CARS.COM — Compact SUVs are fast becoming America's go-to family car, supplanting compact and mid-size sedans — particularly for smaller and urban families who don't need or want a bigger, more expensive SUV or (gulp) minivan.
Automakers looking to stand out in this fast-growing, fast-changing market are building in more features that cater to the family buyer. We spotted several at Cars.com's 2017 Compact SUV Challenge comparison of seven new and refreshed family haulers priced at $35,000 or less with destination included.
Here is our favorite for most original family-friendly feature, followed by a selection of others you might also want to keep in mind as you shop for a family SUV.
Center storage console convertible: The 2017 Honda CR-V Touring's clever, versatile center console lets you create your own bespoke storage configuration to fit your gear and reconfigure as needed.
You can have a covered bin plus a big open tray for devices or stray items that's just above USB ports and a 12-volt power port, or slide the tray back to open a larger open space. The tray is in addition to another tray with a 12-volt power port ahead of the console's cupholders, and to a pair of laptop-strong 2.5-amp USB charging ports on the back of the console. The armrest/bin lid also slides forward and back to fit different drivers.
Need more space? Drop the self-storing tray to the bottom to open maximum storage big enough to secure a medium handbag (or baby supplies, tablets, etc.).
Bonus: You can stick a flash drive in either console USB port (one also serves for smartphone integration) to play music through the audio system. That won't make preschool tunes any more listenable (for the hundredth time), but it lets you leave kids' music on a drive in the car and off your phone.
If you're a visual learner, Honda has a video explainer here.
Backseats for kicking back: The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE and 2017.5 Nissan Rogue SL topped the field for backseat comfort with second rows that both slide forward and back and offer seatbacks that recline. Grownups can stretch out and enjoy even long trips in the back; kids can feel limo'd to school by the family chauffeur. Alternatively, you can balance people and car needs, move it far up to keep an infant in a safety seat within reach or slide it far rearward so those preschoolers' feet can't kick your seatback.
Power outlets for all, and more: For the tech-intensive family that wants to stay plugged in, the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox LT has your numbers: six USB ports, three 12-volt power ports, one 120-volt household power outlet, 4G connectivity and Wi-Fi (subscription-based after the free trial expires) for up to seven devices. That should do for a vehicle with five seats.
Middle center Latch anchor: None of the Challenge compacts makes Cars.com's list of holy grail vehicles that can fit three child-safety seats across the backseat. But the CR-V goes one up on the compact competition with an additional center Latch anchor in the backseat along with the customary two outboard pairs. That allows you to more easily anchor the family prince or princess safety-seat throne in the more protected center.
Conversation mirror puts hairy eyeball on kids' misbehavior: A feature straight from Honda Odyssey-land is the CR-V's dropdown "conversation mirror" in the front ceiling. It's clearly less about a conversation than being mom's or dad's "eyes in the back of the head" to see who is doing what to whom.
Memory seats fit for sharing: For households that share driving duties, the 2017 Jeep Compass Limited, 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring, CR-V and Rogue offered convenient memory settings for the driver seat. And to accommodate all sizes riding shotgun, the Compass, CX-5, Tiguan and Equinox included a height adjustment for the front passenger seat. Head-scratcher note: The CR-V included power slide and recline adjustment for the passenger, but no height flexibility.
Available third-row spillover space: While our Challenge entries didn't have them, the Tiguan and Rogue each offer a third row for extra seating in a pinch (literally because the seats are not spacious). The third row is standard in front-wheel drive Tiguans and optional with all-wheel-drive models such as our test car.
Cargo space for road trips: The Tiguan, Rogue and CR-V lapped the Challenge field for maximum cargo space for those Home Depot runs with the backseat down. But likely to be of more use more often is that they also have enough space with the second row occupied for a family road trip with luggage and gear in the back — not in a cargo box on the roof.
Easy access: The CR-V shines again with a low, kid-friendly step-in height to get to the passenger seats. There is also a parent-friendly lift-over height for loading the rear cargo area, by far the lowest among the Challenge entries.