minivan

The decision to start a family doesn’t come cheap. Estimates from Parenting Magazine say couples should expect to spend around $12,000 for expenses during the first year of their baby’s life, which is about $50 per week, let alone the other 17 years of dependency (at least) they can expect to pay for. Still, these costs are necessary for their children’s health and happiness during the most vulnerable years of their lives.

One of the biggest expenses many young couples face is that of a new car. Sporty speedsters and hand-me-down clunkers most young adults drive are in no way practical for a budding family. Family cars must be efficient, safe, and (crucially) economical to suit the typical American family’s needs.

It should come as no surprise that so many new parents opt for minivans. These vehicles number among the absolute safest on the road today due to their size and safety features, which can be more numerous than other makes and models. Plus, minivans are brimming with characteristics perfectly suited to growing families, including:

  • Sliding doors. Parents need space to shuttle kids in and out of the vehicle, and the wide opening afforded by sliding doors is ideal. Some models even boast power-sliding, which means they close at the click of a button.
  • Versatile seating. After one too many road trips stalled by tantrums caused by unhappily placed passengers, most parents want to be able to control the number of seats as well as the distance between them.
  • Rear entertainment system. As much as families love each other, me-time is an absolute must, which makes separated entertainment for parents and kids an absolute gift.
  • Storage containers. Experienced parents know that there can never be enough storage — but minivans come close with dozens of pockets, trays, and cup holders throughout.

These, coupled with ample cargo space in the flooring and trunk, make minivans the stand-out winners of family cars. Without further ado, here are the best family cars to look out for during 2015.

Chrysler Town and Country

The Chrysler Town and Country is consistently rated among the top minivans on the market for a variety of reasons. The rear seating is perhaps the most accessibly dynamic; Chrysler’s “stow ‘n’ go” technology allows parents to fold down seats with one hand, if need be. Plus, the configuration of various storage elements, including the enormous cargo bay in the rear, is excellent for families that have quite a few necessities — diaper bags, snacks and drinks, toys, etc. — to bring along. On top of this, Chrysler’s “infotainment” screens are favorites among car gadget reviewers, who say the elegant and responsive design works for adult and child fingers alike. When it comes to minivans, the Town and Country is the cream of the crop; check out options at Dodge Chrysler Jeep of Kirkland.

Dodge Grand Caravan

One of the best perks of the Dodge Grand Caravan is its starting price; $21,800 feels much too low for the value of the vehicle. The generous storage containers around the seats are also appreciated; plus, the Grand Caravan offers the “stow ‘n’ go” capability for its rear seats, allowing expansion of the already spacious cargo area.

The interior of this minivan feels luxuriously soft, but the materials respond well to cleaners, making messes easier to wash out. However, some reviews point to minor letdowns, like the relative bumpiness of the ride and the unrefined powertrain, as the reasons for the Grand Caravan’s low place on a few “top minivan” lists. Though critics argue that the Grand Caravan isn’t the top of its class, it certainly gives the top a run for its money.

Kia Sedona

Perhaps the most stylish option on this list, the Sedona demonstrates Kia’s desire to create a car that functions for families but doesn’t scream “minivan.” Kia experiments with design inside and out, creating a distinctive interior with high-quality materials and a streamlined exterior that comes in a variety of colors. The interior is noticeably quiet — though that might change when it’s filled with a family on-the-go.

Conversely to the “stow ‘n’ go” technology of Dodge and Chrysler, the Kia Sedona’s middle seats use “slide-n-stow,” allowing them to fold vertically for more floor space. Still, the Sedona lacks the plentiful storage room of its competitors, and what’s more, the fuel economy of this minivan is one of the worst in the class. However, the radical design and excellent equipment of the Sedona makes it stand out.