Starting MSRP: $19,940 The sporty Mazda5 is a great minivan for moms with attitude. Although smaller than traditional minivans such as the Honda ( HMC) Odyssey or Toyota ( TM) Sienna, the Mazda5 more than makes up for its diminutive size with sports-car-like handling. The vehicle's reduced dimensions also make for easier parking and backing up, while a Mazda5 with automatic transmission gets an impressive 22 mpg/city and 28 mpg/highway. Inside, the Mazda5 can hold up to six people in relative comfort, with roomy captain's chairs as standard equipment in the front and second rows. Third-row seating is a bit tight, but accessible easily thanks to wide sliding side doors. The Mazda5 also offers a generous 44.4 cubic feet of cargo space with the third-row seats folded down, or a massive 97.7 cubic feet of storage capacity when you fold the second row flat as well. As for safety, while neither the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have crash-tested the Mazda5, the minivan does come standard with stability control, side-curtain airbags and plenty of other protective features.
Starting MSRP: $22,795 TrueCar.com recently found that more mothers bought this crossover sport utility vehicle than any other model last year -- not surprising given that the CR-V and the rival Toyota RAV4 are basically the gold standard of mom-mobiles. Crossovers such as the CR-V and RAV4 are perfect for families with kids. Built on a car chassis instead of the truck platform used by large SUVs, crossovers combine an automobile's smooth ride and good gas mileage with a big vehicle's roomy interior and "high-above-the-pavement" road view. The CR-V can comfortably accommodate four to five occupants and 37.2 cubic feet of cargo when the vehicle's rear seats are in use. Or you can fold the back seat flat to create a cavernous 70.9 cubic feet of storage space. Despite its generously sized cabin, the CR-V is still small enough to make parking or backing up fairly easy. Front-wheel-drive versions of the vehicle also get a good 23 mpg/city and 31 mpg/highway. In the safety department, the CR-V comes standard with a backup camera and other protective features, while NHTSA and the IIHS give the model top crash-test marks.
Starting MSRP: $23,300 The RAV4 has long tied the Honda CR-V as the best small SUV on the market -- and that was before gave the model a complete redesign for 2013. The fourth-generation RAV4 boasts a more upscale look, slightly more front-seat room and greater storage space than its 2012 predecessor. Even with the second-row seats in use, the five-person vehicle can now accommodate a generous 38.4 cubic feet of cargo -- two more cubic feet than previously. Or, you can fold the rear seats down and get a best-in-class 73.4 cubic feet of storage space. Moms with parcels in hand will also appreciate the fact that Toyota redesigned the RAV4's hatchback to open upward instead of sideways, making for easier loading and unloading. The 2013 RAV4 also comes standard with automatic transmission, front-wheel drive and a four-cylinder 176-horsepower engine that gets an estimated 24 mpg/city and 31 mpg/highway. Standard safety equipment includes a backup camera and eight air bags. The IIHS also gave the RAV4 top marks for crash tests, while NHTSA rated the model at four stars out of a possible five.
Starting MSRP: $30,900 The updated 2013 Ford ( F) Flex makes my list of mom-friendly vehicles primarily because of one standout feature: an optional built-in refrigerator. Available on the top-of-the-line Ford Flex Limited (base price: $39,200), the refrigerator can hold up to seven 12-ounce cans or four half-liter bottles of drinks. It's the perfect thing to quiet down antsy kids on hot days. Unfortunately, the fridge lists for $694 -- and you not only have to buy a Limited to get it, but must buy $2,800 of other options as part of a package deal. If that's too rich for your budget, a basic Flex still makes for a good mom-mobile because the seven-passenger wagon combines a roomy interior with a one-of-a-kind exterior design. The Flex features a funky, super-boxy exterior look that you'll either love at first sight or hate and move on. Assuming the former holds true rather than the latter, you'll also appreciate the Flex's standard front-wheel drive, automatic transmission and a 285-horsepower V-6 engine that gets a decent 18 mpg/city and 25 mpg/highway. As for safety, the IIHS gives the Flex its top crash-test rating (although NHTSA hasn't reviewed the model). The Ford also offers lots of standard safety features, as well as good protective options such as a blind-spot warning system and inflatable second-row seat belts.
Starting MSRP: $33,600 The mother of all mom-mobiles, the XC70 and its predecessors the Volvo V70 and Volvo 850 have been offering U.S. parents the Swedish automaker's legendary safety equipment for some two decades. The XC70 not only boasts Volvo's famous steel-cage construction, but also comes standard with cutting-edge safety systems such as brakes that kick in automatically if an onboard computer senses an imminent collision. There are plenty of great optional safety devices as well, such as a collision-warning system that flashes a red light on the dashboard if a built-in radar notices the car in front of you has stopped suddenly. (Despite the XC70's safety focus, neither the IIHS nor NHTSA have crash-tested the vehicle.) Beyond safety, the five-passenger wagon offers sophisticated European styling and generous cargo space -- 33.3 cubic feet with the rear seats in use or 71.1 cubic feet with the back seat folded down. The model also comes standard with six-speed automatic transmission, a 240-horsepower six-cylinder engine and a front-wheel drive system that gets 19 mpg/city and 25 mpg/highway. All-wheel drive and a 300-horsepower turbocharged engine are also available.