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family rides

You have two kids. You want a family ride that's safe, reliable, functional, versatile, fuel efficient, and fun. Anything selling for more than $30,000 is out of the question.

Family finances are, indeed, a big deal, and that's why you're not interested in leasing. Leasing may reduce the monthly payment, but it's also an expensive way to drive . and family buyers are in it for the long term. In the typical Canadian family, the vehicle you buy today will be your rig tomorrow and for the following 2,919 tomorrows, or eight years in total.

Finding the eight-year-ride is possible in a country of smart car shoppers. Canadian car buyers are notorious for walking away from deals if they are not sweet enough and the vehicle isn't just right.

Our Top 10 list of family vehicles brims over with good vehicles at better prices and healthy discounts. Big, useful, safe vehicles such as the Chevrolet Traverse and Nissan Pathfinder can be had for less than our $30,000 maximum price target, sales sweeteners included. In all 10 cases here, we have fuel-efficient, safe rigs with three rows of seating. All of them.

Three rows? Does the typical family need three rows, really? Yes. A family with two kids is often one shuttling around four kids. How so? Those two kids have friends. Each kid asks to bring along a friend for this or that, which means four kids in total. So in our mind, a family ride must have room for car-pooling, the all-too-common demand of parents.

What you won't find on this list is a mid-size sedan. For decades, a four-door car has been the vehicle of choice for Canadian families but intermediate car sales are in steady decline, and really, even the best intermediate sedan is not as useful as a crossover wagon, an SUV or a minivan. The latter have the storage space for families who lead active lives, taking kids to hockey practice, going on summer road trips and runs to the family cottage all year round.


1. 2014 Mazda5 GT

Base price: $24,805

Expected discount: If you pay cash, Mazda has a $3,500 factory rebate on the table.

The story: Here we have a handy-sized minivan with solid road manners, a fuel-thrifty four-banger and lots and lots of features. You will be surprised at how enjoyable to drive the Mazda5 can be. Parking in mall lots and hockey rinks is a snap, and getting in an out with those sliding side doors is very use-friendly.

For just north of $20,000, Canadian families can have a completely useful wagon – and not suffer the indignities of a lumbering minivan.


2. 2014 Kia Rondo LX 7-seater, automatic, FWD

Base price: $25,295

Expected discount: Customers who finance or pay cash are eligible for a $3,500 factory-to-dealer rebate which might be combined with other offers, such as a loyalty rebate ($1,000).

The story: The second-generation Rondo has a very handsome cabin, one of the key upgrades over the rather homely first-gen Rondo. We like this wagon very much. It is a perfectly functional, all-around family ride, one often overlooked by quite a number of buyers. Don’t overlook it. There is a lot to like here and the price, after negotiations, is really, really attractive. A four-cylinder motor is the starter engine.


3. 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan Canada Value Package

MSRP: $27,995 

Expected discount: A factory rebate of $8,100 is a given, and buyers should be able to squeeze out more in dealer negotiations.

The story: Canadians snap up Grand Caravans by the tens of thousands and for good reasons. This pure minivan is one of the very best vehicle bargains on the market. Sure, no one puts “sexy” in a sentence with the Grand Caravan, but that’s never been the point. For well less than $20,000, you can get a well-equipped rig with so many practical features. The V-6 engine is strong and decently fuel efficient, too.


4. 2014 Toyota Sienna 7-passsenger, FWD

Base price: $29,120

Expected discount: 0.90% financing for 36-72 months

The story: Front air bags, side air bags, overhead curtain air bags, even an airbag to protect the driver’s knee … The Sienna is a cocoon of safety features, and it’s also the only minivan sold with optional all-wheel drive. The cabin materials look a bit average and not particularly uninspired in an interior with plenty of room. Ride quality is okay, but nothing special. Sienna’s hold their resale value very well. A good overall family rig. A four-cylinder engine is the starter motor.


5. 2014 Nissan Pathfinder S FWD

Base price: $29,998

Expected discount: Certain customers are eligible for a 1.0% rate reduction on 1.90% factory financing.

The story: Nissan’s SUV is surprisingly fuel efficient and really quite roomy inside. The base front-drive version is well equipped, and, of course, has three rows of seats. Entry to the third row is the easiest of this group and can be done with a child seat fixed in placed on an outboard seat. Reliable? Yes. Very nice road manners, too. Families who need a bigger rig will like the space and the solid V-6 engine.

6. 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe XL FWD base

Base price: $31,099 

Expected discount: Hyundai’s Dealer Invoice Pricing promotion is worth a $1,534 price reduction, and 0.0% financing for up to 48 months is in play, too.

The story: The Santa Fe arguably is the best looking family ride on this list. The sheet metal has interesting shapes and creases. The cabin looks modern and the base model comes very well equipped. Reliability over the years has been good, safety is a plus and space is generous. Don’t confuse the XL, the long-wheelbase version, with the Santa Fe Sport, which is strictly a five-seater.

General Motors

7. 2014 Chevrolet Traverse LS FWD

Base price: $33,295

Expected discount: Customers who finance or pay cash are eligible for a $3,000 factory-to-dealer rebate which might be combined with other offers, such as a loyalty rebate ($750-$1,500) or an auto show bonus ($500). Tough negotiators should get the base price down below $30,000. A discounted gas card is also available.

The story: Chevy recently updated the Traverse, bringing the cabin nicely into the 21st century in terms of material quality and layout. This is a proper crossover disguised as a sport-utility vehicle. All-wheel drive is available, too. If you’re a family in need of a tow vehicle, put this one near the top of the list – what with its powerful V-6 engine. Think of the front-drive version of the Traverse as an excellent and tall station wagon.



8. 2014 Nissan Rogue SV FWD w/Family & Tech Package

Base price with option package: $29,298

Expected discount: In some markets, Nissan Canada has a $1,000 factory rebate in play, plus a finance rate of 1.90% for up to five years.

The story: Nissan remade the Rogue for the 2014 model year. This is a well-done makeover. The new Rogue is roomy, is available with an excellent all-wheel-drive system (if you need one), looks sharp and the standard four-cylinder engine is quite fuel efficient. Nissan isn’t offering deep discounts here, but the pricing is fair and demand is strong. An all-around excellent performer.


9. 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander SE AWD

Base price: $30,998

Expected discount: Mitsubishi has a $2,000 factory-to-dealer rebate which might be combined with other offers, such as a loyalty rebate ($500) or a gas card valued at up to $500.

The story: The Outlander is sized about on par with the Dodge Journey, which gives it a handy footprint for family buyers. The all-wheel-drive version can be had for less than $30,000, discounts included. The ride quality is above average, the cabin is spacious and even the least expensive version comes with loads of standard gear. The Outlander is another one of those rigs that many Canadians may overlook, given that Mitsu does not have the size and budget to blanket the country with advertising. Definitely worth a long look.


10. 2014 Dodge Journey SXT FWD

Base price w/Flexible Seating Package: $27,870 

Expected discount: A factory sales sweetener of at least $2,000 is available, and then there’s the dealer negotiation.

The story: The Journey is an in-between sized crossover, bigger than compact rigs like the Ford Escape, but smaller than, say, the Nissan Pathfinder. That makes it a very good fit for many families. The pricing is also aimed at households on a budget. A very base model with seating for five sells for less than $20,000. But you need to spend more for three rows, though not too much more. The cabin here is quite nice and the ride quality is middle of the pack. Air bags and all the safety features, of course.