Buyer’s Guide: 5 Features To Look For In Your Next Family Vehicle

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We highlight five things buyers shopping for a family vehicle should look for. Four are new, one is an old standby. 

There has never been a better selection of family vehicles from which to choose. Most families have migrated from low-slung sedans to easier to enter and exit crossovers. With a better cargo capacity and easier loading and unloading, crossovers are becoming the default for those with kids or about to start a family. Whether you are looking at a subcompact vehicle or a large SUV, there are some great new family-friendly features to check out. Along with those, we still have one old favorite that seems to be hit or miss in today’s family vehicles. Here is our list:

Safe Exit Assist

When you have little ones in the back and pull into your favorite mini-golf emporium those kids are going to want to bolt. However, the person parking beside you may not be expecting them to jump right out while they pull in. Rather than locking out the rear door handles or yelling “Watch your doors!Hyundai and Kia have a more practical solution. Its new Safe Exit Assist watches your back for you. If a car is approaching alongside, it won’t let the kids open the rear doors into the path of the danger. The doors instead lock and the driver gets a heads up warning message. Once the danger has passed, the driver can then open the doors with one tap on the door lock button up front. This is a feature we think has real-world value. We’ll look for it on our next family vehicle.

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Rear Seat Occupant Warning

Tragically, young ones are sometimes left inside vehicles accidentally. It is hard to understand how this happens, but parents are among the most fatigued people in the community. Up all night many times, yet off to work early morning with a daycare drop on the way. Most manufacturers now offer rear-seat occupant warnings. You or a person driving your family vehicle are almost certainly never going to leave your child in the car accidentally. Almost. This system moves that likelihood closer to zero.

USBs in every row

As our kids grow older, the devices they use to entertain and inform themselves evolve. Children’s games, kids’ Kindles, iPads, Chromebooks, Apple’s next holographic brain blaster, or whatever else is next. Those devices all use power and sending cords backward from the center console is a hassle. Many family vehicles now offer USB power ports in all rows. We say “Bravo!”

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

For most Americans, the term “family vehicle” also means “affordable vehicle.” Built-in navigation is great when you are headed to a soccer game in a town you have never been to. But it is also usually part of an expensive package or only included on a top trim. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay allow you to use your favorite navigation tool, Google Maps, or Apple Maps, at zero added cost. Better yet, they are always up to date and Android will have all of your recent map searches pre-loaded for you to pick from. Here’s another thought. You child may someday be using your family car as their first car. Do you want them looking at the nav screen and hearing spoken directions or down at a phone as they try to find their way to the Junior Prom?

Spare Tire

What is your plan for a flat tire on vacation in the boonies on a holiday weekend? Does waiting for AAA for a few hours and then seeing your vehicle towed to a closed dealer or closed tire shop sound fun? Or would simply driving home on a spare be more appealing? We just don’t understand family vehicles without spare tires. Compact spares are fine. They will let you drive around locally and maybe all the way home. Repair kits are silly and don’t solve the problem if your sidewall is damaged. When you shop for your next family car, put up the cargo hatch, pull up the floor cover and see if there is a spare tire there. If not, consider your other choices.