No matter their car-shopping budgets, families are looking for cars that are safe and reliable and get good gas mileage. From subcompacts to big SUVs, ParentsMagazine and Edmunds.com are releasing today their top 10 family vehicles for 2014.
"Whether they're taking a summer road trip or just making a grocery run, families expect a lot from their vehicles," says Dana Points, Parents Magazine's editor-in-chief. "Safety is every parent's top priority, and we're excited by how many manufacturers are now offering blind-spot mirrors and collision avoidance systems in addition to multiple airbags and government-required electronic stability control."
Mazda was represented especially well in this year's list, with two of the 10 top vehicles -- even though the company has only about a two percent market share of U.S. sales. Honda also had two models on the list.
Ranging from $16,945 to $26,495, the Mazda3 also ranks as the number one affordable small car among reviewers as compiled by U.S.News. Those reviewers praise the Mazda3 for crisp handling that makes it fun to drive. They also like its sleek interior design. Mazda's mileage-boosting SkyActiv technology results in an EPA rating of 30 MPG in city driving and 41 on the highway.
The subcompact Fiesta is priced from $14,100 to $21,400. Even the base model comes standard with air conditioning and a six-speaker stereo. Like the Mazda3, the Fiesta is praised for its responsive handling and comfortable interior. The base four-speed engine is rated for 27 MPG in the city and 38 on the highway. Two more powerful turbocharged engines are available as options. In crash tests, the Fiesta got four out of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The top pick as a family hybrid, the Prius, is also the U.S. gas mileage champ, rated for 51 MPG in city driving and 48 on the highway. That fuel economy plus a comfortable ride and adequate cargo space make the Prius a good family choice. Acceleration is less than superb, but that won't matter much to most commuters and city drivers. The Prius ranges from $24,200 to $30,005. For families needing more space, the larger Prius V starts at $26,750.
Like the smaller Mazda3, the Mazda6 is praised for its crisp handling and for being one of the most fun-to-drive midsize sedans. With the automatic transmission version, you get numerous attractive standard features including Bluetooth connectivity and a backup camera. Ranging from $21,990 to $29,695, the Mazda6 has a four-cylinder engine rated for 26 MPG city, 38 highway with the automatic transmission.
A perennial favorite of mid-size sedan buyers, the 2014 Accord also boasts sporty handling -- a quality not always found in past models. Reviewers say the Accord, with a four-cylinder engine, is reasonably quick and it is rated for 27 MPG city, 36 highway. They also praise the interior for comfortable seats -- especially the roominess in the back. In an important safety feature, the Accord has a standard backup camera. With a wide range of trim levels and options, the Accord is priced from $21,995 to $33,480.
If your family needs some extra cargo space but isn't ready for a large SUV, this winner in the wagon category is a good choice. Like all Subarus, it comes with standard all-wheel drive. Its four-cylinder engine is rated for 24 MPG city, 30 highway with a continuously variable automatic transmission. But some drivers found it sluggish on hills or with a full load. An option is the more powerful six-cylinder power plant. The Outback ranges from $23,495 to $32,095.
Winner in the crossover category, the Rogue garners praise for its comfortable ride and roomy cargo capacity. The mileage rating of 24 MPG city, 33 highway shows up well among its competitors. Unlike most of those competing small SUVs, the Rogue can seat seven with an optional third-row seat. The Rogue, which comes standard with Bluetooth and a backup camera, ranges from $22,790 to $29,630.
Hyundai Santa Fe
With an attractive interior and comfortable seats good for long trips, this winner among mid-size SUVs is a good choice for families that take driving vacations. The standard four-cylinder engine is rated for 20 MPG city, 27 highway -- good for this class. If you need more power, a six-cylinder engine (18 MPG city, 25 highway) comes with the Santa Fe that is also equipped with a third row of seats. A backup camera, optional on the four-cylinder Sport trim, is standard on the six-cylinder version. The Santa Fe ranges from $24,950 to $35,550.
The second SUV pick, the Traverse, has an unusually spacious interior, and its cargo space is among the best available. If needed, the Traverse can seat eight -- more than most competitors. This Chevy SUV comes with a standard six-cylinder engine rated for 17 MPG city, 24 highway-- about average for the class. The Traverse ranges from $30,795 to $43,255.
A frequent top pick by reviewers, the Odyssey has excellent handling for a minivan. And a six-cylinder engine (19 MPG city, 28 highway) powers very good acceleration. Reviewers especially praise the roomy, well-designed interior with comfortable seating in all three rows and a large, flexible cargo area. For a family that hauls a lot of kids and their stuff, Odyssey measures up as a great family vehicle. Odyssey is priced from $28,825 to $44,450.