For the sixth straight year, experts in the Good Housekeeping Institute joined forces with Car and Driver to honor the best vehicle options for every type of family — all tested by our engineering and parenting pros. The winning list below highlights the best vehicles for the year in all categories, from subcompacts and sedans to crossovers and SUVs. If sustainable living is a top priority for you, be sure to check out our best hybrid and best electric picks as well!
Meet Our Experts
Rachel Rothman, GH Chief Technologist & Head Engineer
Eddie Alterman, Car and Driver Chief Brand Officer & Car Enthusiast
Laurie Jennings, GH Institute Director & Lead Consumer Tester
Drew Dorian, Car and Driver Staff Editor & Car Tester
How We Tested
Over the past year, the team at Good Housekeeping evaluated hundreds of new vehicles, test-driving the top contenders on well over 5,000 miles of sprawling highways, windy town streets and busy city blocks. More than 100 car seats were installed, seemingly countless infotainment systems were assessed and phones were paired each time someone got behind the wheel.
Our engineering team, along with consumer testers, has developed a proprietary formula for determining the best picks. First, we make sure the vehicles drive really well and are safe. They have to offer responsive handling and a smooth ride without being too noisy when cruising. They also have to rate well with our colleagues and Car and Driver. That's the starting point.
After ensuring performance and safety capabilities, we look to see how comfortable and convenient the vehicles are. How practical and abundant is the storage space? How easy is it to put in and take out car seats? Is it easy to adjust or lower seats? And we look at all the infotainment systems, testing both the car manufacturer's built-in technology and whether it integrates with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. We make sure that dashboards are intuitive and pairing a phone is easy, and we note the accuracy of the voice-recognition system.
We also take note of all the little things that delight: ample USB charging ports in the front and the back; clever storage compartments for phones, bags, keys and more; and special extras like zoned climate controls or extra-large-capacity cargo space. On top of all of this, we take into account fuel economy and the car's value to make sure we're offering up practical and reliable vehicles. So, without further ado, meet this year's Best New Family Cars!
Best Subcompact Sedan
WHY WE LOVE IT It offers great value for a grown-up-looking car. While the base model is relatively bare-bones, its affordability and solid build quality are tough to beat. Plus, Hyundai is known for its impressive powertrain warranty and complimentary maintenance.
STANDOUT FEATURES Thanks to its compact nature, it's a great car for city families. The continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) variant available standard on the mid-level trim or as an add-on for the base SE trim offers impressive fuel efficiency for the class.
GOOD TO KNOW The SE trim has only a 5" display that lacks integrated Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. As expected for a subcompact, rear-seat and cargo space are on the tighter side.
LAB RESULTS Both driver and passengers can enjoy a comfortable, smooth ride. We like that it offers good suspension and a pleasant, quiet ride.
2021 Hyundai Accent, from $15,395 (base price)
Best Luxury Subcompact Sedan
Mercedes-Benz CLA Class
WHY WE LOVE IT This pint-size four-door sedan has the styling and modernity you've come to expect and love from a Mercedes-Benz coupled with powerful engine options.
STANDOUT FEATURES Many premium style features are standard, including a panoramic roof, a modern aluminum interior trim and 18" wheels with all-season tires. Not only is it high-style, but the cabin is decidedly high-tech with its configurable digital cockpit and available semi-autonomous driving features.
GOOD TO KNOW It can take a bit of time to get used to the touchpad and other infotainment operations. Taller rear-seat passengers will feel cramped, but that isn't surprising in a subcompact.
LAB RESULTS With spirited handling and even more impressive performance from the AMG models, it's a nice entry vehicle into the luxury space.
2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class, from $37,850 (base price)
Best Compact Sedan
WHY WE LOVE IT It looks and feels way more luxurious than its price. The sporty compact sedan offers a responsive and enjoyable athletic ride regardless of the engine selected, and it boasts top safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
STANDOUT FEATURES The standard driver-assistance features are bountiful, including automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist. The infotainment system is easy to use, with functionality led by a simple rotary knob.
GOOD TO KNOW There are seven packages to choose from, and some of our favorite features are reserved for the more expensive models or as upgrades, like all-wheel drive, a head-up display, power-adjustable seats, and more robust infotainment packages that include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We also wish there were a bit more backseat legroom and trunk space.
LAB RESULTS The Mazda 3 offers a refined yet fun driving experience. You'll feel confident and comfortable behind the wheel, thanks to balanced and dynamic handling.
2021 Mazda 3, from $20,650 (base price)
Best Luxury Compact Sedan
Mercedes-Benz A Class
WHY WE LOVE IT If you're looking for a roomier pick than the CLA above, here you get a similar refined and luxurious vehicle with a more spacious interior. And happily, the entry price point is more palatable than some other luxury-sedan offerings.
STANDOUT FEATURES Regardless of the model selected, you'll get quick acceleration and a nice, sporty drive.
GOOD TO KNOW The MBUX dual-screen infotainment and digital-gauge setup offers an abundance of insights but requires some acclimation. The ride can feel a bit stiff, and we wish the noise inside were dampened more.
LAB RESULTS This Mercedes-Benz looks just as elegant from the outside as it does on the inside. Our pros were impressed by the balance of comfort and performance capabilities, especially for the price.
2021 Mercedes-Benz A Class, from $35,650 (base price)
VW Golf GTI
WHY WE LOVE IT It’s a fun-to-drive car that's responsive and athletic, a nimble hatchback that has good cargo space for its size.
STANDOUT FEATURES The interior feels upscale for the price. Even the base GTI S trim has heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Standard features include forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, automated emergency braking, rear-cross-traffic alert, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration.
GOOD TO KNOW While easy to use, the infotainment system can feel a bit sluggish. The newer 2022 model delivers even more power and sleekness on an already attractive build.
LAB RESULTS The Golf GTI offers deft handling, firm braking and impressive acceleration. It's a hot hatch that combines agility with practicality.
2021 VW Golf GTI, from $28,695 (base price)
Best Midsize Sedan (Tie)
WHY WE LOVE IT The Accord offers balanced and confident handling and a spacious ride for all family members. The 2021 refresh improved on the styling, including new wheel designs, upgraded headlights and a restyled front end. With five-star safety ratings from NHTSA and top safety ratings from IIHS, it's no wonder this vehicle has repeatedly been a Good Housekeeping winner.
STANDOUT FEATURES The trunk feels indulgent, with nearly 17 cubic feet of space. The 2021 model makes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard (there's wireless functionality on higher trims) as well as the larger 8" infotainment touchscreen. While you can choose from two spritely powertrains, we're also fans of the more efficient hybrid variant.
GOOD TO KNOW After test-driving dozens of cars, we wish this interior were outfitted with a few more practical interior storage solutions. And while many driver-assistance features—like automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and rear-seat reminders—are included standard as part of the Honda Sensing suite, several cost more, such as rear-cross-traffic alerts and blind-spot monitoring.
LAB RESULTS In the competitive segment of family sedans, the Accord stands out with a dynamic driving experience at an affordable price.
2021 Honda Accord, from $24,970 (base price)
Best Midsize Sedan (Tie)
WHY WE LOVE IT The Hyundai Sonata is a practical yet sleek family sedan that delivers comfort, efficiency and an abundance of features.
STANDOUT FEATURES Our Lab pros found the infotainment system to be notably easy to use. If you’re looking for an even more fuel-efficient ride, opt for the hybrid variant, which we also recommend.
GOOD TO KNOW While it doesn’t offer the most engaging driving experience, you’ll appreciate its confident and comfortable ride.
LAB RESULTS It’s a value-oriented sedan that feels more upscale than its pricing.
2021 Hyundai Sonata, from $23,950 (base price)
WHY WE LOVE IT Synonymous with a sports sedan, the four-door 3-series delivers a powerful, agile ride in a sleek body. While still compact, it has generous trunk space, and the cabin feels roomy.
STANDOUT FEATURES It's offered with various powerful engines and drivetrain options, ranging from a still-capable 2.0-liter four-cylinder to a 385-hp six-cylinder. It's also available in a plug-in hybrid variant of the 330e that gets up to 22 miles of electric range. The models equipped with xDrive feature all-wheel drive for enhanced traction in inclement weather.
GOOD TO KNOW The vehicle is packed with impressive tech displays, including a standard 8.8" infotainment touchscreen and a digital instrument cluster. For some, it may be a bit busy and complicated and require some acclimation. The novel gesture control, if you opt for it, still needs refinement; we preferred the integrated Apple CarPlay.
LAB RESULTS This iconic car feels luxurious and engaging. It's a polished entry-level premium sedan that feels modern and capable.
2021 BMW 3 Series, from $41,250 (base price)
Best Full-Size Sedan
WHY WE LOVE IT As more families opt for the practicality of SUVs, the Avalon offers the alternative of a larger sedan. Efficient and enjoyable, it strikes a nice balance between value and quality, with smooth and nimble handling.
STANDOUT FEATURES It has an abundance of standard driver-assistance and comfort features, including adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and SiriusXM satellite radio. It's one of the few vehicles whose base models have enough to satisfy the majority of drivers.
GOOD TO KNOW We wish rear-seat headroom were more abundant. All-wheel drive is now offered, but only on select models.
LAB RESULTS Our testing team was pleasantly surprised by how well-appointed and modern the Toyota felt. Families will enjoy a comfortable, quiet and powerful ride with the standard V-6 engine, plus a notably spacious trunk.
2021 Toyota Avalon, from $36,125 (base price)
WHY WE LOVE IT This full-size four-door luxury sedan exudes elegance and offers a smooth and quiet ride. It offers the longest warranty in its class, with powertrain covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles and complimentary maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles.
STANDOUT FEATURES There are lots of standard comfort and convenience features that are usually an add-on for competitors, including a head-up display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, heated and cooled front seats, a large 12.3" touchscreen infotainment display and a load of driver-assistance technology. We're fans of Smart Posture Care, which leverages the 22-way adjustable driver's seat to optimize your position, the steering wheel, the outside mirror and the head-up display.
GOOD TO KNOW You won't be enjoying the most dynamic ride, but the car is compliant. Interior storage is lackluster except for a large center console.
LAB RESULTS You'll feel pampered in the plush interior and enjoy solid driving dynamics. Our engineers noted that the touchscreen was responsive and easy to operate.
2021 Genesis G90, from $72,950 (base price)
Best Station Wagon
WHY WE LOVE IT The Outback is spacious, reliable and rugged. It's distinctly family-friendly with its ample cargo space and comfortable backseat, along with its quiet ride and affordable price.
STANDOUT FEATURES It's a great car if you're a family who loves adventures, with standard raised roof rails that have tie-down points, all-wheel drive standard and nearly 9" of ground clearance. Subaru's EyeSight active safety features are standard, as are the newly added rear-seat reminder and the steering-responsive headlights.
GOOD TO KNOW While it's designed to handle various terrains and weather, it's not exactly spritely or dynamic to drive. There are many models to choose from, though several of the comfort and convenience features are only available on higher trims or as add-ons.
LAB RESULTS The Outback station wagon offers a comfortable, enjoyable ride and really showcases its capabilities when off-roading. There's a reason this is the third year in a row the Outback has been a Good Housekeeping winner!
2021 Subaru Outback, from $26,795 (base price)
Audi A6 Allroad
WHY WE LOVE IT Its nice-looking exterior doesn't scream "off-roading capabilities," but don't let that distract from the fact that this is a capable adventure-seeking vehicle.
STANDOUT FEATURES The interior is well-appointed with the high-quality build you'd expect from an Audi. It offers a roomy interior and ample cargo space that will make extended drives pleasant.
GOOD TO KNOW The dual-screen infotainment system may take a bit of time to get oriented to. While we like the roomy interior, if you don't require as much cargo- or people-hauling capabilities, you can opt for the downsized A4 Allroad.
LAB RESULTS Thanks in part to its adjustable air suspension, you get a smooth and controlled ride even when off-roading. It's sleek and modern, and it delivers on performance with a powerful V-6 engine.
2021 Audi A6 allroad, from $65,900 (base price)
Best Subcompact SUV
WHY WE LOVE IT In GH tests, our engineers were impressed with the Kona’s pep and spritely design, not to mention its family-friendly price. Plus, nimble handling and a good suspension mean a smooth ride no matter where you’re sitting.
STANDOUT FEATURES Drivers will enjoy a host of standard features, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, forward-collision avoidance assist and driver-attention warnings.
GOOD TO KNOW Upgrading to the turbo engine is worth it for more energetic acceleration. The back seat is perfect for kids, though adults might find it a bit lacking in legroom.
LAB RESULTS Our testers noted that this ultracompact SUV was fun and comfortable to drive, but that getting accustomed to feeling so low to the ground took a while. Some wished for more cargo space.
2021 Hyundai Kona, from $20,500 (base price)
WHY WE LOVE IT The XC40 is an incredibly dynamic and premium vehicle with clever storage and cargo features. We love that it balances a fun driving experience with a practical interior.
STANDOUT FEATURES The base model includes loads of standard safety tech, including automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alerts. Semi-autonomous driving mode is still an upgrade. Our team noted the novel convenience features, like a hook in the glove compartment and another on the trunk storage divider. It's also available in a pure electric form with the Recharge model, another Good Housekeeping Institute fave and winner in our Best Electric Car Awards for this year.
GOOD TO KNOW The infotainment system can still be a bit laggy and takes a while to master, so our team preferred using CarPlay via the large 9" screen. While the cabin feels roomy, particularly for its size, if you need a larger vehicle for a growing family we're also fans of the larger XC60 and XC90, both previous Best New Family Car Award winners.
LAB RESULTS Our engineering pros love the distinctive styling and smooth handling of Volvo's subcompact SUV. Thanks to its compact design, it's particularly great for city drivers.
2021 Volvo XC40, from $33,700 (base price)
Best Compact SUV
WHY WE LOVE IT Safety and the CR-V go hand in hand. It features notable collision-prevention tech, scoring a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, among other honors. The pleasant ride and the composed driving feel are hard to beat.
STANDOUT FEATURES GH testing confirmed that it is quite fuel-efficient and has impressive acceleration. Lane assist and adaptive cruise control are standard.
GOOD TO KNOW You’ll likely want to upgrade from the standard 5" infotainment system to a bigger 7" screen that can integrate with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
LAB RESULTS Over and over, Honda stands out in our tests for a thoughtful balance of performance, practicality and reliability. Testers were very satisfied with the ample cargo space and the roomy interior.
2021 Honda CR-V, from $25,350 (base price)
WHY WE LOVE IT A distinctive body and sporty driving performance balanced with its practical build make it a desirable family option. Regardless of the engine selection, you'll get peppy acceleration and an engaging ride.
STANDOUT FEATURES This vehicle shines in its drive performance, which is impressive for braking and handling. If you're seeking a more adventurous ride, there are optional roof rails or robust roof transport systems available for all models. We also like the optional smartphone compartment inside the center console unit. It can charge your phone wirelessly while it's stored and still, thanks to a connection to an external antenna, deliver good reception.
GOOD TO KNOW Be cognizant of all add-ons you consider, as the comfort and tech options can easily add up. We're fans of many of the upgrades, like heated front and rear seats and the launch-control feature, but you'll enjoy the vehicle regardless (though in basic form it will feel decidedly less luxurious and Porsche-esque). Its rear seat is more cramped than those of competitors, as is its cargo capacity.
LAB RESULTS It offers impressive performance, from controlled suspension to a smooth driving experience. You won't feel as if you're sacrificing driving capabilities if you opt for this over a classic sports sedan.
2021 Porsche Macan, from $52,100 (base price)
Best Midsize SUV
WHY WE LOVE IT It’s surprisingly quick and nimble—and includes lots of clever storage amenities such as underfloor space below the floor panel. It strikes a nice balance between comfort and agility.
STANDOUT FEATURES It's easy to maneuver and offers ample interior space for its class. It's a practical vehicle that includes advanced safety technology like lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking.
GOOD TO KNOW We're happy the 2021 model upgrade means a standard 8" touchscreen versus the previous 5" variant, though we're bummed that built-in navigation is available only on higher trims. It may not be the sexiest vehicle out there, but it's extremely capable. Note: You'll have to pay extra for all-wheel drive.
LAB RESULTS It's a rugged two-row SUV designed to be roomy and powerful enough to haul your family virtually anywhere! Adults and kids alike will appreciate the second-row head and legroom, notably on longer trips.
2021 Honda Passport, from $32,790 (base price)
WHY WE LOVE IT Genesis's first foray into the utility vehicle space doesn't disappoint. As Hyundai's luxury spinoff brand, this Genesis offers style and sophistication and has the performance chops to match its elegant looks. Plus, it's a guaranteed head-turner on city streets and highways.
STANDOUT FEATURES The Genesis has plenty of driver-assistance features standard, including, notably, a semi-autonomous driving mode and automated emergency braking. For its Smart Cruise Control, the brand leverages new disruptive technologies like machine learning to better understand a driver's unique style.
GOOD TO KNOW The optional third row is tight for passengers. The navigation screen is long and slim, making the physical controls easier to use than the touchscreen interface.
LAB RESULTS This is an extremely capable vehicle, with agile handling and an ultra-quiet interior. Its cabin feels upscale and modern, and thanks to its long warranty coverage, you can feel confident even though it's a relatively new entrant.
2021 Genesis GV80, from $55,150 (base price)
Best Full-Size SUV
WHY WE LOVE IT A repeat winner for a reason, the luxe, spacious three-row Telluride feels upscale without a huge price. It offers a smooth and enjoyable ride for a large family and comes with a very impressive warranty, most notably on its powertrain.
STANDOUT FEATURES Drivers will benefit from stellar safety tech like forward-collision warning, blind-spot detection and lane-keeping assist, which all come standard. We also love that there are ample charging ports in all rows.
GOOD TO KNOW The fuel economy could be better, particularly on the standard V-6 engine. Given the entry point, our engineers recommend upgrades like the optional all-wheel drive, head-up display and dual sunroofs.
LAB RESULTS GH analysts found the driving experience comfortable and serene. You get a refined yet practical vehicle that lets even adults travel easily in the third row. And with the back two rows folded down, you can fit an impressive 35 carry-on bags!
2021 Kia Telluride, from $32,190 (base price)
WHY WE LOVE IT It offers the smooth, quiet ride you'd expect from a BMW, in the company's largest available vehicle. The cabin interior is premium regardless of the trim, and the third row can easily accommodate a growing family. It's a great, practical family car that doesn't scream "Family car!"
STANDOUT FEATURES BMW has added new standard features, including Android Auto compatibility (alongside Apple CarPlay) and a large 12.3" touchscreen. The infotainment can easily be controlled through the screen or via the rotary knob by the center console. This comes along with a bevy of other standard driver-assistance features such as blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross-traffic alerts and forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking.
GOOD TO KNOW With all seats up, cargo space is limited—you can fit only three carry-on suitcases. Third-row seating is best for little kids, as space will be cramped for an adult. The vehicle offers gesture-control support, but we did not find this very useful, and the HVAC controls were a bit complicated.
LAB RESULTS This three-row SUV delivers a comfortable, luxurious ride for seven passengers standard, or you can opt for captain's chairs for a six-seat configuration. Our engineers are fans of the updated digital instrument cluster and the fact that all-wheel drive is standard.
2021 BMW x7, from $75,895 (base price)
Best Large SUV
WHY WE LOVE IT The redesigned 2021 model means a vehicle we already loved is now bigger—and better! With seating for up to nine, it’s a comfortable and spacious ride for a large family (and all their gear).
STANDOUT FEATURES We're fans of optional upgrades like a rear-seat entertainment system in which each screen can play different content and an adjustable suspension that lets the height be changed to improve ground clearance.
GOOD TO KNOW Its large size makes it more difficult to maneuver in small spaces and park on city streets.
LAB RESULTS Whether you’re taking kids to outdoor games or hauling heavy loads, you’ll love the Suburban's oversize cargo space, powerful performance and airy interior. Our experts also noted more standard features like automated emergency braking, forward-collision alert and a user-friendly infotainment system.
2021 Chevrolet Suburban, from $51,700 (base price)
WHY WE LOVE IT It's opulent. The Escalade has always been synonymous with bigness, and now there is even more of it, as the length has been increased! The redesigned 2021 model also includes revamped exterior styling and improved handling.
STANDOUT FEATURES Its display screen is large (a whopping 38"!), and the first in the industry to leverage curved OLED technology. It's broken into three sections: one to the left of the steering wheel, a digital gauge display, and the central nearly 17" infotainment screen. Its head-up display is also very clear and in full color, making it easy to get key information like next turn without losing sight of the road.
GOOD TO KNOW You might be disappointed by some of the interior materials and quality for the expense, and its standard engine has below-par fuel economy.
LAB RESULTS The Escalade, now in its fifth generation, offers a high-tech, upscale ride that feels more in line with its price than previous iterations. You'll get a smooth ride regardless of the build, and loads of driver-safety features are included, such as automated emergency braking with both front and rear pedestrian detection and lane-keeping assist.
2021 Cadillac Escalade, from $76,195 (base price)
WHY WE LOVE IT It’s a people and thing hauler like no other! While minivans have long had a bad rap, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more utilitarian vehicle for moving a family around town.
STANDOUT FEATURES The standard-features list is exhaustive, tallying over 115! That includes parking-assistance features, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control and an abundance of USB ports (up to a dozen!). The Stow 'n Go rear seating means you can fold the back two rows totally flat if you need to transport something extra bulky or fit a whopping 53 carry-on suitcases!
GOOD TO KNOW It's not the spriteliest ride, but it's far from sluggish. And while it looks upscale, not all components are of the highest quality. If you prefer to opt for a super-pared-down version, you can check out the Voyager model.
LAB RESULTS The Pacifica offers a comfortable, spacious ride with clever interior storage solutions. Our engineers were fans of the updated infotainment system, Uconnect 5, which delivers faster and more intuitive functionality. Besides the standard gas variants, it's also the only minivan to offer a plug-in hybrid variant, which we also love!
2021 Chrysler Pacifica, from $35,495 (base price)
Best Pickup Truck
WHY WE LOVE IT The 2021 model year took a truck America already loved and made it even better with a redesigned exterior and interior. The all-new model's exterior updates include wraparound bumpers and higher front fenders to improve the vehicle's ruggedness while still maintaining its signature look. On the interior, more premium materials have been used and clever storage options added.
STANDOUT FEATURES It's a workhorse that, even with the base model, can tow 8,200 pounds, with higher trims offering upwards of a 14,000-pound towing capacity. If you opt for the optional interior work surface (you basically fold flat the shift lever and take over the center console), the vehicle can transform into a work-from-anywhere (or eat-from- anywhere!) station. If you opt for a more fuel-efficient variant, it's available with a hybrid 3.5-liter V-6 powertrain, and recently Ford announced an all-electric model.
GOOD TO KNOW There are lots of configurations available, and for a family-friendly version, we suggest the four-door style. While the hybrid's acceleration is peppy, the brake feel is lackluster. If you're a big tailgating family, the add-on generator can help supply power.
LAB RESULTS The F-150 offers a compliant ride and several productivity upgrades to make it even more desirable. The updated Ford Sync 4 software improves the usability and functionality of the infotainment platform.
2021 Ford F-150, from $28,940 (base price)
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