Each year, inflation, driven in part by cost of living increases in wages and social programs, pushes the price of things ever upward. While a budget of $50,000 would have seemed crazy for a family vehicle a decade ago, due to the ever-declining value of the U.S. dollar, that is indeed the price point of some of the best family vehicles we tested this past year. Here is a list of newly designed models that we feel may be the best family vehicles for those with a generous budget of $50K. If you just can’t handle the idea of a family vehicle costing $50K, please jump down to the last pick. We think you’ll be happy with our opinion.
All-Wheel Drive Minivan – Toyota Sienna
Minivans make great family vehicles, and with the Sienna’s unique electric all-wheel drive, it is one of the most capable family vehicles available. We tested the 2021 Sienna AWD Limited trim, and our tester had a list price of $49,675. The Sienna’s AWD system isn’t its only unique feature. The Sienna’s standard powertrain returns an impressive 36 MPG and has 245 horsepower.
Couple the new Sienna’s amazing powertrain technology with Toyota’s legendary reliability, and the Sienna stands out as a family vehicle that earns its $50K price point. Throw in the fact that the Sienna will save its owner about $14,000 in fuel costs over its lifetime, and the Sienna’s $50K price point seems a bit more down to Earth.
Best Plug-In Hybrid Minivan - Chrysler Pacifica
While we haven't tested one in a few years, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan deserves a spot on this list. When we tested one back in 2017, it earned a 30 MPG overall rating. It can also run on electricity alone for up to 32 miles. This green van is priced competitively in the mid $40Ks and qualifies for EV incentives.
Best Full-Featured Minivan – Honda Odyssey
As much as we loved the Sienna, it isn’t available for under $50K with a heated steering wheel and other features we enjoy. One family vehicle that had all of the luxury items we do expect was the Honda Odyssey Elite. In fact, it had some things we felt may be sacrificed to bring the cost down, such as a Blueray DVD entertainment system and a built-in vacuum. Our top-trim Elite with special silver paint (who pays extra for silver?) had a price as tested – including the destination fee – of $49,335.
The Odyssey excels at giving parents helpful features to make family road trips a bit more relaxing. For example, a neat camera system that allows you to keep track of who’s on whose side.
Best Two-Row Crossover & Best Electric Vehicle – Toyota RAV4 Prime
Two-row family crossovers don’t cost $50K. Not yet, at least. However, our Toyota RAV4 XSE Prime plug-in hybrid electric vehicle tester had EVERY option and a sticker price of $48,060. Before you punch the screen, let us assure you that very few shoppers will incur a cost that high to own a RAV4 Prime. After federal and local EV incentives, a Prime XSE in our state costs buyers about $39K. And that is what a fully-featured crossover this size costs today.
The RAV4 Prime has the most horsepower (302 hp) and also the best fuel economy (94 MPGe) of all the vehicles on this list. Even more power than the two sports sedans! With the ability to drive for up to 42 miles using no gasoline, and a level of refinement that exceeds anything else in this segment, the RAV4 Prime is unique.
Best Compact Premium Sedan (Tie) BMW 228i XDrive Gran Coupe & Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4MATIC
The BMW 228i XDrive Gran Coupe we tested had an as-delivered price of $48,495. For that price, you get a car that is a blast to drive and almost no family features other than a pair of rear doors and three small seats in the back. The $50,053 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4MATIC we tested also fits that general description. If your family is small, and your vehicle collection large, these two would be great additions to the crossover, SUV, truck, or minivan you also have, you lucky dog. Both will work well enough as a family car to get the kids to daycare, school, or soccer practice before you head off looking for back roads to carve up.
Best $50K Family Vehicle Value – Nissan Rogue SV+ Nissan Sentra SV
The Torque News Staff includes a lot of family-oriented writers. We know that budgets vary from family to family. That’s why we threw in the Nissan Rogue SV and Nissan Sentra SV combined as one of our top picks for families with a budget of $50K. Together, these two outstanding vehicles would cost a family just $50,220. The Rogue we tested was just under $30K and the Sentra we tested just over $20K.
Both of these five-passenger vehicles are shockingly good on the road. We found the Sentra more enjoyable to drive than some fancy-pants sedans costing twice as much. The all-new Rogue SV impressed us as one of the most spacious and enjoyable to drive vehicles under $30K in its segment. Why not have two family vehicles for a total cost of $50K instead of just one? Value is out there if you know where to look.
If you are wondering why no pickup trucks made this list, it is because all three of the ones were fortunate enough to try had a price point of $70K! There may well be more great $50,000 family vehicles out there, but we can only rate what we test. These were not the only $50K family vehicles we have tested in the past year, just those we felt deserved to be on the list. If you think we have left any off, please make your case in the comments below.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin