"Family car" can have a number of meanings, depending on your needs. An eco-minded family might prioritize fuel economy, while a smaller family might want a compact car. And of course, some folks will always have a need for the traditional minivan.
If you're shopping for a family car, the sheer volume of choices can be overwhelming. But you can relax: Edmunds teamed up with Parents magazine to review the top contenders for nearly every family car category, ranging from crossovers to wagons.
As we considered the candidates and narrowed the list to 10 vehicles, we made safety a top consideration, choosing vehicles with excellent crash-test scores and the latest in automated safety technology. We also considered many other factors, such as cargo space, cabin layout and driving feel. We're confident you'll find something here for your family — however you define it.
(Note: In order to be considered for this list, vehicles had to be driven before March 1st.)
Best Budget Vehicle
2016 Kia Soul
The 2016 Kia Soul is a hatchback that combines the family-friendly cargo space of a compact crossover with unique styling and an affordable price point. One of the benefits of the Kia Soul's boxy design is an abundance of headroom and legroom, even in the backseat. Behind it you'll find 19 cubic feet of cargo room, which grows to 61 cubic feet when you fold down both sections of the split rear seatbacks. This is more than you'd find in compact hatchbacks and is on par with some SUVs. If you opt for the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (which is available in higher trims), you'll find that the 2016 Kia Soul is enjoyable around town and feels satisfyingly quick when merging onto a highway. Starts at $16, 750.
Best Green Car
2016 Chevy Volt
Want to show your kids how to be green? The 2016 Chevrolet Volt is an excellent lesson in fuel economy and reduced emissions. The 2016 Volt is sleeker than the previous generation's version, which looked more like a quirky hybrid. The 2016 Chevy Volt's revised plug-in hybrid powertrain offers 53 miles of all-electric range, which is a 25-percent improvement over the previous range. That's enough to handle the daily commute of most families without ever requiring a drop of gasoline. And when you do need to fuel up, the Volt's new, quieter 1.5-liter engine now requires only regular-grade gasoline. It delivers an EPA-estimated 42 mpg, up 13 percent from the previous Volt. Starts at $33, 995.
2016 Mazda 3
If your family wants to enjoy driving while still feeling safe, the 2016 Mazda 3 should be at the top of your list. The Mazda 3 has more character than the average economy car and is the driver's choice in this list. The well-tuned steering and suspension will encourage you to tackle even the tightest corners, and the car's refined and substantial ride quality make it enjoyable for road trips as well. There's no stinting on safety features: A blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert comes standard on Touring and Grand Touring models. The available Technology package for the 3s Grand Touring can add a lane departure warning system and forward collision warning. It also offers Mazda's Smart City Brake Support, a forward collision mitigation system that can automatically bring the car to a stop at low speeds if the driver doesn't react to an imminent collision. Starts at $19, 380.
Best Compact Sedan
2016 Honda Civic
The 2016 Honda Civic is perfect for families who want a spacious sedan that is more maneuverable and less expensive than a full-size sedan. This redesigned Civic feels sporty and fun whether you're driving it around town or on winding back roads. Unlike its predecessors, however, it's fairly quiet inside at speed, and its ride is more compliant than ever. The Civic has so much rear passenger space that families might not even need to consider the larger Honda Accord. Inside, the Civic's design and materials approach Acura-grade refinement in the top Touring trim. The Honda Sensing safety package is standard on Touring and optional on other Civic sedans. It adds adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-departure intervention and forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking. Starts at $19, 475.
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