Babble Best Picks:
Best Crossovers for the Family
With winter right around the corner and dealers clearing out the lots to make room for next year's models, now is a great time to take advantage of dealer and manufacturer incentives and shop for a new SUV. To help consumers make sense of the increasingly crowded crossover market, I examined the most popular models on the market under $35,000 and chose the best SUVs for families based on price, cargo capacity, safety, features, and fuel economy. Read More »
There are a lot of options to choose from, and many vehicles are very evenly matched. When there was a tough call in deciding which vehicle was best for the category, I took the uncertain economy and the ever-changing price fuel into consideration and gave the top spot to the less-expensive vehicle that got better gas mileage.
Safety is also a big consideration when selecting a vehicle. New car stickers have the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 5-star safety ratings on them, so here we listed the more stringent crash test scores given by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). To cross-check our results, we also listed the Consumer Reports vehicle score and provided their Consumer Satisfaction rating when available.
We hope you find this information helpful in your search for a family crossover. Don't see your favorite vehicle on the list? Nominate it here! - Liane Yvkoff
Best for SUV for road trips | 2011 Ford Flex
FUEL ECONOMY: 17/24 mpg
The 2011 Flex is a huge departure from other crossovers on the road; it’s a refreshing take on the old station wagons your parents used to drive. Most people have a love or hate reaction to the Flex’s boxy body and contrasting white roof – and it’s been called a “breadbox on wheels” more than once. But your typical crossover it is not.
A 262-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine more than adequately powers this family hauler, though its fuel economy of 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway makes it less fuel-efficient than most minivans. An even more powerful 355-horsepower, 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine is available, which has the power of a V8 engine but almost the same fuel economy of the base model engine. Once you get going in the car, the Flex is a smooth, cushy ride.
SEATING + STORAGE
The Flex is available with either a six or seven-seat configuration. Large doors and expansive legroom will help parents load babes into car seats, and its relatively low platform makes it easy for kids to get in and out of the car on their own. If you skip the two captain’s chairs in the second row and go with a three-seater bench instead, 55″ of hip room will make it easy to fit three car seats across. The downside is that the 2nd row bench doesn’t slide forward if you want your kids within arms reach. (But that also means they can’t kick the back of your seat:)
The 2011 Flex is also available with powerfold third row seats, which means you don’t have to do much more than lift a finger to get more cargo space. And if you fold all three rows flat on the flex, you’ll have enough room to fit an inflated, full-size air mattress.
While there are lots of crossovers that offer ample cargo space (and some offer more than the Flex) this crossover has a few great features that make it perfect for long road trips, like heated second-row seats and a large “Vista Roof” that covers all three rows to give everyone a dose of daylight (or moonlight). Unlike most vehicles that offer simple air-conditioned compartments, the Flex is the only crossover to offer a full-functioning refrigerator with a freeze mode to keep bottles and snacks extra cool in the summer.
ENTERTAINMENT + NAVIGATION
The dual-seat back entertainment system doesn’t impede on the driver’s rear visibility, and kids old enough to handle their own electronics can load videos into the DVD players by themselves.