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 Subaru BRZ 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.
To that end, we here at Gear Patrol have pulled together some compelling non-minivan options for new parents looking for style and substance alike in their next vehicle.
Hyundai Santa Fe
If you’re in your 30s or 40s with less than three kids, it’s hard to argue with the Hyundai Santa Fe. The cabin is luxurious. It offers a ton of space. You can opt for performance with the 2.5-liter turbo that puts out 277 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque or fuel economy with a 1.6-liter hybrid that gets more than 30 mpg combined. And it’s cheap. The fanciest Santa Fe Calligraphy trim starts a little above $40,000. There's also a plug-in hybrid arriving very soon.
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 for just over $27K. Rather have fun driving instead? Honda will sell you an Accord Sport with 252 horsepower, 273 lb-ft of torque and a 10-speed paddle-shift automatic for $33,100.
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 (with up to 75.8 cubic feet of cargo space), and offers good handling. The starting price comes in just a bit above $25,000. And if you want better gas mileage, there's even a hybrid version that bumps the horsepower up over 200 and improves fuel efficiency by 50 percent.
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.
Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain Wagon
Sure, we all want the Mercedes-AMG E63 S wagon, but for those of us who aren't looking to spend six figures on a sportswagen (or who can't convince our spouses to go along with that), the E450 makes an excellent choice. Not only is it packed with safety features and an elegant interior, but it's incredibly roomy, with 35 cubic feet of space behind the ample second row. An adaptive air suspension that lifts and lowers the car gives it crossover-like ground clearance when needed, but enables it to drop down for 28 miles per gallon on the highway. Also: it has a flip-up, rear-facing third row seat for a little extra kid room.
The Subaru Forester warrants a mention, as well. The Forester brings the same safety and ruggedness in a boxier, more-traditional-crossover 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). And a bonus: it's more affordable than the Outback, too.
The Subaru Outback appears on many a “best cars” 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. Plus, with the arrival of the new Outback Wilderness version, you can take your new baby even farther off the beaten path for their first off-road adventure.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Okay, the Highlander may not be 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, as do 84.3 cubic feet of available cargo space with the second and third rows folded flat. And, if you only buy American, know that Toyota builds them in Indiana.
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 characteristic, and makes up for a not-overly-large cargo bay with smart design and useful storage cubbies.