Family-Friendly SUVs

US News

The right SUV will keep you and your family safe, entertained and comfortable on long trips. It’s important to narrow your shopping list to those with the most family-friendly features and equipment. Good cargo space, ample space for child seats, innovative safety features and entertainment systems to keep the kids occupied are just a few things to look for. Here are some things to consider when buying a new SUV for your family.

SUV Size: Is Bigger Better?

One of the first decisions you should make is what size SUV will meet your family’s needs. Granted, not every buyer needs third-row seating and a cavernous cargo area, but the extra room might come in handy if you share car pool duties or volunteer to drive for that class field trip. Plus, the extra room will certainly help on family vacations. Additionally, if your kids are getting bigger and you still need that third row, make sure they will fit as they grow taller. SUVs such as the Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota RAV4 offer optional third rows that are best left to small children, while others, like the Honda Pilot and Chevrolet Traverse, are better suited for families with older kids.

Innovative SUV Seating Configurations

Unique seating options are good for families on the go, offering a level of convenience that allows you to mold the cabin to accommodate passengers, cargo or both. The Chevrolet Equinox, for example, has a sliding rear seat that can increase cargo space or rear legroom, depending on how you position it. The sliding row can also be helpful to parents with young children, keeping them closer to mom and dad who are sitting up front. Volvo has an optional integrated booster seat in the XC60 and a standard booster cushion in the XC90, which allow children to sit high enough for proper seatbelt and head restraint protection.

When shopping for an SUV, make sure the model you want has enough LATCH connectors for your car seats. SUVs have at least two sets of LATCH connectors, and they are usually on the second row outboard seats. Some have more, though. The Honda Pilot, for example, has four available LATCH connections.

SUV Safety and Technology Features for Families

The bells and whistles available on new SUVs can make long rides more comfortable. Most SUVs offer optional rear-seat entertainment systems, and features such as navigation and Bluetooth mean you can concentrate on the road instead of fumbling with your cell phone for directions. Some SUVs offer interior features that give them a real advantage in terms of family friendliness. Features like tri-zone climate control, back-seat power outlets and extra storage compartments are good to consider when shopping for a family-friendly SUV.

The Volvo XC60 offers optional safety technology that can help parents avoid dangerous collisions. Imagine a stressed mom looking for a pacifier when the car in front of her brakes suddenly. It’s a potentially disastrous scenario, but it’s also where Volvo’s City Safety feature can come into play. In low-speed crashes, it stops the XC60 on its own if it senses the XC60 is getting to close to the vehicle in front of it. Other safety features families should consider include rearview cameras and park assist, which are optional on many SUVs.

Is It Safe?

SUV safety ratings will come into play when you’re researching new family vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provide crash test scores that give you an idea of how vehicles perform in crashes.

In federal government tests, vehicles can achieve a maximum of five stars, with an overall rating that reflects crash scores in front, side and rollover tests. Rollover scores are particularly important for SUV buyers because the center of gravity of an SUV tends to be higher than a car’s, making it more likely to roll over.             

The IIHS rates vehicles in front- and side-impact crash tests. It also tests roof strength and evaluates seats and head restraints for protection against rear impact. Vehicles that earn a top score of Good in all four categories earn Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS, and tend to be some of the safest vehicles on the road. The IIHS’ list of Top Safety Picks covers models at multiple price points. Fortunately, parents don’t have to pay a premium for the safest vehicles on the road.

Great SUVs for Families

SUV

Price

Max. Fuel Economy (city/highway mpg)

Max. Cargo Space (cubic feet)

Third-Row Seating

IIHS Top Safety Pick

Dodge Durango

$28,995

16/23

84.5

Standard

Yes

Chevrolet Equinox

$23,530

22/32

63.7

No

Yes

Toyota Highlander

$28,090

20/25

95.4

Standard

Yes

Honda Pilot

$28,470

18/25

87

Standard

Yes

Chevrolet Tahoe

$38,530

15/21

108.9

Standard

N/A

Volvo XC90

$39,500

16/23

85.1

Standard

Yes

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