Kiplinger's Jessica Anderson breaks down the 2011 top picks for best cars for families. Best Cars for Families 2011
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Best Cars for Families 2011

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Which vehicles are best for families? The answer depends on your budget and the size of your family, of course. But here are nine recommendations we hope will help you narrow your choice.

Whether you are in the market for a midsize sedan, crossover, minivan or wagon, these vehicles meet our family-friendly tests, and score high in our annual rankings.

Each has a sticker price below $35,000 and respectable fuel economy. All did well in Kiplinger's road tests, have plenty of cargo space (for strollers and other gear) and have received positive reviews from parents. All vehicles also received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick designation -- meaning they get the top rating not only for front, side and rear crash tests but also for roof-strength rollover tests, and they have standard stability control. Traction control and six airbags are also standard on each.

Data comes from Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com (new vehicle data from 4/11/11; resale values from March/April 2011 Kelley Blue Book® Residual Value Guide).

Written by Jessica Anderson
Produced by Andrea N. Browne
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Best Cars for Families 2011 | Slide 2 of 10

Hyundai Sonata

Courtesy of Hyundai

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Sticker price:
$25,095 (SE 2.0T)

Invoice price:
$23,776

Resale value:
3 years: 48%; 5 years: 31%

MPG:
city: 22; highway: 33

Cargo space (cubic feet):
16.4


Hyundai's Sonata beat out the midsize sedan competition to earn Kiplinger's Best New Car award this year for an innovative redesign that's parent and kid-friendly.

The turbocharged SE 2.0T has the most horsepower in the segment and nimble handling for Mom or Dad. The back seat fits two child car seats easily, plus it has decent legroom and cup holders in the rear armrest.
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Best Cars for Families 2011 | Slide 3 of 10

Ford Fusion

Courtesy of Ford

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Sticker price:
$25,805 (SEL)

Invoice price:
$23,830

Resale value:
3 years: 44%; 5 years: 29%

MPG:
city: 23; highway: 33

Cargo space (cubic feet):
16.5


Ford's Fusion is a smooth-riding, sporty-handling midsize sedan with more cargo room than most in its class. The Fusion also has a spacious back seat with easy to locate Latch anchors, as well as an extra storage compartment in the dash.

The hybrid model ($29,100) can run on battery power alone up to 47 miles per hour and gets 41 mpg in the city, but the battery pack cuts trunk space to 12 cubic feet.
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Best Cars for Families 2011 | Slide 4 of 10

Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI

Courtesy of Volkswagen

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Sticker price:
$25,765 (manual)

Invoice price:
$24,765

Resale value:
3 years: 58%; 5 years: 40%

MPG:
city: 30; highway: 42

Cargo space (cubic feet): 32.8


The modest-size but still-roomy wagon is one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the market today, thanks to its clean-diesel powertrain.

Even when the price of diesel is north of $4 a gallon, you'll save $2,600 on fuel over five years versus the gas-engine model. Add an easy-to-access rear seat and a cargo area that fits all the kids’ gear, and small families are good to go.
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Best Cars for Families 2011 | Slide 5 of 10

Subaru Outback

Courtesy of Subaru

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Sticker price:
$29,220 (2.5i Limited)

Invoice price:
$27,455

Resale value:
3 years: 53%; 5 years: 35%

MPG:
city: 22; highway: 29

Cargo space (cubic feet):
34.3


Subaru's Outback grew to even more generous, family-friendly proportions with its 2010 redesign. Kiplinger's Best in Class wagon offers more rear legroom than any of its wagon peers, and its taller height makes installing safety seats easier.

The cargo area is roomy and comes with a removable tray to protect the carpet. The Outback is tops for resale value among wagons, too.
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Best Cars for Families 2011 | Slide 6 of 10

Toyota Highlander

Courtesy of Toyota

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Sticker price:
$29,505 (V6)

Invoice price:
$27,006

Resale value:
3 years: 50%; 5 years: 34%

MPG:
city: 18; highway: 24

Cargo space (cubic feet):
42.3


The Highlander's adjustable interior makes it a fabulous fit for families. Although the third row can be a bit cramped, the second row slides forward and aft depending on your legroom needs.

The center seat in the second row can be removed and stowed to create a walkway to the back seat. Or it can be replaced with a console that comes standard and adds more storage. Plus, rows two and three both fold flat.
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Best Cars for Families 2011 | Slide 7 of 10

Kia Sorento

Courtesy of Kia

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Sticker price:
$32,990 (SX)

Invoice price:
$31,025

Resale value:
3 years: 49%; 5 years: 31%

MPG:
city: 20; highway: 26

Cargo space (cubic feet):
37


Because the midsize Sorento switched from a truck-like body to crossover construction for the 2011 model year, it now has more-agile, car-like handling.

Its four-cylinder engine is new, as is its lower starting price. The third row of seats is perfect for little ones but not unbearable for adults; it’s optional on four-cylinder models and standard on V6 models.
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Best Cars for Families 2011 | Slide 8 of 10

Ford Flex

Courtesy of Ford

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Sticker price:
$32,775 (SEL)

Invoice price:
$30,705

Resale value:
3 years: 46%; 5 years: 31%

MPG:
city: 17; highway: 24

Cargo space (cubic feet):
43.2


Ford's Flex has love-it or hate-it boxy styling, but it has more second-row legroom than any vehicle in its class. This makes getting kids into car seats a snap and, for parents in the front, it makes getting kicked in the back of your seat a thing of the past.

All but the base model feature Ford's easy-to-use SYNC system for voice-activated entertainment, hands-free phone and turn-by-turn directions.
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Best Cars for Families 2011 | Slide 9 of 10

Chevrolet Traverse

Courtesy of Chevrolet

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Sticker price:
$32,675 (LT)

Invoice price:
$31,082

Resale value:
3 years: 47%; 5 years: 34%

MPG:
city: 17; highway: 24

Cargo space (cubic feet):
68.8


Do you want the space of a minivan, but not the stigma? Traverse fits the bill with sporty styling, plenty of legroom for up to eight, and killer cargo room -- nearly 70 cubic feet behind the second row.

And the second row slides forward so that parents in the front can more easily pass drinks and snacks to the little ones.
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Best Cars for Families 2011 | Slide 10 of 10

Honda Odyssey

Courtesy of Honda

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Sticker price:
$28,580 (LX)

Invoice price:
$25,976

Resale value:
3 years: 51%; 5 years: 32%

MPG:
city: 18; highway: 27

Cargo space (cubic feet):
93.1


The Best in Class winner in Kiplinger's annual rankings, the Odyssey is made with families in mind. Its third row has even more legroom than in rows one and two but still has 38 cubic feet of cargo room behind it.

The Odyssey boasts five sets of Latch anchors to fit five car seats at the same time (EX models and above), numerous compartments, cup holders galore, and even an on-board drink cooler on the EX-L and Touring models.
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