It’s always fun to see top 10 lists, including the annual one from Consumer Reports ranking the best vehicles in 10 categories. This year, Consumer Reports’ 2011 Top Picks demonstrate one point very clearly: there’s plenty of good value, affordable vehicles available with plenty of style to boot.
How does the publication come up with the winners? They start by buying the vehicles – in this case, 270 of them. Then editors put the vehicles through 50 tests. To continue on, vehicles must be at or near the top of all the tests. Reliability is also a big consideration, and the list winnows down to those with average or better reliability. Finally, there’s safety. If the vehicle has been evaluated by government or insurance-industry tests, it has to perform well – and have electronic stability control (ESC) standard.
While only three are designated “Family” vehicles by CR, here at FamilyCarGuide we know that families buy multiple vehicles for family use. So, we’ll highlight all of them – but begin with the trio of family category winners.
Nissan Altima: Family Sedan
Considered a sporty alternative to Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the 2011 Nissan Altima is a solid choice for a five-passenger family sedan (although seating for three in the back seat is cramped). Chief attributes are sleek and sporty exterior styling, comfortable and stylish interior (especially the cockpit), good fuel efficiency (EPA-estimated 23 mpg city/32 mpg highway) with 175-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and starting price of $19,910. There’s also the 3.5SR with 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine that gets 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway, and Altima Hybrid with hybrid power system that nets 198 horsepower and achieves 33 mpg city/highway. For more information on the 2011 Nissan Altima, see this overview from The Car Connection.
2011 Kia SorentoEnlarge Photo
Kia Sorento: Family SUV
Straddling the line between compact SUV and mid-size, the redesigned 2011 Kia Sorento crossover offers families a lot in the way of standard features for the price, comfort, two engine options, seating configurations for five or seven (with optional third-row seat), optional all-wheel drive (AWD), and starting price of $21,195. Base four-cylinder engine achieves 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway (FWD) and 21/27 mpg with AWD. Smooth V-6 engine delivers 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway (FWD) and 18/24 mpg (AWD). Want more details? Check out Marty Padgett’s review here.
2011 Toyota Sienna LimitedEnlarge Photo
Toyota Sienna: Family Hauler
The only minivan with available AWD, the 2011 Toyota Sienna, which is all-new for this year, has a slew of options and available features, including V-6 engine, seating for seven or eight (with optional eighth seat, a collapsible one that fits between two second-row captain’s chairs), is comfortable, versatile and has excellent reliability. Starting price is $24,560. Consumer Reports editors say that the redesigned 2011 Honda Odyssey actually posted higher test scores, but there isn’t reliability data yet. So, for now, the 2011 Toyota Sienna reins as king of the family hauler category in the CR 2011 Top Picks. Get more product details on the 2011 Toyota Sienna in TheCarConnection's overview.
2011 Hyundai ElantraEnlarge Photo
Hyundai Elantra: Small Car
With premium features like front and rear heated seats – a compact segment first, says the automaker, the redesigned 2011 Hyundai Elantra is available in GLS and Limited models with prices starting at $14,830. It’s so roomy inside that the government classifies it as a mid-size. Fuel economy is stellar, 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway (33 mpg combined). Agile handling, great exterior styling, comfortable inside, and the availability of lots of features make the Hyundai Elantra numero uno in Consumer Reports’ small car category of 2011 Top Picks. TheCarConnection's editors give the 2011 Hyundai Elantra an 8.2 (out of 10) overall rating – see why here.