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The Drive Car of the Year winners have officially been announced – identifying the best models for budget-conscious family buyers in 2024. 

This year’s family-friendly winners include everything from medium SUVs to three-row SUVs, hybrid cars, electric cars, luxury vehicles and affordable options.  

To narrow down a competitive field, judges divided 400-odd passenger cars, SUVs, 4WDs and utes into 18 price-banded categories and then conducted real-world testing to find the cream of the automotive crop.

If you’re on the hunt for a brand-new family car in 2024, here are the models Drive’s expert panel of judges recommend.

The Kia Carnival.
The Kia Carnival. (Drive)

With eight seats, room to take five child seats (at once!) and a massive 627-litre boot, the Kia Carnival is a no-brainer for families. 

The entire Carnival range slots in under $80,000 and even has a starting price under $50,000 – plus the equipment on offer is exhaustive even from the base grade and Kia offers capped-price servicing for the first seven years.

Drive’s pick of the bunch is the Carnival SLi with a frugal diesel engine and luxe extras like leather trim, a powered driver’s seat, power sliding doors, a power tailgate, and three-zone climate control, all for $59,780 before on-road costs.

Best Electric Family Car Under $100,000: Kia EV9

The Kia EV9.
The Kia EV9. (Drive)
The Kia EV9 arrived in Australia in late 2023 as one of the few seven-seat electric cars on the market – and it’s so impressive it was crowned the overall Drive Car of the Year for 2024

With well over 400km of range and seriously fast charging capabilities, the EV9 is an efficient electric car, as well as a practical family car. Kids will enjoy the EV9’s vehicle-to-load capabilities, which allow it to power everything from a hair dryer to fairy lights.

Parents will also appreciate the four ISOFIX-equipped seats, plus five top-tether points and a middle seat that lunges forward to provide easy access to the third row.

The Honda CR-V.
The Honda CR-V. (Drive)

The new Honda CR-V marks a return to form for the Japanese car maker – it’s bigger, with more technology, a bigger suite of safety and improved comfort in the cabin.

The CR-V range has both five and seven-seat options under $50,000, plus the choice of petrol or hybrid powertrains. A 589-litre boot expands to 1072L with the rear seats folded, while 11 airbags provide peace of mind.

Servicing costs are also some of the lowest on the market, with Honda charging just $199 every 12 months or 10,000km.

Best Medium Family SUV Under $80,000: Lexus NX

The Lexus NX.
The Lexus NX. (Drive)

Parents – if you’re looking for a capable family SUV that still makes you feel a bit special, the Lexus NX range offers plenty of choice under $80,000, with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and full-petrol or hybrid options.

Not only is the NX’s hybrid system a surefire fuel saver (think 5-6L/100km on a combined cycle), it also has the added benefit of smooth, electric power at city speeds.

No matter which trim level of NX you buy, you’ll score kit like heated seats, dual-zone climate control, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and active cruise control.

The Toyota Kluger.
The Toyota Kluger. (Drive)

This is the Kluger’s third Drive Car of the Year win, and it remains a competitive large SUV in an increasingly cutthroat landscape – thanks to a recent update that sharpened the infotainment system. 

The Kluger’s big exterior translates to a capacious interior, with a handy third row for surprise guests, but it’s still manageable around town thanks to light steering, fantastic visibility and an elevated ride height.

Toyota’s Safety Sense suite is also standard across the range, and the brand’s remarkably affordable capped-price servicing will only cost you $265 per annual visit for the first five years

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