Best cars for families? New rankings are out

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is shown at the AutoMobility LA auto show Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Toyota dominated the 2020 U.S. News Best Cars for Families list, taking the top spot in five of nine categories.

The picks were based on factors including space, safety, reliability and the availability of family-friendly features.

While a DVD player in the back seat used to pass for a great family-friendly feature, “now what we consider to be family-friendly include things like Wi-Fi hot spots, 360-degree surround view cameras,” and smartphone apps that help teens develop good driving habits, said Jamie Page Deaton, executive editor of U.S. News Best Cars.

The winners also have active safety features like forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and rear automatic braking.

The Toyota RAV4 got the nod as the best compact SUV for families. “This is just a good, solid basic, never-going-to-let-you-down family car,” Deaton said.

Going up slightly in size, the Honda Passport was the pick for best two-row SUV. “This one is a little bit more rugged than its three-row sibling, which is the Honda Pilot,” Deaton said.

When it comes to SUVs with a third row, the Kia Telluride was U.S. News’ choice. “The Telluride has been racking up awards all year long, and it has just anything you can really think of that might make your life a little bit better,” Deaton said.

The Telluride includes a display in the dashboard that shows the driver what’s in the blind spot when the turn signal is switched on. Like other winners, it has a Wi-Fi hot spot. “It has a ton of USB ports, because you know that as everybody in the family is using that Wi-Fi hot spot, they’re going to want to have their devices plugged in and charging,” Deaton said.

If the Telluride is still not big enough, the Ford Expedition was the winner for large SUVs. “Before you buy this… measure your garage first,” Deaton said. “But the interior of this thing is huge, and it is ideal for families if you have four kids or more.”

It’s also suited for heavy duty use, “so if you’re an active family who has maybe a boat or an RV or a horse trailer to tow, the Expedition is going to be your best bet,” she said.

When it comes to moving people without serious towing, the Honda Odyssey was the choice for best minivan for families. “Every minivan has the space that families are looking for … but that said, the Odyssey really sets the pace when it comes to introducing innovative family-friendly features to the market,” Deaton said.

Those features include a built-in vacuum and a night vision camera inside, “so you can see on the infotainment screen what the kids are doing in the back,” Deaton said. “If you’ve got a little one in a rear-facing car seat, this is really useful, because you can’t always see what they’re up to.”

The Toyota Camry was the pick for best midsize family sedan. Deaton said that in a sedan, “you feel a little bit less like you’re wearing a pair of automotive mom jeans.”

The Toyota Avalon was rated the best large car for families. Toyota also boasts the best hybrid in two categories, as the Avalon Hybrid won best hybrid or electric car for families and the Highlander Hybrid was picked best hybrid or electric SUV.

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