The words “safety first” may seem clichéd, but safety is the top factor we consider when we compile our list of family-friendly vehicles.
Our picks must get high scores in our annual rankings for overall value, performance and safety, plus they must earn a Top Safety Pick (opens in new tab) from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Because six airbags, stability control and traction control are standard features on most vehicles now, we’re raising the bar on safety equipment for our winners. They also have to offer either a forward-collision warning system or a rearview camera as standard or optional equipment (see How to Buy a Safe Car for more).
Our selections range from sedans to crossovers with a nod to traditional family haulers, such as minivans and wagons. We list the entry-level trim so you have an idea of what it costs to get the model, and you can add options from there.
Sources: Sticker and invoice price: ©1986-2014 Chrome Data Solutions, LP; Kelley Blue Book (opens in new tab) Fair Purchase Price and resale values (March-April): Kelley Blue Book; fuel economy: FuelEconomy.gov.
- Sticker price: $22,745 (LX, manual)
- Invoice price: $20,890
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $20,663
- Resale value: 3-year: 59%; 5-year: 45%
- MPG: City: 24; Hwy: 34
A Best New Model winner in 2013 (and winner of Best in Class four of the past six years), the Accord boasts stellar resale values, a roomy interior and a standard rearview camera. Standard features also include Pandora Internet radio, SMS text messaging and 16 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk. Step up to the EX and you’ll get Honda’s innovative LaneWatch system, which shows a camera view of the passenger-side blind spot, to make highway exits a snap. Lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning are standard on EX-L trims.
- Sticker price: $22,300 (LX)
- Invoice price: $21,379
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $20,939
- Resale value: 3-year: 48%; 5-year: 35%
- MPG: City: 23; Hwy: 34
The Optima offers a superior blend of power and fuel efficiency, whether you pick the 192-horsepower base engine or the 274-horse turbocharged model, which gets extra kudos for having some of the highest resale values in its class. The Optima has a rearview camera that’s available as an option on every trim level, and its trunk has 15 cubic feet of cargo space.
- Sticker price: $22,795 (S)
- Invoice price: $21,313
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $21,254
- Resale value: 3-year: 52%; 5-year: 39%
- MPG: City: 22; Hwy: 34
Winner of a Best in Class award in our 2014 rankings, Ford’s midsize sedan has sporty driving dynamics, a spacious interior and 16 cubic feet of cargo space. A collision-warning system is available on most models, and other options include rear inflatable seat belts (designed to soften the impact of a crash by spreading it over a larger portion of the torso), lane-departure warning with a “lane keeping” system, blind-spot warning with cross-traffic alert (which warns you of approaching vehicles as you’re backing up), and automatic high beams.
Volkswagen Passat TDI
- Sticker price: $27,495 (SE, manual)
- Invoice price: $26,402
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $24,943
- Resale value: 3-year: 50%; 5-year: 35%
- MPG: City: 31; Hwy: 43
As the only diesel option among our top values in family sedans, the Passat enjoys the best mileage of the bunch. With the standard manual transmission, you can travel almost 800 miles on a single tank (automatic transmission is available, but mileage drops to 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway). Every TDI comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats and a rearview camera.
- Sticker price: $29,655 (LX)
- Invoice price: $27,196
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $26,615
- Resale value: 3-year: 53%; 5-year: 37%
- MPG: City: 19; Hwy: 28
Our Best in Class minivan also gets the best fuel economy in its class. The Odyssey has the most cargo space (93 cubic feet behind the second row with the third-row seats folded flat) and a standard rearview camera. It’s the only Top Safety Pick in the minivan brood, and it has an available collision-warning system. Spring for the top-of-the-line Touring Elite model ($45,280) and you get an integrated vacuum cleaner for taking care of messes on the go.
- Sticker price: $24,320 (2.5i, manual)
- Invoice price: $22,948
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $22,330
- Resale value: 3-year: 57%; 5-year: 41%
- MPG: City: 22; Hwy: 29
Standard all-wheel drive makes the Outback wagon a perennial pick for adventurous families. It’s grown taller over the years, giving you more ground clearance than most wagons. For 2014, the Outback builds on its reputation for reliability and roominess (it has 34 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row) and ups its game with enhanced features. For example, the all-weather package of heated seats and mirrors and windshield-wiper de-icer is now standard equipment. EyeSight, which incorporates adaptive cruise control (to automatically slow down if you get too close to the vehicle in front of you), pre-collision braking and lane-departure warning, is now available on all but the base models, as is a rearview camera.
- Sticker price: $22,225 (Sport, manual)
- Invoice price: $21,614
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $21,173
- Resale value: 3-year: 53%; 5-year: 35%
- MPG: City: 26; Hwy: 35
With the drivability of a sporty sedan and 34 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, the Mazda CX-5 is ideal for families with a couple of kids. Choices abound. Pick the base 2.0-liter engine (with 155 hp) or the new 2.5-liter (184 hp), and front- or all-wheel drive. Adaptive headlights and low-speed forward-collision warning are optional. The CX-5 won Best in Class for Small Crossovers in our 2014 car rankings.
- Sticker price: $22,820 (2.5i, manual)
- Invoice price: $21,636
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $21,313
- Resale value: 3-year: 63%; 5-year: 43%
- MPG: City: 22; Hwy: 29
Redesigned for 2014, the all-wheel-drive Forester won Best New Small Crossover. The new generation of the compact crossover is slightly larger than the previous model, giving it more legroom and a bump up in cargo space—34 cubic feet behind the second row. New features include anti-whiplash front seats, a driver’s knee airbag and an optional collision-warning system.
- Sticker price: $30,075 (LE, 4 cylinder)
- Invoice price: $27,533
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $28,733
- Resale value: 3-year: 64%; 5-year: 47%
- MPG: City: 20; Hwy: 25
Toyota’s Highlander is all new for 2014. It’s available with a four- or six-cylinder engine with front-wheel drive, or with a six-cylinder engine with all-wheel drive (starting at $32,705), and mileage is similar for all three. Seating for eight is standard (second-row captain’s chairs are an option), as is a rearview camera and eight airbags. A collision-warning system and a lane-departure alert are optional. You get 42 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row with the third row folded flat.
- Sticker price: $43,185
- Invoice price: $40,081
- Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $40,965
- Resale value: 3-year: 55%; 5-year: 39%
- MPG: City: 20; Hwy: 28
A redesign makes Acura’s cushy crossover even more family-friendly this year. Fuel economy is improved, thanks to a new powertrain and the first front-wheel-drive model in the vehicle’s lineup. LED lighting graces the MDX inside and out, acoustic glass keeps the cabin quiet, and a sliding second row of seats makes passenger space customizable, plus provides easy access to the third row. The MDX boasts more standard features than before, and it’s safe, too; a rearview camera is standard, and options include forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring.
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