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8 Great Cars for Carpooling


PUBLISHED WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2021
8 Great Cars for Carpooling: Hero | CarMax

Save time without compromising style.

This fall, kids are returning to school and their favorite extracurricular activities. While many parents appreciate back-to-school season, shuttling kids to and from activities can be time-consuming. So, it's no surprise that people turn to carpooling to lighten the load. Sitting in the carpool lane at school—or carpooling to work—can be a great time-saving solution.

While sharing rides can save a lot of hassle, you need the right vehicle—one that's comfortable, spacious, and easy for people to get in and out of. You’ll also want a vehicle that has good safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Just be aware that even vehicles with high NHTSA safety ratings or driver assistance features may have unrepaired safety recalls. Click here to look up a specific vehicle. If you're looking for a vehicle that can make carpooling easy, check out this list of eight great used cars for carpooling, from sedans to large SUVs.

Chevrolet Impala

If you want to fit the kids and all their gear in a spacious sedan, the Chevrolet Impala may fit the bill. The Impala stands out for its impressive trunk space—18.8 cu ft on the 2018 model. The back seat of the same model has nearly 40 inches of legroom, offering plenty of space for teens as well as adults.

When it's not filled with little soccer stars, the Impala has an adult feel, with a capable engine and many tech features. Passengers young and old will love the fact that the 2018 Impala has an overall safety rating of 5 out of 5 stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Here's what you'll find standard on the 2017-2019 Chevrolet Impala:

  • 197-hp, 2.5L four-cylinder engine (305-hp, 3.6L V6 is optional)

  • Keyless entry and start

  • Leatherette-accented seats

  • Six-speaker audio system

  • Bluetooth® connectivity (Apple CarPlay® capability is available)

Honda Civic Hatchback

Hatchbacks allow you to keep your footprint small while still maximizing cargo space. They're low to the ground, making it easy for your kids to toss their gear in the back and hop in. The Honda Civic Hatchback was introduced in 2017. It has 25 cu ft of cargo space—more than some small SUVs—and about 36 inches of rear legroom, so you'll have no trouble fitting the whole crew.

In 2019, Honda made driver-assistance features—including lane-keep assist and emergency braking—standard on all Civic Hatchbacks. The 2018 and 2019 Honda Civic Hatchbacks both have an overall five-star safety rating from NHTSA.

Here are the features you'll find standard on 2017-2019 Honda Civic Hatchbacks:

  • 174-hp, 1.5L turbo-four engine

  • Seven-inch display screen

  • Heated front seats

  • Brake assist

  • Childproof rear door locks

Toyota Sienna

It's hard to think about carpool vehicles without considering minivans—and the Toyota Sienna stands out for its practicality. You'll love that the Sienna comes with optional all-wheel drive, which can help you get where you need to go year-round, no matter the road conditions. Kids and teens will like the Sienna's connectivity, like five USB charging ports—enough to end the arguments over who gets to charge their phone.

The 2018 Sienna has an overall NHTSA safety rating of 5 out of 5 stars and plenty of driver-assistance features, including emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.

Here's what you'll find on all 2017-2019 Toyota Siennas:

  • 296-hp, 3.5-L V6 engine

  • Bluetooth connectivity

  • 6.1-inch display screen

  • 39 cu ft of cargo space behind the third row

Subaru Forester

If you're getting ready to drive other people around, the Subaru Forester can put your mind at ease. This compact SUV comes standard with all-wheel drive to make easy work of poor weather conditions and any off-roading you might need to tackle. The cherry on top is the Forester's outstanding driver-assistance features, including some you won't find on similar vehicles, like reverse automatic braking (available on model years 2018+) and its overall five-star NHTSA safety rating for model years 2017-2020.

Here's what you'll find standard on the 2017-2019 Subaru Forester:

  • 170-hp, 2.5L four-cylinder engine (2017-2018)

  • 182-hp, 2.5L four-cylinder engine (2019+)

  • Bluetooth connectivity

  • Lane-departure warning, automatic braking, and other driver aids (available for 2017-2018; standard for 2019+)

  • 31.5 cu ft of cargo space (33 cu ft for 2019+)

Ford Explorer

For bigger crews, the Ford Explorer comes standard with seating for seven, giving you enough space to carpool without committing to a large SUV. The 2019 Explorer has two third-row seats that pop up and fold flat independently. This design gives you the flexibility to combine passenger space with cargo capabilities.

The Explorer comes with three engine options and five trims, so you're sure to find a model that meets your needs. All trims from 2019 boast an overall five-star NHTSA safety rating, too.

Here's what you can expect on the 2017-2019 Ford Explorer:

  • Standard 290-hp, 3.5L V6 engine

  • Available 280-hp, 2.3L EcoBoost® I-4 engine

  • Available 365-hp, 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine

  • 21 cu ft of cargo space behind the third row; 44 cu ft behind the second row

  • 4.2-inch display screen with Bluetooth connectivity

  • Six-speaker audio system

Volvo XC90

You might be the envy of the drop-off line when you carpool in the Volvo XC90. In 2018, Volvo added a host of standard features, including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration also became standard in 2018, so everyone can listen to their favorite tunes on the way to work and school.

For maximum convenience, look for an XC90 that has the optional built-in booster in the second row, which can minimize the car seat shuffle when you're driving younger children. Overall, the XC90 is a luxurious, family-friendly vehicle that also boasts a five-star NHTSA safety rating for the 2018 model.

Here's what else you can expect on the 2017-2019 Volvo XC90:

  • Standard 250-hp, 2L four-cylinder engine

  • Available all-wheel drive

  • Standard seating for five; available seating for seven

  • Eight-inch display screen

  • Standard lane-departure warning and emergency braking

Kia Sorento

If you're shopping for a midsize SUV, don't miss the Kia Sorento. The Sorento started in 2002 with five standard seats and an optional third row to boost seating to seven. In 2019, the popular seven-seat option became standard.

Even with a 2019 seven-seat Sorento, you'll still have 11.3 cu ft of cargo space behind the third row. And the Sorento has plenty of great features, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, which became available in 2017 and standard in 2019. Add to that its five-star NHTSA safety rating, and you have a great carpool vehicle.

Here's what you can expect on the 2017-2019 Kia Sorento:

  • Standard 185-hp, 2.5L four-cylinder engine

  • Available all-wheel drive

  • Standard reclining second-row seats

  • Available integrated sunshades in the second row

  • Standard stain-resistant fabric seats

Toyota Highlander Hybrid

If you're doing the school run and you want to keep fuel stops to a minimum, consider the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Launched in 2007, the Highlander Hybrid has plenty of experience on its side. The 2017-2019 Highlander Hybrid comes in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive models; both versions have an overall five-star safety rating from NHTSA.

The Highlander Hybrid has plenty of space, too, with 28 inches of legroom in the third row and 14 cu ft of cargo space. The 2017 V6 model with all-wheel drive gets an EPA-estimated 28 mpg combined.1

Here's what you'll find on the 2017-2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid:

  • Standard 306-hp, 3.5L V6 engine

  • Seating for up to eight

  • Five USB ports

  • Standard driver aids, including lane-departure warning and emergency braking

  • Standard push-button start

With the right vehicle, carpooling can be a breeze. A car with plenty of seating and cargo capacity—along with easy entry and exit—can help you and your passengers enjoy a smooth, time-saving ride.

Looking to learn more? Check out these related articles:

1Fuel economy figures are based on EPA estimates for when vehicle sold as new. Fuel economy may vary for reasons like driving conditions and vehicle history. Unless specified, figures are for vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission. See fueleconomy.gov.
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