Honda


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

Best 2013 SUVs for Gas Mileage

by The Car Family

For more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

 First, SUVs by their nature are not fuel frugal. They are heavy and have a significant wind drag. Some manufacturers have even gone so far as to put larger gas tanks in them to provide the illusion that you are getting better mileage because the fuel gauge is slower to move. However, fuel weighs 8.6 pounds per gallon and thus the added weight diminishes mileage as well.

 Furthermore, SUVs are not as safe as minivans in most cases due to their height. Indeed SUVs are involved in more single vehicle accidents. That being said, If you really need a SUV there are some that get reasonable mileage.

 Our strongest recommendation is for what is called a crossover, which means it was built on a passenger car frame. Next, unless you travel frequently in inclement weather, two wheel drive provides better mileage and less maintenance. If you may need to carry six or eight passengers the three row SUVs are obviously your choice, but take the time to see how difficult it is to get into that third row.

 Combining price, mileage and family friendlessness we have come up with our top 15. This is the list of the best SUVs under $50,000 and almost all of them run on regular fuel.

 BMW X1 is a good handling, handy sized SUV that gets 24 mpg city / 33 mpg hwy and has a MSRP of $30,650. If it fits, a best buy for those who want a bit of fun in their daily treks.

 The Buick Encore is a good value, with lots of standard features, this Buick is a quiet ride, very sedate, and offers a rating of 25 mpg city / 33 mpg hwy for a MSRP: $25,010.

The Chevrolet Equinox/ GMC Terrain have excellent cargo space and a host of available safety features. Plenty of poke for a MSRP: $25,800 and 22 mpg city / 32 mpg hwy.

Redone for 2013, the Escape is listed with a MSRP: $22,470 and rated at 22 mpg city / 31 mpg hwy. Ford does not allow us to tests it vehicles so we can’t offer insights into its family usefulness. For the same money or less you can get a none hybrid SUV with better fuel figures.

Basically the same as last year, the 21 mpg city /30 mpg hwy rated Ford Edge is listed at a MSRP: $34,940 and is closely related to the Lincoln MKX. Again, Ford does not allow us to test its vehicles so we can’t offer any opinion. The pricing puts it in the near luxury category. Check Ford’s reliability record first.

The 2013 Honda CR-V has a MSRP: $24,795 and its four-cylinder engine yields a 23 mpg city / 31 mpg hwy average. Sadly, Honda, as Ford, does not allow us to test its products and so we can’t comment on this SUVs usefulness. However, in the past it has been a good value. We do know that the Toyota RAV has been redone and gets the same or better fuel mileage at a slightely lower suggested price.

 We love Hyundai vehicles for their value, warranty, and features and the Tucson is no exception. There are well thought out design ideas everywhere and the base price is $20,245. Be warned that you must come to the dealer having done your homework because there are several models and numerous features. Gas mileage ratings of 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy

The 2013 Kia Sorento is being built in the USA and is a big seller. Why? Lots of interior room, features, and a MSRP: $26,950 are some, but the 21 mpg city / 30 mpg hwy is just as important.

 Kia’s Sportage has a list price under $20,000 and a 20 mpg city / 27 mpg hwy rating. If you order the turbocharged engine expect less.

Here is a winner with a starting price in the low $20,000 range and the Mazda CX-5 compact crossover segment is rated between 31 – 35 mpg, bettering the hybrids. Lots of options so do your homework and don’t expect V8 performance or towing capability.

 We like the well priced Mitsubishi Outlander Sport with its 25 mpg city / 31 mpg hwy averages and a base price in the law $20,000s. This is an outstanding handling SUV and should be on your consideration list if there is a dealer in your area. Surprisingly nimble.

 Ford’s Escape Hybrid used to be among our favorites, but it is has a totally different feel and pricing from $30,570. For that you get a top ten fuel efficient SUV with a city average of up to 34 mpg and a highway rating about 31. There are a lot of non-hybrids that get have the same mileage rating and have a lower starting price. The Escape is bigger in every way.

 Lexus RX 450 is expensive, but worth it with high resale, excellent reliability and a tremendous number of luxury features for the $46,310 to $47,710 listed price. You can achieve about 32 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. Easily the best luxury SUV for gas mileage, features, and user ratings. If you want something less costly and with fewere fringes try the Toyota Highland Hybrid with an overall 28 mpg rating and a price range that starts around $39,000. Both of these SUVs come with less expensive non-hybrid versions that average about 22 mpg.

The Mini Countryman isn’t really a SUV in the traditional sense. It is smaller, lighter on its feed, and a lot more fun to drive and park. Prices range from $20,000 to $34,850 and you can easily achieve 30 mpg and more if you can restrain yourself. Yes, all wheel drive is available.
The Nissan Juke is a sporty crossover that looks a bit strange, but that is its charm. As well as a 29 mpg average and a starting price just under $20,000. Very fun to drive and no slouch in terms of performance.

Mazda’s CX-5 lists from $20,995 to $28,595 and you can average 30 mpg in mixed driving without much effort. A good handling machine, as are most Mazdas, this Mazda costs less, handles better and gets superior gas mileage to the Ford Escape hybrid. It does not have the same cargo space. If you are serious about gas mileage, this is the one.

Don’t underestimate the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and its that can get around 27 mpg in mixed driving. This SUV is both fuel efficient, enjoyable to drive, and a bargain with a starting price under $19,000. Great deals abound.

Also among the most efficient SUVs and another bargain, the Hyundai Tucson with its base engine and starting price of just over $19,000 can get you government gas mileage ratings of 23 City/31 Hwy. A tough crossover, this Hyundai has an excellent warranty and has plenty of features.

Subaru XV Crosstrek lists for $21,995–$24,495 and offers all wheel drive while still getting government ratings of 23 to 33 in city and highway driving. If you want more room and have a can spend a little more money try the Subaru Outback with a combined 26 mpg.

Toyota RAV4 24 miles per gallon city, and 31 mpg on the highway cycle with front-wheel-drive models and a starting price about $24,000. This is an all new vehicle and it is undercuts the Honda CR-V on pricing and beats it on gas mileage. If you don’t test these two back to back you are making a big mistake if you are in the market for a name brand crossover.

There you have it. Our recommendations are simple. The Chevrolet offers the best fuel mileage and interior room for the price. The Mazda products are fun and get excellent gas mileage, and the Lexus RX 450 is the Queen of this list. As for the new BMW X1, it could be your best bet if you watch your options and don’t need the interior space of the larger vehicles on this list. If you need all wheel drive the Subarus are a great choice.

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

New for 2011 and Notable

by The Car Family

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

There are a lot of changes for , but most involve tidying up existing models and a shot of adrenaline here and there to get a tinkle from the buying public. However, there are a few that might create a rash on your credit limit with great fuel mileage, family oriented designs and speed limit challengers.. As always, with The Car Family, we disclose what we own so as not to hide any bias. In the fleet are an Oldsmobile, Saab, Lexus, and Mercedes.

Acura TSX Sport Wagon is a glamourized Honda Accord wagon with a 2.4-liter 204-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. A good choice for the family that doesn’t want the stigma of driving a mini-van.

Aston Martin Cygnet is difficult to portray. It has a very upgraded interior, trademark front and rear treatments, and a smallish engine producing just enough thrust to make it a little fun. Priced in the near luxury range. Sort of cute.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage has a gas hoggish 6.0-liter V12 engine with 510 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, and costs around $120,000. Aston Martin also is offering a four door sedan. The Rapide is expensive, fuel swilling, and beautiful. They won’t let family oriented writers test it so we can’t offer any opinion on its real life virtues.

Audi is on a hot streak. They have a good product and treat the family press fairly meaning that aren’t afraid of you learning the truth. That said, the Audi A7 Sportback is coming and it should redefine the segment. The stunning RS5 is already being sold elsewhere and could be an instant classic. The Audi A8 gets a new look, but for families we much prefer the Q5. We recently tested the A4 and felt it was the equal to the 3 Series BMW, but better looking. Great fuel mileage, too.

Bentley has become arrogant with their dealings with family oriented reviewers. In the past they were bargains, but lately they just added more horsepower, a few tidbits to attract conspicuous consumption crowd. The sedan is family friendly, but the gas mileage isn’t. If you can afford the, payments, insurance and fuel, the sedan is a good used vehicle to consider as they depreciated quickly. The Mulsanne is new and can be yours for $300,000. The Continental GTC Supersports Convertible has 621 horsepower and is very fast. If you have the $300,000 this might be the convertible to own and express your support of the British worker and German owner.

BMW X1 is a small SUV built on the 3-Series platform. s should be in the mid $30,000 range. How different it will be from the X3 remains to be seen, but it could be more nimble and quicker.

BMW ActiveHybrid 7 combines a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine and an electric motor for excellent performance while getting about 20 mpg in a very large car. To save on gas you must first pony up over $100,000

We always liked the Buick Regal. It was comfortable, rode well, and gave us good economy and reliability. It wasn’t fun, but it was ready when you were. Buick has brought back the Regal and gave it some European DNA from its Opel line. The power is probably going to be the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 184 horsepower and GM’s excellent 6-speed automatic transmission. Note, fans of the lamented Grand Nationals, the the lightweight Regal might make an excellent fit for a turbocharged engine. The base model is probably going to be in the low-$20,000 range.

The CTS Coupe could be the flagship for Cadillac. It looks good and there is no reason to believe that it isn’t going to be available with engines from mild to wild. Prices should start under $40,000.

Far more practical, and if well marketed it could be a surprise hit for Chevrolet, is the Cruze with a price in the mid-teens. Chevrolet is going to plant a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine in this price leader with an optional higher output unit available. Look for gas mileage in the 30 mpg range in daily driving.

Chevrolet Camaro Convertible is a reinforced version of the Camaro now on sale. With pricing expected to be in the area of $30,000 this could ignite the pony car war between Ford and Chevrolet again. Power for the Camaro should be the potent 3.6-liter 304-horsepower V6 and the gas 19 mpg, 6.2-liter 426 horsepower V8.

Chevrolet Volt has oozed press for two years so it better be good or else. This extended-range hybrid is said to be capable of going 40 miles on just battery power and uses a small internal combustion engine to recharge the batteries and additional power. Look for tax incentives to help build interest for this $40,000 White Knight.

 Chrysler 200 is the new Sebring, which could be a good thing. The new look sedan would include a variety of powerplants and a sharper image. Engine choices should be fairly conservative with a four cylinder and V6 as the motivators. Prices probably be in the low $20,000 arena.

 Chrysler’s 300 is a big seller and the company has cleaned up the previous models Bentley like stance and snow plow front end with a much sleeker style. The possibility of a V6 with nearly 300 horsepower would make sense, but there is still the Hemi to consider. Look for prices in the mid-$20,000 range.

 

Dodge Charger is slightly tidied up both outside and in with the “Pentastar” 3.6-liter engine the main force. The 5.7-liter HEMI V8 will return with cylinder deactivation technology available. All wheel drive is also offered with prices in the mid-$25,000 ballpark.

 Dodge Durango is an old fashioned big, heavy SUV. Look for a price around $30,000 and a large interior with three rows of seating. Probably not good on fuel and probably not swift with the base 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine. If you want to haul order the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine.

 Ferrari’s 599 GTO is priced at $460,000 and up. For that you get 6.0-liter V12 front mounted engine driving the rear-wheels with a top speed over 200 mph. You also get a happy car insurance sales person.

We have never liked the crude ride and problematic of the Ford Explorer and we hope this nearly $30,000 new version well erase those images from our mindset with better its fuel economy and sharper handling. Since we think highly of the newish Ford Flex and Edge we know Ford is up to the task. The Explorer is going to be powered by the same engines as the others with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder a possibility.

Ford Fiesta. This is probably the best small car Ford has ever produced. It is youth oriented with colors and interior treatments that appeal to young drivers. A 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with 120 horsepower should enable the lightweight Fiesta to earn 38 mpg credentials. Not bad for about $14,000.

Honda CR-Z Hybrid is a sporty coupe with gas mileage figures of 39 mpg. We would have loved this car with just a gas engine, but Honda has brought into this world an interesting alternative. The problem is that the extra weight takes away some of the fun. Still, this is a car for those who love to drive and are frugal. The 1.5-liter 122-horsepower gasoline engine coupled to Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist is enjoyable for $19,000

The Honda Odyssey has been recognized as a superior minivan for years, but it never had the utility of the Dodge and Chrysler vans. This all new version is sporty looking inside and out and the engine has even better gas mileage squeezed out of it. The 3.5-liter V6 engine comes with 248 horsepower and is rated at 28 mpg on the road. That is awesome, considering its size. Look for a base version with a 5-speed automatic to start around $28,000 and the shinier model, with a 6-speed automatic, to push well into the $30,000 range with any sort of options. All new look should draw customers.

The Equus is a truly big gamble from Hyundai as it moves this Korean manufacture into the luxury car segment by offering a $50,000 plus sedan with a potent 385horsepower V8 engine and features aplenty. Is this the right car at the right time remains a question, but there is no question that Hyundai is on a winning streak.

 Hyundai Elantra is a very economical vehicle that has good looks, good gas mileage, and a good warranty. It is probably the biggest sleeper in the under $15,000 segment, and if you want they are even offering a base model for less. The car’s fuel mileage rating of 38 mpg comes from its 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower. A well priced commuter car, family car, second car, and go to college car.

The Hyundai Sonata is priced under $20,000 and for that you get one of the better equipped cars in this market segment that is usually dominated by cars from Ford and Japan. The Sonata is sharp looking and its 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine makes an outstanding 198 horsepower. You can also order a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine or hybrid, but the base engine is our favorite.

 Infiniti IPL G Coupe is a vehicle that frankly surprises us. Not so much its performance, which should be good with a 348 horsepower 3.7-liter V6 engine, a stern suspension and better brakes, but why pay more when the G Coupe is nearly as good in all ways? Anyway, Infiniti is now bringing a performance based niche vehicle to market for about $45,000 and that should appeal to early adopters eager to test the performance of Infiniti’s IPL arm.

 The Infiniti G25 is an attempt by Infiniti to expand its market to those who love the handling and interior appointments of the more expensive G37, but don’t need the extra horsepower or cost. Call it the base Infiniti as it is priced about $30,000. Gas mileage figures to average around 24 mpg on premium fuel for the 2.5-liter V6 with 218 horsepower powerplant.

Well now, Infiniti has redone its powerful M sedan and made it slicker and a bit nasty with an available 3.7-liter V6 engine creating 330 horsepower or a ground pounding 5.6-liter V8 with 420 horsepower. Even with a new 7-speed automatic transmission both versions will be hard pressed to get 20 mpg in mixed driving. Prices should be in the mid-$40,000 range. The luxury car field has never been more compelling.

And there is the Jaguar XJ with its slick exterior and interior and two potent engines to tempt your driver’s license points. The 5.0-liter V8 engine has 385 horsepower and the supercharged version produces about 510 horsepower if you go with the Supersport option. Why not. Priced just south of $70,000.

Jeep Grand Cherokee is a big gamble for Chrysler. This is a core product in its line-up and one that must be good to keep the company from doing Yugo. The interior is sharp, the drivetrain includes a strong 3 .6-liter V6 engine making 290 horsepower, a goodly amount of cargo room, and much improve ergonomics. Everything has been improved including a “Selec-Terrain” feature that allows drivers to choose from five pre-programmed settings depending on road conditions. The optional 5.7-liter V8 ups the towing capacity to 7,400 pounds. Easily the best Grand Cherokee ever and priced around $30,000.

For ten grand less you can order the new Jeep Wrangler with a much improved interior and ride. Everything is better, but the design is still unique so not to disappoint the clientele.

The Kia Optima is a looker, no kidding. This sub-$20,000 sedan is loaded with standard features and comes with two new and interesting powerplants this year. A turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and a hybrid option could make Civic owners a little shy.

Kia has also upgraded its Forte by offering a 5-Door. You can order this sharp looking, well under $20,000 bargain with a a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 156 horsepower or a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 176 horsepower and more motor choices are possible.

 Kia’s Compact SUV is the Sportage and this year it sharper all around. The
2.4-liter 176-horsepower 4-cylinder engine is economical and frisky and its priced just over $18,000.

For a couple of grant more you can order the new Kia Sorento with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine or the 276-horsepower 3.5-liter V6.

We loved the Toyota Supra, but the Lexus LFA is no Supra, especially priced at $375,000. Of course, the LFA is other worldly when in comes to Toyota as the car has carbon-fiber bodywork, a V10 engine with 552 horsepower, and you can only lease them.

 Lexus CT 200h is an interesting consideration. The hybrid hatchback uses a 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder hybrid engine mated to a continuously variable transmission. Look at it as a sporty Prius. Priced under $30,000.

The Lincoln MKX is a crossover that uses a potent 3.7-liter V6 with 305 horsepower and improved suspension and a plethora of luxury items to entice SUV buyers. Priced just under $40.000.

Lincoln’s MKZ Hybrid is really worthwhile with a staggering fuel mileage estimate of over 40 mpg in town and 36 on the road. The engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid and is combined with an electric motor to create 191 horsepower. This could easily be the car of the year for about $34,000.

Lotus Elise is the ultimate niche vehicle trying to emerge from that niche. They are offering a wider range of engines, including a supercharged version and there are hints the company might be experimenting with more environmentally friendly versions of this lightweight flyer which would be a good idea because these are not high mpg vehicles despite their size. The SC is the fastest version with 0 to 60 times under five seconds. Of course, handling well be outstanding and a new ABS promises superior braking.

Lotus Evora is new with a 2+2 passenger cabin that offers more room without sacrifising zip. Lotus is planning on bringing out five models this year all great handling, sleek, and fast.

What, an even smaller Mazda? Yep, the Mazda2 is a basic economy car with a 1.5-liter 100-horsepower 4-cylinder engine with fuel economy in the 32 mpg range. Priced under $14,000.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet is a four-seat convertible with a well insulated power soft-top and either a 5.5-liter V8 engine with 382 horsepower or a 3.5-liter V6 with 268 horsepower. Priced under $60,000. Not much completion in this price range for a topless touring car.

Gullwing doors are back and the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG has them as well as our favorite bad boy engine, the 6.3-liter V8 with its 563 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. If you can afford
$185,000 or so, this might even be looked at as an investment.

 A Big MINI, the Countryman is a sort of cute utility vehicle with all wheel drive and room for five, sort of. Could be a good value, but at $30,000 it might be a rare sight on the road. Engine choices probably the same as the MINI.

Another all electric vehicle is coming in the form of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. This car has been for sale elsewhere and so should be well proven. It can go 80 mph but that will probably cut down on its expected range between charging of 80 to 100 miles. A long charging time may slow sales of this $30,000 sedan.

 Mitsubishi’s Outlander Sport comes with front-wheel drive or all wheel drive and can be ordered with a continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters. The upscale SE comes with automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated front seats, cruise control, upgrade stereo, and a keyless entry system. The base engine is a four cylinder making 148 horsepower for about $19,000.

 Nissan Leaf is electric, in case you haven’t heard. The 80 kilowatt electric motor can push this sedan to 90 mph, although the expected range of 100 miles well be diminished. As with all electric passenger vehicles, look for a federal tax credit to help defray the cost and that could be worth $7,500 on the $33,000 early adapter.

Its no Juke, Nissan is bringing to market yet another SUV. This one is smaller and unique in its styling. It rides high, has five doors, and should be rambunctious with a 180-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. Priced under $20,000.

 The Quest minivan from Nissan is going to challenge the Honda Odyssey for looks, attitude, and performance. Look for a sharp exterior, the potent 3.7 V6 engine and power everything. It will probably handle better, but not have as many family friendly features as the Chrysler.

Saab is back, thankfully. This is a great name in the industry and deserves a fresh look. The
9-5 has a chopped like top, and looks very modern. Engines should continue to be the same with a fuel sipping and plenty fast turbocharged four cylinder with 180 horsepower and a 2.8-liter V6 with 300 horsepower. Pricing is just under $50,000. This could be another cult car just as the older 9-3 hatchback and the 2006 anniversary edition convertible.

Scion iQ is a small car that Toyota is bringing to market to do battle with those interested in fuel mileage and basic transportation with a flair. The 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine is attached to a continuously variable transmission. Look for fuel mileage in the 40 mpg plus range and prices to start well under $14,000.

smart fortwo is adding to its offerings with an all-electric model and a fortwo+2 with a rear seat and four doors. Prices should be under $15,000 and that’s a lot of cute for the money.

 Suzuki Kizashi Sport has a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and a sport-tuned suspension and it is sharp handling. With 185 horsepower and a manual transmission this could be fun for under $24,000

 As always, the Toyota Avalon is simply a Lexus in disguise. It looks sharper now and is more streamlined. The 3.5-liter V6 engine with 268 horsepower is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission tuned for obedience and not free spirits. Should be priced under $33,000 so not to step on the toes of the Lexus ES 350.

 All new, sort of, the Toyota Sienna looks like the previous version that has gone through a frugal modernization. We like the look and the many trim levels that enables a family to select the model that suits their needs. There is still an all wheel drive option. The base engine is fine if you don’t load it up and head for the mountains as its 2.7-liter 187-horsepower 4-cylinder is stout. The 3.5-liter 266-horsepower V6 is an option. Prices start around $25,000.

 Volkswagen’s Jetta is a bargain at under $17,000. A bit larger, but with the some of the same engine selections as the current Jetta, this model seems aimed at the family on a budget. The more you pay for the Jetta the larger the engine. Expect the fuel-economy to be in the mid-26 mpg range for most powerplants.

Volkswagen Beetle is new. In fact so new that we can only surmise it well be larger, quicker, and hopefully, quirkier. It should be priced well under $20,000 unless you want a hotter version. Worth the wait if this is your meat.

 Volkswagen Touareg is a real off road SUV. This model can be ordered with a hybrid drivetrain that can create 375 horsepower while still delivering over 23 mpg in mixed driving. In reality, this is a superior vehicle to the Porsche Cayenne and costs less.

 Volvo is now owned by a Chinese company, but they would be foolish to change the safety image that this marque has nurtured over the years. The S60 is a good looker and can be ordered with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6 making 300 horsepower. Pricing should be well below $40,000, but the safety features make it well worth it for a family. Volvo is a class leader when it comes to pedestrian safety as well and some models actually stop the car when a person is detected in front of the vehicle.

 Tall Station Wagons: Toyota versus Honda

by The Car Family.

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

 Toyota, Honda, and to some extent BMW have created a new niche for consumers and that is the tall station wagon. In an effort to avoid shattering the stigma of driving a minivan or a SUV, these companies have repurposed their Camry and Accord sedans and created expensive, feature laden people movers.

 The Toyota Venza and the Honda Crosstour are really just a new generation of station wagons that provide that higher seating position and available all wheel drive that carve into gas mileage, but are talking points at dealerships. The price of the Accord Crosstour, available only with a V6, starts around $30K and a similarly equipped Toyota Venza not much less. So pricing is similar, although a vast array of options can drive prices up considerable. You can expect to pay $30,000 with a couple of options for either model and since we highly recommend order ever piece of safety equipment available on a new car that cost can top $35,000. You probably won’t get the money back for safety features when you resell, but one day in a hospital makes such equipment an insurance policy.              

Both of these vehicles are well loaded with features, but the key element is the size of the cargo bay. We loaded both of these and found the cubic feet measurement useless in real life packing. The Honda has a high liftover and the interior narrow. The Toyota was easier to load and had more usable room for some objects. In daily life we would go with the Toyota. If you haul longer items the Honda is the one to own. Most importantly, we like the Venza’s optional power rear hatch. Both vehicles have rear seats that have a 60/40 split and reasonably flat floors.

We took both of these vehicles on extended trips and quickly found that the Toyota was more family friendly and the Honda the most fun to drive. The Honda has a larger blind spot to the rear and side and the Toyota is more difficult to maneuver. The gas mileage was not as good as we expected with both the Sienna and Odyssey vans getting better figures. The EPA estimates for both models is in the high teens in town and about 27 on the road.

Mom’s view: Interior wise, both are adequate, but the Honda has many more little storage spaces and under the floor bins. Diving these it is obvious who their parents were as reflected by ride, performance and handling. I was won over by the Honda’s more connected suspension, but the gauges and many cockpit controls make it difficult to master. With time this won’t be a problem. The Toyota’s interior is interesting with its high-mounted shift lever, Lexus like elevated center console with storage with integrated electronic connections, and cupholders that are a bit too shallow for larger drinks. The Honda feels and looks much more upscale.

Both of our test vehicles had a V6. Toyota does offer a four-cylinder version, but it is a bit too weak when loaded with a family and traveling in mountains terrain. Both V6 engines make almost identical horsepower in the 270 range, but the Venza has six speed automatic transmission versus five for the Honda. The Toyota is quicker, but both cars get about 22 mpg in mixed driving and neither is going to cause you alarm when passing at legal speeds.

Safety wise both vehicles have multiple airbags, electronic stability control systems, and four-wheel antilock brakes. Both cars stop fairly quickly considering their bulk, but the Honda’s brake feel is better and the steering provides better feedback. Around town the Toyota is easier to park. We never recommend all wheel drive unless you live where inclement weather is a concern. The extra maintenance, insurance in some cases, and reduced fuel mileage make such an option questionable.

Overall, the Toyota is easily the most user friendly for a family, but it is so boring and pricy I just question why not get a nice Sienna minivan or RAV 4? The Honda was quite elegant and more enjoyable to drive. The GPS is easy to use except for the visibility problems is very easy to drive with a touch of fun. The larger rear cargo hold is a real plus thanks to the way Toyota has placed the rear struts very upright so you have a wider storage bay. The Honda’s struts and rear speakers take up too much room for wider loads to fit. The liftover height also makes it difficult for shorter people to load heavy objects.

    Crosstour

Dad’s view: These two are quite different and I recommend you test drive them back-to-back in situations you are most likely to use them such as around town and highways. I like the Honda due to its handling and more attractive interior. The place usually occupied by a spare tire has been turned into a storage area and the tire resides in a compartment under the car. The Venza has a panoramic glass roof option that extends over the rear seats. It lets in some heat and is essentially limited in use to those who like to stare at the sky or skyscrapers for long periods of time.

I drove both of these on mixed circuits and both had acceptable, if not boring, road manners. Neither is a ball of fire even when compared to their sisters, the Accord and Camry. But that isn’t the point with these tall wagons. They provide enough room, enough acceleration, enough stopping power, and enough interior room for me to classify them as good enough.

Young working woman’s view: The Toyota looks old and feels dated. The Honda is sportier looking and much more fun to drive. The Venza has 20-inch rims and tires that create a fair amount of tire slap. We like the idea of larger tires, but they don’t appear to help the cornering so what’s the point? Both the Venza and Crosstour are easy to get into when wearing a dress and are ideal for older people who don’t like to step up to a SUV.

Young working male’s view: The Active Sound Control system is very interesting in the Honda. It is said that it utilizes the audio system to detect and quiet introducing noise frequencies. I worked because the interior is very quiet considering the large interior space. The GPS on the Honda lets you input data while the vehicle is moving and is a easier to use. However, the screen is difficult to read in bright sunlight. Working for http://www.eracks.com making low cost, open sourced servers and computers I am very familiar with the use of technology and these two vehicles are fairly up to date. The problem is that the pricing for these two would indicate that they have a much more sophisticated audio system. Outside of pricing the Toyota is best for family hauling and the Honda for just hauling.

Family conference: None of these can replace a minivan for utility, but if you must have a tall station wagon each of these models has its forte. The Toyota is well equipped, soft riding, and gets fairly good gas mileage. The Honda handles well and has good build quality and is more fun to drive. On the other hand, restricted visibility to the sides and a slender cargo bay reduce its value. Speaking of which, both of these are priced dear so look for deals. For the list of vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

New Odyssey Raises the Bar

by The Car Family

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

The 2011 Honda Odyssey minivan  price (MSRP) ranges from $27,800 for the value-oriented Odyssey LX to $43,250 for the ultra-premium Odyssey Touring Elite, plus a destination and handling charge1 of $780 per model, according to American Honda Motor Company.

The interior includes a new “3-mode” second-row seat design with a total of five LATCH attachment points  and a one-motion, 60/40 split 3rd-row seat.

Honda states that the EPA highway fuel-economy rating of 28 miles-per-gallon (mpg) on Odyssey Touring, which is class leading especially since the 3.5-liter i-VTEC V-6 engine features Variable Cylinder Management  produces 248 horsepower. City mileage is at 19. The more expensive models get a six-speed automatic transmission and a five-speed automatic transmission.

New technology available on certain models includes a rear entertainment system with a 16.2-inch ultrawide split-screen display and an auxiliary High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) video input, an “intelligent” Multi-Information Display (i-MID) with customizable wallpaper, integration of FM traffic data on navigation models and much more. Thoughtful features have been added throughout like the available cool box, front bag hook, available flip-up trash bag ring and more. Available back-up camera and available conversation mirror continue to be offered.

An extensive list of safety equipment on every Odyssey includes a better body structure  that enhances occupant protection and crash compatibility in frontal collisions. Additional standard safety equipment includes  electronic stability control; anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist; three-row side-curtain airbags with a rollover sensor; driver’s and front passenger’s side airbags with passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS); dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags; and active front seat head restraints.

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

Prius vs. Insight: Battle of the Compact Hybrids

by

The Car Family

for a list of vehicle websites go to

http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

for more views go to

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

As much alike as these two Japanese products look, they are almost totally dissimilar in all aspects save that they are hybrids and get about average fuel mileage. The Honda Insight is good handling and less expensive. The Prius is larger and gets better fuel mileage. Go figure.

Prius

Prius

Insight

Insight

Because they are so different selecting one to buy is easy providing you know how you are going to use the sedan. For example, if you love to drive on two lane roads, aren’t too tall, have a slow commute, and seldom need to carry four people the Honda is ideal. It is a good handler, for a hybrid that is. On the other hand, if you want a bit more frisk from the accelerator pedal, more room, and the ability to travel the expressways welcome the Prius into your life.

The fuel mileage for both are fairly close in daily driving. We got about 50 mpg in mixed driving with the Toyota and about 45 with the Insight. Mind you, the Prius has a power button you press that enables you to combine the torque of the electric motors and engine to make it easier to pass and to pull on busy freeways and it is addicting. We found that both vehicles got nearly the same fuel mileage on the open highway with the more powerful Toyota achieving about two miles per gallon more.

The interiors of these rigs are very different. The backseat of the Prius has three more inches of legroom and it is much more comfortable to sit there. With the rear seats folded down the Prius has eight more cubic feet of storage space. In other words, by any stretch the Prius is more user friendly.

Prius dash

Prius dash

Insight dash

Insight dash

Price, on the other hand, clearly goes to the Insight. It is nearly $2000 less expensive even when loaded with options such as a navigation system. The cost cutting is evident in the interior materials as well as the less sophisticated hybrid system. There are two models, the EX and LX of which the former is the more well equipped model. With the more expensive models you get a stereo upgrade, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, vehicle stability assist and traction control, and alloy wheels. The top of the line EX with Navigation models adds Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with Voice Recognition, Bluetooth, HandsFreeLink, illuminated steering wheel-mounted audio, navigation and phone controls. Look for loaded models to cross the $25,000 barrier.

The Prius starts at nearly $23,000 and quickly escalates to over $29,000 loaded. There are four versions of the Prius, starting with the basic II. The basic model and Prius III, IV, and V all offer the same powertrain, but add a variety of features that are very interesting. You can have water repellent side windows (don’t ask), a GPS system that uses DVD and voice activation, a JBL stereo with four CD disc changer, XM radio with traffic updates, dynamic radar cruise control, intelligent parking assist, the solar roof package with sliding moonroof, a pre-collision system, LED headlamps, and 17-inch tires.

On the road neither car is quiet, but the tires and ride on the Honda are much more sporty. The Toyota’s tires followed every grove in the road and the steering wheel shook mightily at times. I attribute that to the tire choice. We had the optional larger tires. I would drive the PriusII, with its smaller ones and compare the two. Personally, even though we were the only automobile journalists who selected the Prius as family car of the year when it first came out and also when the newer version arrived, we found that the tire characteristics and noise levels on the 2010 models are really not to our liking. We would gladly pay a mile or two less for better handling footwear. No question, the Insight is the more sporty of the two.

Mom’s view: Safety wise the Prius has front, side, and head curtain airbags, active head restraints, ABS, a knee airbag, and electronic stability control. The Insight lacks the knee bag and only makes the stability control available on its more upscale EX model. Crash testing on the Honda has not been done yet, but the previous generation Prius results were good.

Driving these cars is best described as boring. Except for the playful use of the Power button in the Prius they were bland and appliance like inside and out. The less expensive Smart cars were more fun, but they didn’t get past that magic 40 mpg barrier. I felt more comfortable in the Insight and liked the seats better, but the cargo capacity of the Prius was very useful. Getting into Honda was more difficult for me as the Insight sits lower. Neither car has a make-up mirror that would meet the approval of anyone over the age of 15, but the glove compartments and other storage areas in the Prius were more useful. You don’t feel as if you are in a small car while driving either hybrid, but if you need to make quick moves the Honda’s steering is more sensitive.

From a mommy standpoint, the Prius makes more sense so I would choose the Toyota.

Dad’s view: So alike and so different continues our theme. The cars both have four cylinder engines, but the Toyota’s is much more powerful, if that’s the word. The Insight has an 88-horsepower, 1.3-liter engine and a 13-hp electric motor, for a total of 98 hp whereas the Prius boasts of a 1.8 liter engine with 98-horsepower and an 80-hp electric motor that yields 134 hp.

Prius engine

Prius engine

Honda engine

Honda engine

If all goes well, both cars can drive a limited amount of time on battery power, but they have different systems. The parallel design of the Honda insight versus the Parallel/Series design of the Prius. For the non-engineering types these mean little and a real life both do extremely well. At stop lights the both automatically shut down the engines except in temperature extremes where keeping the engines running is necessary for safety and creature comfort.

What enables the larger engined Prius to get better fuel mileage is that the Prius can move using just battery power and the Insight does not have this feature. It takes a very gentle touch to keep the Prius from starting the engine from a stop sign or light. The other feature is the larger engine does not have to work as hard and can produce useful acceleration at lower rpms. The Insight engine does have the ability to shut off its engine when coasting in some cases. The simplicity of the Insight’s system makes it less costly to produce and thus the less expensive pricing.

What we all treasured about the Prius was its driving mode buttons. You have a choice of Eco or Power and the Prius always starts in the Eco setting. There is also another fun button to press and that is the EV control. That enables the Prius to use only electric power when possible. In every traffic jam we used the EV and it gave us miles of quiet progress without using the gasoline engine. After 25 mph the Prius abandons the EV for the Eco setting.

The battery packs for both models should be good for many years and they utilize the more traditional nickel-metal-hydride cells. We have a lot of qualms about the new lithium ion batteries having extensive experience with them on our electric assist bicycles. They appear to be more efficient, but the longevity is what we question.

The handling on the Prius is improved with better aerodynamics and a better under tray that helps defuse the wind better. The Honda is much better and almost playful. On a smooth highway both vehicles are easy to drive, but you really need to plan your passing in advance as neither is going to flatten your innards. As much as I like the grown-up appeal of the Toyota, the tossable nature of the Honda is more to my liking. However, the Insight greatly needs another ten horsepower.

Young business woman’s view: The Insight troubles me. I love the Honda Fit and consistently achieve around 33 mpg. You get great handling, a lot of cargo room, and it costs less nearly $5000 less than an Insight. Of course, if your daily commute is well under 40 mph the Insight could save you on fuel. The Prius and the Insight looked so much alike, especially from the side, that I don’t think many people are even going to recognize the Insight. However, I liked the look of the Insight better, especially from the side and front, where it looked far more futuristic. Neither car appeals to me other than its “greenness” and to marvel at the gas mileage read out in the 40 to 50 mpg range. I would rather have a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Fit. Of course, if I had to choice between these two hybrids the Toyota would win mainly because it offers more room and I love its acceleration.

An interesting option on the Prius is the sunroof with a solar panel that generates electricity for running fans inside the car can help keep the interior cooler on hot days. You can also order leather surfaced seats and a GPS unit. Beware, if you do order this ensemble, the cost could top thirty grand. Talking with sales people at several dealerships I was surprised that the high line model was a big seller along with the model that is not the base, the model three. Apparently, the Prius has crossed over from trendy hybrid to nice compact sedan.

Both have good GPS systems, but the screens are small and they greatly add to the cost of both vehicles. The Honda’s was quicker to react and a touch easier to master. Parking was a cinch with the Prius with a turning radius of 34 feet, it was nearly two feet tighter than the Honda.

As for my choice, the Toyota was the winner. I would go with the Prius III, I don’t need all those extras on the fancier models, but do appreciate the larger tires and other features that Prius II does not have. The Insight was a nicer drive, but I like more power and room.

Young working male’s view: It might not sound like much, but the Insight only has a ten gallon tank. Although yields about 400 miles, the fact that the fuel gauge looks close to empty at just past 320 miles makes it unfun. Statistically, you have about a gallon in reserve and so each quarter of tank reflects a little over two gallons of gas. That does not bode well for confidence when traveling long distances. The other concern about the Insight is that it does not respond well to calls for acceleration at any time. It sort of leans forward more. It is not that getting onto a crowded expressway is so frustrating, it is passing in the mountains. Can you say VW bus? The stereo reception in the Prius is poor and the quality of the base unit disappointing. The Honda was slightly better, but clearly not great. As for the Prius, no one knew it was the new one. Even the color selection is dull and the interior selection is duller. As for babe magnets, I would say not a chance for either model. Would I buy one, nope. I like the Ford Fusion and Ford Escape hybrids better, but mainly what I would like to see is a Honda Element hybrid. If family impeded I would wish for the new Toyota Sienna van to have a hybrid version.

Prius engine control buttons

Prius engine control buttons

Family conference: The Prius continues to be our favorite and it is greatly improved over previous models. The Insight would be a star if not compared to the Prius. It is fun to drive, wonderfully entertaining, and steady on the highway. The tilting point was the Prius Power button that called on all of that Toyota technology into action and made you feel that you were sitting in a turbocharged vehicle. Most fun, and most for your money if you can lay off the sweet options. There is clearly a difference in these two vehicles that extends beyond similarities of shape and purpose. The Honda is clearly going to appeal to Honda owners with its ride and frugality. Just as clearly, the Toyota with its softer ride and more goodies is going to continue to attract previous Toyota owners. For those new to hybrids, the Toyota has the greater mainstream appeal.

Honda Insight                                             Toyota Prius

Engine 1.3 liters                                          1.8 liters

Horsepower 98 hp @ 5800 rpm    134 hp @ 5200 rpm

Torque 88 ft-lbs. @ 4500 rpm         105 ft-lbs. @ 4000 rpm

Tires P175/65R15 84S                          P195/65R15 V
Cargo Capacity 32 cu. ft.                   40 cu. ft.

City 40 mpg.                                               51 mpg.

Highway 43 mpg.                                   48 mpg.

Top range 456 mi.                                 571 mi.

Tank Capacity 10.6 gal.                   11.9 gal.

Length 172.3 in.                                   175.6 in.

Width 66.7 in.                                       68.7 in.

Height 56.2 in.                                     58.7 in.

Weight 2723 lbs.                                3042 lbs.

Wheel Base 100.4 in.                       106.3 in.

Front Headroom 38.4 in.             38.6 in.

Rear Headroom 35.9 in.               37.6 in.

FT. Shoulder Room 52.7 in.     54.9 in.

Re. Shoulder Room 50.4 in.     53.1 in.

Ft. Hip Room 51.6 in.                   52.7 in.

Re. Hip Room 48.7 in.                 51.2 in.

Front Leg Room 42.3 in.           42.5 in.

Rear Leg Room 33.5 in.             36 in.

Trunk Space 15.9 cu. ft.            21.6 cu. ft.

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.

04

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

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