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Best Cars for Small Families 2017

By Jennifer Newman
January 3, 2017
img 191244492 1478881913666 jpg 2017 Nissan Rogue | Manufacturer image

Best Car for Small Families

Small families often look at sedans, hatchbacks, wagons, SUVs and minivans. Our experts look at safety, fuel economy, comfort and ride.

The Rogue proves that a life filled with kids can be stylish — even if there are some crushed crackers in the backseat. This compact SUV can carry from five up to seven with its optional third row. The Rogue's handy cargo management system allows parents to maximize the cargo area with two storage levels as well as under-floor cubbies. With a starting price of $24,760 (including destination), the Rogue offers a lot of flexibility and good looks for an affordable price.

img 1714509285 1478882180418 jpg 2017 Honda Fit | Manufacturer image

Best Deal for Small Families

The Fit is a perfect fit for small families' wallets with its low starting price of $16,825 (including destination). This five-seat subcompact hatchback can easily haul passengers or cargo thanks to its nearly limitless versatility. It's the Magic Seat that makes the Fit a small-family standout: The rear seats can fold flat or the rear seat cushions can fold upward to create a taller cargo area. The zippy Fit has impressive visibility that's aided by Honda's LaneWatch, a camera mounted on the passenger-side mirror that shows a live video of the Fit's blind spot. The Fit fits easily into a busy family's life and budget.

img 2133219323 1478883562143 jpg 2017 Ford Edge | photo by Evan Sears

Recommended for Small Families

The Edge was just edged out of the No. 1 spot in our 2016 Midsize SUV Challenge, but there's no denying that this mid-size SUV is well-suited for small families. The Edge is the only car on this list that fits three child-safety seats across its backseat. That roominess also means that three adults can sit back there comfortably, too. From the driver's seat, the Edge offers terrific ride quality thanks to a suspension that puts an emphasis on control, comfort and quietness. Speaking of terrific, Ford's Sync 3 multimedia system stands out as straightforward and easy to use.

img1506920908 1478883378036 jpg 2017 Honda HR-V | photo by Evan Sears

Recommended for Small Families

If you like the Honda Fit, but are looking for something with a higher ride height, Honda's HR-V could fit the bill. This refined subcompact SUV has five seats and loads of flexibility. Just as in the Fit, the HR-V's second-row Magic Seat means that nearly any kind of item — from a new TV still in its box to a child's bike — can be easily accommodated in the HR-V: Fold the backseat flat for the TV screen or fold the rear seat cushions up to create a tall cargo space; it truly is magical. The backseat is a good fit for passengers, too, with its comfy seats and ample legroom.

img289883573 1478882262837 jpg 2017 Hyundai Sonata | photo by Angela Conners

Recommended for Small Families

In the competitive mid-size sedan class, the Sonata pairs a smooth, well-damped ride with a comfortable interior. Choose one of the Sonata's two optional turbocharged four-cylinder engines for an entertaining drive. The multimedia system is easy to use and has buttons and knobs that allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road rather than trying to navigate a multimedia system's touch-sensitive controls. The Sonata also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Its roomy backseat and easy-to-use Latch anchors make the Sonata a sedan that will easily accommodate your kids as they grow out of their rear-facing child-safety seats and into forward-facing ones.

img1493321242 1478883479807 jpg 2017 Subaru Crosstrek | Manufacturer image

Recommended for Small Families

Don't be fooled by its small size, the Crosstrek subcompact SUV is mighty when it comes to family life. The winner of our Subcompact SUV Challenge, the Crosstrek stands out with its standard all-wheel drive, affordable EyeSight safety system and roomy, comfortable interior. The Crosstrek's cargo area makes the most of its space with handy cargo hooks and a rubber mat to keep the floor mud-free. With its high ground clearance, families who live life ruggedly will be happy to go off the beaten path.

img 314098998 1478883191493 jpg 2017 Subaru Forester | Manufacturer image

Recommended for Small Families

SUVs are hot and the Forester should be on any small family's car-shopping short list. This compact SUV with standard all-wheel drive has a roomy backseat that easily accommodates child-safety seats or long-legged teens. Speaking of car seats, the easy-to-access lower Latch anchors and top tether anchors make for smooth installation. For drivers, the Forester has standout all-around visibility thanks to its large windows, and Subaru's EyeSight safety system, which is also available on the Crosstrek and Outback, makes important advanced features such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and precollision braking affordable.

img1033988096 1478882006651 jpg 2017 Subaru Outback | photo by Evan Sears

Recommended for Small Families

With its 8.7 inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive, the Outback looks more like a rugged SUV than a wagon. The Outback's comfortable yet rugged interior caters to families with a removable, washable rubber cargo mat that makes muddy shoes and gear a nonissue, and the roomy cargo area swallows portable cribs, strollers or all the gear that goes with having older kids in never-ending sports practices. Offered with a four-cylinder or six-cylinder engine paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission, the Outback makes chauffeuring the family less of a chore.

img980183445 1478883252064 jpg 2017 Toyota Prius | Manufacturer image

Recommended for Small Families

Redesigned for 2016, the Prius continues to stand out on the road with its funky styling that features sharp angles. For families on the go (and what family isn't these days?), the Prius' impressive fuel economy figures of 54/50/52 mpg city/highway/combined are likely the bigger draw and translate into fewer stops at the gas station, which is easier on anyone's wallet. Small families will find the Prius' interior comfortable; it now has more front legroom and cargo room. Rear legroom is down, but we found two child-safety seats can fit well in the backseat.

img 620516724 1478882094889 jpg 2017 Toyota RAV4 | photo by Angela Conners

Recommended for Small Families

The RAV4's sleek looks help it stand out in a crowded field of compact SUVs — and in crowded parking lots, too. The utilitarian SUV offers plenty of in-cabin storage for all the items that come with family life, and the backseat is roomy enough to easily handle space-hogging rear-facing child-safety seats too. The RAV4 can help to keep your most precious cargo safe with its standard precollision braking, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control; it also has an optional bird's-eye-view camera system for a top-down view of the RAV4 for easier parking.

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