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The best SUVs for families

It doesn’t take a seasoned industry analyst to tell that SUVs and crossovers are outperforming sedans, station wagons, and minivans on the sales chart. They’re still outsold by pickup trucks, but they’ve become America’s go-to family haulers thanks largely to the extra space they offer. By nature, most crossovers and SUVs are decent family cars, but some models stand out from the pack. The Kia Telluride is the best SUV for families with kids, dogs, and gears to haul.

If you’re not sold on the biggest Kia currently sold in the United States, we’ve selected three additional options that shine by offering a blend of space, features, value, and, for one of our picks, zero-emissions driving.

Best family SUV: 2021 Kia Telluride

2020 Kia Telluride

Why you should buy this: There’s room for everyone and everything — including multiple devices — yet it doesn’t feel like driving a whale of an SUV.

Who’s it for?: Families who like to bring the whole gang along.

How much will it cost?: $31,990

Why we picked the 2021 Kia Telluride: The Telluride is purpose-built for families. It’s a midsize SUV with three rows of very spacious seating, and it even offers enough room in the third row for adults on short trips. It has more cargo space than most SUVs in its class, even with all the seats in use, thanks to its generous dimensions.

The Telluride’s engine is powerful enough for most tasks without being zippy, though you would hardly expect zippy from a vehicle this large. Fuel economy is fine for a midsize SUV, with 23 mpg combined (20 city/26 highway).

Tech is where the Telluride dazzles. Standard equipment includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. USB ports are available for all three rows. Upgrades include Driver Talk, which sends the driver’s voice to the rear speakers, and Quiet Mode, which restricts the speaker output to the front so you can rock out after the kids fall asleep.

Every Telluride has a full menu of safety tech, like forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and an alert that lets you know it’s safe to open the vehicle’s doors on a busy street. It’s a Kia, so you know it will be reliable for years to come.

Read our 2020 Kia Telluride first drive review

Best compact family SUV: 2021 Toyota RAV4

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Why you should buy this: It offers advanced safety tech and great gas mileage for an affordable price.

Who’s it for?: City-dwelling families who need a lot of interior space and to fit in a parking space.

How much will it cost?: $26,050

Why we picked the 2021 Toyota RAV4: Not every family needs to haul half the soccer team, and some families like to fit into parking spaces without swearing or leaving paint marks on other cars. Those families will like the 2021 Toyota RAV4. This compact SUV has been around since the late 1990s, but it’s not as quirky as it used to be. Toyota gradually pushed it towards the mainstream, and it brought thousands of drivers into the fold by doing so.

The RAV4 has great fuel economy for the class. It maxes out at 28 mpg in the city, 35 mpg on the highway, and 40 mpg combined when it’s not electrified, though Toyota offers two gasoline-electric hybrid models.

While it’s reasonably compact, the RAV4 offers 37.5 cubic feet of trunk space as a five-seater and 69.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat, which is enough for a run to the hardware store. Every RAV4 regardless of price or powertrain also comes with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), which bundles driving aids like a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, a lane departure warning system, automatic high beams, and dynamic cruise control.

Best electric family SUV: 2021 Audi e-tron

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Why you should buy this: You want cutting-edge electric vehicle tech from a brand you know.

Who’s it for?: Luxury SUV fans who prefer charging to filling up.

How much will it cost?: $65,900+

Why we picked the 2021 Audi e-tron: Electric SUVs are in a new and expanding category. You won’t find many inexpensive and widely available choices out there — yet. The top contenders in 2020 have roomy interiors and long-range batteries, but they also have price tags above $60,000. That’s true of our pick, the 2020 Audi e-tron.

If you’re looking for an electric SUV for your family, you’re probably looking for something that can compete with gasoline SUVs for the same price, and the e-tron does. It has plenty of passenger and cargo space, plus a full suite of safety tech, including Audi Pre Sense City, which detects pedestrians and can apply the brakes automatically. It also comes with Quattro all-wheel-drive, though it’s a through-the-road system, meaning there’s no connection between the front and rear axles. Each set of wheels gets its own motor — one over the front wheels, and one over the back.

The 2020 Audi e-tron‘s estimated range is a bit shorter than its rivals from Tesla and Jaguar, though, at 222 miles. However, the Audi has better predicted reliability. It also delivers on luxury and tech features. The e-tron features two touchscreens in the center console and it offers Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, a 12.3-inch screen positioned between the temperature and fuel gauges. The driver can customize it to include navigation, audio information, and much more.

Best hybrid family SUV: Toyota RAV4 Prime

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Why you should buy this: It’s one of the most proven hybrid systems on the planet in one of the most popular SUVs on the market.

Who’s it for?: Buyers willing to pay for great gas mileage plus a full slate of tech and safety features.

How much will it cost?: $38,100

Why we picked the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime: This SUV has existed for an extended amount of time, and Toyota has been a steady presence in the hybrid vehicle business. Currently, it’s among one of the few plug-in hybrid SUVs available (although there are plenty more coming in 2021), so it comes as no surprise that the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is a solid option for families.

Toyota cites an electric-only range of 42 miles, and it also declares that the Prime is the fastest RAV4 it has ever created. It deserves this distinction thanks to its heavy-duty, 302-horsepower gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain, including a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, two electric motors, and a lithium-ion battery pack.

The RAV4 Prime has a comprehensive technology slate on board. It’s also fully compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto and comes with a Wi-Fi hotspot as standard. In addition, it comes with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which offers a slew of electronic driving support aids that packages pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and so much more. Lastly, it has lots of space for people and their belongings, and the batteries don’t impose on the baggage area like they do in many other hybrids.

The trade-off is that it’s pretty expensive. It comes in two different trim levels, and it’s priced at $38,100 without any of the incentives included.

Kristen Hall-Geisler
Ronan Glon

Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital Trends, his job is to bridge the gap between cars and tech, while helping consumers and enthusiasts alike navigate these two increasingly intertwined worlds. He travels extensively and restlessly to get the inside scoop on horsepower, infotainment, or both.

Though he earned a bachelor's degree in international studies, Glon has worked as a journalist nearly all of his adult life. He has reviewed cars on six continents (no one has let him drive in Antarctica... yet), and he has driven over 450 past, present, and future models ranging from humble economy cars to ultra-rare hypercars with a seven-digit price tag -- yes, he has an Excel document to keep track of it all. There is not a single car he won't drive at least once, though there are some he wouldn't drive again, and not a single new technology he won't dive into.

Since starting at Digital Trends in 2014, he uncovered the real story of the internet-famous Belgian car graveyard, explored a French forest in one of the last examples of the Land Rover Defender, drifted electric Audi prototypes on a dry lake bed in Namibia, and ventured behind the scenes in Ducati's Italian design studio to learn how tech and craftsmanship come together to shape a motorcycle.

In addition to Digital Trends, Glon's work regularly appears in several print and online publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He's also an avid car collector, photographer, guitarist, and mountain biker.

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