5 On Your Side

From Lexus to Subaru, versatile family vehicles abound

Posted February 2

Family vehicles have seen many upgrades in recent years, which gives budget-conscious families more options than the wood-paneled Vista Cruiser.

Plenty of new family cars are practical, durable, comfortable and safe. Consumer Reports said the new vehicles can suit all the unique needs of your family.

"When your kids are little, it's all about car seats," said Consumer Reports' Jen Stockburger. "When your kids get older or (you are) traveling with aging parents, it's all about accessibility, getting in and out. And for lanky teenagers, rear seat comfort is all about enough head room and leg room."

The Lexus R-X SUV is one of several recommended vehicles that hit all the markers for families of every age. Big doors and chair-height seats make getting in and out a snap. The backseat fits three adults comfortably. It has a powerful V6 engine, and the available hybrid version gets an impressive 29 miles per gallon.

The Lexus, though, is expensive: It starts at $42,000.

For a more budget-friendly option, it's hard to beat the flexibility of a minivan, and the Toyota Sienna costs just under $29,000.

The Toyota sits eight people comfortably, but if you have fewer passengers, a removable center seat in the middle row can be easily stowed. Testers describe the V6 as lively, and it earns bonus points for being the only minivan available with all-wheel drive.

The even-more-budget-conscious Subaru Forester is priced as low as $22,400. It offers great cargo space and it's a standout for cabin access, comfort and driver visibility. The Forester is also reliable and efficient.

If your family life includes car seats, Consumer Reports assessed cars for seat fit and friendliness: The Audi Q7 came out on top, but the lower-priced Subaru Impreza Hatchback also scored high.

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