What’s eligible: Any 2020 model vehicle regardless of when it was introduced or last updated.
Criteria: Along with crash tests, safety features and accommodation of family members and their gear, we consider family-friendly features and overall excellence.
2020 Ford Expedition
Few vehicles offer comfortable accommodations for a lot of people and their stuff at the same time, but a full-size SUV can, and the 2020 Ford Expedition is our pick. Large outside and in, the Expedition is one of the few full-size SUVs that provides the spacious interior suggested by its exterior bulk, with the hands-down roomiest third row even if you don’t opt for the extended Expedition Max. With a maximum seating capacity of eight, it easily accommodates your kids, their friends and the dog while towing the camper … which happens to include the kitchen sink.
Power comes from Ford’s twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, which makes 375 horsepower in most trim levels and 400 hp in the top Platinum. It’s paired with a standard 10-speed automatic transmission and is available with either rear- or four-wheel drive. Not only is power ample, it’s also smooth and delivery is linear for a refined driving experience.
This may be a truck-based SUV, but its interior is anything but crude: There are power ports in every row, the Sync 3 multimedia system with an 8-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, a family entertainment system, and in-vehicle Wi-Fi that can handle up to 10 connections and operate within 50 feet from the vehicle.
Redesigned for 2018 with more interior space as well as additional comfort and convenience features, the Full-Size SUV Challenge-winning Expedition returned for 2019 with few significant changes. It remains competitive and claims a spot as a Family Car of the Year nominee again for 2020.
2020 Hyundai Santa Fe
SUVs continue to take over the sales charts, and Hyundai offers a bunch of them, from the teeny Venue to the three-row Palisade. Somewhere in the middle is the Santa Fe, nominated for Cars.com’s Family Car of the Year award for its blend of comfort, safety and value.
The five-seat Santa Fe was redesigned for 2019 and returns for 2020 with additional safety features. Power comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 185 horsepower or a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 235 hp; both are available with front- or all-wheel drive. And although its road manners are commendable, what really stands out are its safety features.
New for 2020 is the standard Blind-View Monitor, which helpfully displays a camera view of your blind spot when the turn signal is activated. Also standard is a rear occupant detection system; it alerts the driver when someone has been left in the backseat.
Last — but certainly not least for parents with kids in car seats — the Santa Fe earned straight A grades in our Car Seat Check thanks to ample room and easy-access Latch anchors.
All of that plus the SUV’s focus on value — the 2020 Santa Fe remains one of the more affordable options in a crowded field of two-row mid-size SUVs — and its win in Cars.com’s Mid-Size SUV Challenge helped earn it a nomination for 2020 Family Car of the Year.
2020 Volkswagen Atlas
Some people are allergic to minivans, which is a problem if you need to haul around a big family and all the stuff that comes with them. The Volkswagen Atlas can handle a lot; it’s roomy, loaded with family-friendly features and excels when it comes to accommodating car seats.
The three-row SUV, which took top honors in the 2017 Three-Row SUV Challenge and later won Cars.com’s Best of 2018 award, is big and able to seat seven people in comfort, regardless of which seat they’re in. The second row is a highlight: With a sliding second-row bench seat or captain’s chairs that also tilt forward to allow you to keep a child-safety seat installed in place, third-row entry and exit is a breeze, and adjusting legroom among passengers once settled is easy.
It’s big, but it doesn’t drive like it. The standard turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is available only with front-wheel drive, but if you live where all-wheel drive isn’t important, this is a perfectly acceptable powertrain. Even with a full load of passengers, the torquey little four-cylinder pulls strongly in traffic.
The V-6 provides more oomph, with smooth power delivery through the eight-speed automatic transmission. Although sportiness is not a strong point — a common issue with large SUVs — the Atlas’ road manners are always comfortable, with excellent ride composure, strong and consistent brakes, and low cabin noise levels. There are plenty of reasons for a big family to check out the Atlas, which is why we nominated it for 2020 Family Car of the Year.