More and more Americans are turning to SUVs as their family cars—but how do you decide which SUV is best for your family? That depends on what kind of family you have! Let’s check out ten different type of families and the SUVs that are best suited to their needs.
10 Best SUVs for a Family
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
1) The big family: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
The three-row 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SUV is all new, and we’re of the opinion that it’s one of the best big-family haulers this side of a minivan. The Atlas has won us over first and foremost for its roomy interior: Unlike many three-row SUVs, its third row is large enough to accommodate big kids and adults — and if your kids are smaller, you’ll be pleased to know that the Atlas can accommodate up to five car seats. Access to the third row is easy, and there’s a reasonable amount of luggage space even with all three rows in use. We like the way the Atlas drives; though it’s certainly not the quickest SUV we’ve tested, the ride is soft and comfortable and the handling is nimble for such an SUV of this size — in fact, it’s easy to forget one is driving such a large vehicle. If you prefer to buy products that are made in the USA, the Atlas will be right up your alley: It’s assembled in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Photo Credit: Honda
2) The small family: 2017 Honda HR-V
For small, you-and-me-and-baby-makes-three families, the 2017 Honda HR-V is an excellent choice. Its small, easy-to-park size makes it a sensible pick for urban apartment dwellers, and its light weight translates to lightweight fuel bills. And yet the HR-V is hardly cramped: Thanks to some rather ingenious interior packaging, the HR-V holds more cargo behind the rear seats than any other subcompact SUV, and its split-fold rear seat provides plenty of room for bulky strollers and other baby gear. The HR-V is surprisingly inexpensive and built to last for an eon; given proper maintenance and care, the Honda HR-V in which you drive baby home from the hospital could be the same Honda HR-V she drives off to college.
Photo Credit: Chevrolet
The take-it-all family: 2018 Chevrolet Traverse
The all-new 2018 Chevrolet Traverse is the SUV to get if you have stuff to haul. Whether the seats are in place or folded down, the Traverse has more cargo space than just about any SUV in its class. Even with all three rows of seats in use, the Traverse offers 26.1 cubic feet of luggage room, nearly as much as many two-row SUVs. Fold down the third row, and the Traverse is perfect for massive band instruments or garage-sale outings; fold down the second row and you can practically use it as a moving van. The only way to get more luggage space is to buy a mondo-sized SUV like the Chevrolet Suburban or Toyota Sequoia — which, of course, means dealing with parking woes and higher fuel bills. Oh, and the Traverse is also a good choice for large extended families; unlike many three-row SUVs, the Traverse’s way-back seats are big enough for adults.
Photo Credit: Dodge
4) The take-it-all-in-a-trailer family: 2017 Dodge Durango
If you have a boat or a camper or a horse trailer to tow, chances are you’re considering either a pickup truck or a super-sized SUV like the Chevrolet Tahoe. We urge you to check out the 2017 Dodge Durango, which can be equipped to tow up to 7,400 lbs. And while the Durango offers a big V8 as an option, it’s not a must-have: The V6-powered version is much more fuel efficient and still tows up to 6,200 lbs. We’ve used a V6-powered Durango to tow our horse trailer (4,900 lbs with a horse on board), and we can tell you from our real-world experience that the Durango is a more stable towing platform than some of the compact and mid-size pickup trucks we’ve driven.
Photo Credit: Acura
5) The intellectual family: 2017 Acura MDX
We’ve noticed that a lot of our friends who buy Acuras are engineers—people who can appreciate the fine mechanical precision that goes into Acura’s vehicles. The 2017 Acura MDX is an engineer’s dream: The optional SH-AWD is one of the most sophisticated all-wheel-drive systems out there, and it does an excellent job of diverting power to the wheels that have the most traction — a real boon on slippery roads. Likewise, the MDX Sport Hybrid uses a traditional hybrid drivetrain up front and twin electric motors out back, and does an even more nuanced job of torque distribution. And there are charms that even those without a masters degree in engineering can appreciate: All MDXs come with a long list of standard equipment, and when you compare them feature-for-feature against other luxury suvs, they deliver great value.
Photo Credit: Toyota
6) The green family: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
If your family wants to do more while consuming less, we recommend the 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. Using the same basic drivetrain layout that has made the Toyota Prius the best-known hybrid in the world, the RAV4 Hybrid delivers an EPA-estimated 32 MPG, and in our experience, it’ll do slightly better than that in real-world driving. And the hybrid system has little effect on the RAV4’s practicality: Thanks to a compact battery pack, the hybrid version stows away nearly as much luggage as the regular RAV4 (35.6 cubic feet vs. 38.4 cubic feet). Of course, the hybrid costs more than the standard RAV4, and unless you put a lot of miles on the car — and we mean a lot of miles — your fuel savings may not make up for the higher purchase price. Still, you’ll have the satisfaction that comes with knowing you’re using less of our planet’s natural resources.
Photo Credit: Mazda
7) The sporting family: 2017 Mazda CX-5
Mazda’s “Zoom-Zoom” philosophy is more than just an advertising slogan; all of their vehicles are good fun to drive on a curvy road, and that includes their SUVs. That said, there are plenty of SUVs that appeal to driving enthusiasts, so why did we pick the 2017 Mazda CX-5? For one thing, it’s affordable — most sporty SUVs come from premium luxury brands and command a higher price premium, but the CX-5 is priced right along with other mainstream brands. We like the looks and we like the size, though Mazda’s SUVs tend to have less interior space than competing vehicles. (If that’s an issue, we suggest the larger Mazda CX-9.) If your family wants a sportier ride but need the space of an SUV, Mazda is the way to go.
Photo Credit: Toyota
8) The go-anywhere-and-everywhere family: 2017 Toyota 4Runner
Time was when SUVs were marketed for their go-anywhere abilities, and indeed the truck-based mechanicals that underpinned those early SUVs gave them pretty good off-road chops. Most SUVs have moved to less-capable (and more fuel-efficient) car platforms, but the 2017 Toyota 4Runner remains a rough-and-ready off-roader, one that really can tackle some pretty aggressive off-road terrain. If your family is serious about their off-roading, you’ll want the TRD Off-Road or TRD Pro models, which a low-range transfer case (essential for rough terrain) and Crawl Control — a unique feature that controls power and brakes to allow the 4Runner to crawl effortlessly (and safely) over difficult terrain.
Photo Credit: Jeep
9) The family in a hurry: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
Back in the 60s and 70s, it was possible to order a giant wood-grained wagon with an enormous engine under the hood. Towing and hauling were the supposed goals, but these fuel-guzzling land yachts were the world’s most subtle drag racers. Now Chrysler is continuing the tradition with the 2018 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, but there’s no pretense of practicality here: This Grand Cherokee gets the 707 horsepower supercharged V8 from Dodge’s Hellcat cars. With a 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds, the Trailhawk should handily dust off Lamborghinis at stoplight drag races, and upgraded suspension and brakes mean you can keep up with them in the curves… all while you deliver the kids to school. Of course, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk does tow up to 7,200 pounds… so, yes, that’s what all that power is for. Towing and hauling. Of course.
Photo Credit: Land Rover
10) The well-heeled family: 2017 Land Rover Range Rover
With a starting price north of 85 grand and higher trim levels hitting six figures, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover is one of the most expensive SUVs you can buy — and yes, it’s totally worth the money. The Range Rover’s interior reeks of the sort of luxury that only the British can do properly, and to drive one down the highway is to feel as if you are gliding in a golden chariot as the bourgeoisie look on with envy. But there’s more here than luxury: With its height-adjustable air-sprung suspension and sophisticated terrain management system, the Range Rover is one of the most capable off-road SUVs on the market, allowing its owners to explore the back country in leather-lined air conditioned comfort. When you buy a Range Rover, you pay for the best — and you get it.