Top-Rated 2021 Family Cars in Appeal According to Consumers

Liz Kim | Sep 15, 2021

Family cars are designed and engineered to provide comfortable and safe transport for all passengers aboard. Of course, they must be roomy enough for parents, children, and their luggage, and many people choosing this kind of car want something reliable, efficient, and dependable. But these practical considerations don’t mean you must settle for a sedan that’s unappealing.

2021 Nissan Maxima Teaser

If you’re shopping for a new family car and wondering which models spark favorable emotions in their owners, you’ve come to the right place. Every year, the J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) Study measures this kind of satisfaction with vehicles. 

J.D. Power annually surveys tens of thousands of verified new-vehicle owners who’ve had their cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans for at least 90 days, asking what they like most and least about them. Then, the company analyzes this consumer-provided information and creates an overall index score for each model on a 1,000-point scale. The greater a vehicle’s appeal, the higher the index score.

This list includes the top-rated 2021 family cars according to the people who own them. We’re talking about midsize and full-size sedans, as well as minivans. They’re presented in ascending order according to index score, so you’ll find the highest-ranking model at the end of the list. 

10. 2021 Toyota Avalon - Find the best Toyota deals!

2021 Toyota Avalon Front Quarter View

Cushy, comfy, and roomy, the Toyota Avalon is a full-size sedan with plenty of space for tall rear passengers. You’ll choose between a 205-horsepower 4-cylinder engine with all-wheel drive (AWD), a 301-hp V6 with front-wheel drive (FWD), and a 215-hp hybrid version that returns up to 44 mpg in mixed driving conditions. 

The Avalon AWD is new for 2021, along with an XSE Nightshade trim level with blacked-out exterior trim. Other versions of the car wear XLE, XSE, Limited, Touring, and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) nameplates. Hybrids get a new lithium-ion battery design, and the infotainment systems add Android Auto compatibility for the first time.

The index score for the 2021 Toyota Avalon is 849.

9. 2021 Nissan Altima - Find the best Nissan deals!

2021 Nissan Altima Front Quarter View

Nissan last redesigned the Altima for the 2019 model year, so few changes are in store for 2021. 

The car comes in S, SV, SR, SL, and Platinum trim levels, each equipped with a 188-hp 4-cylinder engine, a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and FWD. All-wheel drive is an option, but it lowers engine output to 182 hp. With sporty SR trim, there’s an available turbocharged 236-hp 4-cylinder that helps to enliven the drive.

The index score for the 2021 Nissan Altima is 853.

8. 2021 Mazda Mazda6 - Find the best Mazda deals!

2021 Mazda Mazda6 Front Quarter View

Even though it has been around a while, the Mazda Mazda6 is still one of the most appealing sedans around, an impression reinforced by its upscale design, inside and out. For 2021, a new Carbon Edition debuts, and you’ll find Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone projection standard across the lineup.

Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring trim levels include a 187-hp 4-cylinder engine, while the Grand Touring Reserve, Carbon Edition, and Signature trim levels step things up with a turbocharged 250-hp 4-cylinder. For maximum power output from the turbo, make sure you have access to 93-octane fuel. Otherwise, it supplies 227 hp.

The index score for the 2021 Mazda Mazda6 is 855. It ties with the Toyota Sienna on this list, but the two models do not tie in the APEAL Study because they are in different segments. 

7. 2021 Toyota Sienna - Find the best Toyota deals!

2021 Toyota Sienna Front Quarter View

The Toyota Sienna minivan is a model of family convenience, with room for up to eight people, thoughtful features and technology for all passengers, and clever storage solutions for all their stuff. 

Toyota redesigns the Sienna for 2021, giving it a standard gas-electric hybrid powertrain in the process. It makes 245 hp and returns about 36 mpg in mixed driving conditions. Siennas come in LE, XLE, XSE, Limited, and Platinum trim levels, and those who live in colder climates will appreciate the available AWD system. 

The index score for the 2021 Toyota Sienna is 855. The Sienna receives an appeal award from J.D. Power in the Minivan segment.

6. 2021 Toyota Camry - Find the best Toyota deals!

2021 Toyota Camry Front Quarter View

Year after year, Toyota’s midsize Camry sedan remains one of America’s most popular family cars. Its reputation for reliability, coupled with a wide range of trim levels and powertrains, makes it suitable for various family-hauling duties. 

For 2021, Toyota offers the Camry in LE, SE, SE Nightshade, XLE, XSE, and athletic TRD trim levels. Engine choices include a gas 4-cylinder generating as much as 206 hp, a gas-electric hybrid good for as much as 52 mpg in combined driving, and a 301-hp V6. All-wheel drive is an option with the 4-cylinder engine.

This year, Toyota updates the Camry’s styling, adds a bigger optional infotainment touchscreen display, offers more advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), and introduces a new XSE Hybrid trim level.

The index score for the 2021 Toyota Camry is 858.

5. 2021 Honda Accord - Find the best Honda deals!

2021 Honda Accord Front Quarter View

The midsize Honda Accord is no stranger to family car duty. It has ferried generations of families in refined contentment and serves up a decent helping of sportiness to boot. There’s even a fuel-sipping hybrid model to consider.

The base trim is called the LX, and from there, buyers can select Sport, Sport Special Edition (new for 2021), EX-L, Sport 2.0T, and Touring trim levels. A 192-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is standard in most models, but the Sport 2.0T and Touring have a rousing 252-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four.

Accord Hybrids come in standard trim, plus EX, EX-L, and Touring trim. They make 212 hp and get about 48 mpg in combined driving (43 in Touring trim). Hybrids are re-tuned for improved performance in 2021.

Additional changes this year include minor modifications to the Accord’s styling, available wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone projection, a rear-seat reminder system, new headlights, and more.

The index score for the 2021 Honda Accord is 864.

4. 2021 Hyundai Sonata - Find the best Hyundai deals!

2021 Hyundai Sonata Front Quarter View

Last year, Hyundai debuted a redesigned Sonata that turns heads. So if you’re into its polarizing looks, the 2021 Sonata may just be the ideal package for you.

You’ll choose between gasoline and gas-electric hybrid versions of the car. Hybrids make 192 hp, average as much as 52 mpg in combined driving, and come in Blue, SEL, and Limited trim. Limiteds even have solar panels embedded into the roof.

Gas models come in SE, SEL, SEL Plus, and Limited specification, and a new performance trim called N Line. The N Line has a 290-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, while others use a 191-hp 4-cylinder or a 180-hp turbo-four. 

Value is high with a Sonata, which offers a long warranty, generous connected service plans, and complimentary scheduled maintenance. Hyundai makes minor changes to the standard and available features lists for 2021.

The index score for the 2021 Hyundai Sonata is 867.

3. 2021 Kia K5 - Find the best Kia deals!

2021 Kia K5 Front Quarter View

Previously, Kia’s midsize family car was called the Optima. With this complete redesign, Kia changed the name to K5. The midsize sedan is similar to the Hyundai Sonata detailed above, using the same engines shared across LX, LXS, GT-Line, EX, and GT trim levels. However, the K5 does not offer a hybrid powertrain. Instead, AWD is an option.

The index score for the 2021 Kia K5 is 874. The K5 receives an appeal award from J.D. Power in the Midsize Car segment.

2. 2021 Dodge Charger - Find the best Dodge deals!

2021 Dodge Charger Front Quarter View

The Dodge Charger dates back to 2006, and it’s been a decade since it received a substantial refresh. But Dodge keeps things spicy for the full-size sedan with the regular addition of ridiculously potent engines and special editions. 

The slowest Charger has a 292-hp V6. After that, things level up with various V8s that culminate in the new-for-2021 SRT Hellcat Redeye that – get this – extracts 797 hp from a supercharged 6.2-liter V8. Other trim levels include SXT, GT, R/T, Scat Pack, and SRT Hellcat. In addition, AWD is available for some models. 

The index score for the 2021 Dodge Charger is 881.

1. 2021 Nissan Maxima - Find the best Nissan deals!

2021 Nissan Maxima Front Quarter View

The Nissan Maxima wears a legendary nameplate that has been around for 40 years. Marketed as a 4-door sports car (4DSC), the Maxima offers a robust 300-hp 3.5-liter V6 driving the front wheels through a CVT. 

The Maxima is big inside, but it feels intimate. You can get the car in SV, SR, and Platinum trim levels. However, for 2021, Nissan outfits the Maxima in limited-production 40th Anniversary Edition trim, including exterior enhancements, special leather upholstery, and heated rear seats.

The index score for the 2021 Nissan Maxima is 914. The Maxima receives an appeal award from J.D. Power in the Large Car segment.

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