Family Wheels’ best tests of the year

This time a year ago, Family Wheels was just an idea and here we are now with 125,000 views and over 500 subscribers. So thank you all for a great first year of car reviews from a family perspective! As we near the end of 2015, here’s a look at the cream of the crop of our test vehicles broken down by category.

2016 Volvo XC90King of the Hill: 2016 Volvo XC90

Our hands down favourite tester this year is of the totally redesigned XC90. While the old XC90 had a strong following, it was long overdue for a revamp. But many long time Volvo owners were nervous about this new take on Volvo’s largest SUV because it’s the first vehicle to be released under the company’s new Chinese ownership. But don’t fear, the XC90 is still made in Sweden, is still just as luxurious and comfortable as ever, has managed to find an impressive balance between fuel efficiency and performance, and its safety rating continues to set the industry standard. All this in a sleek, modern looking package with a feature to price tag ratio that blows its other European competitors out of the water. I want one! And if you have a $60,000 allowance for your next seven passenger SUV, you should seriously consider the XC90. Check-out our video review below…

2016 Hyundai TucsonFavourite small SUV: 2016 Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai continues to show its might in entry level vehicles that don’t feel like entry level vehicles with the redesigned 2016 Tucson. At $36,000 our top trim Tucson left us wondering why you’d look elsewhere for a small sized SUV. Its interior refinement, cargo capacity, ride and performance have all been overhauled for 2016. However, while the 1.6-litre turbo is a new option that’s very smooth and responsive once underway, it is a little slow to respond right off the line or if accelerating in a hurry on the highway. Leg room in the back seat makes fitting a rear facing child seat somewhat of a squeeze, too. But for families with front facing kids, this is a well-appointed, efficient, affordable yet stylish offering. Here’s our full video review…

2015 Ford F-150Favourite pick-up truck: 2015 Ford F-150

This was a tough choice for me because I’ve tested three trucks this year that really impressed me. The new GMC Canyon is a mid-sized pick-up with a hugely improved ride and interior that really gives the Toyota Tacoma, a truck that has ruled the roost for years, a run for its money. And the newly redesigned Tacoma was a tester that I didn’t want to give back with aggressive styling and improvements all around. But Ford has proven once again why the F-150 has been the best selling truck in North America year after year with its 2015 redesign. What particularly impressed me was its car-like ride and its incredible fuel economy in the 2.7-litre eco-boost engine. But that small power plant still manages to have a pretty sporty feel when sport mode is activated and it’s an excellent towing vehicle too. Couple that with the limousine-like legroom in the super crew cab we had in our tester and, despite some cheap plastics and cheesy interior accents, this truck was a slam dunk. We took it on a 1,000 km family road trip over the summer to see how it would stack up. Watch the video here…

2015 Honda FitFavourite compact car: 2015 Honda Fit

As a previous Honda Fit owner, I’m a little biassed here. I love these little hatchbacks. They’re efficient, have incredible cargo capacity and hold their value better than anything else in its class. Well, the 2015 redesign of the Fit has just built on that. It’s now made in Mexico rather than Japan so while you get a lot more features on the base trim, the price has only gone up by a few hundred dollars. Standard features now include a touch screen infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity and a rear back-up camera. And unlike previous versions of the fit, you can now get optional features like leather, heated seats and a sunroof. Some of the previous problems with the old Fit persist – it’s noisy at highway speed, has some pretty cheap feeling interior surfaces and rear-facing child seats render the front passenger seat useless. But if you have kids in front-facing car seats, boosters, or entirely out of car seats, this is a great about town vehicle or secondary car that won’t break the bank. Take a look at our review from over the summer…

2015 Toyota Prius cBiggest disappointment: 2015 Toyota Prius c

Oh, man… here’s a lack lustre vehicle on all fronts. The 2015 Prius c is expensive, cheap-feeling, doesn’t have nearly the cargo capacity of the competition, its infotainment system is over-complicated and fuel efficiency (the whole point of this car) isn’t that much better when compared to its non-hybrid equivalent, the Toyota Yaris. Toyota has a redesign of the Prius c coming out for 2016 but when I did this review, they were tight-lipped on what changes would be made. Let’s hope there are a lot of them!

CKc5k04UEAA-hu3Favourite test drive for 2015:

OK, OK, good luck fitting a car seat in this thing but I can’t resist posting this video of my test drive in the new Lamborghini Huracan. I got to head out in it earlier this year for a CBC Radio story I did on a new dealership opening in Calgary. I can’t deny I was seriously geeking out behind the wheel in this car. What a riot! And I’m not even a sports car nut. It could work as a family car, I swear!

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