For many car shoppers, minivans don't have much appeal. They can be a little dull to drive, and their van styling doesn't exactly scream coolness. But they're excellent family haulers that offer tremendous practicality and convenience. Can you get minivan practicality without choosing a minivan? We think so, and our proof is a list of seven great family cars that offer minivanlike practicality with a bit of style.
There are many reasons why the newly updated Chevrolet Traverse deserves a spot on your anti-minivan family-car shopping list. There's the standard V6, which boasts an impressive 281 horsepower and returns an excellent 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. There's the smooth styling, which successfully bridges the gap between car and SUV. There's the long list of safety features, ranging from standard items (such as side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and a front-center airbag) to optional features (forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning). Most importantly, there's the available 8-passenger seating, with third-row access made especially easy by the crossover's Smart Slide second-row seat. The Traverse starts around $31,800 with shipping.
The Ford Explorer is an excellent crossover, with upscale styling and a high-end interior. Offering three rows of seats and great cargo space, the Explorer's $31,500 base price tag seems like a good deal. This is especially true when you consider its powerful standard 290-hp V6, which is far more muscular than standard 4-cylinder engines in some rivals. Of course, the Explorer also offers a lot of upscale safety and convenience features, including lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and Ford's ever-improving MyFord Touch infotainment system. Our favorite part is the crossover's exciting Sport model, which offers 365 hp and reaches 60 miles per hour in around 6 seconds.
The Ford Flex is a 7-passenger crossover that combines minivanlike practicality with boxy, bold SUV styling and a reasonable $30,000 base price. Convenience features abound, with power adjustable pedals, a remote starter, a power lift gate and a rearview camera offered on most trim levels. There's also a long list of safety features, ranging from rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system to adaptive cruise control. The best part is the Flex's available 3.5-liter turbocharged V6, which makes a whopping 365 hp -- enough to reach 60 mph in a lightning-quick 6.6 seconds.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Jeep Grand Cherokee offers only two rows of seats, so it's not quite as practical as most minivans, but it does include a lot of cargo space, a long list of available features (including Uconnect, our favorite infotainment system), and brawny styling that helps distinguish it from minivans and other SUVs. Base pricing is also reasonable, with the Grand Cherokee starting around $30,500 with options. And for drivers who really want to have a good time on the road, there's always the Grand Cherokee SRT8: a high-performance, lowered version of the SUV that boasts 470 hp and 0-to-60 times in the low 5-second range.
Yes, it's true: Zoom-zoom Mazda makes a 3-row crossover. Dubbed the CX-9, it starts around $31,000 with shipping and features the kind of excellent handling that you'd expect from the sporty brand. The CX-9 also includes a standard 3.7-liter V6 that makes 275 hp and returns 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy. It also features bold styling (18-inch alloy wheels are standard) along with an extensive list of safety features ranging from anti-lock brakes, side-curtain airbags and stability control (all standard) to options such as rear cross-traffic alert and a backup camera.
The newly redesigned Nissan Pathfinder is an excellent 3-row crossover that offers everything a minivan can -- and more. We say more because the Pathfinder boasts two unique features that elevate its status on our shopping lists. One is the crossover's optional Around View camera, which stitches together four camera displays to create a top-down, 360-degree view around the SUV -- helpful when you're trying to squeeze in to a tight spot or back out of a garage. We also love the Pathfinder's available hybrid engine, which returns 25 mpg city/28 mpg hwy -- more than any minivan. Pathfinder base models can start around $30,100 with shipping, while the fuel-efficient Pathfinder Hybrid is $36,300 including destination.
There's no question that the Subaru Outback isn't a minivan, but it's also not a crossover or a full-fledged SUV. Instead, the Outback is a 5-passenger station wagon -- one that features standard all-wheel drive and a long list of other features such as Bluetooth, a fuel-saving continuously variable automatic transmission and side-curtain airbags in its $25,900 base price with shipping. It's one of our favorite choices among today's crop of family cars for shoppers who don't need 3-row seating, especially when you consider its excellent fuel economy ratings of 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy.