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Safest, least expensive mom-friendly cars

Consumer Reports News

Quality, safety, and value are the top factors for new-car buyers and are certainly not lost on moms looking to buy the right family car. Hitting all these attributes in a vehicle that is also kid friendly can be a challenge, but our experts have found 25 of the best, least-expensive mom-friendly cars that are appealing to moms with children of varying ages.

For this list, we started with those models that meet Consumer Reports' stringent criteria to be recommended, based on reliability, safety, and overall test scores. Then we filtered further with a close look at crash-test scores and predicted owner costs. In addition we looked at how the vehicles fare for families with small children, school-age kids, and for teen drivers making our list some of the best mom-mobiles.

Check out the list below and click through to our model pages for more details including Ratings, reliability scores, and pricing. (For advice on the car buying process, see our new car buying guide.)

Make/model Cost/year over 5 years Overall mpg Small kids School-aged kids Teens
Small car
Honda Fit base $5,100 30 x x x
Scion xD $5,550 32   x x
Toyota Corolla $5,550 31 x x x
Honda Civic $5,950 29 x x x
Family cars
Honda Accord $6,500 30   x x
Toyota Camry Hybrid $6,500 38 x x x
Hyundai Sonata $6,700 27 x x x
Nissan Altima (4-cyl.) $6,700 31 x x x
Mazda6 $6,950 32 x x  
Subaru Legacy (2.5i) $7,150 26 x x x
Ford Fusion $7,350 25 x x x
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen $7,700 23 x x x
Audi A3 $7,850 25 x x  
Buick Regal (turbo) $8,500 23   x x
Toyota RAV4 $7,000 24   x x
Honda CR-V $7,200 23 x x  
Nissan Juke $7,200 24   x  
Hyundai Tucson $7,300 22 x x x
Mitsubishi Outlander $7,700 22 x x x
Chevrolet Equinox $7,800 21   x  
GMC Terrain $7,800 21   x  
Kia Sorento (4-cyl.) $8,100 20   x  
Ford Flex $10,200 18 x x  
BMW X3 $10,300 23 x x  

To determine which models made the cut, we looked at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) Top Safety Picks and Top Safety Pick + awards for 2013. To qualify for the Top Safety Pick award, vehicles must earn Good ratings in the moderate-overlap frontal crash test, side impact, rollover, and rear tests, regardless of their rating in the new small-overlap frontal test. The + award goes to vehicles that earn Good ratings for occupant protection in at least four out of five Institute evaluations and no less than acceptable in the fifth test. In addition, our own tests measure dynamic safety, with wet/dry braking and accidence avoidance, and factor into our overall test score.

For the value perspective, we used our ownership cost data to find the least expensive models to own in their class. These estimates include depreciation, fuel, interest on financing, insurance, sales tax, and average maintenance and repair costs. The chart above lists the cost per year over five years. (Other time period breakdowns, including cost per mile, are available on the model pages.)

For the family-friendly angle, we looked at how well the vehicles fit car seats, how much visibility for school-aged kids and space for their gear, and which cars are best for new drivers.

All combined, the list highlights those best all-around vehicles that are among the safest, cheapest to own, most reliable and family friendly cars on the market--just what mom deserves.

Small cars, family sedans, and SUVs populate this list. We didn't include any minivans as we think these may be a somewhat obvious choice. For example, the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna are both Top Safety Picks and are estimated to cost $9,600 and $9,200, respectively, per year. They are not as inexpensive to own as the minivan-like Mazda5, but these two cost less to own than the other minivans on the market. Minivans are also the best for young and school-aged kids with ease in installing car seats, great visibility, and tons of space. Minivans may not be the best choice for new driver's however as their seating capacity allows for many passengers. The more passengers a teen driver carries the more risk for a crash.

A number of models on the list were recently redesigned or updated for the 2013 or 2014 model year, including the Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Mazda6, Nissan Altima, and Toyota RAV4. In addition, plenty of vehicles also have great fuel economy, contributing to their low operating costs.

There are many ways to slice the market, but from this perspective, these are great, practical choices for mom.

Happy Mother's Day!

—Liza Barth

More from Consumer Reports:
2013 New Car Preview
Best and worst used cars
Complete Ratings for 200 cars and trucks

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