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Using vehicles to create student interest in math and Language Arts
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

Using vehicles is an excellent way to motivate students and to help ready them for real life buying decisions. The following links deal with the various manufactures where students can write for information, obtain pricing information and to harvest compare and contrast data for Common Core related essays.

A listing of all DMV offices.
Finding the office that deals with your state and others can provide information on how old one needs to be to drive as well as the various license fee data that could be used for Common Core math problems. I have used driver manuals to motivate students to read.
http://www.dmv.org/

Data on fuel economy
This federal site would enable students to select a variety of vehicles and there fuel mileage. This could be used for math as well as to provide statistics for an essay on the best or worst type of vehicles in terms of fuel costs.
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/

A link site to manufacturers who sell cars in America
http://search.ezilon.com/united_states/business/automotive/auto_manufacturers/

A listing of vehicle websites worldwide
http://autopedia.com/html/MfgSites.html

National Motorists Association
A great source of information on driving and the law.
http://www.motorists.org/

A listing of car value prices
A good place to find statistics for math problems about the prices of cars and motorcycles.
http://www.nadaguides.com/

Where cars are made by location
Great way to teach geography.
http://www.caranddriver.com/features/a-graphic-representation-of-whats-really-made-in-america-feature

Notable 2013 Cars

With an improving economy and the desire for many to own more fuel efficient vehicles a schism is between the practical and the look at me crowd is emerging. The result is more sophistication and a more difficult choice for buyers. It is no longer simple to buy a vehicle of your dreams without doing significant research. That is why sites such as this are so valuable in helping you winnow out the wheat from the chaff. Here are some of the most significant new cars at this point.

Acura ILX

The ILX is a more refined Honda Civic with upgrades nearly everywhere from the suspension to the interior to the engine. You can also get it as a hybrid or a hot rod version with 201-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual. Look for prices to go into the mid $30,000 range and start ten grand less.

Acura RDX

Small families in a hurry will like the RDX with a 3.5-liter V-6 creating 273 hp that uses a six-speed automatic. There is an available all-wheel-drive system. Priced between $35,000 and $41,000.

Acura RLX

For around $50,000 you can own all all new RLX that come with front wheel drive or as a hybrid with all drive. Lots of technology and fairly good fuel mileage as well. Pricing will most likely be around $50,000.

Audi Allroad

Audi Q5

Back again and this time a bit tame compared to the previous version. A tough looking little wagon with a turbocharged four cylinder engine. Figure $40,000, but not nearly as rugged as its older brother.

Audi RS5
The RS5 coupe has a V8 that makes 450 hp and is mated to a even-speed transmission and all wheel drive. This slippery two door is going to make friends quickly with the highway patrol as the rear spoiler deploys automatically at 75 mph. Perhaps a performance bargain at $80,000 or so.

Audi S6
Now with a twin-turbo V-8, eight-speed automatic transmission and a plethora of high end goodies, this Audi combines both performance and luxury.

Audi S7

Similar in nearly every way to the S6, except it costs more and is a hatchback.

Audi S8
The S8 is a big, fast sedan with power from a twin-turbo V-8 trumps and an abundance of technology and performance features. Oh, this 520 horsepower version is going to cost you well over $100,000.

Bentley Continental GT V8

We thought the GT was a bargain at $150,000 when it came out ten years ago. It now $177,000 and up, and you are reduced to just eight cylinders. Oh, you still have 500 horsepower and are driving one of the world’s most expensive gas hogs.
BMW 640i Gran Coupe

It is all about looks with this sort of new model with previous mechanics and a sculptured four door design. If you like it and have close to $80,000 you won’t have to worry about some of the impractical elements such as a small trunk and reduced visibility, You also need to control your impulses when deciding on options. but you are going to be seem in one of the all time family friendly babe magnets.
BMW M6
Seriously expense with a turbocharged V-8 places 560 hp at your disposal. For about $107,000 this is a very fast machine that handles well. Best advise, pay an extra seven grand and get the convertible. Rich speed demons will love it.

BMW X1

BMW X1

A small SUV with the BMW character for those with over $30,000, this model looks a lot like its sister, the X3 with the same engines, all wheel drive availability, the availability of a M Sports package. A plethora of options, but most important was the fact that this just might be the most useful and “inexpensive” BMW you can buy.

Buick Encore

A small Buck, who would have thought. Nevertheless, GMC is on a roll and this is one luxury placed small car, but far from tiny. The 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder has plenty of pep and the interior r is very upscale, Look for pricing I the $20,000 plus range. Going to be interesting to see if this model brings the younger fold to the dance.

Buick Verano Turbo

The news this year is the turbo and, honest, you can order this Buick with a manual transmission. Add the usual Buick reliability and interior treatments and you have a fun, fast, family vehicle for about $30,000.
Cadillac ATS

The American BMW, this line of Cadillacs has a vast array of options from turbocharged four and six cylinders power plants to a manual transmission to all wheel drive and sophisticated suspensions. Starting prices around $34,000.
Cadillac XTS

This bigger cad is big and filled with luxury features as those of olden days. A 300 hp plus engine makes it a highway cruiser. With options the $45,000 price sprints to nearly $60,000 for this front wheel drive model. The Cue system takes voice cues and runs the information and entertainment controls. Huge touch screen. A lot of car for the money.

Chevrolet Corvette 427 convertible

Convertible, that is all you need to know. Over 500 horsepower and the wind in your hair for $77.000 or so.

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Chevrolet Impala
A fresh face, underpinnings, and a 2.5-liter engine, a 2.4-liter hybrid and a 3.6-liter V-6 with 303 hp to keep face with the competition. Priced well under $30,000. Much more youthful looking then Ford. I family oriented winner.

Chevrolet Malibu

A couple of engine options including a form of hybrid for his well priced and equipped model.
Don’t pay more for the competition until you check it out. Prices starting around $22,000.

Chevrolet Sonic RS

A sporty compact, this sleek model has upgraded appearance and suspension and brakes. . The turbo engine creates excitement and at $20,100 it does that.

Chevrolet Spark
This is a price leader with great fuel mileage and room for four adults. Prices too low to mention here. Just kidding. About $13,000.

Dodge Dart
Built on a sporty Alfa Romeo platform and sharp looking, the Dart is a a low priced, well finished car that should draw people back to the dealerships who are looking for value and looks. Starts under $17,000.

Fiat 500L

Bigger may be better. We love the Fiat for what it is, fun-to-drive and cute. The new version is bigger and more expensive. If you need four doors this Fiat may be just right.

Ford C-Max
The C-Max hybrid can be ordered as a standard hybrid or a plug-in. We tend to wait a while before buying new vehicles laden with technology.

Ford Escape

Ditto, the Escape is all new in design and look for prices to be higher as well. A lot of competition in this segment and the trick rear hatch that opens by detecting your foot passing under the rear part of the vehicle is interesting, but what about just hitting the remote keyfob?

Ford Fusion

Well, it sure looks different and comes with a variety of power train configurations. Look for competitive pricing, but check out Ford’s quality ratings first. The are now 23rd, according to J.D. Powers.

GMC Terrain Denali

More is the operative word here. More safety features, comfort and good fuel economy with the base engine. If you must have a SUV, this one is highly recommended with great fuel economy and interior room. Priced in the mid $20,000 range for the base version.

Honda Accord
Honda does not let us test their vehicles. As such all we can say is that there is a lot of competition in this category and we highly recommend you drive them all before making a decision. Do your homework first, because there are a lot of options. As for hybrids, Honda has lagged behind Toyota in this regard for years after getting a headstart with its terrific, but small, Insight. If you are considering this type of power train take the time to see the price of replacement battery packs, too. We can recommend three Honda models based on past experience. First, the expensive Odyssey van. Next the CRV crossover. Finally, the Fit with the latter being the best value overall.
Hyundai Elantra GT

Elantra GT

Elantra GT

An exceptional combination of sporty, fuel frugal, and family friendly features makes this bargain priced Hyundai a great choice for those on a budget or who just like to have fun. Prices under $19,000 to start. Remember, if you don’t want the sporty model the base Elantra is a winner, too. Hyundai is clearly providing good looking vehicles with superior gas mileage and warranty. If you have a dealership near check out the line.

Hyundai Santa Fe

With room for seven in some versions, the Hyundai is loaded with features and priced right starting at $23,000. Expect gas mileage to be in the low 20 mpg range. The Sport model has two rows of seats. If you choice to go with front wheel drive and the smaller engine your mileage could easily be 30 percent better.

Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Looks and features are the reason for the Veloster. Good fuel economy, reasonable performance and interesting options for about $23,000.

Infiniti JX35

A three row SUV, this well equipped luxury model is an extensive list of safety items and enough goodies to entertain the family as well. Prices start at $41,000.

Lexus ES
The bread and butter car of the Lexus line-up along with the RX, the new ES is longer and better and improved in every regard. Excellent fuel mileage and performance make this a dominate player in this market segment. Also available as a hybrid and you can average nearly 40 mpg in mixed driving with this option.

Lincoln MKZ

Interesting looking and using a variety of engine combinations that are shared with the Ford Fusion, the MKZ can be ordered with all wheel drive and as a hybrid. Prices around $36,000. A direct competitor to the Lexus ES so check resale values, too.

Mazda CX-5

Mazda5

A tremendous value in base form, this SUVish hauler gets a class leading 25 to 31 mpg and plenty of technology and standard features. There isn’t much downside on this model, and it even is available with all wheel drive. Prices start in the low $20,000 range, but don’t expect luxury, expect a useful people mover that will probably be invisible to the highway patrol.

Mercedes-Benz GL
The GL can be order with a Bluetec’s turbo-diesel, a V-6 a V8, a 4.7-liter turbo, or an AMG 5.5-liter twin turbo V-8 so be prepared to spend some time test driving a variety before buying. The new model can hold seven passengers. Prices start around the mid-$60,000 range and escalate to well over $100,000 depending on your need for speed.

Mercedes-Benz GLK250 Bluetec

It is here, a diesel SUV, and with prices below $40,000 and fuel mileage in the 22 mpg range it might make sense, but be aware the higher diesel fuel costs must be considered in comparison to the premium fuel recommended for gas engined versions.

Mini Paceman

Interesting looks is what this Mini offers. Priced around the mid $20,000 depending on options.

Nissan Altima

Believe it or not this Nissan is catching on with those who like value, performance and features. Only the Toyota Camry sold more in this market segments. It is fun to drive and if you are easy on throttle with the base engine you can easily get 35 mpg. A best value if you are looking for a family car that doesn’t take away driving enjoyment.

Nissan Pathfinder

Now a crossover, the Pathfinder gets better fuel-economy, a better ride, and treats inhabitants better. Priced in the $30,000 area, the model has a lockable all wheel drive option and third row seating. It also has the great Nissan’s Around View monitor that must be seen to be believed. That alone is worth a drive to the Nissan dealership.

Porsche Boxster

All new and sharper looking and more expensive, this Porsche is no longer the poor man’s 911, but now stands alone as a top performing sports car. The S model is the one to have, but the extra horsepower will cost you over $10,000 more. Base price is about $50,000.

Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ

Scion_FRS

The Scion is less expensive, but both sporty cars are back to basics funmobiles. The reason we compared them together is that they were developed together. In a way, they are the new Mazda Miata with a starting price in the mid $20,000, a long list of extra cost options, and Subaru’s four cylinder, 200-hp boxer engine. As close to a thrill ride is you are going to get for this price and and it has a 25 combined mpg to justify the purchase.

SRT Viper

Priced about $90,000 and with enough horsepower to challenge most anything this side of a drag strip, the modernized Viper is no longer so touchy to drive with electronics to help control the power.

Subaru XV Crosstrek

The XV Crosstrek is a more outdoor friendly Impreza. Cute, gets exceptional gas mileage for an all wheel drive vehicle, and with a starting price around $20,000 well equipped, this crossover might have the right combination to attract more buyers the same way the Outback did for the Legacy.

Tesla Model S

Tesla is a sporty electric motor powered sedan that is sexy and handles well. Driving range between charges depends on speed and the use of other features such as air-conditioning. The best thing about this model is that it is available. A tribute to tenacity. If you have the money this is a car you want to be seen driving.

Toyota Avalon

Bigger, no. Better, yes. This is a far sportier, more fun to drive, and still roomy sedan. Same engine options as the Camry. A great family sedan starting above $30,000 and more eager to please. Passengers will never know it isn’t a Lexus.

Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

_VW_Beetle

Sleeker, but retaining its charm, the new Beetle has the same engines as its hard-top VW sisters. Prices should hoover around the $30,000 range. And wait till you see the option packages that date from previous decades. Cool. You just have to go.

Family conference: Our favorites are the new Audi sedans with diesel powerplants, the BMW X1, Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, Buick Encore, and Elantra. We think Buick, Subaru, Nissan, Audi, Toyota, and Kia/Hyundai are on winning streaks.

The Best 2010 Vehicles

By The Car Family

For vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

After a long look at the 2010 vehicles it becomes clear that this is not a stellar one. The Audi Q5 is the best of the SUV/Trucks and the Kia Forte sedan is the best of the vehicles, although we found the Toyota Prius terrific. As for our best family vehicle, we would go with the Ford Fusion hybrid. And for the rich family vehicle, the Lexus RX 450h/RX 350 are useful, frugal, and hold their value.

Mom’s view: The Toyota Prius is great, but I just like to slide into a vehicle and so the Lexus RX is my favorite. I also enjoyed the Kia Soul more than I would like to admit. Comfortable and handy.

Dad’s view: The new Jaguar sedan with the supercharged engine is fun and dominating. You can run with the best sports cars and still enjoy the comforts of a large sedan. I also liked the Lexus RX and the Kia Soul.

Working woman’s view: The Nissan Cube is cute.  But what stole my heart was the Mercedes GLK with a diesel engine.  Awesome, and I probably am going to buy one in the future. That says something.

Young working male’s view:  I’m still making open source hardware for http://www.eracks.com and they are the most quiet units on the market. As such a treasure my comfort and so the Mercedes E Class and the Subaru Legacy and Outback are my choices

Alfa Romeo

This model year tends to reflect the down nature of the economy with a few bright spots for those with dough and risk takes. For example, Alfa Romeo is back with three Italian beauties. The Alfa Romeo 159 Sedan is a BMW 3 Series fighter with a 260 horsepower 3.2-liter V6 engine stunning looks and standard all-wheel drive all for about $35,000. Adding to that Italian Flair is the Alfa Romeo Brera 2 plus 2 Coupe that is really attractive and carries the same drive train as the 150 sedan. As usually, you have to pay more for something beautiful so the sleek two door should run a couple of grand more. Of course, going topless is the sole purpose of the Alfa Romeo Spider which should cost over $40,000 probably with the same V6 engine. We suggest wait and see.

Aston Martin

Aston Martin has more expensive eye candy for anyone to own who has a couple of hundred thousand dollars to spend. The Rapide has four door, a first, a first for this newly purchased company, and a 470 horsepower. For a hundred thousand dollars more you can own a smaller vehicle, the DBS Volante 2+2 and sit on 510-horsepower. That is the same horsepower you can feast upon in a Jaguar sedan that costs $80,000. There is also the One-77 for two million, a V12 with 700 horsepower and it is built to the owner’s specifications, more or less. Oh, the name? They are only going to build 77 of them. Hurry. You can get a lot more for a lot less.

Audi

Whether Audi’s winning streak lasts is in the hands of four new Audi vehicles. The A5 Cabriolet does away with the A4 in appearance only as most of the drivetrain is the same. Look for some more technology and a price a little over forty grand. You can also order supercharged version for a few thousand dollars more. Finally, the Audi S4, at around $50,000, is going to have a 3.0-liter  supercharged six-cylinder engine making about 335 horsepower and all wheel drive.  A BMW with a softer image.

BMW

BMW continues its quest to build some pretty strange looking vehicles, but they continue to succeed. The  Z4 well have a retractable hardtop and its excellent  twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine as well as a base model sans the induction help starting in the mid-$40,000 range. For $80,000 you can harvest a large BMW 7-Series with a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 with 400 horsepower. Again, less horsepower than the Jaguar sedan, but it has more backseat room. Back to strange looking BMWs and the X6 M. For nearly ninety thousand dollars you can drive a very fast SUV that can rival the Porsche Cayenne in everything, including depreciation. Look for 550 plus horsepower from a twin-turbocharged V8. The base 3 Series is still the best BMW.

Buick Lacrosse

We don’t recommend General Motors products at this time. The Lacrosse is priced at about $28,000 and for that you can get a slightly used Lexus RX still under warranty for that price. Remember that General Motors only allows select people to test drive their vehicles so watch for bias in reviews.

Cadillac

We don’t recommend General Motors products at this time. Cadillac has a new sports wagon and more powerful engines in most of its products. The SRX and sports wagon cost nearly the same, about $34,000 and they both do essentially the same, with the wagon being more sprightly. We don’t get the pricing strategy, but we also don’t understand why GM hired back a leader who helped create the bankruptcy in the first place. Stick to the base CTS.

Ferrari

Ferrari California is offered at about $195,000. For that you get a retractable hardtop convertible, a 4.3-liter V8 that produces 460 horsepower, a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and a Ferrari that makes the overpriced and poor riding Bentley look like yesterday. No wonder Bentley sales and resale are suffering.

Fiat 500

When it comes buy it. Pricing is fairly high for such a small machine, just below $20,000, but it is cute, rides well, and you can order it with a fuel sipping 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 100. We recommend you delay your gratification until the more powerful engine becomes available.

Ford Mustang

It isn’t getting old and it is getting better, The Mustang looks much sharper this year and the handling has been smoothed. A myriad of engine choices. For about $20,000 you can have a car that makes the weird looking Chevrolet Camaro and bulking Chrysler Challenger like bad styling exercises.

Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

Expensive, high riding, and expensive, the F-150 Raptor is meant to destroy off-road obstacles and pass most everything except a gas station. $39,000.

Ford Taurus

We highly recommend the Ford Fusion. However,  if you need more leg and cargo space, the new Taurus is a darn good vehicle to consider, especially with a $26,000 asking price. Good fuel mileage, a six-speed automatic transmission and a 3.5 engine are standard. If you need more power and want to spend nearly $39,000 you can stuff your Taurus with the SHO turbocharged, 365 horsepower engine.

Ford Fusion

A bargain and fun to drive, the Fusion is now available as a hybrid that can easily get mid-30 mpg. Well priced at just over $20,000, the Fusion is just as good as the competition from Asia and the hybrid is one of the best family vehicles you can possess that offers exception fuel mileage.

Honda Insight

Priced below $20,000, the Insight is less expensive than the Toyota Insight, but you get a lot less. Fuel mileage in the low 40 mpg arena. Look for Toyota to offer a stripped Prius to offset the Honda’s price advantage. However, it won’t have the Honda handling.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Wow, for those who like a slick looking coupe that goes fairly well, the $23,000 Genesis coupe is a must drive. The turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and the 3.8-liter V6 produce 210 and 306 horsepower respectively. Why pay more?

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Jaguar XJ Series

This stunning sedan is available with an extended-wheelbase and potent powertrains from the base 5.0-liter V8 and its 385 horsepower, to the .XJL Supercharged 470 horsepower version, to the Supersport’s 510 horsepower engine. Safety wise the Jaguar offers ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front side airbags. Add to that Jaguar’s Adaptive Dynamics adjustable air suspension and you have a sweet riding sedan. You can also add a dual-screen DVD entertainment system. The Supersport is a bargain for those who like their sedan to truly leap. One of our favorites. Priced just under $70,000.

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Jeep Grand Cherokee

As the much anticipated Chevrolet Volt is said to be the most important vehicle to General Motors, the Grand Cherokee is even more vital to Chrysler. To this end they are offering extended warranties on the drivetrain and a less ancient styling. Pricing is expected to be just over $30,000, but more importantly, you are going to own a vehicle with a nicer interior and better handling than any previous model.  Well worth the late for those that need the Grand Cherokee’s legendary off-road ability.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

Kia Soul

A real surprise, the Kia Soul can be bought for under $15,000 and you get a very useful and fun car to drive. It has a high seating position and both the 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine and 142 horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder get good gas mileage. The large tires give a sturdy ride, but that is the sole concern with the Soul. Another one of our favorites.

soul2010_53

Kia Forte

Yet another bargain from Kia, the Forte is a sedan that has an available 173 horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and room for five all for under $15,000. Kia is on a roll, pun intended.

Kia Forte Koup

A two door version of the Forte for under $20,000.

Kia Sorrento

The Sorrento is leaner, but still not nearly competitive with the other crossovers at this time. However, Kia dealers are willing to deal and the new engine choices might make this a thrifty hauler. Well under $25,000 and look for good deals.

Lexus IS C

This convertible relies on the Lexus name and stunning interior to gather new customers. The base engine is barely adequate, and the larger engined IS 350C and its 3.5-liter, 306 horsepower V6 drives up the price thousands. Look to pay over $40,000 and for that you get a retractable hardtop and Lexus service.  Watch for those bulging side panels in parking lots, though.

Lexus RX 450h

Another giant leap forward for the best crossover in the land, the Lexus RX. This time Lexus has improved the performance and offers a plethora of new technology treats for those who want the $42,000 smoothmobile. You can easily get over 30 mpg and there is plenty of pep, but the reality is that the base RX offers nearly the same mileage for much less. Drive them both.

Lexus HS 250h

Not the best Lexus when it comes to styling, the HS 250h is a larger Prius with the Camry hybrid’s 2.4-liter engine. Rides well and is pretty perky, but it is priced in the mid-$30,000 range and the fuel mileage isn’t that much better than the terrific Toyota Corolla.

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Lincoln MKT

We like Lincoln, but we don’t always understand their attraction. They seldom are different than the base Ford they are based on, but that may all be in the past as the MKT comes online. A stunning interior, an attention getting exterior and ample power. Priced in the mid-$40,000 range. Our advise, buy the turbocharged engine with its 355 horsepower.

Mazda3

More versions of this poor man’s BMW, the Mazda3 in the form of a four and five door and a souped-up sizzler, this fun and frugal winner has seen its interior expanded, but not its powertrain.  Prices start around $17,000. The Speed version threatens the pavement with a 2.3-liter engine creating 263 horsepower. Can you say torque steer?

Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid

For nearly $90,000 you can own the luxurious S Class Mercedes that combines the power of the base engine with that of electric motors to give a big push to a big car without sacrificing too much fuel. Personally, we think the Bluetec diesel is the best offering, but it does not come in the S model.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe

A very large coupe at a good price, the $54,000 E-Class is available with an optional 382-horsepower V8 to provide a lot of go in this attractive two door.

Mercedes-Benz GLK

An optical illusion, this SUV is actually small on the outside, but large on the inside. Available with the diesel, which would make it perfect, it also comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine and a potent 268 horses. Priced below $35,000. The best MB SUV.

Mercedes-Benz M-Class Hybrid

Priced around $50,000, this SUV combines a 3.5-liter V6 engine with a continuously variable transmission and two electric motors to make it seriously fast and still get fuel mileage above 20 mpg. In reality, this is better than the General Motors products in the form of the Cadillac Escalade hybrids, but lacks the polish of the Lexus RX 450h. Stick with the M-Class.

MINI Crossman

A MINI on steroids, the all wheel drive Crossman is a tall, stubby, attention getting version of the MINI that uses a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with 172 horsepower to push it through the considerable turbulence its design creates. For about $30,000 you can drive something different.

Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback

Sporty in appearance and handling, this Lancer can be ordered with all wheel drive and the station wagon styling makes it very family friendly. The hot rod Ralliart version is also planned. Priced under $30,000, the Sportback is the most utilitarian of the Lancers, but look for dealers to offer some good pricing.

Nissan

The 370 Z convertible is here and this two-seater is a hoot to drive, especially considering its base pricing of just over $40,000 well equipped. For a lot less you can have the hard top version with the same engine, transmission, and suspension. With prices starting around $30,000, the 370Z comes with a 332 horsepower V6,  six-speed manual transmission and the must have SynchroRev Match system that automatically matches engine speed to your selected gear on downshifts. A real bargain, but there is a lot of competition in the sporty car field now with the upgraded Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Chrysler Challenger, and Hyundai Genesis coupe.

Nissan’s Cube is a box with a little style and a lot of utility. The poster car for funky, the Cube has an asymmetrical rear glass and a side opening rear hatch. For about $14,000 this eye catcher can do your daily chores without much fuss thanks to the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine with 122 horsepower. There is a lot of competition in this niche once dominated by the Scion B and D. Now the pressure comes from the Kia Soul.

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Porsche Panamera

This is a four door Porsche that comes in two forms, fast and faster. The 4400 pound sedan comes in either two or four wheel drive, but with engines pushing from 400 horsepower to 500 horsepower version. Certainly usable for a family, but at $125,000 plus it is best left to those who enjoy the status of owning this unusual vehicle.

Rolls-Royce Ghost

Why bother. Another Rolls gas hog that serves no purpose that a vehicle half its cost does not provide. A good way to spit in the face of environmentalists while getting the best parking spot at upscale restaurants.

Saab 9-5

Probably due much later in the model year, the new Saab 9-5 is a knockout. Nothing else much new from Saab due to its sale, but used Saabs are a bargain and the 2006 anniversary edition convertible remains one of the great undervalued and automobile collector bargains with only 400 produced. (see photo)

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Smart fortwo ED

We love the Smart cars, except for the jerky transmissions. They are a hoot to drive and with this version you even get good gas mileage thanks to its electric motors. Another of our favorites.

Subaru Legacy

Bigger and sort of better, the $20,000 Legacy is larger and better looking, but the weak base engine still is challenged in mountain driving even with the new 6-speed manual transmission. We highly recommend the more expensive 3.6-liter flat-six engine option. Another one of our favorites.

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Subaru Outback

Essentially the same as the Legacy, but with fancier exterior parts, the one to own is the
2.5 GT.  Priced under $25,000

Suzuki Kizashi
The Kizashi is a totally new direction for Suzuki to grow with a appealing exterior, a 2.4-liter, dual overhead cam four-cylinder engine mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT, all wheel drive option, and the promise of more power to come. Lots of promises from Suzuki such as upscale audio systems, lots of safety equipment, and a price not much over $20,000. If you are interested in smaller vehicle this is a must drive.

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Toyota Prius

Another winner from Toyota. The new Prius is much superior to the previous generation in every way from better fuel mileage to improved cargo room. Prices start about $23,000.  Awesome, but the tires are noisy and the handling is for the slow goers. Easily one of the best cars of 2010. Another one of our favorites.

Volkswagen GTI

It looks the same, but the GTI I much improved, although the powertrain remains virtually the same with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with 200 horsepower and 6-speed manual or dual-clutch gearbox. Not inexpensive at $26,000, the handling and versatility of this VW might just spark new interest.

Volkswagen Golf

A well priced Volkswagen; the Golf is essentially the old Rabbit with a 2.5-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine or the highly desirable 2.0-liter diesel pushing the wind aside. Excellent fuel mileage and a $17,000 price tag make this a good vehicle for those who like to drive, but still enjoy passing a gas station.

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Volvo XC60

The Volvo wagon remains one of the best you can buy for safety and room, especially the XC 70. However, the pricing on these big wagons is steep and so Volvo is offering the XC60. This smaller, Volvo wagon has an abundance of safety features and the  3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with its 285 horsepower has just enough power to move this crossover. The all-wheel-drive unit and better handling make this a better choice than its longer brother. Look for prices around $38,000. This is the best Volvo.

For vehicle reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/most-reliable-vehicles/

Best Family Bargains Under $20,000 for the New Year

By The Car Family

For more reviews go to

http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/most-reliable-vehicles/

A good family vehicle for under $20,000 isn’t difficult to find, especially if you can control your option urges. That isn’t to say that these inexpensive cars aren’t well equipped, especially in the safety category. However, the only three real reasons to buy a new car in this price range rather than purchasing a used vehicle is having it your way with longer warranty better financing rates, and that new car smell.

All things being equal, you can probably get a new car for less money than a one or two-year-old model used if you have a minimum payment and good credit. On the other hand your license fee and insurance rates could be higher on the new model. We highly recommend that you don’t fall in love with any car until you have done your homework.

Here is our list from based on our extensive testing and a vehicle’s usability. We aren’t interested in how fast they go or how well they corner at these prices. One important warning is that General Motors does not allow us to test any of its vehicles and so we cannot comment on them. All other manufacturers do allow us extended testing time. We used the manufacturer’s suggested retail price knowing that you can probably get a better deal locally. Indeed, we have seen the excellent Dodge Caravan offered for under $20,000 and that is one of the very best family vehicles you can buy.

Mom’s favorite: The Kia Rondo is the perfect family vehicle and I really liked it, but the Rondo could use more power even at the cost of another mile per gallon. It is easy to enter and exit, has a nice sized steering wheel for those of us with small hands, has an abundance of storage places and cupholders, and the seats are comfortable. I would have liked a power rear gate, but for well under $20,000 this is plenty of car. Besides the objective points of excellent fuel mileage, good brakes and handling, and even room for seven, the Kia scores with me on subjective grounds as it looks unique. I also liked the Mazda 5, which is better handling and a snap to load and unload, but its looks put me off. Maybe if I were younger I could appreciate it more. Right now, for the price the Kia Rondo is a winner and for nearly the same price you can get the new Kia Optima. Talk about a sedan with everything, but it is just another sedan to me despite its ample safety features, superior warranty, and pricing.

Dad’s favorite: Ford’s Fusion is my favorite family vehicle, but I would go for the Suzuki SX4 or the MINI Cooper if I were younger. The Ford has a nice ride, enough energy even with the base engine, but I would recommend the V6 optional unit. Fusions are for sale in a variety of trim models for under $19,000. The Fusion was overlooked by most of the major car magazines from the start because it wasn’t fast, but they frequently feel that handling and acceleration are the keys to a good car. We believe that reliability, safety, and usability come first and this Ford has all of them. Indeed, with the promise of a new Ford Focus replacement or supplement, Ford looks like the American car company most likely to do well in the coming years until the other firms catch their breath. Although I liked the Chevrolet Malibu/Saturn Aura General Motors no longer allows us to test its products and so I have no comment to make. My second choice is the very fun to drive MINI. It is easy to park, gets gas mileage in the 30 mpg range if you take it easy, and now with larger Clubman version there is enough cargo space to put a week’s worth of fiddles. The MINI is very good car for those flexible enough to get in and out without harming themselves. Excellent resale, too, but the MINI is really only for a young family due to a lack of interior space.

Young working woman’s view: I find it difficult in these times to select a vehicle other then one made in America such as the Dodge Caliber or the Ford Focus, or the Chevrolet Caliber. But the standout to me is the Mazda 3, which is owned in part by Ford so I’m going with the hatchback version of this dandy as my first choice. The ride is a bit choppy, and the car sits low, but once inside it just feels fun. There are cubby holes everywhere, the outside visibility is good, and it can easily carry four adults in comfort and still have luggage space in back. The handling and brakes are excellent, but it is the Mazda’s ease of parking and loading that make it a great family vehicle. Gas mileage seldom drops below 23 mpg even with hard driving. It is not particularly babyseat friendly, though. My second selection would be the Ford Focus. I know it has been around a long time, but it is much larger inside then one would think, has a fairly youthful look to it, and the engine and transmission work well together with fuel economy consistently over 30 mpg. I have seen these advertised for under $15,000 and that is less than a Scion and it is much easier to drive then those Toyota products with more visibility and a less quirky interior treatment.

Young working man’s view: I make computers and open software servers at a low cost firm http://www.eracks.com and find it convenient to have a vehicle that gets good fuel mileage and has plenty of space inside to move components and units. Although I like the look of the Dodge Avenger and its better then expected ride, the three that appeal to me the most are the Volkswagen Jetta wagon, the Ford Escape, and the Nissan Rogue. The Rogue has a fine feel and always attains over 23 mpg. It is simple to park with a tight turning radius and is priced less than the other Japanese products with similar features. The tried and proven Ford Escape is priced under $20,000 as well, but what is attractive to me is how inexpensive it is to insure and maintain. If you get the front wheel drive model with the base model you are going to get 24 mpg and be invisible to the authorities, should that be a concern. It is still the best SUV that Ford produces. But my favorite is the Jetta wagon. Not just because it gets better mileage than the Escape or Rogue, but becomes it is much easier to live with a lower liftover for heavy loads, a more comfortable interior, and less road noise. Women seem to be drawn to is good looks, which is always a good sign for me, but most of all it feels much more expensive then its pricing. Family shoppers should note that SUVs don’t have to meet the same safety requirements as passenger cars. That is why large passenger car such as the underrated Ford Taurus always are rated the safest. Also keep in mind that the higher the center of gravity of a vehicle, how tall it is, and the more likely it is to rollover. Go to http://www.safercar.gov for the statistics.

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Family conference: Sadly, but typically, there is no consensus from The Car Family about the best family oriented vehicle under $20,000. Perhaps the only unanimous conclusion is that a sharp buyer in today’s market can get a lot of car for under $20,000 and nearly all of them are quite capable of getter over 20 mpg with ease. No one selected the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe or the gas sipping Honda Fit. Also missed was the Nissan Sentra with its excellent fuel mileage. All of these are excellent vehicles, but when you put a family onboard the handling dynamics change, as does the performance of a vehicle. That is why it is strongly recommended that you take the entire family with you when road testing to get a family view. That is what we do and that is why our reviews make recommendations often at odds with the major magazines and websites. And please keep in mind that larger SUVs are not safer for families.

Chrysler

The Chrysler PT Cruiser is an older design based on a retro theme. Since it has been around so long there is an abundance of used ones for sale. The PT is a very utilitarian vehicle with lots of interior space and enough power to make highway passing possible even with a load onboard. This could be the last year for this model so good deals should abound. The base engine is a 150 horsepower four-cylinder engine. You can also opt for the turbocharged version with 180 horsepower but we try to avoid recommending turbocharged family transportation due to their higher maintenance costs and the manufacturer’s premium fuel requirement. We recommend the base engine. Our rating C.

The Sebring sedan has an interesting exterior, but the chassis is too soft for us. The car is fuel-efficient and the optional 189-horsepower 2.7L V-6 engine is recommended even over the 3.5L V6 version and its 235 horsepower. Lots of electronic gadgets make your driving more entertaining, but for the money there is a lot of competition such as the Dodge sedans. The interior has an abundance of cargo space and the trunk is easy to use. Very good crash scores. Our grade C.

Dodge

The Dodge Avenger is a good car if you can get by its boy racer exterior. This mid-size sedan can even be ordered with all wheel drive, but for a family go with the SE model and the 2.4 engine and four-speed automatic transmission. Safety features include dual front airbags, and front and rear side impact airbags and good crash scores. The Avenger does have limited rear view visibility due to its styling, but the seats are comfortable and the pricing is attractive. The interior is a bit loud and the rear seat entry is tight. Our grade C+

The Dodge Caliber is a good buy if you can tolerate its distinctive interior and exterior. A lot of headroom and an easy to load cargo bay make this a good choice for families in the under $20,000 range. A 172 horsepower 2.4L in-line four-cylinder engine is the best choice, but don’t expect this vehicle to handle much more power, as it isn’t meant to be a canyon runner. Go with the CVT automatic transmission. We like the Dodge Caliber, but most of the other reviewers didn’t. That is probably because we feel it is a compact station wagon and not a racecar. The engine to have is the 172 horsepower 2.4L in-line four-cylinder and if you want better fuel mileage get the five-speed manual transmission or a CVT automatic transmission. The Caliber doesn’t get good press, but it is a bargain and frequently goes for under $15,000. For that you get an abundance of room, a vehicle with some character, an interior that is, ah, different, with fuel economy in the low 20 mpg arena. Our rating C+

Ford

Scraping under the $20,000 barrier, the Ford Escape XLS 2WD is long in the tooth, but a good value if you can forgo the all wheel drive version. A proven value and satisfying even with the base 2.3 four-cylinder engine with its 153 horsepower. The optional 3.0 V6 engine is a better choice if you travel with a load the majority of time as its 200 horsepower, but not really necessary for most travels. A tried and proven vehicle, but the high stance does make it more difficult to enter and leave for smaller children. Grade B

Just as dated, but with a fresh facelift and some other major surgery, the Ford Focus is a steal at $15,000. It gets terrific gas mileage, has an upscale interior, and plenty of cargo space. Available as coupe or sedan, the Focus has enough poke with the 136-horsepower 2.0

engine and a five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic transmission to keep pace with traffic even with four adults onboard. Ford is really dealing on these models, but resale may prove soft as a new compact is scheduled to arrive in 2011 that is much spiffier. Grade B

ford

Our favorite Ford is the Fusion. Priced less then $20,000, and we have seen them selling under $19,000, the Fusion is simply an underappreciated sedan with as good as handling, fuel mileage, and cargo space as the much more expensive Japanese models. The Fusion is powered by a 2.3L 160-horsepower engine and that really isn’t strong enough for such a large car. Pay extra and order the 3.0L 221-horsepower V6 engine. It has such safety features as a tire pressure monitor, dual front airbags, front and rear head curtain airbags, and side-impact airbags. Crash scores were excellent. If you need solid family transportation this is the one to consider. And, if you really want a family friendly vehicle wait for the hybrid version that should put the more expensive Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry versions on notice that their days of domination are done. Grade A-

Honda

From the start the quirky looking Element has been a sleeper, even to Honda. What was essentially a youth-oriented vehicle with its clamshell opening rear doors, washable style interior, and easy to accessorize looks has become a stalwart of the older crowd who adore its utility and easy to enter rear compartment. Perfect for dog lovers and those that carry large containers, the Element’s only weakness is a engine that is hard pressed to push its large box shape over hills without numerous downshifts and significant moaning. Gas mileage in the 20-mpg range is the norm and resale is proving to be good for this Honda. As a family vehicle is does well, but the fact that the rear seats set-up is not as good for baby seats as we like and there are large blind spots due to the large rear pillars. The only engine is the 166 horsepower 2.4-liter VTEC four-cylinder engine that comes with a standard five-speed manual. We recommend the five-speed automatic instead. Safety equipment is typical of all Hondas with airbags nearly everywhere. Overall, this really isn’t a family vehicle as much as a handy one for those who need it special features. Our grade C+

Unfortunately, the low height of the Civic makes if difficult to get in and out of and the interior is more playful then the competition. There are so many versions of the Civic that it is essential you do your homework before venturing out. We like the LX model as it combines some luxury, but isn’t so fancy that it stretches your credit ceiling. The gas saving 140-horsepower 1.8L I-4 engine works hard and provides exceptional fuel mileage in the range of 30 mpg with ease. Standard safety equipment includes side curtain airbags, daytime running lights, and ABS brakes. The Civic is a terrific sedan for those who can live with its few limitations such as having to reach very low to bring out a baby from a rear facing baby seat. The trunk is a fair size, but the biggest plum is the high resale. Our Grade B=

Honda hit a homerun when they brought the smallish Fit to the marketplace. We immediately fell for its sharp handling, 33-mpg average on unleaded, and extremely useful rear cargo hold. Add to that a price of $15,000 and you can understand why the Fit is among the most difficult vehicles to find on dealer’s lots today despite an economic downturn. The hatchback has a 1.5-liter 117-horsepower VTEC engine that must work hard at all times, but seems to enjoy the task. The low height makes it difficult to place a babyseat. All sorts of safety equipment are standard and the crash scores are good, but not great for rear seat passengers. A good commuter, but not a great family vehicle. Our grade B-.

Hyundai

The Hyundai Tucson/Kia Sportage can be purchased for under $20,000, but it just doesn’t offer enough incentive to draw us away from its average fuel economy and noisy ride. You do get Hyundai’s/Kia’s good warranty and its improving quality, but essentially there is simply too much competition in this price category to recommend it for anything else despite the handy Drop and Fold rear seating system and a passenger seat that can fold flat to help carry longer items. Standard equipment includes ABS brakes, traction control, and six airbags. For the same money Hyundai offers a good Sonata sedan that can easily crack 30 mpg, has a kinder ride and a large trunk. If you look you can find Sonata’s for under $20,000 well equipped and they offer an easier babyseat installation. We like the Sonata greatly, but the Tucson isn’t our top choice especially with the base 140 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. You need the optional 173 horsepower 2.7L V6 engine. Our grade C-

Jeep

For $20,000 or less the Jeep Compass could be in your driveway with a 172- horsepower 2.4-liter engine working either a five-speed manual transmission or CVT automatic transmission. Not a smooth or quiet vehicle, but one that seems perfect for the life of a winter grocery getter, the Compass has a number of features in most models such as a vehicle information center, keyless entry, and heated seats. Front and read head curtain airbags are just a few of the safety items, but for nearly the same amount of money consider the more traditional looking Jeep Patriot. Why Chrysler is offering both of these is a decision that must have been interesting. The Compass gets slightly better fuel mileage, but the Patriot has more hauling capacity. They both can be parked in small mall spaces and offer fairly good visibility. Essentially, the main difference is looks with the Patriot being square and the Compass living up to its name and more rounded. We don’t like the Jeep brand for a family. Chrysler makes many products that can do a better job is you can live without the high center of gravity and basic suspension. Our grade C.

Kia

Kia’s $17,000 Rondo is a winner with the larger 173 horsepower 2.7L V6 engine. Safety equipment such as dual front airbags, head and curtain airbags, and front side impact airbags come standard. Crash scores were well above average. The interior is a touch basic, but very utilitarian and important items such as controls and gauges are easy to read and use, if a bit small. Unique looks, a nice ride, and only the need for less road noise renders it less then perfect. If you don’t need a more expensive minivan and its additional space the Rondo is for you. It also has a high seating position and is a snap to park. Our grade A-.

$17,500. That is correct for a good sized, well-powered, amply equipped sedan with a great warranty and plenty of safety equipment. New this year and just about the best bargain in the automobile industry, this sedan comes with a variety of option packages, but be picky and stay with the standard 2.4L 162-horsepower engine and you can probably drive off the dealer’s lot for under $18,000. The optional engine is a must if you drive in the mountains or heavily loaded as its V6 as 185-horsepower. Standard features are an alarm system, heated mirrors, and keyless entry. But the safety arena is where this Kia shines and makes it so family friendly. The Optima comes with a tire pressure monitor, dual front airbags, front and rear head curtain airbags, and front side impact airbags. And check the safety head rests, too. Kia also makes a Rio and a Spectra, but we recommend you pay a bit more and get the Optima as its is much better for a family in terms of safety features and size although the Rio is priced less then $14,000. Our grade B+.

Mazda

The Mazda3 is available in sedan and hatchback bodystyles with the latter being our favorite because of the ease of loading everything from groceries to yard sale bargains. The 148-horsepower 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine or larger 156 horsepower 2.3 liter version are very kind to the environment and gas mileage is about 25 mpg in mixed driving. A terrific handling vehicle that is simple to park, has proven to be quite reliable, and is both zippy and zoomy. The low stance does make entry and exiting the Mazda a bit more difficult for those that aren’t supple. The interior is dark and a bit on the teenager side, but it works well with enough storage and legroom to suffice. Grade B+

Priced under $19,000, the Mazda 5 is a true minivan with fuel mileage in the 24 mpg range and a 2.3 liter engine with a five speed automatic transmission that makes driving, well, zoom zoom considering the limitations of a 153 horsepower engine in such a blocky vehicle. One of the interesting standard features is a fold out table. You can order fancier options, but stick to the sport model with a manual transmission and have as frisky a minivan as they make. This is a perfect vehicle for the family with one or two children and can only be matched by the Kia Rondo. Our grade B

MINI

Fun to drive, a miser when it comes to gas mileage, the MINI Cooper gets an astonishing 30-mpg even when pushed and has among the highest resale values. We highly recommend you spend a few dollars more and get the much roomier Clubman version. The base engine is the BMW derived 120-horsepower 1.6 liter four cylinder engine. Equipped with either a six-speed manual transmission or automatic transmission this is a hoot to drive, park, and corner with, but its small size limits it family value even with excellent crash scores. Safety equipment includes ABS brakes, stability control, six standard airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system and run-flat equipped tires. Fun, but not family. Our Grade C+

Mitsubishi

All new and much better then the previous model the Lancer is priced under $16,000, has good fuel economy of about 24 mpg, and stout crash scores. The interior is spacious, the exterior has a unique appeal, and only its resale and quality prevent it from us giving it an A grade. Order the optional 2.4-liter, 168-horsepower four-cylinder engine as the base engine doesn’t give any better gas mileage and this vehicle is too large for anything less. The optional continuously variable transmission isn’t worth it at this time. There is an abundance of standard equipment but you can still feel that the quality isn’t up to the competition. Then again, the price isn’t as high either. You get what you pay for and in this case the Lancer is a bargain with room for a family, a good-sized trunk, and an easy to install baby seat area. Our grade B-

nissan

Nissan

It is puzzlement. The Sentra and the Versa are among the most gas frugal vehicles you can buy and both have large interiors for their size and come with a lot of standard equipment. The problem is that they are priced nearly the same. The fancy Versa SL is just a coupe of hundred dollars less then the base Sentra, and the base Sentra has a larger engine and gets better gas mileage. Interestingly, the Versa actually has more useable space then the Sentra, especially as a hatchback. Of course, the Versa has that quirky French styling, but both are good family vehicles. The Sentra has a 2.0 liter engine with about 20 more horsepower then the 1.8 liter in the Versa’s 122. Safety features on both models include tire dual front airbags, front and rear head curtain airbags, and front side impact airbags. The Sentra handles better, but Versa feels more stable in high winds. We would go with the Sentra and its higher safety ratings, but both Nissans are underrated and are great values. Sentra Grade A-; Versa grade B.

The Nissan Rogue is an excellent handling crossover SUV that is priced quite well starting under $20,000, but be careful with your option selection or the cost could push it much higher. The 170horsepower 2.5-liter engine and a continuously variable automatic transmission work well together. Nissan does a great job with the CVT unit, perhaps better then any other manufacturer. Safety features include electronic stability control (a must on all SUVs), ABS brakes, dual front row and side-impact airbags, with head curtain airbags for both rows, and excellent crash scores. The Foldable Rear Cargo Organizer is handy for shopping and the ride is a combination of sporty and soft. It is one of the better handling crossover SUVs, but not as quick as the Acura or the Mazda crossovers. Visibility to the rear is restricted by the roof pillars. Gas mileage is fairly good for such a vehicle with 23 mpg easy to reach. The interior is dark and a bit snug, but it is easy to install a baby seat and the Rogue is a snap to park in small spaces. Our grade B+

Scion xB and xD

The prices are nearly identical so you can expect to spend a touch over $15,000 for either model. The xB has a 2.4L DOHC four-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence that provides 158 horsepower and you can order either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic with sequential shifting. Scions are meant to be designed by the new owner so be prepared to spend countless nights with a checklist of options. If you can stick with basics you are going to have good resale. Standard equipment includes a 160-watt Pioneer audio system with iPod connectivity, keyless entry, and tire pressure mentor. The Scion xB has limited visibility to the sides and back, but it is extremely easy to maneuver and park. It is easy to load and has a cavernous cargo capacity. Very youthful, but with gas mileage over 30 mpg this would be a great commuter and dog hauler. The interior takes a while to get used to and if it becomes too much of a burden check the new xD. This is based on the Yaris platform, but is a much better handling machine. We very much dislike the Yaris and for a few dollars more a month get the Corolla or the Scions. The xD has a smaller engine, price tag, and must be driven to be appreciated. The 1.8L four-cylinder engine offers 128 horsepower and comes with the same transmission choices of the xB. Standard equipment is essentially the same. Lots of options, but the most difficult choice is whether or not to buy the xD or xB. And don’t forget the new Nissan Cube and Kia Soul which have the same box shape as the Scions. Our rating B+

Smart

Small, handy, and an eye-catcher, the Smart fortwo is a minicompact convertible or hatchback. Priced under $15,000 it is too small for a family, but worth considering if you live in the city and want a funky ride. The transmission is difficult to modulate, but the fuel mileage, as you would expect, is nearly 40 mpg in steady driving. Grade Incomplete

Subaru

For just under $18,000 Subaru has a dandy sedan and wagon in its Impreza line. They aren’t the prettiest Subarus, but they are the best deals. You can get one with a turbocharged engine with 224 horsepower, but we recommend the standard 170 horsepower and save on the purchase price. However, if you travel in the mountains or frequently travel with a family onboard the turbo is very much worth the extra cost. Turbo equipped vehicles usually cost more to insure, maintain, and use more expensive fuel so drive both versions to make sure this Impreza suits your needs. Subaru has all wheel drive and consistently gets fuel mileage in the low 20-mpg range in mixed driving. Although they are a good deal, the Suzuki SX4 is less expensive and just a tad smaller while offering all wheel drive. The Suzuki has a better warranty. We have found Subaru repairs very dear and have owned several. They were good, but not great, but we used them as commuter cars and didn’t need the famed traction the Subaru offers. Our rating B-

For about $20,000 you can buy the redone Subaru Forester base model with a 173-horsepower 2.5-liter engine and a vastly improved interior with more room and tidier layout then previous models. Standard all wheel drive makes it excellent in winter, but even with this feature the Forester gets about 20 mpg in mixed driving. This is among the best in vehicles of this size with four-wheel drive. Unfortunately, the base engine really struggles with the larger Forester, especially in the mountains and in passing situations when the car is fully loaded. Your option is the frisky turbo version, but that puts the cost well over the $20,000 limit. We recommend you stick with the small Impreza model that has enough interior room for most families. Grade C+

Suzuki

For about $16,000 the Suzuki SX4 is a surprisingly fun vehicle available as a wagon or sedan. You can get them with all wheel drive or front wheel drive, but the difference in price is quite small. We are fond of the Suzuki because the company just seems to want to please the customer with a terrific warranty and an integrated Garmin type navigation system as standard. This feature usually costs a couple thousand dollars of other vehicles and it makes the Suzuki an even better buy. But note that this isn’t as deluxe as those that come on more upscale vehicles with their larger screens. Nevertheless, it is essentially free. The system has Bluetooth capability and even real-time traffic reports. The engine is sufficient with 143 horsepower and a four speed automatic transmission and you can easily get 25 mpg. Our grade B-

Suzuki’s Grand Vitara is sized well for a family with a 2.7-liter 185-horsepower V6 engine and is loaded with safety features such as dual front airbags, front and rear head curtain airbags, and front side impact airbags. Crash scores are good, but for the money there is just too many other good crossover type SUVs priced just under $20,000 to make this a first choice unless there are some good deals. A good warranty is offset by low resale values. Unless you need the extra room in the rear seats the Suzuki SX4 is a better deal. Look for gas mileage of 22 mpg for the Grand Vitara. Our Grade C.

Toyota

An ideal family vehicle, albeit a little small, this exceptional sedan costs less than $17,000 and gets fantastic mileage well over 30 mpg in mixed driving with the 1.8-liter 16-valve, DOHC four-cylinder engine and its 132 horsepower. You can also order the 2.4-liter engine that produces 158 horsepower, but it isn’t necessary. Stick with the automatic transmission as there is very little loss in fuel economy and the Corolla is never going to be mistaken for a performance car so the five-speed manual is only going to reduce its value at resale. Standard features are varied from a XM satellite ready stereo with a CD/MP3 player to front seat-mounted side impact and head curtain airbags. Very are plenty of small storage areas, a good-sized console and glove compartment, and excellent visibility in the Corolla. The only problem is that the options can quickly drive the price over that of the base Camry and a smallish 13.2-gallon tank. We like the Corolla’s ride and maneuverability, but it doesn’t touch our soul. It is more an appliance then practically any car we have tested. That doesn’t make it a poor choice for a family. Our grade A-.

You can order a Camry in a variety of forms from hybrid to V6 power to four cylinder versions and all of them are competent, capable performers. Safety features abound with

dual front airbags, front and rear head curtain airbags, knee airbags, and front side impact airbags and you can get them for under $19,000. Fuel mileage is in the 22-mpg arena. You really don’t get much more in the Camry in terms of passenger space then the Corolla, although the former’s trunk is three cubic feet larger. It is much easier to place a baby seat in the Corolla, too, as it stands just a bit taller and is a couple of inches thinner. In other words, the Camry is a heftier, slightly larger, and more comfortable car then the Corolla, but we prefer the smaller turning radius and better visibility of the smaller car. The Camry’s grade is a B+

Restyled, but its difficult to tell, the Matrix is an exceptional combination of utility, fuel efficiency, and cargo carrying capacity. Outside of the world’s worst jack, this is a $17,000 vehicle with terrific resale and reliability as well. The standard engine is a 132 horsepower 1.8L four-cylinder engine. while a 2.4L four-cylinder engine with 158 horsepower is a highly recommended option. Standard features include daytime running lights, side and head curtain air bags, and don’t forget to check out the S model with cruise control, keyless entry, AM/FM/CD with MP3 capability and more for a couple thousand more. Available with all wheel drive or front wheel drive, it is difficult to find more for less. Our grade A-

Volkswagen

We much admire Volkswagen’s Beetle for its good crash scores economy, and cute looks. Unfortunately, it only comes with two doors and that makes it unacceptable as a family vehicle, especially with a baby seat that needs installation. Stick with the $18,500 Jetta instead and you can get it as a sedan or a nice wagon. The 23 mpg average was with the 170 horsepower 2.5 liter five-cylinder engine is peppy and you can get it with a 6 Speed Shiftable Automatic. Good visibility, good safety scores, and in a tidy and easy to park package make this an excellent family vehicle. Safety equipment includes side impact and head curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring system, ABS disc brakes, traction and stability control and the must have child seat anchors. There is a lot to like here and when you add keyless remote entry, cruise control, and smaller, but important features such as a split folding rear seat to expand the cargo area you have a winner. Especially with the wagon. Our grade A.

Rules for Family Safety

Keep your chest at least ten inches away from the airbag cover. Never place a rear facing infants seat in the front of an air bag seat unless the air bag switch is in the off position. Children under 14 should sit in the back seat and use seat belts, or a child safety seat. If you have a medical condition that might result in an injury due to the use of an airbag consult your doctor on whether or not you should use one and carry that permission in the vehicle at all times. Driving without a seatbelt is against the law. Extra large people may wish to ask the dealer for a safety belt extension. Check the air pressure in your vehicle monthly. If an air pressure monitor is an option on a vehicle buy it. Correct air pressure also saves on fuel consumption. Also buy every safety feature you can afford. You can’t be too safe.

Safety seat inspection center: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm

Types of baby and booster seats: http://tinyurl.com/3puzn6

Child Seat Ease of Use Ratings: http://tinyurl.com/68upx6

Automotive Safety Issues for Persons With Disabilities

http://tinyurl.com/9pmrvu

Free traffic safety materials and catalogs.

http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/outreach/media/catalog/Index.cfm

Safety ratings of all vehicles

http://tinyurl.com/axhqha

For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

Best new cars: 2006-2007

For more vehicle reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/new/carreviews/index.html

We have spent the last several months evaluating vehicles from the major manufacturers to identify those that we feel are the best in their fleets. Since Masarati, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche, and Rolls Royce don’t allow us to test we can only imagine that they are selling to the already sold. We should remind you that Bentley does furnish us test vehicles because they want our readers to know the truth. And, truth be told, the Bentley is easily the best super vehicle you can buy based on performance, room, and resale. It would take a professional driver to pull away from a Bentley in any situation and those vehicles wouldn’t have room for five and their golf bags.

This review is about those companies who have improved the most and are providing the best values. We start with our most improved product line and that goes to Nissan and Saturn. The new Nissan Versa is a flat out bargain with plenty of room, performance and fuel mileage all for under $14,000. For a few thousand more the Sentra is ready to perform for you and it is a winner. Plenty of spunk and a superior sound system make this new offering light generations better than the previous Sentra. Congratulations to Nissan.

The Aura is proof that the Saturn line does not have to fall into extinction, as did the Oldsmobile. By the way, if you get your hands on a early 2000 Oldsmobile Aurora you are going to have a car that is quite excellent except for its battery location under the rear seat and some power winder motor concerns. Saturn’s Aura is better than the current Accord and Camry in every way. It makes the previous model sedans from Saturn look ancient. Added to that is the new Saturn roadster, the Sky. Fun and frugal, and a looker, this model is worth a test drive. Saturn is offerings its Vue with a modified hybrid system that they call the Green Line. It gets good fuel mileage, about 25 on the highway for an SUV, but the new SUV from Saturn looks clearly better. Saturn is the most improved domestic line and that is without even testing the Saturn Outlook. And don’t forget a much trendier little Saturn is coming later this year. All of these are tremendous improvements over past products.

Acura MDX is much better than the previous model and is the best of the new offerings from this upscale marque. It is larger, more capable, and has more room and a better demeanor. Unfortunately, the price is above $40,000 too. The smaller RDX model has a turbocharged engine, needs premium, and lacks interior room.

Bentley’s Continental GTC is a bargain even with a price tag out the door just shy of $200,000. It has all wheel drive, over 500 horsepower, and a quiet ride with room for four. It is the best luxury convertible by far. You are going to pay far more for far less.

The 3 Series BMW has been restyled and has a more potent engine selection. Always a great performer, this is the best of the BMW products although it is tight on space. Drive all the 3 Series models before you buy. They have very distinctive personalities.

Chevrolet’s new Silverado pick-up truck is quite good, but from a family standpoint the reliable Chevrolet Impala is the best in its line up. Well priced, no surprises when you drive it, and capable of getting the best insurance rates and above average fuel economy.

Dodge’s Caliber is a true value leader. Great size and utility, a notable shape, room for five, and a combination of engines to suit every mood make this the best Dodge product. All of this for under $14,000. The new Avenger is new but lacks character outside of its appearance. Yes it is roomy and economical to operate, but the growl of its engine even at highway speeds gets annoying. We recommend the previously introduced Charger that isn’t that much more expensive and a better buy.

Ford’s Fusion and Edge are the best from this struggling manufacture. The Edge has a good look and is clearly more refined than previous similar models from Ford. The Fusion is exceptional. There is very little reason for someone looking for a sedan to look elsewhere. Sadly Ford needs a fresh subcompact vehicle and has none at this moment.

Honda’s Fit and CR-V are both worthwhile. We believe that the CR-V is a much better vehicle than the previous model, but still lacks enough power for our needs. However, the Honda Fit is a marvel. It is a combination fuel economy winner, sports car, and station wagon all priced under $14,000. It is small, but handy.

Hyundai’s Entourage, Santa Fe, and Veracruz are all very well priced and put together. However, the Entourage is clearly the best new product. This minivan is as good as the class leading Honda Odyssey and costs thousands less. The Kia products are so similar that it would difficult to separate outside of the nameplates. As such the Hyundai/Kia would be third on our list of most improved product lines after Nissan and Saturn. However, the Kia Rondo stands alone as the best of the Kia products. It is a smallish minivan with great interior space usage. Filling in the niche left by the forgettable Mazda MPV, the Kia is the queen of the Kia line.

Lexus has three new sedans that are notable in the LS, GS 450h, and the ES. Since Lexus products have been known to be price leaders in the past we couldn’t help notice that this was no longer the case. However, you get so much quality product and such high resale the line seems destined to become the “Cadillac” of the 2000s. As such the hybridish GS 450h is the best product. It offers scintillating performance while getting respectable fuel mileage. Even the non-hybrid version is excellent. The LS 460 is filled with electronic marvels, but it isn’t as vast as improvement over the previous models as the GS line.

Lincoln’s MXZ is a potent, luxurious sedan that harkens back to the old days when the nameplate spoke of quality and elegance. Although we like the Zephyr, the MXZ has more options and is a bargain starting under $30,000.

Mazda’s 3 is priced in the low $20,000 range and can be ordered for thrift or thrill. It is a new car so there is little to compare it to, but it figures to be a hit for those who want practice transportation with a hint of zoom. We have not tested the new line of Mazda SUVs at this time, but we did get a chance to play with the CX-7 and found it to be clearly a winner. For much less than a BMW or Acura you get a go-getter with cargo space and handling on a par with the best. Still, the Mazda 3 is the best value here.

Mercedes CLK is so refined and elegant in road manners and performance it is difficult to beat. Add the AMG package and you can take four people on a ride that borders on unbelievable. It would take a professional driver in a sports car to pull away from you. That aside, we do find the Mercedes E Class the most improved here. It is a return to quality and it so vastly improved over the previous model it is difficult to believe the same company built them. We also recommend you wait for the new C sedan which may make even larger quality strides over the previous model.

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder is bigger, badder, and better than the trouble prone previous model. It is fun to drive and has a serious side, too. We have not tested the Gallant, but it can’t help but be a better vehicle than the older model.

Pontiac’s G5 is new and priced under $15,000. However, we still have not been able to test it. We expect it to be of merit in price terms alone.

Suzuki’s XL-7 and SX4 are so much different than what Suzuki previously offered that it is difficult to believe they came from the same manufacture. The larger XL-7 has a nice ride, an abundance of room and seating for seven, and enough power to master most situations. However, what caught our attention was the cheerful SX4 with it French exterior design and utility and unheard of pricing starting at $15,000. Fun to drive, a little underpowered, the SX4 is certainly highly recommended by The Car Family. Suzuki would be fourth in our most improved manufacture competition.

Toyota’s Camry is the best new product from this all-winning company. However, the previous model was excellent too and so we found that outside of the exterior styling and some performance improvements Camry would simply be holding its own despite the hybrid option. We believe that Toyota is one of the most press friendly companies in the world and the results have paid off for it as they have rolled off winning product after winning product. The new Camry is no exception. The Yaris replaced the Echo and both suffer in terms of ride and performance. For the same money we much prefer the Scion line or recommend the terrific Corolla. Hard to lose with Toyota and our favorite is the RAV4. It a winner and clearly the best of the crossover SUVs at this point in time.

Volkswagen’s Rabbit is essentially the same as the previous model in many ways, but is a more refined vehicle. Despite this the Rabbit is expensive for what it offers and lacks both power and fuel mileage that the competition offers.

We have not tested any new Volvos and are waiting for the convertible at this moment. It has to be better than the older model.

Family conference: Although we need to test a few more models it is clear that Nissan and Saturn have produced some significant new models that should help them rebound in terms of sales. Other manufactures that have brought new vehicles to market that are much better than the previous ones are Kia/Hyundai and Suzuki. Regardless of which type of family oriented vehicle you are interested in, these represent the best we could find. With that in mind we highly recommend the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Saturn Aura, Suzuki SX4, Dodge Caliber, Hyundai Entourage, and the most notable.

For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com and click on business.

Toyota’s gas sippers: Camry, Hyrid, RAV, Yaris, and Sienna
By The Car Family

For more vehicle reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/new/carreviews/index.html

For free teaching links for parents and students go to http://www.reacheverychild.com

Toyota continues to impress us with its ability to build vehicles that are highly serviceable, handy, and excel at extracting extra mileage from every liter of fuel. Since we have tested the Prius several times we can safely say it is the best vehicle of its kind to provide economic transport for a family, but this review isn’t about that hybrid leader. What we wanted to know is how well Toyota was doing with its more mainstream offerings. We tested the new RAV-4, the base Sienna van, the new Yaris three door, and both the hybrid Camry and base LE. And, in the end, we were absolutely shocked that our favorite was the RAV-4. But more about that later.

First, we need to explain what we tested. There was the Yaris, Toyota’s new price leader that is replacing the Echo. The problem is that in those areas where the Scion is available the Yaris offers little that is different in terms of economy and cargo. In addition, the small Yaris doesn’t even get better gas mileage than the soon to be replaced Corolla.

Secondly, we took the new Camry hybrid for a week of mixed driving and compared it to the four-cylinder LE Camry. The difference in price was significant, but the hybrid is the future even if The Car Family would pass on it for their personal use. We averaged 20 percent better fuel economy with the hybrid. You can figure it would take about five years to make up the difference between the hybrid and the LE, but high resale values for the hybrid could well reduce that estimate.

The Sienna van is excellent at being a transport vehicle that enjoys going a long way on a gallon of fuel. It was spacious, parked in tight spaces, and was well priced.

Finally, we got a fairly well loaded RAV-4 with all wheel drive. At first we felt it was noisy with seats that needed more padding, and it had that rear tire hanging off the tailgate that we dislike. However, we were surprised when the very powerful V6 engine gave us some of the best gas mileage figures we have ever recorded for any SUV, let alone an all wheel version.

Before we get into the personal choices one area where Toyota does not lead is in interior design and stereo quality. Each of the vehicles looked like they were done not to be offensive. Even Toyota’s show piece, the hybrid, was conservative in style with only a few small chrome emblems indicating its nature.

Mom’s view:
The Toyota Sienna was the most enjoyable to drive. It had a lot of wind noise, though, and the placement of the transmission shifter took a while to get used to as it resides at the bottom of the dash. The excellent blue lighting of the gauges made it the easiest to read of all the cars and it was just relaxing to drive with its amazingly maneuverability. The 21-gallon tank made for 400-500 mile journeys possible without filling up. A downside is that some Sienna vans had a problem with the struts holding up the back hatch. So we recommend the electric opening option, as the new struts are very difficult to pull down if you are less than 5’3”. The Yaris just didn’t have enough storage areas and the base model wasn’t any less expensive than well-loaded coupes and sedans from the competition. I like the Corolla much better. The RAV-4 was awesome. It did everything well, had a very low liftover height and a handy cargo net that was anchored above the cargo bay floor. Great fuel mileage, too, but it had the spare tire mounted on the rear making it difficult to open and close on hills and its exposed location could add additional expenses should the RAV get hit in back. The Camry was nice, is priced above the competition. The hybrid was very well loaded, but I liked the Prius so much better I would go that route and save at least a few thousand.

Dad’s view:
The Sienna is getting long in the tooth and the new Kia van is nearly as competent at less cost. The Camry was very good. We had the base model and it performed well with excellent fuel mileage and a fairly comfortable ride. The Yaris just didn’t have what I liked is a small car and that is great handling and exceptional fuel mileage. The hybrid was $30,000 (US) and some dealers were asking for more than the MSRP. After driving it we wonder why. Certainly, it is the best combination of in town and highway gas mileage and cargo space, but at its best it only gets about 20 percent better fuel mileage than the base Camry and costs thousands more. Unless you drive over 20,000 miles a year you may want to think about it some more. My favorite was the RAV-4 and I hate most SUVs. What won me over was its ease of operation, magnificent visibility, and great engine. The V6 had plenty of poke and only cost a few hundred extra a year over the base Camry. It handled fairly well, and outside of the Subaru Forester turbo it can pretty much dominate the stoplight scene for SUVs, especially considering that it costs under $30,000 (US).

Possibly employed young male’s view:
I loved the Camry hybrid. It was so fun watching the readouts of the fuel mileage and even being able to ease over 40 mile per gallon on the highway. In town my only concern was the high seat backs and trunk that hindered visibility, especially if you are short. I also wonder about the cost of a replacement battery pack when the eight years of expected life passes. Thus, I would lease this car if I could get a realistic payment. The base Camry was okay, but the Hyundai Sonata is just as good if not better in terms of handling. The RAV-4 would be my second choice because it did everything well, but don’t expect anyone to ride long in the alleged third row of seating. It is also fairly expensive considering the competition and the fact Honda CR-V is going to be all new next year. Parking was a breeze in the RAV and the higher seating gave me a clear view of the road. The Sienna, once my most admired van, has not done well with age. Although the rear storage compartments are useful, there really isn’t anything exceptional here and, when fully loaded, these vans can cost over $40,000 (US). The Yaris was my last selection and it could have moved higher if we had the sedan version. The two-door coupe was very plain and the handling not up to the Honda Fit.

Family conference: Putting into place cost, maintenance, insurance, resale, usable room, crash test results, and fuel mileage the leader is the Camry hybrid, but not by much. The RAV-4 and the LE Camry also did very well. If the Yaris offered more living room or better fuel mileage it would be a consideration. Finally, the Sienna van, one of our past favorites, didn’t do nearly as well this year as previously. In the end it appears that Toyota’s pricing is edging up making it a less attractive bargain than before and we know this well as our grandparents bought one of the first Toyota station wagons in the nation. However, Toyota’s quality reputation, good resale, and non-offensive styling keep sales above average as well as its gas sipping offerings. If you are interested in good gas mileage you might also consider the new Corolla due next year or a good deal on this year’s model. For a full list of vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com and click business.

Yearly

Gas Mileage Fuel cost(US) max.range cargo room (cu.ft.)

Carmy hybrid average 37 $1200 600 10

Camry four-cylinder average 26 $1700 650 15.5

RAV-4 six cylinder 24 $1900 450 37

Sienna van average 21 $2200 450 43

Yaris automatic average 32 $1270 400 12