4 Great Family Cars
Mom #1: "Footprint-Friendly"
Ashley Bryan, 26, Las Vegas
her cargo: 2-year-old twins, plus a baby on the way
she drives: 2004 Lexus RX 330
what she loves: The sporty look, great gas mileage and handling, automatic back hatch, DVD system, and leather seats
what she wants: A reliable, inexpensive-to-repair car that fits three car seats and a triple stroller and isn't so nice that she'll stress about dirt. She's "anti-minivan," though.
budget: $25,000 to $30,000
on her list: A GMC Acadia. Tom Appel, associate publisher of Consumer Guide Automotive, calls Bryan's choice "outstanding," but, for a slightly cheaper alternative, suggests the Chevy Traverse, which is "mechanically identical, has one of the nicest third rows in the industry," and was rated a Consumer Guide Best Buy for 2010. Another option: the Honda Pilot, which is "a little more fun to drive."
Mom #2: "Sporty, with a Little Zip"
Kari Kuhn, 36, Eden Prairie, MN
her cargo: One 5-month-old
she drives: 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix
what she loves: The mileage, acceleration, overall sporty look
what she wants: Something larger, with lots of space, good acceleration, a good safety rating, and ABS, plus extras like a DVD system and leather seats. Easy access to the middle-seat car seat and doors that don't open as wide as the Grand Prix's are a plus, as is a backup video camera
budget: Under $25,000
on her list: A Nissan Murano or a minivan. The Murano's options "get pricey in a hurry," says Appel, so Kuhn's dream car would likely top $25,000. To stick to budget, Appel recommends the Honda CR-V, which lacks huge acceleration power (though it's "more than adequate") but boasts a backup camera. Price tag for a 2009: $25,600.