Over the course of one day while watching my best friend’s 5-month-old daughter, you have a lot of time to think in between sneaking around the house and tiptoeing from room to room. My wife and I’s 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe is a great, reliable car that offers large amounts of cargo space, which was perfect for the ungodly amount of toys we had in our possession for one day. So what car would make a great baby carrier? What offers cargo/trunk space, room in the back for a car seat so your front seat passenger’s face isn’t smushed against the dashboard, and what are some of the safest options available?
Awarded a top safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Highlander is a cautious parent’s dream come true. While the seat anchors aren’t the easiest to find—as they’re embedded deep within the seat gaps—it’s not that uncommon among most vehicles. Who wants a metal rod going up their keister? With three-row seating there are plenty of spots should you want to extend the family even more, and when the seats are down, cargo space becomes a posh 95.4 cubic feet.
Updated for 2016, the Honda Pilot lost some of its rugged exterior in favor of a newer, sleeker, minivan-esque silhouette. It’s love it or leave it styling for the new generation, but the boxy Pilots of yesterday are certified family friendly. You can fit up to eight passengers in the Pilot with an actual human-sized third row. There’s an incredible safety record for the Pilot that gives piece of mind of, an available rear-seat entertainment system to keep the kids busy, and a quiet interior to keep them sleeping when the time comes.
If you’re looking for an outlier in a luxury field dominated by Mercedes and BMW, this Volvo adds a splash in a very utilitarian field. The S60 comes with a bunch of active safety equipment, most notably the City Safety System that can bring the car to a complete stop on its own should you not be ready for the moment. When a child’s making a fuss and possibly causing distractions, having technology on your side is good for the whole family.
For its third generation, the Dodge Durango became polished and highly competitive in the crossover SUV category. With a range of options and trim levels a mile long, there are countless ways you can buy a Durango. If you opt for the V8 models towing capacity becomes a hefty 7,400 pounds, which is enough for pulling horses, quads, boats, Airstreams, or anything else your family bonds over, making it the perfect vehicle for long escapes from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Subies are notoriously good for kids because they’re extremely safe with excellent crash-test results, are basically indestructible (both inside and out), and their capabilities are legendary. If you’re the adventurous type of parent who would rather go check out the nearest blue lagoon than watch Blues Clues, the Outback is as sufficient at guiding the next expedition as the nearest Sherpa. Tack on AWD that’s standard on most models and let the road, and lack thereof, take you places.
Another highly capable hauler, the Jeep Grand Cherokee might not have the expansive cargo or interior space as some of the others, but what it lacks in storage it makes up for with an abundance of options and specifications. The interior is plush and befitting of luxury vehicles costing more while its Jeep tough demeanor will keep everyone inside safe. As a bonus, if you’re a heavy pedal pusher, the SRT-8 models offer high performance thrills.
Mazda is somewhat of an underdog in a crowded field of competitors, however, that doesn’t mean they should be overlooked. Great to drive, safe to be inside, and a great overall value, the Mazda 6 sedan might not be the most suave car in the parking lot but it will do everything you ask of it. The no frills aspect of the 6 means you can get down to using the car as it was meant, to be driven. And with the money you saved over the others, you can afford to get a few personal entertainment devices for kids with an endless appetite for consumption.
The Flex blurs the line between highfalutin SUV and obscure wagon by almost being in a class by itself. With room for seven and easy-to-stuff kids in with a low loading floor, the Flex is as diverse as its name suggests. The third row might be a bit cramped for kids exploring their teen years, but overall the cabin is spacious for a family of four. Modern technologies such as a turbocharged 6-cylinder offer power and economy; and a compliant, yet confident ride offers inspiring legs for long road trips.
With Volkswagen’s troubles with their diesel engines aside, the Jetta SportWagen still offers friendly packaging in a fun and sporty platform. Lots of cargo space, great fuel economy (or so we think) and versatile drivetrain options should you want a gas motor instead of diesel. Comfortable on long drives and exciting on short ones, the SportWagen can do many things right where some sedans fall short.
Currently the full-time Editorial Director and Content Manager for RxSpeed.com, & contributing writer for Scout.com. He also loves photography, videography, his Shiba Inu Mia and driving sports cars.