When most people think of family cars, images of mid or full-size sedans with conservative styling, responsible drivetrains and solid but ultimately unexciting features typically spring to mind. Truth be told, the modern automotive market has expanded to the point where there are now potential family car options lurking where one might have never thought to look before.
We've put together a list of vehicles we feel might meet the needs of specific drivers looking to step outside the norm and take a risk on something different for their daily commute. Some of these choices might be a bit of a stretch for certain segments of the population, but for others they could very well be a revelation.
Let's take a quick look at 10 often-overlooked family car options.
01. 2012 Buick Regal
The 2012 Buick Regal is a mid-size premium sedan that has largely flown under the radar for family car shoppers who might be unaware of the brand's recent climb back to the top of the affordable luxury car heap. Not only is the Regal comfortable and roomy for its class, it also offers responsive handling and excellent fuel economy thanks to the eAssist drivetrain that is available with the four-door automobile. The eAssist system pairs a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder gas engine with a small electric motor to deliver 182 horsepower and fuel mileage of 25-mpg city and 36-mpg highway. Also available with the Regal: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with no battery boost (182 horsepower) and a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that cranks out either 220 or 270 horses, depending on whether the vehicle is ordered in Turbo or GS trim. Six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are offered with the Buick sedan.
02. 2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
The 2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI ticks off a lot of the important family car boxes: a roomy interior for a compact sedan, a comfortably sprung ride that doesn't give up in the corners and a high level of standard features. The Volkswagen Jetta TDI's ace in the hole, however, is found in the engine compartment, where buyers will discover a 2.0-liter, turbodiesel four-cylinder unit paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. This motor generates 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, but more importantly it also provides an outstanding 30-mpg in stop and go driving and 42-mpg on the highway. These figures give the Jetta TDI exceptional efficiency for a family vehicle, helping to keep costs down at the pump and extending highway range dramatically compared to the gas-powered version of the car.
03. 2012 Cadillac CTS-V
The 2012 Cadillac CTS-V is a fire-breathing, tarmac-devouring sports sedan that can leap to 60 miles per hour in under four seconds on its way to a terrifyingly high top speed. It's also essentially identical in terms of comfort features, interior room and practicality when compared to the standard CTS sedan, which makes the Cadillac CTS-V a dark horse family car choice for someone who's always wanted to park a high end exotic in the driveway but who needs the versatility of a four-door automobile. The Cadillac CTS-V comes with a 556 horsepower, 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine that can be paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, and fuel mileage checks in at 14-mpg around town and 18-mpg on the highway.
04. 2012 Jaguar XJ
The 2012 Jaguar XJ is definitely in a different league when it comes to price and prestige, but if you have the budget then why settle for a Camry when you can drive one of the comfiest and classiest sedans on the market? The Jaguar XJ comes in regular and extended wheelbase editions for those who need the extra legroom, and the sheer amount of luxury gear that is standard with the automobile presents excellent 'value' for anyone lucky enough to be shopping in the full-size flagship sedan segment. The XJ's base 5.0-liter V-8 delivers 385 horsepower along with fuel mileage of 16-mpg city and 23-mpg highway, and two supercharged variants of the same motor produce 470 and 510 horses, respectively. A six-speed autobox is included with each version of the Jaguar.
05. 2012 Dodge Challenger
Some might disqualify the 2012 Dodge Challenger right from the start, based on the fact that it only has two doors. While there's no denying that the Dodge Challenger is a coupe, hear us out - because this is one coupe that is based on the same platform as the four-door Dodge Charger. That implies that inside, the Challenger is working with some serious square footage, including a rear seat that is more than capable of accommodating full-size adults or child seats.
Under the hood, the 2012 Dodge Challenger presents the choice of either a 305 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 or a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that churns out 376 ponies. The former can be counted on to provide fuel economy of 18-mpg city and 27-mpg highway, although the eight-cylinder Challenger isn't that far behind in terms of efficiency. A five-speed automatic transmission can be matched with the six-cylinder coupe while the Hemi-powered edition gains the option of a six-speed manual.
06. 2012 Suzuki Kizashi
The 2012 Suzuki Kizashi is mid-size family sedan that almost nobody knows about. One of the best-kept secrets on the automotive market - largely due to a lack of an advertising push on the part of Suzuki - the Kizashi dazzles with nimble handling, available all-wheel drive and sporty styling, each of which complement a well turned-out interior. The Suzuki Kizashi offers up 185 horsepower from its 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, and front-wheel drive editions of the car boast a fuel mileage rating as high as 23-mpg in stop and go driving and 31-mpg on the highway when outfitted with the brand's available continuously-variable automatic transmission. A six-speed manual tranny is also on offer for drivers who prefer to row their own gears.
07. 2012 Subaru WRX hatchback
The 2012 Subaru WRX hatchback is an excellent option for families on the go who want to take advantage of the 44.4 cubic feet of total cargo space it has to offer, its remarkably tenacious standard all-wheel drive system and Subaru's strong reputation for safety. The Subaru WRX hatchback also provides the bonus of a turbocharged, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine whose 265 horsepower transform the compact car into a pocket rocket, allowing it to his 60-mph from a standing start in only 5.3 seconds. Fuel mileage for the WRX, which comes exclusively with a five-speed manual transmission, shows as a respectable 19-mpg city and 25-mpg highway.
08. 2012 MINI Clubman
The words 'mini' and 'family car' don't necessarily sound compatible, until you consider the fact that the 2012 MINI Clubman is one of the biggest models to ever wear the British automaker's logo. The MINI Clubman provides more rear legroom than the standard Cooper, and its stretched, wagon-esque cargo compartment delivers 32.8 cubic feet of cargo. It's important to remember that not all families have the need to transport a pair of teenagers everywhere they go, and for younger parents the Clubman makes a great urban runabout that is easy to park without giving up too much practicality.
The 2012 MINI Clubman starts out with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 121 horsepower, with the Clubman S slapping on a turbocharger to squeeze out 181 horses from the same engine. Six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are available with the front-wheel drive vehicle, and fuel economy for the base model shows as 27-mpg city and 35-mpg highway.
09. 2012 Volkswagen CC
The 2012 Volkswagen CC is a sleek mid-size sedan that adopts the sloped-roof, 'four-door coupe' styling that has been so popular amongst German automakers over the course of the last few years. The Volkswagen CC only seats four passengers - thanks to a center rear console - but if your family is the right size for that particular restriction then the comfortable CC is an excellent daily driving option. VW has given the sedan more than its fair share of options and features, with the top level trim delivering copious amounts of luxury gear. Two engine choices can be outfitted to the Volkswagen CC: a 200 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or a 280 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6. The former provides fuel economy of 22-mpg city and 31-mpg highway, while the latter features standard all-wheel drive. Transmission options for the CC include six-speed manual, automatic and dual-clutch automated manual units.
10. 2012 Mazda MAZDASPEED3
The 2012 Mazda MAZDASPEED3 is another turbocharged hot hatch in the same vein as the WRX. Although the Mazda MAZDASPEED3 lacks the Subaru's all-wheel drive, it makes up for it with 263 horsepower from its 2.3-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine and an astonishing 280 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is the exclusive gearbox for the MAZDASPEED3, and 60-mph arrives in a rapid 6.3 seconds from a standing start. As with the standard edition of the hatchback, cargo room is an excellent 42.8 cubic feet and rear seat space is above par - important considerations for young families.
You may also be interested in...
2012 USAA Best Values: From A (Audi Q7) to Z (Honda CR-Z)
Shaquille O'Neal Drives a 2012 Buick LaCrosse e-Assist and Stars in Funny New Ads
A Top Gearhead’s Top Choices: Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, Jeep Wrangler
2013 Cadillac ATS MSRP Pricing Announced, Will Start at $33,990
10 Things You Need To Know About The 2013 Ford Fusion
10 Things You Need To Know About The 2013 SRT Viper