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The Honda Odyssey has been the top pick for family minivan every year since the awards began.

If your idea of a “family car” is an old wagon with a passel of kids tucked in the back, or perhaps a grimy minivan overflowing with soccer gear, you may be in for a surprise when you see the mix of models that topped the charts in the U.S. News Best Cars for Families annual awards.

The magazine took a close look at 259 different vehicles in 19 different categories looking to “highlight vehicles that make family life easier,” explains Jamie Page Deaton, who oversees new car rankings. “These are sedans, SUVs and minivans that have good space and good safety,” but also offer lots of “family-friendly features.”

Those include such niceties rear-seat video entertainment systems, WiFi hot spots, and back-up cameras, as well as safety and security systems like GM’s OnStar that can help parents keep track of teen drivers.

General Motors, in fact, led in more of those categories – four, in all — topping every any other manufacturer. GM has “changed quite a bit,” said Page Deaton, adding that recent models have delivered better features, quality and performance.”

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Meanwhile, Honda had the distinction of capturing a win for best family minivan for the fifth years in a row, the Honda Odyssey locking down its lead in that segment ever since the Family Cars awards were first announced.

“Honda just keeps coming up with family friendly features,” explained Page Deaton, such as the built-in vacuum and the big cooler in back. U.S. News editors also were influenced by the many great reviews the Odyssey got for its on-road manners, the U.S. News editor suggesting, “It’s not drudgery to drive.”

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The Chevy Suburban, a "no-brainer" for those who want a family-friendly full-size SUV.

While many parents think of minivans and SUVs as the classic family car, the editors also looked at conventional sedans and even some small hatchbacks, such as the Volkswagen Golf, aiming to satisfy “every family lifestyle and every family budget.”

Family cars have changed a lot since the first time U.S. News tried to compare them, noted Managing Editor Page Deaton. Back then, there were far fewer amenities – especially high-tech connectivity features – and far less advanced safety systems. New safety tech like forward collision warning, she said, “can watch out when you’re distracted, yelling at the kids in the back seat.”

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Here’s the U.S. News list of 19 award-winning family cars:

  • Compact Cars:  2015 Volkswagen Golf
  • Upscale Small Cars:  2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • Hatchbacks:  2015 Kia Soul
  • Midsize Cars:  2015 Hyundai Sonata
  • Upscale Midsize Cars:  2015 Cadillac CTS
  • Large Cars:  2015 Chevrolet Impala
  • Luxury Large Cars:  2015 Kia K900
  • Hybrid Cars:  2015 Ford Fusion Hybrid
  • Wagons:  2015 Subaru Outback
  • Compact SUVs:  2015 Honda CR-V
  • Luxury Compact SUVs:  2015 Volvo XC60
  • 2-Row Midsize SUVs:  2015 Nissan Murano
  • 3-Row Midsize SUVs:  2015 Toyota Highlander
  • Luxury 2-Row Midsize SUVs:  2015 Lexus RX 350
  • Luxury 3-Row Midsize SUVs:  2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
  • Large SUVs:  2015 Chevrolet Suburban
  • Luxury Large SUVs:  2015 Cadillac Escalade
  • Hybrid SUVs:  2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
  • Minivans:  2015 Honda Odyssey
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