Best minivans and SUVs for hauling the family

7 great choices for getting your kids—and their gear—to school and everywhere else

Published: July 30, 2015 06:00 AM
Toyota Highlander: A comfortable ride, quiet ride, and seating for up to eight.
Photo: Toyota

Best all-around: Toyota Highlander

If an SUV is more your style than a minivan is, there’s no better choice than our top-rated Toyota Highlander. Family-friendly and spacious, the Highlander offers a comfortable and quiet ride, with seating for up to eight, and a third row that’s roomy enough for three small kids. You can choose a bench seat or captain’s chairs in the second row. Controls feature big knobs and large instruments. Our tested V6 version was smooth and powerful, and returned 20 mpg overall. A 25-mpg hybrid is also available. Reliability has consistently been stellar. Seats eight.

Read our complete Toyota Highlander road test.

SUV or minivan?

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Van-tastic! Toyota Sienna

Photo: Toyota

If room for gear is more important, the Toyota Sienna wins. It shares its smooth, punchy V6 with the Highlander. It also has available all-wheel drive. Innovative and versatile interior packaging allows room for lots of stuff. The second-row center seat stows in the back when it’s not needed. A recent freshening made the Sienna quieter. Seats eight.

Read our complete Toyota Sienna road test.

Weekend warrior: Hyundai Santa Fe & Santa Fe Sport

Photo: Hyundai

The seven-passenger Hyundai Santa Fe is one of the most pleasant and well-rounded three-row SUVs on the market. It’s functional yet stylish, without being so big that it’s too bulky to drive or park. The comfortable ride and quiet interior make it a welcome family-road-trip companion. The limo-like middle-row seats are a bonus, but the third row is cramped and hard to get to. Fuel economy from the standard V6 engine is impressive. We measured 20 mpg overall in our testing—1 to 2 mpg better than most competitors. Seats seven.

Read our complete Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport road tests.

Super SUV: Kia Sorento

Photo: Kia

Forget everything you might think about Kia being a cut-rate brand. The midsized Kia Sorento’s 2016 redesign transformed it into a vastly improved SUV. The cabin is quiet and well-equipped for the money, and ride comfort has improved. Handling is responsive and secure. Fuel economy is an impressive 21 mpg overall. 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. Seats seven.

Read our complete Kia Sorento road test.

New kid on the block: Honda Pilot

Photo: Honda

Long a top-scorer in our tests, the Honda Pilot has always been a family-friendly choice. A redesigned Pilot has just landed, and our borrowed model has us thinking that the new version has a lot of potential. We like the smooth, punchy powertrain and the spacious, quiet, and airy cabin. Clever second-row seats fold away at the push of a button for easier third-row access, and big windows offer much better visibility than most modern SUVs. We’ll know more soon, once testing is complete. Seats eight.

Read our Honda Pilot first drive.

The mother of all minivans: Honda Odyssey

Photo: Honda
Photo: Honda

Nothing beats the space you’ll find in a minivan. A perennial high-scorer and one of our favorites, the Honda Odyssey combines average reliability, impressive fuel economy, and surprisingly responsive handling for a vehicle its size. The versatile cabin fits up to eight occupants, with lots of storage bins and cubbies. Big sliding doors make for easy access. When you’re carting the gridiron gang’s shoulder pads, the third row folds into the floor and the second-row seats can be removed entirely. An optional built-in vacuum can suck up wayward Cheerios. Seats eight.

Read our complete Honda Odyssey road test.

Have board, will travel: Dodge Durango

Photo: Dodge

If you’re looking for luxury comfort with truck-like capability, the Dodge Durango might be your best bet. It has serious towing capacity for boats or campers yet is roomy and quiet inside. Comfortable seats and a steady ride make it feel premium. The optional Uconnect 8.4-inch infotainment system is one of the best—it’s easy to use and offers Wi-Fi to keep the kids occupied. Owner satisfaction is high in our surveys. Seats seven.

Read our complete Dodge Durango road test.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the September 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.



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