Top 10 Family-Friendly Car Features

Today's parents need more than a rear entertainment system in a car to consider it a family-friendly vehicle. Parents need features that will make their lives easier — not just something that entertains the kids on long road trips. Here are some of our favorite family-friendly features.

10. Easy-to-Use Latch System

Parents shouldn't have to launch a search party just to find lower Latch anchors that are buried under seat cushions. Few automakers offer Latch systems that are easy to use, but some do get it right. We like the Latch systems in the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 wagon, 2010 Chevy Traverse and 2011 Toyota Avalon.

9. Flip-Up Trash Bin Ring

The 2011 Honda Odyssey has a lot of family-friendly touches. One of our favorites is the second row's trash bin ring that can hold a plastic grocery store bag. When the little mess-makers — er, kids — aren't in the minivan, the ring can be flipped down out of the way.

8. Ford's MyKey

This safety feature from Ford allows parents to keep a modicum of control over their teen drivers — even when they're not in the passenger seat. With this programmable key, parents can limit the car's top speed and radio volume. It also allows Mom or Dad to block explicit satellite radio stations.

7. Integrated Sunshades

This seems like such a minor feature, but retractable window shades mean no more fiddling with aftermarket shades that barely cover the rear windows and don't keep the sun out of a napping child's eyes.

6. Easy-Folding Third Row

The last thing a parent wants to wrestle with in a car is the third row. With the 2011 Toyota Sienna, the third row can be quickly folded into the floor with minimal effort. If you go for a higher trim level, you can get a power-folding third row in the minivan. What could be easier?    

5. Power Sliding Doors

Minivans win out when it comes to their power sliding doors, which make it easy for kids to get in and out of the car on their own with just the push of a button. Another bonus is it removes the chance that your overzealous child will fling open a car door into another car in a parking lot.

4. Inflatable Seat Belt

This safety feature is found in the backseat of the all-new 2011 Ford Explorer. The optional seat belts look like traditional seat belts, but in a crash they inflate to help distribute crash forces across a greater area on the passenger's chest.

3. Seat Belt Icon

Parents need all the help they can get, and some automakers — Cadillac and Jaguar — are helping out by providing a simple icon in a car's instrument panel that indicates who's buckled up in the backseat. This is especially useful if you have an escape artist who likes to quietly unbuckle his seat belt.

2. Backup Cameras

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently proposed that by 2014 all cars must have a 180-degree view around the car, which means requiring backup cameras on new cars. Backup cameras are a safety feature that can save lives — usually the lives of children ages 5 and younger. 

1. Expanding Second Row

Leave it to Honda to score our top spot. In all but the base model, the 2011 Odyssey's second-row seats can be moved together to form a bench seat that will easily hold three child-safety seats. If you have adults riding in that position, the seats can be moved apart to create three individual seats and some shoulder room.

© Cars.com 05/1/2012