The stereotypical "family vehicle" has gone through some transformations over the years. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was the woody station wagon. After that, it was the bulbous minivan, and in recent years, the sportier crossover SUV has taken over. Now we sense another shift coming. Is it possible that the next quintessential family vehicle will be the pickup truck? With so many pickups now offering reliability, seating for up to six, a comfortable ride and plenty of safety features, we wouldn’t be surprised. These are the top seven pickup trucks for adventurous families that want to haul the kids to school and also tow a camper on the weekends.
1. Honda Ridgeline
Sure, the Honda Ridgeline sometimes gets ridiculed for being the pickup truck of soccer moms but it's Ridgeline owners who ultimately get the last laugh. Given its exceptionally smooth ride, top of the charts safety scores and a comfortable cabin, this pickup truck is hard to beat for active families. As the only pickup on the market sporting a unibody construction, driving it feels like driving an SUV or car but with the added convenience of a bed.
Only available in a crew cab body style, the Ridgeline seats 5 adults comfortably and comes with plenty of family-friendly features like an in-bed power outlet, a truck bed audio system, a tri-zone automatic climate control, HD Radio, satellite radio, and an 8-inch touch-screen audio system with navigation. No matter which phones the family prefers, the Ridgeline will have them covered with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Pandora connectivity. When it comes to safety, in addition to having the Honda Sensing suite of safety technology, the Ridgeline is the only pickup that earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick so drivers can feel confident bringing the whole family on long drives.
2. RAM 1500
The Ram 1500 will be the best choice for families who want a comfortable ride, plenty of space and best in class towing (7,520 pounds) and payload (2,302 pounds) for the big adventures. The amount of space in the backseat of the 2019 Ram 1500 is comparable to a luxury sedan which is impressive for the pickup truck segment. An updated suspension also gives the Ram 1500's ride the smoothness of a car, absorbing bumps with ease.
Noteworthy technology features that families will appreciate include an optional 12-inch touchscreen (the largest in the industry), dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start, a sunroof, two additional USB ports, two 115-volt power outlets, wireless device charging and a 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and navigation. The Ram 1500 scores "good" or "superior" scores for everything besides headlights (the only thing keeping it from earning the IIHS safety pick award).
3. GMC Sierra
The 2019 GMC Sierra seats five or six passengers in the crew cab, making it a flexible and spacious truck for families. Once everyone is loaded in, there is no family vacation that the GMC Sierra won't be able to handle. The Sierra can tow up to 12,200 pounds and for all the gear that needs to go inside the truck, the Sierra offers best-in-class cargo volume of up to 71.7 cubic feet. Not only does your gear stay safe inside, but so does your most precious cargo thanks to advanced safety tech such as available Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone, and Forward Collision Alert. For the new drivers in the family, there is the Teen Driver system which allows parents to set limits on the truck's features and get an in-vehicle report card.
Not only dies the redesigned 2019 GMC Sierra have class-leading front seat head and leg room, but backseat passengers are far from neglected. The Sierra offers larger rear-door openings and increased rear seat legroom with available heated rear seats. In addition to roomy seating, the GMC Sierra has excellent interior storage solutions to fit all the gear an active family needs to bring along for the ride. You'll find two compartments in the rear seatbacks for electronics or umbrellas and additional under-seat storage allows for a hidden space to stash items that you won't need until you arrive at your destination. For the driver and front passenger, there is also a lighted center console storage area.
4. Ford F-150
The Ford F-150 has a lot to offer families looking for something other than an SUV or minivan. The transition from driving a car or SUV to the 2019 F-150 will be a no-brainer thanks to a compliant and firm ride quality, fast acceleration (a 0-60 of around 6 seconds), and solid handling. If your family adventures include a boat or trailer, the F-150 has an impressive towing capacity of up to 8,000 pounds and for hauling cargo, a substantial payload capacity of up to 2,309 pounds. When it comes to safety, the Ford F-150 only trails the Honda Ridgeline and Ram 1500 in IIHS crash test ratings with the top "good" ratings in all categories other than headlights.
We drove the top Limited trim and found the interior to be family friendly and comfortable. The Ford F-150's interior offers roomy front seats with great cushioning for long road trips. The rear seats also have ample head, shoulder, and legroom to make sure the "kids are alright". In the Limited trim, standard safety tech includes smart cruise control, a 360 camera, active parking, cross-traffic alert, and a post-crash monitoring system that alerts authorities if an accident is detected. The F-150 helps eliminate boredom on the road with built-in Wi-Fi and the SYNC3 infotainment system which is one of the best in the industry.
5. Chevrolet Colorado
If you're considering a compact truck for the family, the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado should be on your list. In addition to its affordable starting price, the long list of trims available for the Colorado makes it highly customizable for families of all sizes. For towing prowess, the Chevy Colorado leads its class with a 7700 pound towing capacity. For the most adventurous families out there, the rugged Colorado ZR2 trim can take on any off-road terrain. The 2019 Chevy Colorado scored well in crash tests from the IIHS with "good" ratings in most categories. It only trails behind the Toyota Tacoma in the IIHS small pickup segment.
Inside the cabin, you'll find excellent connectivity, infotainment, and sufficient space to pack the kids in the back. Although it doesn't have as much interior space as the Honda Ridgeline which topped our list, it compensates with its larger cargo bed. In terms of tech, you'll find a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot to keep multiple smartphones connected and an all-new, easy-to-navigate touchscreen for the driver and co-pilot. Just like its cousin, the GMC Sierra, the Chevy Colorado gets Teen Driver safety tech to track a teen driver's speed and location.
6. Toyota Tacoma
The Toyota Tacoma can be the ideal vehicle for a small family thanks to its respectable crash test scores, reliability, and capability. If you're looking for a truck that drives more like an SUV or a car, go with one of the other options on this list. There's no mistaking that you're driving a rugged, body-on-frame pickup when you get behind the wheel of the 2019 Toyota Tacoma. Although we wouldn't describe the Tacoma's ride as "cushy", it holds its own in the handling and acceleration departments. Another reason to consider the Tacoma over the competition is its safety scores. Only the Honda Ridgeline earned better crash test scores among compact pickups from the IIHS.
Inside the cab, the rear seat space will feel a little tight which is a common thread among the compact truck segment. As long as you're not hauling full-grown kids, however, the backseat room will suffice. The Tacoma also provides smart, plentiful storage with a center console that holds cubbies, cupholders and an armrest compartment. The bed offers more than enough space for sports equipment or camping gear and the tailgate can be removed for any longer items.
7. Chevy Silverado 1500
Don't they say the family that road trips together, stays together? If that's the case, the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado makes a great family vehicle. The 2019 Silverado is completely redesigned and offers a comfortable ride, more space than before, a long list of safety features and new technology. The redesign increased the size of the Silverado both inside and out providing more space for family members and/or gear. The truck's capability will please the road warrior family with a 9,900-pound towing capacity and up to 2,543-pound payload capacity.
(image: NY Daily News)
There are many safety features that can make road trips less stressful. These include a Head-Up Display, Rear Camera Mirror, Surround Vision camera system, Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Forward Collision Alert with Following Distance Indicator, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. As with the other GM trucks that preceded the Silverado on this list, the Teen Driver tech is offered as well.