As the self-appointed family car reviewer for Autoblog, I have some opinions on the topic. If money were no object, my nomination for the ultimate family car would be split between the Mercedes-Benz R-Class and the BMW 5 Series wagon. But the R-Class entry price is $42k, and the Bimmer's is close to $50k -- not exactly family-friendly.
Forbes Magazine, however, is a bit more realistic in its quest for the perfect family car, and considers price a deciding factor, like the majority of families. I agree with its Compact Car pick. The 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit is a good deal for your $16k entry price (though Forbes says $19k). On paper, its 15 cu. ft. of cargo space doesn't sound like much, but in reality, it's bigger than it sounds. The Rabbit also averages about 25 mpg, and these days, that's a big deal.
Still, there are some Forbes picks I just don't agree with. For example, the mag selects the Saab 9-3 Sport Combi as best wagon. Really? I admit I've never driven one, but I'm just wondering where the new Jetta Sportwagen placed. (I just stepped out of reviewing one for a week.) Forbes cites the Saab's maximum 72.3 cu. ft of cargo space as a big factor. But it only bests the VeeDub's by 5.4 cu. ft. And while the VW gives up 110 horses to the Saab's 280, but the VW gets, on average, 24 mpg to the Saab's 18. Oh, and the Saab requires premium fuel. I guess the question is this: Do you want to drag race your wagon or save money? My family will take the cash, please.
Then there's the Best Crossover category, where Forbes crowns the Ford Edge. This time, oddly enough, it decides to give the Edge an edge and lowball the entry level price at $25,735. Add some fairly common options, and you get pretty close to the upper range of $32k pretty quick. That, combined with an average fuel economy rating of 20 mpg, puts it out of the running in my household.
So, what else did I agree with? The Toyota Sienna isn't the best-looking vehicle on the road, but it's Forbes pick for the Best Minivan title. Even with an average of 22.5 mpg and a base price of $25k, I'd be fine putting my clan in it. I can't really come up with a better nomination for best convertible for family than Forbes' choice of the 2008 MINI Cooper. Sure, the kids are gonna be cramped, and they'll only be able to bring on vacation one change of clothes, but Daddy will sure be happy. Plus, its EPA-rated 26 mpg combined (with the stick) is not shabby.
Check out Forbes family car picks and tell us which ones you agree/disagree with. And, yes, we, too, are disappointed they didn't put the S4 in there, but then, at $48k, it's not exactly a frugal choice.