Smartest Cars for Families 2012

by Scott Steinberg

Smartest Cars for Families 2012

We test-drive the smartest, tech-iest family cars hitting the carpool lane this year. Plus: make sure you’re installing your child’s car seat correctly

Chevrolet Traverse

By the numbers: Three rows, up to eight seats, 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway

Carpool 2.0: Sliding second-row seats that children as young as 7 can operate. Play tunes on your smartphone through the sound system using wireless Bluetooth.

Mommy, I can do it: The seat belts are easy for kids to snap themselves into.

No sticky seats: The cup holders can accommodate juice boxes and sippy cups. Price: From $29,510;

Chrysler Town & Country

By the numbers: Three rows, seven seats, 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway

Chuck E. Cheese on wheels: Upgrade to get two nine-inch screens with Sirius Backseat TV and game connectors.

Know when to fold ’em: Press a button and the third-row bench seat folds into the floor.

Mudroom on the move: When the second-row seats aren’t folded away, the space doubles as a storage compartment. It’s the perfect spot for concealing sweaty soccer gear.

Price: From $29,995;

Honda Odyssey Touring Elite

By the numbers: Three rows, eight seats, 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway

Game-changer for lane-changers: The Blind Spot Information System provides an extra pair of eyes on the road (in the form of radar sensors). The door-mounted indicators illuminate when the sensors detect trouble.

One DVD screen, two happy siblings: The split-screen monitor helps you entertain two kids at once.

Price: From $43,675;

Infiniti JX

By the numbers: Three rows, seven seats, 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway

Backup when you back up: Should objects be detected behind, the collision sensors prompt a warning and, if unheeded, automatically stop the vehicle. Four external cameras provide a 360-degree view of your surroundings.

Your to-do list is on the dash: Sync appointments from Google Calendar into the navigation system.

Price: From $40,450;

Toyota Prius V

By the numbers: Five seats, 67 cubic feet of storage with the rear seatbacks down (that’s approximately 98 paper grocery bags), 44 mpg city/40 mpg highway

Appy family: The dashboard doubles as a tablet. Toyota’s Entune multimedia system lets you use the in-dash touchscreen to tune in to The Muppets station on Pandora, search Bing for the nearest Pinkberry, or get live traffic reports.

Price: From $26,400;

Jetta SportWagen TDI

By the numbers: Five seats, 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway

Fender-bender mender: The SportWagen automatically immobilizes the fuel pump, unlocks doors, and activates hazard warning lights after certain types of collisions. It also offers side-curtain-airbag protection.

No more fumbling for keys: If yours are in your pocket or purse, the door will automatically unlock when you touch the door handle. Now press the start button and head home.

Price: From $25,260;

Nissan Quest: LE Model

By the numbers: Three rows, seven seats, 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway

Go crazy at Costco: When your arms are full of grocery bags, use the one-touch unlock/open power system for the side doors and rear liftgate.

For that mysterious backseat smell: The “air scrubbing” system reduces odors and filters allergens.

Dad-proofed: The rearview cameras are a lifesaver when all that’s visible is the bunk bed you’re schlepping home from Ikea.

Price: From $27,750;