Mar 30,2007 00:00
Safety, value, convenience set these vehicles above all others.
Nine new vehicles have been added to the 2007 AAA and Parents magazine Best Cars for Families list. The 15-vehicle list, now in its fifth year, appears with detailed reviews of each model in the April issue of Parents magazine. By combining AAA’s auto-safety expertise with Parents’ understanding of what families want and need, the team of reviewers created a list of sedans, economy cars, vans, SUVs, and crossovers perfect for everything from shuttling the kids to doctors’ visits and soccer practice, to weekend getaways and longer road trips.
“We put the vehicles through real-life road tests that include everything from running errands to carpooling, to taking a family vacation,” said Sally Lee, Parents editor-in-chief. “With many parents and children spending several hours per week in the car, it’s important that it’s a safe, happy place for everyone in it.”
AAA and Parents test drove hundreds of vehicles, considering everything from air bags and fuel economy to cupholders and cargo space. The reviewers also installed a variety of child safety seats into every car, making sure it can be done easily and securely. Of those vehicles that have been tested, the AAA/Parents picks are among the top performers in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The AAA/Parents 2007 Best Cars for Families are listed below, along with a brief description of why the reviewers chose each vehicle. More complete reviews are available in the April issue of Parents. An asterisk denotes a vehicle’s first time on the list.
Honda Accord: This sedan does virtually everything right. An incredibly smooth ride ensures that when kids conk out, they won’t be disturbed. The simple dashboard design enables drivers to adjust controls quickly, enabling them to keep their eyes on the road.
Mercury Milan*: This upscale cousin to the Ford Fusion has a quiet, steady feel on the road and an impressive package of standard safety and convenience features: antilock brakes, side-curtain air bags, reading lights and cubbyholes for the kids’ stuff.
Toyota Camry: Kids will appreciate the spacious back seat, which has a fold-down center armrest to defuse turf wars. Standard features include advanced frontal, side-impact and side-curtain air bags, as well as a driver’s knee air bag.
Dodge Caliber*: The kid-friendly options include stain-resistant upholstery and a refrigerated beverage holder that works nicely for baby formula. Definitely opt for side-impact air bags.
Ford Edge*: The Edge has the rugged feel of an SUV but its cushiony seats and responsive ride make it seem more like a sedan. The sizeable cargo area is large enough for all the soccer gear in a kid’s carpool.
Toyota RAV4*: This crossover is quick and nimble like a sedan, yet it’s roomier than expected. The RAV4’s standard safety package includes side-curtain air bags and stability control.
Chevy Tahoe*: The supersize Tahoe has room to spare, even if you add the third row of seats. This SUV is maneuverable for its size, and on the highway it’s as quiet as a nursery during naptime.
Honda CR-V*: Honda has managed to make this redesigned SUV even better. The rear seats recline which makes it easier for older kids to nap. The CR-V’s crisp handling and super-smooth ride reminds where engineers focused their attention.
Hyundai Santa Fe*: The Santa Fe is packed with safety technology to protect little ones, and the modest price tag leaves something for their college funds. Nice surprises include second-row A/C vents.
Honda Odyssey: Driving is almost effortless with this minivan. The second row can be outfitted with posh captain’s chairs or three seats. The third-row seat folds flat into the floor and on some trim lines the second row does, too.
Hyundai Entourage*: Three-row, side-curtain air bags, stability control, and antilock brakes are all standard, as are the Entourage’s three-zone climate control system and power windows in the sliding doors. Load up on options and still pay less than $30,000.
Toyota Sienna: Load the Sienna with eight passengers and there’s still room for groceries, baby gear, and lots more. The second-row seats slide forward for quick access to the back row, and three-row, side-curtain airbags are standard.
Honda Civic: It’s small things that earn this sedan big points, like a compact emergency brake that creates more space up front, rear heat ducts, and scuff-resistant material behind the front seats – where the little ones’ feet love to rest.
Mazda 3: The 3 is simply too much fun to be so practical. The ride screams sports car, yet the big, stable tires and quiet cabin make day trips pleasant too. The hatchback version provides extra storage space for strollers and suitcases.
Volkswagen Rabbit*: Modern features include advanced frontal, side-impact, and side-curtain air bags standard, along with antilock brakes and stability control. The audio system has a jack for MP3 players and the handy hatchback makes for simpler loading.
* new additions to this year’s list
Child passenger safety tips from AAA’s award-winning Seated, Safe & Secure initiative can be found at www.aaa.com/publicaffairs and at www.Parents.com/April. For car care information, auto buying tips and more, visit www.aaa.com.
Parents, published monthly by Meredith Corporation, has been America’s #1 family magazine for more than 75 years. Since its inception in 1926, it has been a trusted source by every generation of parents. Currently the magazine is a powerful community of 15.6 million readers devoted to supporting the efforts of parents, educators and other citizens who strive to make the world a better place for our children. Parents can be found online at www.parents.com.