toted rowing teams to marinas – in short we did everything that you and your family might do with a vehicle day-to-day. And we did all this with a certain sense of what a family needs and wants since many of our testers are simultaneously parents of kids ranging from mid-twenties to newborn. From pre-schoolers to middle schoolers to high schoolers to post-schoolers our staff has the kid thing covered. So this wasn’t just a cursory exercise but instead it drew heavily upon our family-car experiences, needs and wants.

Selecting the cream of the cream

After we did all we could think to do to these vehicles and a little bit more than we hadn’t thought of originally, we came down to a list of 16 vehicles that we feel are befitting the title Best Family Cars of 2016. Now we admit that 16 might seem like a lot to you, since we don’t expect anyone to consider and research 16 different vehicles. But what you will find is that these 16 vehicles can be divided into logical subsets that will make your shopping much easier. To be explicit, we identified three minivans, six sedans, three 2-row crossover/SUVs and four 3-row SUVs on our list. Last year a couple of pickup trucks were included among 2015’s Best Family Cars, but this time the high quality of the field in the center-cut section of minivans, midsize sedans and crossovers/SUVs put the pickups we considered into also-ran status.

Judging criteria you’d use yourself

By what criteria did we make these choices? We expect they are the criteria you would employ in choosing a family vehicle for your brood. Tops on the list is safety, because your most precious ones’ lives are dependent upon that. Comfort and convenience play a big role, because these vehicles typically become your home away from home as you fulfill your family pursuits. Certainly there must be comfy spaces for all passengers and enough cargo space to serve their family-vacation needs.

Though not every family has young kids – or kids at all – we know from experience that families with children do have very special needs, so our tests and evaluations kept that top of mind. Again, as in years past, we fitted every one of the vehicles in this test with child safety seats of various configurations to see how they fared. Once you have kids in back you are well-advised to keep them occupied, so we paid attention to rear-seat entertainment systems and we gave bonus points for wi-fi hotspot capabilities.

Special features for today’s families

Finally we were on the lookout for special features. The availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, special safety/convenience features like adaptive cruise control and features as simple as a cubby to keep spare change or stash sunglasses can each add a bit to the overall family-car ownership experience.

If none of the 16 vehicles on our Best Family Cars list strikes your fancy – not likely but we suppose it could happen – our next suggestion is for you to take a look at the eight other vehicles we considered that ended up not making our list. We don’t think they are the equal of the vehicles that did land on it, but they are also worth significant consideration as your potential family stagecoach.

If you're indeed in the child car seat stage -- or prepping for it -- don't miss the accompanying car-seat guide with useful tips and specific details regarding the car-seat strengths and weaknesses of each of the winners below.

And now, here are our picks for the 16 Best Family Cars of 2016, broken out into four categories and ordered by starting sticker price.  

 

Sedans

2016 Honda Civic

Our Overall Best Buy of 2016 is also our most affordable top family car.

See more Civic

2016 Chevrolet Malibu

The roomier, totally redesigned Malibu is now much more of a family sedan.

See more Malibu

2016 Hyundai Sonata

Value is only part of the story for the refined and feature-packed Sonata.

See more Sonata

2016 Kia Optima

Our Midsize Sedan Best Buy of 2016, the Optima is much more than a style standout.

See more Optima

2016 Honda Accord

Honda’s venerable midsize sedan shows up on just about every list for which it qualifies.

See more Accord

2016 Chevrolet Impala

Norman Rockwell meets the 21st century in this modern take on the classic full-size family sedan.

See more Impala

 

 

2-Row SUVs

2016 Honda HR-V

Honda’s latest SUV is the roomiest, most family-friendly entry in the burgeoning subcompact SUV segment.

See more HR-V

2016 Honda CR-V

Family appeal is just one reason the CR-V is the best-selling SUV in the country.

See more CR-V

2016 Subaru Outback

Subaru’s family car all-star is an unmatched mix of car and SUV, blending the best of both.

See more Outback

 

 

3-Row SUVs

2016 Nissan Pathfinder

Cool features and an attractive interior are just a few of the tricks up its sleeve.

See more Pathfinder

2016 Toyota Highlander

Boldly styled inside and out, the 8-passenger Highlander is also a standout when it comes to practicality.

See more Highlander

2016 Honda Pilot

The closest you can get to the family-friendliness of a minivan without buying a minivan. Also our Midsize SUV Best Buy of 2016.

See more Pilot

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe

For many families there’s simply no substitute for Chevy’s big, powerful full-size SUV.

See more Tahoe

 

 

Minivans

2016 Kia Sedona

Kia’s attractive mix of style and features is also available with three rows and sliding doors.

See more Sedona

2016 Toyota Sienna

The only minivan available with all-wheel drive, and the only one that’s a Toyota.

See more Sienna

2016 Honda Odyssey

Even if it didn't offer a built-in vacuum, the Odyssey would still be a top family car as well as our Minivan Best Buy of 2016.

See more Odyssey

 

 

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