The best family cars for 2020

Rugged, spacious, reliable, and safe, the 2020 Subaru Outback ticks a lot of boxes. It’s the best family car you can buy new in 2020, and the fact that it comes standard with weather-beating all-wheel drive only adds to its appeal. Although the Outback is a car that does it all, there are other great options in nearly every market segment if it doesn’t fit the bill for your family. We’ve also selected the best electric family car and the best luxury family car, among other options.

The best: Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

Why should you buy this: It’s all the car you’ll ever need. The Outback is as versatile as a Swiss Army knife and as dependable as a good pair of hiking boots.

Who’s it for: Anyone who needs a car that can do it all.

What it’ll cost: $26,645+

Why we picked the Subaru Outback:

The Subaru Outback is one of the best all-around vehicles currently on sale. It’s an affordable car that can handle the grind of your daily commute, but with all-wheel drive and plenty of cargo space, it’s also perfect for weekend adventures. While the Outback demonstrates how versatile station wagons can be, it has only survived in this SUV-hungry market by adopting rugged body cladding and a raised ride height.

The Outback has a lower center of gravity than the SUVs it competes with, improving handling. But it still offers 8.7 inches of clearance and plenty of trunk space behind the rear seats. The lower roof height also makes strapping cargo a bit easier, and Subaru even designed step-like sills to ensure motorists have secure footing.

All-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission are standard, and buyers can choose between two boxer engines. The entry-level engine is a naturally-aspirated, 2.5-liter flat-four that makes 182 horsepower. That’s not a lot for a vehicle of this size, so buyers can step up to a turbocharged, 2.4-liter flat-four rated at a more generous 260 hp. The standard four-cylinder output is merely adequate, so we suggest selecting the bigger engine if you need power.

The Subaru Outback features standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Subaru’s EyeSight driver-aid suite on all trim levels. EyeSight includes adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, and lane departure warning. Other driver aids include lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, reverse autonomous braking, and steering-responsive headlights.

Read more about the 2020 Subaru Outback

The best car for large families: Kia Sedona

Why should you buy this: It’s has high reliability ratings, a low price, and an easy-to-use infotainment system.

Who’s it for: Families who need lots of seats and space. The Sedona proves that minivans are still the best option for buyers who need to haul a lot of people or stuff.

What it’ll cost: $30,400

Why we picked the Kia Sedona:

The Kia Sedona is not the coolest-looking minivan on the market, but this is admittedly a rather uncool segment. What the Sedona has is good safety and predicted reliability scores from trusted third parties, which counts for a lot when one vehicle needs to do everything from school runs to offsite work lunches. It’s also got one of the lowest prices in its class and a longer warranty than many of its rivals.

The Sedona comes with Kia’s UVO infotainment system, which is dead simple to use and has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard. Upgrades include wireless device charging and more USB ports, so everybody can bring their own entertainment if they want to tune out your music choices. The starting price is low enough that you might have room in the budget for cool upgrades like touchless automatic liftgate and anti-pinch sliding doors.

Don’t expect a sporty ride from the Kia Sedona, though the V6 has plenty of power for hauling everybody and their gear. But that also means the Sedona doesn’t get great fuel economy, with a combined 24 mpg rating from the EPA. There’s a new Sedona around the corner, however, and it’s expected to return much better gas mileage.

The best performance family car: Dodge Durango SRT

best family cars 2018 Dodge Durango SRT

Why should you buy this: You’re not the most responsible parent.

Who’s it for: Soccer moms and dads with a need for speed. The Dodge Durango SRT shows that family cars can be fun and quick.

What it’ll cost: $62,995

Why we picked the Dodge Durango SRT:

Most people think family cars should be practical and sensible, but Dodge didn’t get that memo. The Detroit-based automaker decided to stuff a 475 hp, 6.4-liter Hemi V8 in its Durango SUV, seemingly just because it could. The result is a three-row hauler that can seat six and tow up to 8,700 pounds but can also hit 60 mph from a stop in 4.4 seconds, run the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds, and do four-wheel burnouts.

Aside from its awesome Hemi power, the Durango SRT also ticks practical family car boxes. It offers plenty of space and comes equipped with Dodge’s intuitive Uconnect infotainment system, complete with an 8.4-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The SRT also gets a nine-speaker, 506-watt BeatsAudio system.

Turning a family SUV into a muscle car involves some compromises, though. The Dodge Durango SRT isn’t cheap and, at an EPA-rated 15 mpg combined, it’s thirsty. But few vehicles balance people-and-cargo-hauling practicality with high-speed thrills like this Dodge. And, if you want an even quicker family hauler, the Durango is also offered with the supercharged, 6.2-liter Hellcat engine that makes 710 hp. It’s the most powerful SUV on the market, but it’s expected to carry a base price in the vicinity of $81,000, and Dodge said it will only build the model for about six months.

Read our full Dodge Durango SRT review

The best luxury family car: Volvo V90 Cross Country

best family cars 2018 Volvo V90 Cross Country

Why should you buy this: It can do everything with style.

Who’s it for: Upscale families. The V90 Cross Country is a luxury car that can handle the rigors of family life.

What it’ll cost: $54,550

Why we picked the Volvo V90 Cross Country:

Just like the Subaru Outback, the Volvo V90 Cross Country has space and all-wheel drive capability, but without the handling and fuel economy deficits of a bulkier SUV body. The Cross Country is Volvo’s rugged wagon, with extra body cladding and taller ride height than the standard, special order-only V90 it’s based on.

The Cross Country shares Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform with the S90 sedan and the XC90 SUV, among other models. SPA imparts an impressive level of refinement in all of the vehicles it underpins, and we love the look of Volvo’s current design language on the Cross Country’s wagon body. The interior is equally well-appointed, with high-quality materials and an intuitive portrait-oriented touchscreen for the infotainment system.

Volvo only offers the Cross Country with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that’s both turbocharged and supercharged. Forced induction gives the relatively small engine plenty of power, allowing it to easily move this big wagon. Standard all-wheel drive gives the Volvo V90 Cross Country extra breadth of capability, and its eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. This being a Volvo, an array of driver aids and safety features are also available, including the automaker’s Pilot Assist, which keeps the car from veering out of its lane should the driver become inattentive.

Read our Volvo V90 Cross Country first-drive review

The best electric family car: Chevrolet Bolt

2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Why should you buy this: It’s an emissions-free way of taking your kids on vacation.

Who’s it for: Green families. The Chevrolet Bolt shows going electric doesn’t have to be a compromise.

What it’ll cost: $36,620

Why we picked the  Chevrolet Bolt:

The number of companies that make family-friendly electric vehicles is on the rise, but the Chevrolet Bolt still stands out as the best for a number of reasons. First, it’s relatively affordable. Pricing starts at $36,620, and many buyers are eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit. Second, it’s available nationwide. The Hyundai Kona Electric offers more range than the Bolt at a similar price, but it’s only offered in California and in a handful of states in the northeastern part of the country. Finally, the Bolt is safe — the NHTSA gave it a five-star rating.

Chevrolet designed the Bolt with electricity in mind from the get-go. It’s not available with any kind of gasoline engine. Its electric motor generates 200 hp, and the recently updated lithium-ion battery pack stores enough electricity for up to 259 miles of range, according to the EPA. Your real-world figure may be lower, but the Bolt still has enough range to meet the commuting needs of most families. It’s spacious, too. It can seat five passengers (though the one riding in the middle will rub shoulders with the other two), and it offers 16.9. cubic feet of trunk space with two rows of seats left up. Folding down the rear bench unlocks 56.6 cubes.

Like most EVs, the Chevrolet Bolt is a high-tech machine. It boasts a 10.2-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, and Chevrolet offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The screen provides drivers with important information, too, like how much electricity they’re using and how many miles they can drive before they need to find a charging station. Ordering the optional 240-volt charger lets the Bolt take in 25mph of charge.

Read our Chevrolet Bolt first-drive review

How we test

The Digital Trends automotive team tests vehicles through a comprehensive scrutinizing process. We examine the qualities of the exterior and interior and judge them based on our expertise and experience in the context of the vehicle’s category and price range. Entertainment technology is thoroughly tested, as well as most of the safety features that can be tested in controlled environments.

Test drivers spend extensive time behind the wheel of the vehicles, conducting real-world testing, driving them on highways and back roads, as well as off-road and on race tracks when applicable.

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