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12 Great Family Cars for the Recession Page 3

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2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

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2010 Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan Hybrid

What is it? The gas-electric version of Ford’s mid-size sedans, newly restyled this year
Family values: Gas-saving hybrid powertrain comes with tax breaks; nicer interior with room for five; secure front-drive handling; good reliability history
Price range: $27,000 base

The 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrid sedans are new for this model year, and were worth the wait; Ford says the duo earns 41-mpg city fuel economy ratings, the highest in the mid-size sedan class (Toyota’s Prius rates 51/48 mpg for the 2010 model year). The new twins have revamped exteriors and refreshed interiors with Ford’s SYNC entertainment controller and navigation systems available. Since they’re new, the Hybrid sedans also come with a tax break for this model year; the pair has also amassed a good reputation for durability as measured by major consumer magazines. TheCarConnection.com rates the standard Fusion sedan at 8.8 out of 10.

Likes:
* More powerful AND more fuel-efficient
* SYNC audio/calling interface
* Improved interior quality and quietness
* Solid build quality

Dislikes:
* Rear seat-back release only in trunk
* Somewhat tight backseat

2009 Toyota Venza

2009 Toyota Venza

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2009 Toyota Venza

What is it? A crossover that shares some pieces with the Camry sedan
Family values: Tall-wagon shape; lots of head and leg room; reputation for reliability; available all-wheel drive and four-cylinder engine
Price range: $25,000 - $29,000 base

The 2009 Toyota Venza is the station wagon for Camry lovers—and those who don’t want to drive an actual “wagon.” A tall-roof crossover built from Toyota’s parts bin, the Venza looks intriguing and offers a pair of drivetrains that have proven to be reliable through the years. There’s no magic here—but the Venza works well enough as a family-transportation piece, and has options for all-wheel drive and a fuel-saving four-cylinder engine, too. The seats can feel flat, and the Venza’s no sportwagen, but it does offer a wide array of safety features and entertainment options like Bluetooth and satellite radio. The Venza is rated at 7.8 out of 10 by TheCarConnection.com.

Likes:
* Intriguing styling
* Tall-wagon versatility
* Available four-cylinder engine
* Available all-wheel drive

Dislikes:
* Cabin textures and trims
* Steering feel
* Road noise

2009 Saturn Aura Hybrid

2009 Saturn Aura Hybrid

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2009 Saturn Aura Hybrid

What is it? Saturn’s mid-size four-door—now with hybrid power
Family values: Easy access to the cabin; nicely styled cabin; smart handling; steep discounts
Price range: $26,200 - $24,000 base

By now you’ve heard: GM intends to shut down or spin off the Saturn brand this year. What this means right now are huge discounts on the entire Saturn lineup—and among its cars and crossovers, the Aura Hybrid sedan is a standout. The mileage benefits aren’t as sharp as some hybrids, but the Aura’s smart handling and clean styling come with a federal clean-car $1,550 tax break—on top of the deal you’ll strike with the dealer trying to empty lots of the new four-doors. There’s nothing to worry about for repairs in the medium term, as GM will honor all warranties even after Saturn leaves its orbit in three years. The 2009 Aura rates a 7.8 on TheCarConnection.com's scale of 10.

Likes:
* Clean styling
* Handsome interior
* Tax breaks for purchase

Dislikes:
* Minor interior quality quibbles
* Rear-seat bottom cushion

2009 Honda Accord

2009 Honda Accord

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2009 Honda Accord

What is it? The latest version of the best family car, ever
Family values: Roomy, high-quality cabin; better than average handling; V-6 power; resale value
Price range: $20,000 - $30,000 base

The Honda Accord is TheCarConnection.com’s highest-rated sedan, scoring 9 out of 10 on our scale—and it’s the fallback recommendation for any family looking for a four-door that fits all sorts of bills. The Accord’s reputation for reliability precedes it—and Accords fetch top dollar on the used-car market as a result. A two-door coupe is available, as is a powerful V-6. Handling is better than most vehicles in its class, and though the styling’s gone a little spacey, the Accord still feels richer and more highly finished than its competition.

Likes:
* Very quiet and well-isolated cabin
* Tight-as-a-drum build quality
* Big-sedan poise and good roadholding
* Wide price/equipment range to fit all budgets
* Long-standing reputation for reliability and high resale value

Dislikes:
* Exterior styling looks derivative
* Rear headroom limited by swooping roofline
* Fuel efficiency is good, but not improved


 
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