Summer is the busiest time for family travel, but having a car that fits all passengers, is comfortable and roomy is important to have all year around. If you're in the market for a new car, see our list of some of the best alternatives for family transport, ranging in price from just under $20,000 to just under $40,000. These vehicles scored well in our road tests and have good seating and cargo arrangements. All are comfortable to ride in, have scored well in crash tests, and have proved reliable in our owner surveys. Listed by price in ascending order.
Scion xB ($18,360)
One of a class of distinctly boxy small haulers, the funky-looking xB performs well and handles responsively. It has an enormous rear seat and generous cargo volume. Crash tests were impressive. Fuel economy of 23 mpg isn’t great for a small car, though, and the view out could be better.
Subaru Forester 2.5X ($22,040)
Sensible, practical, and affordable, the Forester is one of our top-Rated small SUVs. It handles well and delivers an unusually comfortable, compliant ride for its class. The rear seat is roomy and the view out is excellent. Crash-test results are impressive as well.
The agile little Mazda5 has flexible seating for four people and lots of luggage, or six people traveling light. A micro-minivan with sliding rear doors, access and visibility are first rate. Engine power is no more than adequate, though.
Nissan Altima 2.5 S ($23,970)
The zesty, quiet, Altima sedan is a good choice for short trips or long treks. It handles well and rides very nicely. The seats are comfortable and interior quality is very good. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine serves up plenty of power and an impressive 26 mpg. Rear headroom is a little tight.
Volkswagen Jetta SE wagon ($24,324)
The Jetta wagon is a class act among smaller cars, with agile handling, a comfortable ride, and a beautifully finished interior. The rear cabin offers a surprising amount of useful space. The diesel TDI version ($28,000) handles nicely as well and averaged 33 mpg overall in our tests.
Toyota Prius IV $26,750)
The Prius’s overall fuel economy of 44 mpg is about the best you’ll find, but there are other reasons people like it. Drivers will find an airy interior and plenty of space behind the controls. The ride is firm and steady and the rear seats are generous. It provides the versatility of a hatchback, but the view straight back isn’t the best.
Subaru Outback 2.5i ($30,099)
This raised wagon is an excellent alternative to an SUV. It provides plenty of rear-seat and cargo space, a good ride, quiet cabin, and respectable fuel economy—24 mpg overall. Handling is responsive at normal speeds but can get sloppy at the limits and engine power is just adequate.
Honda Odyssey EX ($32,610)
The Odyssey, due for a redesign this fall, has long been a top choice. Handling is agile and precise, which makes it enjoyable to drive, and the ride is steady and composed. Interior flexibility is a long suit. It can seat up to eight people, and the third-row seat can fold away completely or in sections. Road noise is a little pronounced, though.
Ford Flex SEL ($38,460)
The Flex combines the versatility of an SUV with the handling qualities of a sedan. It seats seven adults comfortably and offers a compliant, quiet ride. Many will appreciate the enormous dual sunroofs, and the limousine-like second-row seating. Some people will find the driving position less than ideal, however.
Chevrolet Traverse LT ($39,920) Related: Road trip! How to pack your car safely and why it is so important
The quiet, steady-riding Traverse handles well and offers plenty of room for people and cargo. Among the larger of the “mid-sized” SUVs, the Traverse has a third-row seat that’s comfortable even for adults. Rear visibility could be better, and fuel economy of 16 mpg is mediocre at best.