Having your first child is a magical (and, at times, exhausting) experience. It brings plenty of changes to your life — not the least of which is likely to be a new set of wheels. Your life’s revised needs will likely require a new car purchase — a car that might well be the first “adult” vehicle of your life. (Sorry, but the Scion tC you’ve been driving since college won’t cut it anymore.)
New parents need cars that are safe, practical and reasonably priced (don’t forget you now need to think about childcare and college savings). But many such new parents are also young and hip — not quite ready to become full-on middle-aged drones just yet. Here are some compelling non-minivan options for new parents looking for style and substance alike.
The Subaru Outback appears on many a “best” list for value and capability. If you don’t have a particular need for speed, it’s one of the best all-around affordable cars on the market. The Outback is durable and rugged, with Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system and 8.7 inches of ground clearance. It’s also safe — Subaru’s EyeSight system with pre-collision braking comes standard — and practical, with up to 75.3 cubic feet of cargo room. The Outback will last forever, and you can get a newly-redesigned one for less than $30,000.
The Subaru Forester warrants mention, as well. The Forester brings the same safety and ruggedness in a boxier, more traditional crossover-like package than the Outback. It offers a hair more cargo space than the Outback, as well. Subaru made a point to give the Forester wide rear doors (great for car seats) and a wide trunk opening (great for that massive amount of baby gear you now have to cart around).
Volvos strike the perfect parental balance: they’re nice, but not pretentious. Volvo also has a well-earned reputation for producing the safest cars on the road. The XC40, an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, stands out in both respects. It looks phenomenal, offers genuinely sporty driving capabilities in 248-horsepower spec, and makes up for a not-overly-large cargo bay with smart design and useful storage cubbies.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Yeah, the Highlander is not as cool as a 4Runner, but it’s more practical in almost every other way. The hybrid version puts out 306 horsepower, reaches 30 mpg in the city, has three rows of seats, and begins with a price point in the $30,000 range. Toyota Safety Sense technology comes standard. The Highlander has 83.7 cubic feet of available cargo space. And, if you only buy American, know that Toyota builds them in Indiana.
The CR-V does not ooze personality, and it won’t compete with the Subaru for ruggedness. But there are plenty of reasons Honda sells CR-Vs by the hundreds of thousands in the United States every year. This CUV is comfortable, spacious (it has up to 75.8 cubic feet of cargo space), and offers good handling. The starting MSRP begins below $25,000. The 2020 refresh will bring a hybrid version that bumps the horsepower up over 200 and improves fuel efficiency by 50 percent.
Contrary to SUV-favoring popular belief, a sedan can still be a good family car. Honda’s full-size Accord is a consistently excellent one. The Accord offers standard driver assistance features, a sizable rear seat and a decent-sized trunk. Want to protect the environment and save for the college fund? You can buy a dual-motor hybrid Accord that achieves 48 mpg. Rather have fun driving instead? Honda will sell you an Accord with 251 horsepower, 273 lb-ft of torque and a six-speed manual for just above $30,000.
Most new families won’t need seating for eight — if they do, they’re probably in negotiations to star in a TLC show — but why not plan ahead? The Kia Telluride drives well, feels luxurious inside and out — and it will charge every device conceivable thanks to five USB ports and three 12-volt power outlets. Need cargo space? This ride has as much as 87 cubic feet. And don’t forget about eight inches of ground clearance and all-wheel-drive, in case you’d like to indulge in a little soft-roading. Starting MSRP for a Telluride is a family-friendly $31,690.
Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen
Volkswagen is phasing out its wagons from the U.S. market after 2019. That’s a shame because the Golf Sportwagen is one of the best value cars on the market. It combines the Golf’s superb handling and torque with an SUV-like 66.5-cubic-feet of cargo space. It comes with a six-speed manual, and the front-wheel-drive version earns an impressive 32 mpg combined. More impressive is the price point — starting under $22,000. Oh, and VW offers a six-year or 72,000-mile warranty through the end of 2019.
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