Kia, Honda most attractive to families

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

Published: June 11, 2016, 10:30 PM
Updated: June 18, 2016, 5:49 AM

2016 Kia Optima

Kia Soul - Kia’s sub-compact crossover introduced a generation of new buyers to the segment and set Kia up as an edgy, style-conscious company. Clever styling cues give the impression of high-ground-clearance go-anywhere ability but the Soul’s front-wheel drive only platform basically makes it just a tall hatchback.

Parents Magazine and 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.

All the contenders for the Canadian Car of the Year Awards - Longer, lower, wider and roomier than its predecessor, the stylish third-generation Tucson offers a choice of two four-cylinder engines – one turbocharged – as well as front- or all-wheel-drive and a generous helping of standard features and equipment.

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.

2016 Toyota Highlander - The mid-size Toyota Highlander SUV is also on the move – “with a bullet!” – increasing sales by 43.3% to 2,964 and moving up to #30 in the overall rankings.

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.

Practical and inspired - The previous Civic was roundly criticized for its practical but uninspired interior, but not so for the new one.

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 Pilot - One of five Honda vehicles to win segment Residual Value Awards

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.”

Canada's 'Best New' vehicles for 2016 in nine categories - Chevrolet Volt with 668 points was the third place finisher in the class

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.

2014 Mazda3 Sport

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.

Subaru Outback - Making return engagements are the 2.5-litre flat-four cylinder engine making 175 horsepower and the 3.6-L DOHC flat-six (“H6”), which is good for 256 horsepower. Being horizontally opposed “boxer” engines, both enjoy primary and second-order balance by design, a shorter and stiffer crankshaft and can accommodate equal-length driveshafts, hence Subaru’s unique symmetrical AWD powertrain as standard equipment. Mounted low in the engine bay, the boxers lend the Outback better handling traits both on the asphalt and on backwoods trails. New refinements give the Outback the goods to chase upmarket targets, including wagons from Audi and Volvo – no small feat.

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.).

2016 Toyota Sienna