Five Family-Friendly Cars That Aren’t Minivans

June 29, 2011
Finding a car that fits most of the family needs can be a tough proposition – especially if you’re looking for a vehicle that isn’t a minivan.

There's nothing wrong with minivans--really, there isn't. This year, every minivan sold in America, from the Kia Sedona to the Honda Odyssey, has been revamped for more safety, more features, and in most cases, better fuel economy.

But minivans have a stigma, best outlined in the truly funny "swagger wagons" ads promoting the new 2011 Toyota Sienna. Minivans just aren't cool--even if they make these suburban parents break out in freestyle rhyme.

So if you're looking for something a little more outside the typical minivan box, you'll be shopping crossover vehicles. These five family-friendly vehicles may not have sliding side doors, but they're just as flexible, as entertaining, and as safe as the best minivans on the market today.

Ford Flex

This is one square-jawed crossover that’s about as family-friendly as you can get. With seating for seven in three rows, strong safety scores, good fuel economy (17 mpg city/24 mpg highway base, 16/23 mpg with all-wheel drive), and infotainment options galore, the Ford Flex provides a lot for the money. Even the base Flex offers superior handling, but opting for the 3.5-liter EcoBoost twin-turbocharged V-6 version (available on Limited and Titanium) gets you 355 horsepower and all-wheel drive. Besides plenty of standard features, options include SYNC, Sirius TravelLink with real-time traffic, weather, sports and movie listings, Sony sound systems, DVD entertainment system, a second-row refrigerator, HD radio, and more. TheCarConnection gives the 2011 Ford Flex an overall 8.7 (out of 10) rating, its top score among utility vehicles, and it's a Top Safety Pick, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The 2012 Ford Flex is available in four models: SE, SEL, Limited and Titanium. Starting price for the base SE is $29,355.

2011 Dodge Journey

2011 Dodge Journey

Dodge Journey

Dodge has taken the the 2011 Journey crossover wagon up a notch this year, thanks to a new interior and a better automatic transmission. With seating for up to seven, the Journey also has some of the most extensive entertainment offerings in its class. Aside from a standard USB port for your iPod, options include Sirius satellite radio with TravelLink traffic info and Backseat TV (offering three channels of kid-friendly entertainment); a DVD entertainment system; and a premium audio system. A standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a four-speed automatic transmission is just okay: we recommend the new 283-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine, which is paired with a six-speed automatic and has an all-wheel-drive option. The V-6 earns an EPA-rated 17/25 mpg with front-wheel drive, and 16/24 mpg with all-wheel drive; it's also an IIHS Top Safety Pick. The base starting price for the 2011 Dodge Journey Express is $22,245.

2011 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ

2011 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ

Chevrolet Equinox

Families that don’t require a third-row seat can get a lot of mileage out of the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox – in family-friendly style. Two engines are offered: a standard 182-horsepower 2.4-liter gasoline direct-injected four-cylinder sporting a 32-mpg EPA highway gas mileage rating, or a 264-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6. Notable options cued for families include a rear-seat entertainment system, navigation system, heated seats, steering-wheel audio/phone controls, sunroof, and a rearview camera, which we strongly recommend. Sized just right for small families, the 2011 Chevy Equinox crossover is “refined, secure and versatile,” according to TheCarConnection, and it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Models include LS, LT and LTZ, in either front- or all-wheel drive. Pricing begins at $22.995.

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