Your whole family can enjoy these cars.
Car buying decisions are often influenced by how well a vehicle suits a family's needs. Some of these considerations include safety and practicality. But there's more to it than that. The winner of the CarBuzz Family Fun award doesn't just need to have enough space for family members and their stuff, but it also needs to bring an element of enjoyment. These three finalists all offer three rows of seats, high safety content levels, and a fun driving experience for parents.
This award carries a $40,000 cap on starting price, as the more expensive family haulers receive their own luxury category. In the inaugural year, the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade split the win for their near-perfect combination of space, technology, and enjoyability. This year, some vehicles that just missed the cut include the Hyundai Sonata, Kia K5, GMC Yukon, Toyota RAV4 Prime, and Toyota Sienna. The winner of Family Fun and our nine other award winners will be announced on December 21.
Here are this year's three finalists:
While always an effective tow vehicle and family hauler, the 2021 Dodge Durango takes a leap into Family Fun finalist territory following a major facelift. Dodge paid some attention to the exterior, making the Durango look more premium without ruining its muscular appearance. Inside, the changes are more dramatic, with a new dashboard design featuring FCA's latest Uconnect5 infotainment system. With these interior updates, the Durango no longer feels cheap inside, and it has some of the best technology on the market.
As before, the Durango offers a range of V6 and V8 engines that offer plenty of power with an impressive towing capacity of up to 8,700 pounds. The base Durango starts at a reasonable $31,765, while at the top of the range, a 710-horsepower Durango Hellcat version competes with cars that cost twice as much.
The 2021 Durango is a first-time Family Fun contender and the first Dodge vehicle selected as a Carbuzz award finalist.
Mazda makes sure to pack a fun driving experience into each of its vehicles, even those with three rows. The 2020 Mazda CX-9 sees a few minor improvements over the outgoing model, including a standard i-Activsense safety suite, standard heated front seats, a larger screen, and optional captain's chairs in the second row. The CX-9 remains one of the most attractive three-row SUVs on the market, and it is also among the most fun to drive with precise steering feel and excellent handling.
The engine, while the least powerful on this list, produces 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Prices range from $33,890 up to $46,215, making the CX-9 the least expensive of the three finalists at the high end of the lineup.
Mazda is a first-time finalist for Family Fun, with the CX-5 winning last year's People's Car award.
Like the Durango, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is heavily facelifted for the new model year. Chrysler improved the front and rear fascias, maintaining the Pacifica's status as the most attractive minivan on the market. Buyers may be obsessed with SUVs right now, but this latest Pacifica shows why minivans were once a family favorite. We love the amount of storage space (made even more usable with Stow N' go seats), its surprisingly fun driving character, class-leading technology with the new Uconnect5 infotainment system, and class-leading standard safety features.
The standard Pacifica employs a gutsy Pentastar V6 engine producing 287 hp. Chrysler also offers the Pacifica with a frugal hybrid option, sporting a 30-mile electric-only driving range while all-wheel drive has been added as an option for 2021. The base Pacifica starts at $35,045 while a new ultra-luxurious Pinnacle trim tops out at $53,390.
The 2020 Pacifica was nominated as a finalist for the 2019 Family Fun award. Chrysler hopes to take home its first CarBuzz award this year.