America’s in the midst of a deep recession--and no industry's suffered like the auto industry. Even so, the need for a new family car is still pressing on folks who may be readying for a new arrival, or ready to move out of a smaller car into one that’s more teen-friendly.
Which family car is the best for you? Most likely, you’re thinking of safety first—five-star ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a full complement of safety features. You might also be thinking beyond that box and beyond the typical family hauler. Maybe you want better styling than you’d typically get from a minivan—or a little more performance flair than you might find in one. A reliable history is important. And in financial times like these, your new vehicle has to be an outstanding deal.
TheCarConnection.com's uncovered 12 great choices for families among new 2009 models--vehicles that carry more than four adults economically while earning great safety ratings. There's not a minivan among them, either. These vehicles also deliver the flair that makes you forget responsibility, if only for a moment:
2009 Buick EnclaveEnlarge Photo
What is it? A seven-seat crossover vehicle introduced by GM in 2007.
Family values: Five-star safety ratings; powerful V-6 engine; usable third-row seat; high-quality interior with many entertainment and convenience features.
Price range: $32,000 - $37,000
The 2009 Buick Enclave continues a winning streak for GM’s premium family-car lineup. The big crossover vehicle is beautifully curved and looks decidedly upscale inside, while sporting a big V-6 engine and a six-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is available, and the Enclave seats seven, though adults will have some difficulty clambering into the way-back bench. TheCarConnection.com rates the Enclave at an overall score of 8.2 out of 10.
* Elegant exterior
* Luxurious, roomy interior
* Easier to live with than a full-size SUV
* Lots of standard features
* Clever options, liek heated windshield washers
* Disappointing fuel mileage
* Transmission “hunts”
* Hefty, at 5,100 pounds
2010 Volvo XC60Enlarge Photo
What is it? Volvo’s new mid-size crossover, based on its recent S80 sedan
Family values: Tons of safety equipment including the cutting-edge City Safety feature; sophisticated styling inside and out; standard all-wheel drive
Price range: $38,000-$45,000
The 2010 Volvo XC60 gives fans of the Swedish brand a great way to step down from the more expensive seven-seat XC90 sport-ute. The XC60 crossover seats five and is stylish inside and out, with a classic Scandinavian theme inside. Safety technology abounds, including a City Safety system that helps brake the car under 20 mph if an accident looms. A turbo in-line six is standard for now; less expensive, non-turbo versions are in the works, as is a front-drive version. TheCarConnection.com rates the XC60 at 8.2 out of 10, with high marks in safety and features.
* Attractive styling
* Well-trimmed interior
* Good handling and acceleration
* Poor fuel economy
* Lots of technobuttons
2009 Ford Flex SEEnlarge Photo
2009 Ford Flex
What is it? A big, bold seven-passenger crossover with a MINI Cooper-ish flair.
Family values: Big safety scores, big headroom, tons of entertainment features and available all-wheel drive.
Price range: $28,000-$36,000
The 2009 Ford Flex is one of the highest-rated family cars at TheCarConnection.com, rating 9 out of 10 with exceptionally high marks in safety and features. With V-6 power and available all-wheel drive, the Flex is a tall, roomy family wagon with three rows of seating in most versions. Seating even in the third row is adult-sized, and the Flex makes long trips a snap with features like an in-car refrigerator, a panoramic sunroof, and Sirius Travel Link, which feeds traffic, weather and even movie times into the car’s navigation/entertainment system. Even better, slow sales have forced Ford into heavy discounts; base versions normally priced at $26,000 can be had for far less.
* Against-the-grain styling
* Wealth of features
* First- and second-row seating comfort
* Tight headroom in third-row seat
* Uncomfortable headrests
* No telescoping steering wheel
2009 GMC AcadiaEnlarge Photo
2009 GMC Acadia
What is it? A seven-seat crossover that shares the Buick Enclave’s architecture but sports its own rugged style
Family values: Roomy seating; strong safety package; available all-wheel drive
Price range: $32,000-$41,000
The 2009 GMC Acadia’s a kissing cousin of the Buick Enclave—but the two couldn’t look less alike, the Acadia trading soft curves for straight lines and a more rugged style. The masculine shape carries over inside, where five adults and a couple of kids can ride comfortably for long distances. The Acadia receives good crash-test scores, and TheCarConnection.com’s experts give it an overall rating of 8.2 out of 10.