All in the Family
When many car shoppers consider purchasing a family car, they often think of a wagon, minivan or SUV. Of course not every family consists of two parents with 1.86 kids — different size families at various stages of life require different types of vehicles. So we’ve considered a number of family units — from newlyweds to retired empty nesters — and identified a fitting set of wheels for each. Here’s a quick look at a variety of familial situations and the vehicles that could be considered good fits.
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Just Married — Chevrolet Spark
You’ve just tied the knot and spent a fortune on the wedding and honeymoon, so money might be a little tight, too. With prices starting around $12,000, the 2015 Chevrolet Spark gets you into a fun-to-drive car with seating for four and a reasonable amount of cargo space. The Spark (fitting car name for newlyweds, btw) can even be equipped with 4G LTE and set up as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Rated at 39 mpg on the highway, the Spark makes a great first jointly-owned car.
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First Kid — Honda Fit
There are three in the family now, and while the new addition may be tiny, the amount of gear that accompanies a child is mind boggling. All hail the Honda Fit, which excels at space management so the roomy rear seat will still work when your baby isn’t a baby anymore. The perfect example of a car that’s small on the outside but large on the inside, the Fit features rear seats that fold in multiple configurations, allowing cargo storage for all shapes and sizes. Fuel economy is impressive, and the highly maneuverable Fit will make family life easier to negotiate.
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Second Kid — Kia Optima Hybrid
Even though you now have two kids to put in the back seat, you don’t immediately have to go out and buy an SUV. The Kia Optima Hybrid offers a great combination of attractive styling, roomy interior, considerable trunk space and excellent performance. An added bonus is an EPA combined fuel economy rating of 38 mpg. The Optima is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick + which means not only will the Optima protect you and your family in the event of an accident, it also has crash-avoidance technology.
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Third Kid — Ford Flex
Just because you now have what many would consider to be a large family, it doesn’t mean you have to buy a minivan. The Ford Flex is an excellent alternative to the classic family hauler, with a distinctive look and a comfortable interior. Big bucket seats in the second row keep the kids apart, and if they’re good you can treat them to ice cream that you’ve kept cold in the built-in freezer. Since Flex offers an optional, powerful 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, the driver can enjoy the ride as well.
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Sports Team Carpool — Chevrolet Tahoe
The kids and their friends are on the soccer, football, basketball, field hockey or baseball team, so eventually it will be your turn to drive the lot to the game. The Chevrolet Tahoe is definitely up to the task. Up to seven team members can be seated in the Tahoe, with room for all their gear. Too much stuff to fit in the cargo area? The Tahoe can tow up to 8,600 pounds, so load up a trailer and you’re still good to go. And with automatic 4WD system, the weather will never keep your kids from practice.
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Road Trip — Chrysler Town & Country
Minivans may carry a stigma that most won’t accept, but honestly there’s nothing better for a road trip. Our choice among minivans is one of the originals: the Chrysler Town & Country. Stow ‘n’ Go seats hide when not in use — and if all seats are taken, there’s plenty of storage below the floor as well as in the rear cargo area. With a Blu-ray DVD entertainment system with a screen for each rear row, the kids don’t even have to agree on a movie. Leather-trimmed seats are comfortable over a long haul, and with all that space you won’t feel cooped up for hours.
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Midlife Crisis — Mazda MX-5
The pressures of parenthood are getting to you and you need something for yourself to clear the cobwebs. Just a few minutes behind the wheel of the sporty Mazda MX-5 Miata will almost guarantee a smile returning on your face. All new for 2016, the little lightweight roadster is proof you can have a great time driving without huge horsepower. Find a twisty road, start shifting the quick manual gearbox and the weight of the world will dissolve. Since the MX-5 Miata has a rating of 36 mpg, you can justify the purchase to your significant other as a fuel-efficient ride.
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Midlife Crisis (fully funded) — Porsche 911
Perhaps life has been good to you financially, and you’ve worked hard to get where you are. But sometimes you simply need a bit of an escape from the family and the job — the Porsche 911 is an ideal way to do just that. Take a drive in a 911 and you’ll realize why this iconic sports car sets the bar that other sports cars try to achieve. Perfectly balanced with amazing handling, good looks and excellent performance, a 911 and an early exit from the office will certainly change your perspective on work and life. If you have the means, the 911 is certainly worth the wait.
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Keeping Up With the Joneses — Tesla Model X
For some families appearances are important — and it simply won’t do to have a lesser vehicle than your neighbors. If you get a Tesla Model X in your driveway, that mission will be accomplished. The Model X is just going on sale — the all-electric SUV will certainly make a splash with its unique “falcon” rear doors, extreme performance and array of cool high-tech features. Unfortunately there is a waiting list and although your gratification will be delayed, odds are you’ll still possess one before your neighbors.
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Camping Trip — Ford Explorer
Whether you’re heading to a proper campground or blazing a trail to a different wilderness experience, the Ford Explorer can certainly fit the bill. There’s plenty of space for the family and all their gear, and with the ability to tow up to 5,000 pounds the Explorer gives you the option of skipping the tent and pulling a pop-up or camp trailer. If you prefer to rough it, the Explorer is fully capable of taking you off the beaten path with an intelligent 4WD system that adjusts automatically, depending on the terrain.
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Empty Nest — Jeep Wrangler
The kids are no longer living under your roof, so you no longer need to worry about hauling them and their friends around town. So why not think about a little adventure? The Jeep Wrangler lets you explore the countryside with amazing off-road ability. You can remove the top — even the doors — for proper summertime enjoyment. Your kids might even think you’re cool.
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Big Promotion — Audi S7
You’ve been working hard, and you’ve been rewarded with that big promotion and the pay raise that goes with it. It’s time to treat yourself, but you still need to be able to drive the family. The Audi S7 is an excellent option. With its elegant lines and classic Audi styling you’ll certainly get noticed. And with its 450-horsepower turbocharged V8 engine teamed with Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel-drive system, the S7 is bound to put a smile on your face. All this and plenty of room for the family and whatever they need to carry.
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Boat Purchase — Ram 1500 Quad Cab EcoDiesel
You finally saved up and bought a boat for the family to enjoy — how are you going to get it from the driveway to the lake? The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is an excellent option. Able to tow up to 8,600 pounds, this Ram 1500 diesel will have no problem pulling the boat down to the water — and out again. But even when you don’t need to do any hauling, the Ram 1500 Quad Cab has room for the entire family and is rated at 29 mpg on the highway, so you could even use this big truck as your daily driver.
© Subaru of America
Going Skiing — Subaru Outback
Winter has arrived and the slopes are covered with snow — time for the familiar, familial skip trip. Of course the roads also are covered with snow, but that won’t be a problem for the Subaru Outback. With its legendary all-wheel-drive system, spacious interior and integrated roof rack, the Outback will keep you and the family comfortable and safe with all your ski gear for the drive into the mountain. Another added benefit: Subaru’s Eyesight system can alert you to a pending collision and even stop the vehicle automatically. This earns Outback the highest possible safety score from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as a Top Safety Pick + vehicle.
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Grandkids — Volvo XC90
The empty nest is now periodically full of squawking grandchildren, so you need a vehicle you like driving, but one that can also carry your precious cargo safely. The all-new Volvo XC90 with its attractive styling and myriad safety features should fit the bill. With seating for seven, the XC90 lets you carry your kids and their kids, and all will be happy sitting on some of the most comfortable seats in the industry. The grandchildren will also appreciate the XC90’s Wi-Fi hotspot, so they can be social without having to talk to anyone in the car.