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Best Family Cars 2015: The Runners-Up

Our 2015 family cars comparison test started with 23 cars, from which we picked 15 standouts. Here are the eight runners-up, each of which may very well be the right choice for you, depending on your family's needs and wants.

 

2015 Dodge Charger
2015 Dodge Charger
The 2015 Dodge Charger offers a lot of sedan for the money, both in features and in literal size. It also offers a little something for everyone. Anchoring the base end of the lineup is the Charger SE, starting in the mid-$20,000 range. On the other end is the stupendously outrageous 707-horsepower supercharged Charger Hellcat, for when you have to get those kids to school RIGHT NOW. In between are numerous other available setups, including a segment-exclusive all-wheel-drive model for the V6.

Beyond power, the Charger offers the latest technology. The Uconnect infotainment system remains a class leader, and the Charger's new instruments include a digital display that conveys just about anything you could want to know. Adaptive cruise control will keep your speeds in check even in traffic, and numerous other safety enhancements make the Charger one of the safest full-size cars you can get. Unfortunately, its price escalates quickly, and there are easier options when it comes to toting baby seats. Compared to the Impala, the trunk was also small, and required a higher liftover.

 

2015 Ford Expedition
2015 Ford Expedition
We all loved the new Ford Expedition SUV's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine. It's the same one we've loved in many other applications, from the F-150 to the Flex and just about anything else in between. The Expedition is also plenty roomy, and the independent rear suspension means not just that the around-town ride is smooth, but the third row folds flatter than the Chevy Tahoe, offering better cargo space.

Unfortunately, despite the addition of MyFord Touch and other upgrades, the 2015 Ford Expedition still feels outdated. The driving experience pales in comparison to the Tahoe, and even if the Expedition is more powerful, the Tahoe is simply more pleasurable to drive, adds a lot in terms of technology, and sacrifices virtually nothing in the process.

 

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe
2015 Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai split the Santa Fe lineup in two when it introduced the current generation, with the larger 3-row SUV getting the Santa Fe name, while a smaller, 2-row version is known as the Santa Fe Sport. We focused on the 3-row Santa Fe, where inside you'll find the kinds of technology and features you'd expect in this class: navigation, good infotainment, a comfortable interior, and nicely laid out controls. In back, there's room for an additional four or five passengers.

The problem is that, compared to vehicles like the Nissan Pathfinder or new Toyota Highlander, it comes up short. Those two offer features that make family life easier, such as the raised 2nd-row seating in the Pathfinder, and technologies like Driver Easy Speak on the Highlander. Some staffers were also disappointed with the way the Santa Fe drove, noting that its steering, ride quality, brakes, and transmission were all lacking the refinement found in its competitors.

 

2015 Kia Sedona
2015 Kia Sedona
It's not that the 2015 Kia Sedona is a bad family vehicle. Hardly. With seating for up to eight passengers, good cargo space, and what could be the sharpest interior and exterior styling we've seen on a minivan, the new Kia Sedona offers a lot of worthwhile features. We especially like the availability of an all-around-view camera system, and 7-passenger versions can be equipped with recliner-style seats, complete with footrests.

Under the hood is a powerful 3.3-liter V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission, a combination good enough to mollify the hot-rodder that still lives inside you, while the luxuriant interior appeals equally to your softer side. However, when it comes to family hauling duties, the reality is that the larger Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna offer more.

 

2016 Kia Sorento
2016 Kia Sorento

The Kia Sorento SUV brings a lot to the table for families, such as a variety of engine choices, a comfortable interior, 5- or 7-passenger seating configurations, and tons of modern technologies that make life easier.

The quiet on the road is impressive, especially considering the abundant noise in the old Sorento model.  We also appreciated the added passenger space inside. Technology like adaptive cruise control and an available all-around-view monitor make it easy to drive long distances or maneuver in tight parking places.

The 3.3-liter V6 engine in our test Sorento provided plenty of power and decent highway fuel economy; two 4-cylinder engines are also available, including a new 2.0-liter turbocharged version that splits the difference between the base engine and the V6 in both fuel economy and performance. The Sorento's 'tween size -- despite its growth, it's still smaller than the Toyota Highlander -- both helps and hurts here though, making the Sorento more maneuverable, but hindering room when there's a child seat installed.

 

2015 Nissan Rogue
2015 Nissan Rogue

The Nissan Rogue was all new last year, and a finalist in our 2014 Best Family Car roundup. Virtually unchanged since then, the Rogue continues to offer strong value and family SUV strengths. We particularly like the Divide-N-Go cargo management system in 2-row models, which allows the cargo area to be divided into multiple parts, high and low sections, or just about anything in between.

There's only one engine: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that offers up good power, routing it through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The biggest problem for the Rogue these days is that for the same money, you can find yourself in a Honda CR-V, which, thanks to the improvements this year, is a notably better vehicle. The Rogue would seem to have an ace up its sleeve in the form of its optional third row, but the benefit of that cramped rear position pales next to its cost, and we recommend skipping it.

 

2015 Toyota RAV4
2015 Toyota RAV4

With excellent cargo space, a tidy and maneuverable package, and plenty of interior space, the 2015 Toyota RAV4 has a lot to offer family car shoppers. Toyota's Entune infotainment system offers a multitude of downloadable apps, and of course, there's that legendary Toyota reliability. All Toyota RAV4 SUVs are powered by the same 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, which powers either the front or all four wheels, and returns pretty good fuel economy in the process, thanks to a standard 6-speed automatic transmission.

From the family car standpoint, about the only downside is that it's outclassed by newer vehicles. The Honda CR-V, for example, offers more features and a more family-friendly interior for the same money. The RAV4 is also on the noisy side around town, and these days, its fuel economy lags behind many of its competitors.

 

2015 Volkswagen Golf
2015 Volkswagen Golf

In Europe, compact cars like the Volkswagen Golf are often employed as family cars. The Golf offers a lot, too. There's the standard TSI engine, as in our tester, but a diesel-powered version is also available if you're seeking the best fuel economy. The Golf also offers some intangibles, such as a unique-for-the-class "European driving feel," and hey, some people just dig that.

As for family duties, the Golf seems like a solid bet. The LATCH points are exceptionally easy to reach, and the hatchback design means you can cram a lot of cargo inside. The vinyl upholstery in our test car is also easy to clean. Unfortunately, with an infant seat installed, front legroom virtually disappeared. Granted that this is a small car, but the similarly small Honda Civic and Kia Soul didn't suffer the same shortage.

 

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