Goodbye family sedan. Make way for the rise of the family SUV haulers and the return of the minivan.
SUVs – large, midsize and compact – are overtaking sedans in the popularity department with sedan sales taking a dip in favor of bigger family haulers. It’s in large part due to low gas prices. It’s also helping sales of minivans, too. It doesn’t hurt that there are a bunch of redesigned vehicles in the SUV and minivan segments to choose from as well.
That said, here’s a run through of the “12 Best Family Cars for 2017” according to Kelley Blue Book. Note: the rankings are based on sales volume in three categories designated by seat rows, not necessarily by segment class, an important distinction.
2017 Honda CR-V
Let’s start with the 2-row hits. The creme de la creme goes to the redesigned 2017 Honda CR-V. This American made model continues to be the best-seller in its class, followed by the Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4, with good reason.
The CR-V offers the reliability and safety of a Honda. It also packs a punch in the engine department. Which, makes it a refreshing choice as a family hauler with a kick. On the higher trims, it carries the Civic’s 1.5-liter turbo inline 4-cylinder with 190-horsepower. The base models’ engine gives a nice 184-horsepower from a 2.4-liter.
The popular CR-V grew in size for 2017. It’s longer, taller and wider which equals roomier. The cabin noticeably improves with a new single-screen infotainment system.
2017 Subaru Outback
Our tester was the top of the line model with smaller 2.5-liter Subaru Boxer 4-cylinder good for a respectable 175-horses. Whether you get the 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder, Outback comes with a Continuously Variable Transmission. It makes you feel like it has a lot more power than it does, especially when you use the shift paddles.
With Subaru’s standard all-wheel drive, the Outback delivers 25 highway and 32 city miles to the gallon. Those numbers are close the CR-V with its base engine and front-wheel drive.
If you’re concerned that it won’t meet your standard of luxe. The inside actually offers a cool Java Brown leather option that really gives it a snazzy kick.
We can’t not mention Subaru’s excellent reputation for safety. Subaru offers an available EyeSight suite of safety features and it’s terrific.
2017 Kia Sportage
Known for its dancing Hamsters, here’s a two-row in the Kia lineup worth looking into. The cutest crossover Sportage makes the list.
Like the CR-V, it’s been remodeled for 2017. Also like the Honda, it grew in size. The base LX offers a Popular Package. This basically puts a bunch of popular extras into one affordable, $1,100, add on. It adds heated seats, 10-way power adjustable driver seat with lumbar support, fancier upholstery, and roof rails.
It comes with more power than the above models if you go with the 2.0-liter turbocharged 240-horse engine on the top-of-the-line SX turbo. If AWD makes a difference for you, all trims offer it for an additional $1,500.
The Sportage also makes Kelley Blue Book’s list for top SUVs under $25,000.
2017 Honda HR-V
The baby sister to the CR-V rounds off the 2-row list. The HR-V really plays into the trend of more coupe-like crossovers. It gets better mileage with its smaller and more aerodynamic body. It makes fewer horses than the CR-V with its 1.8-liter 141-horsepower engine. The HR-V is more about looks and fun then turbocharging power.
The coupe-like lines are clear from the addition of a sharp upward sloping line down the side. The rear doors also use hidden, sports car-like, handles. This could be a bit of an issue with convenience for loading in kids. But then again, not a huge deal if fashion plus kids equal you.
The smaller engine keeps the pricing down. It starts $5,000 less than the CR-V and gets 1 mpg better fuel economy.
2017 Toyota Highlander
Toyota continues to set a high standard for large 3-row SUVs. Not surprisingly, that the Highlander makes the list as one of the top-selling SUVs for families.
Completely redesigned for 2017, it comes with more standard features and a sporty SE trim. The interior feels very nice and modern. Very Toyota with lots of pockets and spaces to cram your junk into. The optional panoramic sunroof makes another nice touch. Aside from that, standard convenience touches include five USB ports and a backup camera.
Toyota’s new 3.5-liter V6 sits under the hood. It’s good for 295-horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy improves to 20 city and 27 highway mpgs. Toyota offers a hybrid version of the Highlander as well.
We test drove the 2016 model and you can read our review here.
2017 Honda Pilot
Honda makes the cut on the 3-row as well. The recently restyled Pilot makes a great choice with its reworked interior that provides seating for eight. You can actually fit three people in the third-row seat. The infotainment touchscreen goes fingerprint proof and Android Auto and CarPlay are available.
Like the others, it carries a 3.5-liter V6. But with slightly less power than the Highlander at 280-horses. There is an optional panoramic sunroof too.
There’s not a ton of rear cargo room with all three rows up. It does have a hidden floor cubby, though. We like that the top trims make third-row access easy with a push button sliding second-row.
2017 Nissan Pathfinder
The Pathfinder takes the cake as the only Nissan on this family SUV list. Unlike the above two, its third-row only offers two seats. So if that’s going to be an issue for you, skip this one.
Like the other two, it carries a 3.5-liter V6. But its new direct injection means it beats the Pilot in horses. The engine rates 184-horsepower. It also beats the other two with a clean 1,000 more pounds in towing. Yep. That’s a best in class 6,000 pounds with the right rigging.
The cabin is nice with a very symmetrical looking front dash area. As opposed to the more asymmetrical Toyota Highlander design. We’re also fans of the wood accents in the higher trims. It also trumps the above two in terms of sun roofing. Instead of just a panoramic choice, it offers a normal size sunroof in the front and a huge panoramic one over the two rear rows.
2017 Chevrolet Tahoe
Now for the classic American workhorse, the Chevrolet Tahoe. Along with being on Kelley Blue Book’s best family cars list, it’s also the best-selling full-size SUV on the road.
It starts over $15 grand more than the other three in its three-row category. In 2017, a Premier trim replaces the previous LTZ. It’s available in LS and LT trims as well. All three give you a choice of rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The Tahoe really stands out as one of our favorites in terms of timeless exterior lines.
The third-row offers three seats. For the easiest, and fanciest, access – opt for the two bucket second-row seat. Oh, did we mention, those second-row buckets offer heated seats. The front center console is ginormous. Great for road tripping. Or just dumping all that kid stuff that accumulates.
2017 Toyota Sienna
Toyota kicks off this segment with its top-selling Sienna. (Note: the aging model is finally due for a full redesign in 2018 or 2019.)
The Sienna starts in the same $30 grand price range of the 3-row SUVs (except for the pricier Tahoe). It’s no snooze in the power department thanks to a new 3.5-liter V6 good for 296-horses. It makes slightly less fuel economy than its sibling the Highlander.
In the cabin, you can get a dual-view blue-ray entertainment screen for the kids. Those same kids, assuming you don’t rotate with the neighbors, will love love love the lounging rear seats. Check out the adjustable ottomans and armrests. At this rate, you might want to get a chauffeur so you can sit in the back. Oh and don’t forget the dual sunroof option.
2017 Honda Odyssey
Though it’s clear that minivans put convenience before fashion. Odyssey arguably throws in a little flare just for fun. It gets an eye-catching belt line that noticeably notches down after the sliding doors.
The model – which gets an overhaul for 2018 – makes its mark with more than just its goofily fun commercials (remember the one showing a man attracted to an Odyssey like it’s a hot black jag?). It stands out with its now infamous built in vacuum, the HondaVAC.
When it comes to power though, it falls short. It rates over 40-horses less than the Toyota Sienna with 148-horsepower.
The third-row really is a ‘Magic Seat.’ One seat plus the middle seat completely disappear into the floor creating a nice cargo option. It doesn’t have the lounge seats of the Sienna. But it does offer the dual-view entertainment center.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
If flexible storage appeals to you, this could be the perfect model for you. (We’re looking at you gardening, carpooling, soccer moms.) It uses a really cool Stow-N-Go system. Each seat can be separately stowed into the floor creating a flat loading area. By our calculations, you can have all the seats down in just over one minute.
The non-hybrid model uses a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with 287-horsepower. Its dash uses a unique flowing design that definitely ups the nice feel. It offers a huge tri-pane panoramic sunroof and separate entertainment screens on the back of the front seats. Like the Odyssey, it also offers a built-in vacuum because kids can be messy. And there’s no such thing as a sand free beach trip.
2017 Kia Sedona
Unlike the above minivans, the Kia Sedona comes with a smaller 3.3 V6 under the hood. This means it also comes with the worst fuel economy of the bunch. The engine does give it a nice smooth ride, however. It also helps noise as well with the model offering a nice quiet cabin.
Rather than Stow-N-Go, it uses Slide-N-Go seating. This means that rather than the seats disappearing into the floor, the second-row seats slide forward to create the maximum cargo area. The model is smaller than the Sienna and Odyssey, so if a lot of storage is a must for you, you might want to check those out first.
Sedona takes the slot as the smallest and the least expensive van on the list. Starting at $26,900 standard features include a USB jack, rearview camera, and remote keyless entry. You can add on dual sliding sunroofs and heating and cooling second-row seats.
Photo Credit: Honda, Toyota, Kia, Nissan, Chrysler, Chevrolet