This article was last updated by Digital Trends contributor Kristen Hall-Geisler on 3/25/2020.
Every major brand has at last one SUV to choose from, and most have several, with more available every year. We’ve driven hundreds of vehicles and put them through real-world tests that any family has to tackle, including trips to the grocery store and fitting into tight parking spaces. We’ve tried out the tech you’ll find in the latest models, and we’ve picked the best SUVs for families.
In addition to our overall pick, which works for a variety of families, we highlighted a few others that hit the sweet spot between family-friendly, and environmentally friendly.
Best family SUV: 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 on a budget who like to bring the whole gang along.
How much will it cost?: $31,890
Why we picked the 2020 Kia Telluride: The Telluride is all new and seemingly purpose-built for families. It’s a midsize SUV with three rows of very spacious seating, with 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.
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 keep assist, and an alert that lets you know it’s safe to open the vehicle’s doors on a busy street.
Best compact family SUV: 2020 Honda CR-V
Why you should buy this: You’ll get a whole lot of advanced safety tech and great gas mileage for a low 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?: $25,050
Why we picked the 2020 Honda CR-V: Not every family needs a to haul half the soccer team, and some families like to fit into parking spaces without swearing. Those families might like the 2020 Honda CR-V. This compact SUV has been around for decades, but its 2017 redesign elevated its game. For 2020, the Honda Sensing suite of safety tech was made standard.
The CR-V has great fuel economy for the class. Models range from 27 to 30 MPG combined, depending on drivetrain. That’s at the top end among small SUVs without hybrid technology.
While it’s compact, the CR-V has loads of cargo space, more than any other SUV this size, and it has plenty of room for passengers. You’ll have to upgrade to enjoy smartphone connectivity. Be warned that upgrading means you’ll be using a touch screen, which is slower to respond than the base infotainment screen’s physical buttons.
Best electric family SUV: 2020 Audi E-tron
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 are ready to lighten their carbon footprint.
How much will it cost?: $74,800
Why we picked the 2020 Audi E-tron: Electric SUVs are 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 also have price tags above $70,000. 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.
The E-tron’s estimated range is a bit shorter than its rivals from Tesla and Jaguar, though, at 204 miles.
The Audi has better predicted reliability than its rivals. It also delivers on luxury and tech features, which it should for a luxury-level price. The E-tron uses two touch screens in the center console, and 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: 2020 Toyota RAV4 hybrid
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?: Thrifty buyers who want to pay under $30,000 for great gas mileage plus a full slate of tech and safety features.
How much will it cost?: $28,100
Why we picked the 2020 Toyota RAV4: This SUV has been around for a long time, and Toyota has been a consistent presence in the hybrid vehicle market. Right now, it’s one of the few hybrid SUVs available (though more are coming in 2021), so it’s not surprising the 2020 Toyota RAV4 hybrid is a good choice for families.
The base price is under $30,000, it comes with all-wheel drive, and it gets a combined 40 MPG —a full 10 mpg better than the gasoline-only version. The torque-happy hybrid system is more fun to drive than the conventional version, too.
The RAV4 hybrid has a full slate of tech on board, even in base trim. Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are all standard, as is a Wi-Fi hotspot. It also comes with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which has pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and more. It has plenty of room for people and their gear, and the batteries don’t intrude on the cargo area like they do in some hybrids.
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