When it comes to time to choose a new family vehicle, it is important to consider how it will be used in the years to come. Children not only will grow but also will have friends who need a ride, and one day, they will be old enough to drive themselves.

With the 2017 model year winding down and the school year starting up, we scoured our data to identify standout deals on family-friendly cars.

This analysis started with our traditional “best new-car deals” approach, focusing on CR-recommended models, meaning those vehicles that scored well in CR’s testing, have average or better reliability in the latest subscriber survey, and performed well in government or insurance-industry safety tests, if evaluated. 

(Check CR's back-to-school guide for more information.)

Then to ensure that the vehicles were family-friendly, we filtered our test-based ratings to emphasize factors important to three key age groups. Each of the selected vehicles excels in at least one of these areas.

  • Young children: Ease of child-seat installation.
  • School-aged kids: Short-person access and ability to see out the rear windows.
  • Teens: Good rear-seat head and leg room, and suitable to be driven by a teen (when the time comes).

In addition to being family-friendly, all 10 cars, SUVs, and minivans show the potential to save more than $4,000 off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP).

Specific pricing details on these and other trim variations are available on the model pages linked below, along with complete road tests, reliability, owner satisfaction, and other key information. There you will also find local transaction prices that reflect supply and demand in your area, and incorporate regional incentives. 


Toyota Avalon

Toyota Avalon

MAKE & MODEL

INCENTIVES EXPIRE

MSRP

INVOICE

POTENTIAL SAVINGS OFF MSRP

2017 Toyota Avalon Limited

9/5/17

$41,985

$37,876

$7,109

Best for: School-aged kids and teens.

Spacious, quick, and quiet, the Avalon is an old-school big sedan updated for modern times. Power comes from a lively 268-hp, 3.5-liter V6, which delivers punchy performance and a commendable 24 mpg overall. The four-cylinder hybrid version delivers an outstanding 36 mpg overall. Easy-to-use controls include a straightforward touch-screen infotainment system. The interior is pleasantly quiet. Avalons from 2013 to 2015 had an overly stiff ride, but Toyota fixed that with improvements for 2016 without hurting the car’s handling. Now the ride fits the car’s mission to be a plush and comfortable cruiser. The 2017 Avalon brings standard advanced safety features, such as automatic emergency braking.

Read the complete Toyota Avalon road test


Buick Enclave

Buick Enclave

MAKE & MODEL

INCENTIVES EXPIRE

MSRP

INVOICE

POTENTIAL SAVINGS OFF MSRP

2017 Buick Enclave Leather AWD

9/5/17

$46,690

$44,402

$5,288

Best for: Young children, school-aged kids, and teens.

After almost a decade on the market, the large Enclave is set to be replaced by an all-new, more modern version that will go on sale in the fall. The outgoing model has a firm, comfortable ride and secure handling. The cabin is quiet, the interior is nicely finished, and the seats are comfortable. But the Enclave shows its age through some of its outdated controls and limited features. The 3.6-liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission are smooth and unobtrusive, but the engine feels taxed, and at times the powertrain has to work hard to move this large SUV. In our tests, the Enclave returned a paltry 15 mpg overall. Adults can fit in the roomy third row, a plus. Forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning systems are available. 

Read the complete Buick Enclave road test


Toyota Sienna

Toyota Sienna

MAKE & MODEL

INCENTIVES EXPIRE

MSRP

INVOICE

POTENTIAL SAVINGS OFF MSRP

2017 Toyota Sienna XLE 8-Passenger

9/5/17

$37,270

$34,366

$4,904

Best for: Young children, school-aged kids, and teens.

As minivans go, the Sienna is a sensible choice, but it isn’t very engaging to drive. The Sienna rides comfortably and is quiet inside, but handling is lackluster. It has a lively 3.5-liter V6, but the new eight-speed automatic doesn’t shift as smoothly as the previous six-speed one did. However, the transmission helped improve fuel economy from 20 to 21 mpg. The all-wheel-drive version—the only such minivan on the market—sacrifices 1 mpg. An eighth seat cleverly stores in the back when it isn’t installed in place. The 2017 update also brought a standard backup camera, an additional LATCH attachment, and a front-passenger seat-cushion airbag. That and the availability of all-wheel drive are the Sienna’s biggest advantages over any other minivan.

Read the complete Toyota Sienna road test


Kia Sorento

Kia Sorento

MAKE & MODEL

INCENTIVES EXPIRE

MSRP

INVOICE

POTENTIAL SAVINGS OFF MSRP

2017 Kia Sorento EX V6 AWD

9/5/17

$35,995

$34,180

$4,815

Best for: School-aged kids.

This SUV is among our top-scoring midsized SUVs. The Sorento is functional and refined, and its wide price range makes it an alternative to small and midsized SUVs. Three engines are available: the base 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder; a 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-four; and the smooth and quiet 290-hp, 3.3-liter V6. All are mated to a six-speed automatic. The cabin is quiet, and the ride is comfortable and composed. Handling is responsive and secure. Supportive seats and simple controls help make the Sorento easy to live with. Available safety gear includes forward-collision warning, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a surround-view monitor. Good crash-test results are a plus. 

Read the complete Kia Sorento road test


Chevrolet Traverse

Chevrolet Traverse

MAKE & MODEL

INCENTIVES EXPIRE

MSRP

INVOICE

POTENTIAL SAVINGS OFF MSRP

2017 Chevrolet Traverse AWD LT 1LT

8/31/17

$36,995

$35,190

$4,805

Best for: Young children, school-aged kids, and teens.

After almost a decade, the three-row Traverse is getting a redesign for 2018. It’s based on the same platform as the new GMC Acadia but is longer. The current Traverse is showing its age: It has outdated controls and thirst for fuel, with 16 mpg overall. The Acadia we tested impressed, with a quiet interior; steady, composed ride; and responsive handling. The 3.6-liter V6 supplies ample power. The infotainment system is comprehensive and intuitive. Like the Acadia, the new Traverse will have a rear-seat minder to ensure that no infants are left behind. Maximum seating capacity is eight, but most versions will be seven-passenger configurations with second-row captain chairs. The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse is now on sale. 

Read the complete Chevrolet Traverse road test


Kia Optima

Kia Optima

MAKE & MODEL

INCENTIVES EXPIRE

MSRP

INVOICE

POTENTIAL SAVINGS OFF MSRP

2017 Kia Optima EX

9/5/17

$26,335

$24,650

$4,685

Best for: Teens.

Kia’s recently redesigned Optima midsized sedan packs a lot of substance and value. It drives nicely, with a firm yet absorbent ride and responsive, secure handling. The mainstream 2.4-liter four-cylinder is pleasant and unobtrusive, and returned 28 mpg overall in our testing, and the uplevel 2.0-liter turbo-four packs more punch. New to the line is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. At around $26,000, the EX trim features comfortable leather seats, automatic climate control, a roomy rear seat, and heating for the seats and steering wheel. The controls are very intuitive to use. Low-positioned dash vents are our only gripe. The latest version of Kia’s Uvo touch-screen infotainment system works with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A hybrid is also available. 

Read the complete Kia Optima road test


Ford Flex

Ford Flex

MAKE & MODEL

INCENTIVES EXPIRE

MSRP

INVOICE

POTENTIAL SAVINGS OFF MSRP

2017 Ford Flex SEL AWD

10/2/17

$35,575

$34,014

$4,561

Best for: Young children, school-aged kids, and teens.

The boxy Flex combines SUV-like versatility with almost carlike driving dynamics. The interior is highly functional, with room for up to seven passengers in three rows, and its shipping-container shape works well for cargo. Rear visibility is hampered by big head restraints. Handling is not particularly nimble, but the ride is comfortable and the cabin remains quiet. The base 3.5-liter V6 gets just 18 mpg overall. Choosing the turbo V6 gives you quicker acceleration at a cost of only 1 mpg. The complicated and distracting MyFord Touch infotainment system has been replaced by the much better Sync 3 system. 

Read the complete Ford Flex road test


Toyota Highlander

Toyota Highlander

MAKE & MODEL

INCENTIVES EXPIRE

MSRP

INVOICE

POTENTIAL SAVINGS OFF MSRP

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited V6 AWD

9/5/17

$45,720

$41,826

$4,394

Best for: School-aged kids and teens.

The Toyota Highlander ranks among the best midsized, three-row SUVs, with a desirable balance of an absorbent ride, responsive handling, and generous interior space. A third row allows seating for eight in a pinch—seven with optional second-row captain's chairs—and folds flat easily for more cargo storage. The punchy 3.5-liter V6 is matched to an eight-speed automatic for 2017. Though the new transmission isn’t as smooth as the previous six-speed one, it helped improve fuel economy to 22 mpg overall. The Hybrid version gets 25 mpg overall. It’s a long reach to some controls, particularly the touch screen. The Entune system includes a larger 8-inch screen. A comprehensive suite of safety technology, including automatic emergency braking, is standard for the 2017 model year.

Read the complete Toyota Highlander road test


Ford Edge

Ford Edge

MAKE & MODEL

INCENTIVES EXPIRE

MSRP

INVOICE

POTENTIAL SAVINGS OFF MSRP

2017 Ford Edge SEL AWD

10/2/17

$34,680

$33,160

$4,370

Best for: Teens.

Vastly improved, the second-generation Edge carries itself like a pricier European SUV. Based on the commendable Fusion sedan, the Edge likewise delivers a steady, comfortable ride and confident handling that makes it fun to drive. The standard 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder gets 21 mpg and is more pleasant than the 3.5-liter V6. A twin-turbo, 2.7-liter V6 is offered on the Sport trim. All use a smooth six-speed automatic. Front- and all-wheel-drive versions are available. The quiet cabin wouldn’t be out of place in a luxury car. The roomy interior provides comfortable quarters, front and rear, and cargo space is generous. Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system is comprehensive and easy to use. Safety options include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and front and rear cameras. 

Read the complete Ford Edge road test


Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

MAKE & MODEL

INCENTIVES EXPIRE

MSRP

INVOICE

POTENTIAL SAVINGS OFF MSRP

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE AWD

9/5/17

$29,990

$28,248

$4,242

Best for: School-aged kids and teens.

For years, the RAV4 has consistently been among the top-ranked small SUVs. The current RAV4’s cabin is quieter, the ride is smoother, it has a suite of advanced safety features, and it offers a frugal hybrid version. The energetic 2.5-liter four-cylinder and smooth six-speed automatic returned 24 mpg overall in our tests of an AWD version. The hybrid version gets a terrific 31 mpg overall. Handling is responsive and very secure. Inside, the controls are clear and intuitive. Though the XLE comes with automatic climate control and a sunroof, you must step up to the Limited trim to get adjustable lumbar support and the more comfortable faux-leather seats. Access is very easy, and the rear seat is roomy. Automatic emergency braking is standard.

Read the complete Toyota RAV4 road test