Between school, sleepovers, after-school activities and summer road-trips, kids spend a substantial amount of time in cars. And with parents looking for spacious, comfortable cars that can hold book bags, hockey sticks, picnic hampers and an occasional 3D science project, the SUV has become the vehicle of choice for families with kids.

According to car experts, the SUV holds huge appeal for families because of a number of reasons. With their extra interior and cargo space, their capacity for towing, comfortable seating, and advanced infotainment systems, SUVs provide families with the convenience of a truck’s utility with carlike handling.

What to Look for While Buying a Family SUV

Top on the list for families looking at SUVs is safety. In crash tests run by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the testers found that many of the newer SUV models have some of the lowest fatality ratings on the road.

According to the IIHS, electronic stability control or EOS can lower the risk of a rollover by an amazing 85% and is now standard in 87% of all new SUVs. Add to this safety features such as rearview cameras, and you can see why SUVs are such popular vehicles for families with kids.

Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V is a universal favorite with reviewers. With high safety scores and utility, the CR-V has extremely comfortable seats and a spacious cargo hold for an affordable compact SUV. Kelley Bluebook has named it not only the “2012 Best Redesigned Vehicle,” but also has picked the CR-V as having the best resale value in its class.

Starting at a base price of $22,295, the CR-V comes with additional features such as a USB port, rearview camera, as well as, Bluetooth and voice text messaging. With Honda’s Eco-Assist feature, you will find yourself driving a fuel-efficient vehicle with a mpg of 23 in the city and 31 for highway travel.

Acura MDX

With a base price of $42,930, the Acura MDX is a top ranked SUV in the luxury mid-size group. As one of the best-handling SUVs in this price range, it offers great value for your money. The MDX with its V-6, 300 hp engine, all-wheel drive, and six-speed automatic transmission will transport your family safely in style. The estimated mpg for this vehicle is 16 for city and 21 for highway use.

The MDX offers such safety features as a rearview camera with a rearview mirror display and a latch system that will enable you to install up to four car seats or booster seats for your children. Additional optional packages such as the technology package, advance package, and entertainment package are available to further enhance your driving experience.

Cadillac Escalade

In the luxury, full-size range of SUVs, the Cadillac Escalade wins top spot. Starting at an MSRP of $63,170, this vehicle will comfortably seat up to eight passengers. With its 403 hp V-8 engine, Magnetic Ride Control, and available all-wheel drive, you can be assured that your family will be safe even with the worst road conditions.

Available options include a Side Blind Zone Alert, which will alert you if something is in your blind spot when changing lanes. The Escalade also offers an entertainment package that includes two built-in DVD screens to keep your children happy and occupied. Another unique feature is cup holders that will keep your drinks warm or cold depending on what you set them for.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Starting at $38,540, Toyota Highlander Hybrid with its V-6, 280 hp hybrid engine wins accolades for being a fuel-efficient and reliable car that has enough room to seat seven passengers. The estimated mpg for this SUV is 28 for both city and highway driving.

With a roomy interior, spacious, and well-organized cargo area, the Highlander Hybrid will be a comfortable ride for your family. Optional packages to keep your kids entertained on long trips include a DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones and USB ports in which to connect their iPods.

Buick Enclave

The Buick Enclave is recommended as the best option in the mid-size SUV range, with an estimated mpg of 17 city and 24 hwy for the AWD model. Prices for this SUV start at $36,350. Consumers Digest has named the Enclave as a Best Buy for 2012 and it has received a five-star overall rating for safety from the NHTSA.

The Buick Enclave has been praised for its highly luxurious appointments, smooth ride, large cargo space, and reliability. A unique feature with its roomy three rows of seats is that you can easily more the second row of seats to access the third row with just one hand. You can choose to add an overhead DVD entertainment system to keep your children entertained during long trips.

These recommendations were made across a range of categories to suit myriad budgets and requirements. So make your list of requirements and head out to your car dealer to get a family friendly SUV that will impress even your kids! Nowadays SUVs are large enough and luxurious enough to be your home away from home. So research your options before you head out to buy your new vehicle and you will return in your second home!