Sign up today and save up to 67% on a Hartford Courant digital subscription
CT Now

Best Cars for New Parents

Contact On the Road Weekly Publication

By Jim Gorzelany

CTW Features

As anyone who's gone through the process can attest, becoming a first-time parent is truly a life-changing experience, and that extends beyond changing diapers and awakening for middle-of-the-night feedings.

What was a den or office becomes a nursery. “Baby-proofing” the house to thwart perils real and imagined becomes a crusade. And that sporty coupe in the driveway inevitably makes way for something more practical.

Just ask Chicagoans Liz McCorry and Phil Koesterer, who found themselves with a baby on the way and the need to replace their Volkswagen New Beetle for a more accommodating ride. “All we knew going into the process was that we wanted a bit more space, four doors and something that would be safe and affordable to maintain.” says McCorry.

To that end we’ve compiled a short list of models we feel are among the most family-friendly cars on the market. These vehicles remain affordable enough to fit a growing family’s budget – each starts at well under $25,000. All feature relatively roomy cabins, with cargo areas large enough to accommodate the inevitable baby gear. Each comes with the requisite safety features, including a full complement of air bags and electronic stability control to help keep the vehicle on track during extreme or emergency handling maneuvers. And each of them retains a youthful quality so Mom and Dad won’t necessarily feel like old fogeys behind the wheel.

• Subaru Impreza. Stylishly redesigned for 2012 in compact sedan and hatchback versions, the latter is an especially worthy alternative to a small SUV. It’s sufficiently roomy and is playful to drive, with a 148-hp four-cylinder engine. All-wheel-drive is standard. MSRP: $17,495

• Chevrolet Equinox. This suburban-chic crossover SUV does just about everything right. Performance is first rate with either the fuel-efficient four-cylinder or quicker V6 engine. All-wheel-drive is optional for secure wet-road performance. MSRP: $23,450

• Mazda5. A “mini minivan” with sliding rear doors for handy back-seat access, the Mazda5 is easier to maneuver than a standard minivan. A 157-horsepower four-cylinder engine is both quick and economical. It accommodates six passengers across three rows, but the rearmost seats are best folded flat for cargo space. MSRP: $19,345

• Honda CR-V. Solid, reliable, refined and reasonably attractive, the CR-V remains popular by sticking to the basics and executing them admirably. Its interior is roomy and comfortable, and its four-cylinder engine is both modestly quick and economical. All-wheel-drive is optional for added surefootedness in foul weather. MSRP: about $22,000

• Kia Soul. Kia’s funky-yet-practical compact wagon gets upgraded styling and more power for 2012, with a choice of 138- and 164-hp four-cylinder engines. An available Eco package is tuned for maximum mileage at 28/34 mpg with the base engine. Both rear-seat room and cargo space is expansive, and the Soul offers a long list of accessories for customization. MSRP: $13,900

• Toyota RAV4. Toyota’s compact crossover SUV is a solid choice, with frisky handling, a choice of four-cylinder and V6 engines and available all-wheel-drive. Available features include a third-row seat for future family expansion. MSRP: $22,750 (est.)

• Scion xB. With boxy styling that affords a high roofline, the xB compact wagon affords generous rear legroom and a large cargo hold. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers lively acceleration and the car can be spiffed up with myriad cosmetic and functional accoutrements. $17,250

• Volkswagen Jetta. This compact line of sedans and wagons features uncluttered styling and a spacious rear cabin. Engine choices include a 115-hp four-cylinder, peppier 170-hp five-cylinder or a truly quick turbo-four with 200 horses. A diesel-powered version gets 42 mpg on the highway. MSRP: $15,365


Copyright © 2015, CT Now