Choosing the best car for your family involves many distinct factors, from comfort to safety—while always being mindful of budget. To aid busy parents in choosing the next ride for their busy brood, the Consumer Reports automotive engineers have analyzed test data and considered the elements that would make for an ideal family SUV.

We started with the list of SUVs that meet our stringent criteria to be recommended. To earn such a distinction, a vehicle has to perform well in Consumer Reports’ road tests, have average or better predicted reliability, and perform at least adequately (if included) in government or insurance-industry safety tests.

From there, we further filtered the list to include just those models that have forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking as standard or optional equipment.

To be included, each SUV has to have been awarded the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick Plus designation, meaning they earned good ratings in five crashworthiness tests, as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

We also considered how well child seats install and fit into these vehicles. This proved to be a challenging assignment, as three vehicles that excelled in other family-friendly attributes skewed to the lower end of our child seat scoring spectrum. But given that families come in all ages and sizes, we have included those SUVs here with the caveat that drivers transporting young, car-seat-aged children would be better served with other vehicles on the list.

Vehicles with some challenges for installing car seats are noted with an asterisk (*). Full explanation is available on their respective model pages.

With each vehicle highlighted here, we indicate the lowest trim level that offers the advanced safety equipment. When optional, we indicate the price for these recommended features. 

See our complete SUV buying guide and ratings.

Acura MDX*

Best SUVs for Family Acura MDX

This functional, family-friendly, and competitively priced luxury SUV is comfortable, quick, and quiet, with generous space for seven. The second row folds and slides forward with the touch of a button for easy access to the small third row. The 3.5-liter V6 is silky smooth and delivers more than adequate acceleration. We measured a very commendable 21 mpg overall with the new nine-speed automatic, but the transmission is not always smooth or responsive. The push-button shifter is unintuitive to use, as is the infotainment system. The FWD version should have better fuel economy. Most trims include safety systems such as lane-keeping assist and forward-collision avoidance. The dual-screen control interface is frustrating to use. 

Suggested trim: MDX with AcuraWatch Plus
Cost for forward-collision warning with autobraking: Standard

Read our complete Acura MDX road test.

Acura RDX

Acura RDX Best SUVs for Family

Derived from the Honda CR-V compact SUV, the RDX is well-equipped for the price. The very smooth, capable, and sweet-sounding V6 is a bit more powerful for 2016, and will likely still return 22 mpg overall. Handling is not especially agile, and the ride is a little stiff. We also found that the front wheels can easily spin on wet pavement before the AWD system transfers power to the rear wheels. Despite updates for 2016, the interior is rather forgettable for an upscale SUV, lacking some luxury features usually found on its competitors. The freshening also brought Acura's convoluted dual-screen control system. Still, the seats are comfortable and the rear seat is roomy. The Acura Watch safety package is available on all trims. 

Suggested trim: RDX with AcuraWatch Plus
Cost for forward-collision warning with autobraking: Standard 

Read our complete Acura RDX road test.

Honda Pilot*

Honda Pilot Best SUVs for Family

The redesigned 2016 Pilot is quicker, quieter, more fuel-efficient, and more contemporary looking. It keeps its three-row seating configuration and extremely functional interior, but gone are the cheap plastics of the previous generation. Power comes from a slick 3.5-liter V6 that is now rated at 280 hp. We got 20 mpg overall in our tests of an EX-L with the standard six-speed automatic. We found the ride comfortable, but handling ungainly. The infotainment system is unintuitive. Touring and Elite trims get a nine-speed that doesn't shift smoothly and is stuck with an unintuitive electronic shifter. Front- and all-wheel drive are offered, and the optional Honda Sensing safety system includes forward-collision warning with automatic braking.

Suggested trim: EX with Honda Sensing
Cost for forward-collision warning with autobraking: Standard

Read our complete Honda Pilot road test.

Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai Tucson Best SUVs for Family

The all-new Tucson is a huge improvement over its predecessor. The base SE version gets a 164-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, routing through a six-speed automatic. This version is rather slow and can feel strained. More expensive trims get a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder that uses a seven-speed automated manual transmission. This more powerful setup returned 26 mpg overall, but it suffers from a vibration at very low speed, such as in parking maneuvers. Hyundai made major improvements in ride comfort, agility, and refinement. The Tucson has optional lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and forward-collision avoidance with automatic braking. It scored a Good in the IIHS narrow-offset crash test. 

Suggested trim: Limited
Cost for forward-collision warning with autobraking: $2,750 

Read our complete Hyundai Tucson road test.

Lexus RX

Lexus RX Best SUVs for Family

The RX got a 2016 makeover, with avant-garde exterior styling and advanced safety features. Its 3.5-liter V6 is now linked to a new eight-speed automatic, delivering ample power and a commendable 22 mpg overall. The fuel-thrifty 450h hybrid gets an excellent 29 mpg overall. Inside, the RX is very quiet and well-finished. Ride comfort is plush whether you get the base car on 18-inch tires or more uplevel versions with 20-inch tires. Handling, however, is ponderous and devoid of any sporty feel. The mouselike controller and interface require a steep learning curve. Rear passengers get lots of leg and knee room. Options include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-departure warning.

Suggested trim: Any
Cost for forward-collision warning with autobraking: $665 

Read our complete Lexus RX road test.

Mazda CX-5

Mazda CX-5 Best SUVs for Family

Spry and fuel-efficient, Mazda's mainstay small SUV competes well in this crowded segment. Agile handling, combined with plentiful power from the 2.5-liter, 184-hp four-cylinder, makes it fun to drive; a less powerful 2.0-liter four comes only with FWD and a manual transmission. 2016 updates brought slightly improved ride comfort and interior noise but added a more complex rotary dial-controlled infotainment system that takes some time to master. Cabin and cargo space are plentiful, and driver visibility is good, aided by standard blind-spot monitoring on higher trims. The Grand Touring trim offers forward-collision warning with autobraking. Reliability has been above average, and crash-test results are good.

Suggested trim: Touring
Cost for forward-collision warning with autobraking: $1,625 

Read our complete Mazda CX-5 road test.

Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru Crosstrek Best SUVs for Family

The Crosstrek is a small quasi-SUV version of the Impreza hatchback, with a raised ride height that gives it enough clearance to slosh through deeply rutted roads. It may appeal to those people who live at the end of a dirt road and don't want anything big and bulky. The cabin is rather noisy, the ride is stiff, and the 148-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine occasionally has to work hard, but fuel economy is a gratifying 26 mpg. The costlier Hybrid barely improves on that, at 28 mpg. At least the Hybrid is a little quieter and sounds less strained. Either way, the regular Impreza hatch may be a better choice: It's quieter, quicker, cheaper, and better riding.

Suggested trim: Premium
Cost for forward-collision warning with autobraking: $1,995 

Read our complete Subaru Crosstrek road test.

Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester Best SUVs for Family

Small SUVs don't get more practical than the Ratings-topping Forester. Its positives include large windows, big doors, an excellent driving position, and unusually spacious rear seating. In our tests, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and CVT averaged a near-class-leading 26 mpg overall. The ride is supple and handling is very secure, though not sporty. Engine noise is pronounced at times. Controls are very simple, and the infotainment and connectivity systems have finally been updated with an easy-to-use touch screen. Midtrim Foresters bring a lot of content for the money. The optional X-Mode gives the car some off-road ability. A backup camera is standard. The optional EyeSight system includes lane-departure warning and front-collision warning.

Suggested trim: 2.5i Premium
Cost for forward-collision warning with autobraking: $1,295 

Read our complete Subaru Forester road test.

Subaru Outback*

Subaru Outback Best SUVs for Family

This Outback wagon is roomy, refined, and utterly devoid of flash. It rides very comfortably, with secure handling. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder returns 24 mpg overall, and the unobtrusive continuously variable transmission operates more like a conventional automatic. Opting for the 3.6-liter six-cylinder makes the car quicker and quieter but gives up 2 mpg. The controls are all easy-to-use, including the touch-screen infotainment system. A rear camera is standard. Optional advanced safety gear includes blind-spot monitoring and Subaru's EyeSight safety suite, which adds forward-collision warning with automatic braking. Crash-test results are impressive.

Suggested trim: 2.5i Premium
Cost for forward-collision warning with autobraking: $1,695 

Read our complete Subaru Outback road test.

Toyota Highlander

Toyota Highlander Best SUVs for Family

The midsized Highlander SUV handles responsively, the ride is steady and absorbent, and interior space is generous. A wide third row allows seating for eight, or seven with optional second-row captain's chairs. The smooth and punchy 3.5-liter V6 is matched to a six-speed automatic. The Hybrid version uses a continuously variable transmission mated to the V6, and adds a hybrid battery pack and three electric motors. In our tests the all-wheel-drive V6 averaged 20 mpg overall; the Hybrid version got 25 mpg. It's  a long reach to some controls, particularly the standard 6.1-inch touch screen. The Entune system includes a larger 8-inch screen. A backup camera is now standard across the line.

Suggested trim: Limited
Cost for forward-collision warning with autobraking: $1,400 

Read our complete Toyota Highlander road test.