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Kia, Honda most attractive to families

Asian brands dominate top 10 list, with only one North American entry

2016 Kia Optima

Parents Magazine and Edmunds.com have combined to release a list of the 10 Best cars for families, and perhaps not surprisingly, cost played a big part in the selection of the winners, with Kia taking two spots and Hyundai another.

Perhaps equally surprisingly in this day or cutting costs by moving production to Mexico, is that only one is from a North American manufacturer.

The media properties chose the 10 vehicles as new car purchases blessed with style, substance and kid-friendly features, and noted the diversity in models and sizes to suit all family needs.

Hyundai Motor Group was apparently top of mind among the selection committee, with Kia placing two on the list — the Soul as the Best Budget Vehicle and the Optima as the Best Sedan — and Hyundai scoring with the crossover Tucson. Nissan also took a crossover mention for its Murano.

The Soul and Optima’s appeal come from a combination of style and price, with the editors pointing out the Soul’s modern design, full list of interior amenities and boxy SUV-like style providing versatility for carrying people and their stuff in comfort.

Likewise, Optima was singled out for stunning good looks inside and out, highlighted by the cabin’s ergonomics, equipment levels (even the base model has a rearview camera and remote keyless entry) and smart controls. Fuel economy is also a big plus, as are refined ride and good handling.

Meanwhile Tucson and Murano — the two crossovers chosen — also made the list for their edgy outward appearances, spacious cabins (relative to their sizes) and tranquil rides.

Tucson gets a nod for its touchless hatchgate (which opens up automatically as the driver approaches with the transponder); meanwhile, the editors say the Nissan is noteworthy for its library-quiet cabin.

Honda manages to get two vehicles on the list, the Civic as the Best Small sedan and the Pilot (Best SUV). Redesigned for 2016, the new Civic makes a big impression with its richer and more accommodating cabin, which also features as standard rearview camera (with three viewing angles), while on the SUV front, the also new for 2016 Pilot was appreciated for its third-row seating that is (a) spacious enough for adults and (b) folds down to create a cavernous cargo hold the editors called “almost impossible to fill.”

The sole North American entry to make the list was the Chevrolet Volt (Best Green Car), while others to also score a mention were the Mazda3 Sport (Best Hatchback), Subaru Outback (Best Wagon) and Toyota Sienna (Best Minivan).

The Volt’s main attraction is, naturally, fuel economy, with the added range adding an honourable mention for its ability to travel longer on a single charge or allow a longer one-way escape to the cottage without filling up. It did get a slight knock for its tight rear seating, though the trunk space is deemed sufficient for a family of four’s needs.

The Mazda 3 Sport was praised for its international flavour — Japanese practicality, Italian curves and German handling — its near-unparalleled safety features and a rear-seat/cargo-hold combination that belies its compact dimensions.

The Outback proved to the editors that wagons are not out of fashion, especially in light of the Outback’s crossover characteristics that combine great all-weather handling with a lower step-in height than you’d get from even a compact CUV. Safety features are also top notch, as is a comfortable rear seat with individual climate controls and reclinability.

And last but not least, you couldn’t have a list of family cars without the token minivan, and Sienna fits the role, although the selectors pointed out its characteristics of quiet interior, infotainment options and the availability of all-wheel drive would put it on the list regardless. Kudos also for its Driver Easy Speak that allows the driver to talk to those farthest back over the rear speakers (so no need to yell “don’t make come back there!” … you can whisper it.).

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