Top Five Affordable Family Cars

August 6, 2010

The economy is still sputtering its way out of the recession, and families on a budget will be looking to save money as they shop for new cars this fall. With that in mind, we take a look at five family vehicles that will appeal to the budget minded.

Before we start, a few rules. We are looking at all types of vehicles here, including SUVs and crossovers. We'll define affordable as under $30,000, and since many vehicles can start under $30K but cross the line with popular options, we are going to stick with vehicles that stay under the line in mid-line trim.

Here they are, in no particular order:

2011 Hyundai Sonata

2011 Hyundai Sonata

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1. 2011 Hyundai Sonata: No matter what trim--base GLS, sporty SE, or uplevel Limited--you choose, the Sonata can be easily had for under $30K. It also strikes a nice balance between fun and practical.

2010 Mazda MAZDA3 4-door Sedan i Sport

2010 Mazda MAZDA3 4-door Sedan i Sport

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2. 2010 Mazda 3: It's on the compact side, but it offers both sedan and hatchback variants, along with a fair amount of fun factor. There are a fair amount of features for the money, but there a few features missing. Still, for the money, the 3 allows you to choose practicality and not sacrifice sportiness, as long as your brood isn't too big.

2010 Kia Forte

2010 Kia Forte

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3. 2010 Kia Forte sedan: This competent new offering from Kia won't set hearts afire, and it faces stiff competition from Honda's ever-present Civic, but we give it the nod here because it's new, and because it offers a compelling alternative to both the Civic and Toyota's Corolla.

2010 Ford Fusion Sport AWD

2010 Ford Fusion Sport AWD

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4. 2010 Ford Fusion: If you aren't careful with the options, you'll cross the $30K point. But exercise some self-control, and you'll end up with a fun-to-drive sedan that proves that mid-size four-doors don't have to be boring.

2010 Hyundai Santa Fe

2010 Hyundai Santa Fe

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5. 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe: This author just tested a Santa Fe last week, and even with options such as satellite radio and a rearview camera, it skated in just below $30K. The downside is that the Santa Fe is a bit boring at times--think of it as vanilla ice cream. Really good vanilla ice cream, that is. If commuting or child-hauling is your primary automotive mission, and you'd like a handsome cabin and a lot of content for the cash, the Santa Fe is worth a very long look.
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