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2011 Best Cars for Families

For many people, a family car is the car you have to buy, not the car you actually want. But family cars are also the setting of heart-to-heart talks, sing-alongs and games. If you have the right family car, spending time in it is enjoyable for the whole family. The wrong family car can make time on the road uncomfortable, frustrating and expensive.

The 2011 U.S. News Best Cars for Families awards highlight vehicles that make family life easier. The awards are based on a combination of data from the U.S. News car rankings, safety and reliability ratings and long-term ownership costs. The winners are cars, SUVs and vans that impress car reviewers with their family-friendly features and space, but also keep families safe and on budget – factors that matter to any parent.

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2011 Best Cars for Families
2011 Honda FitBest Subcompact Car for Families 2011 Honda CivicBest Compact Car for Families
2011 Acura TSXBest Upscale Small Car for Families 2011 Ford FusionBest Affordable Midsize Car for Families
2011 Buick RegalBest Upscale Midsize Car for Families 2011 Ford TaurusBest Affordable Large Car for Families
2011 Volvo S80Best Luxury Large Car for Families 2011 Honda FitBest Hatchback for Families
2011 Toyota PriusBest Hybrid Car for Families 2011 Hyundai Elantra TouringBest Wagon for Families
2011 Honda CR-VBest Affordable Compact SUV for Families 2011 Infiniti EXBest Luxury Compact SUV for Families
2011 Toyota VenzaBest Midsize SUV with 2 Rows for Families 2011 Toyota HighlanderBest Midsize SUV with 3 Rows for Families
2011 Lexus RX-350Best Luxury Midsize SUV for Families 2011 Ford ExplorerBest Off-Road SUV for Families
2011 Toyota SequoiaBest Affordable Large SUV for Families 2011 Lexus LXBest Luxury Large SUV for Families
2011 Toyota Highlander HybridBest Hybrid SUV for Families 2011 Honda OdysseyBest Minivan for Families

The Winners

No one type of car is going to work for all families, and the award winners come from 20 diverse automotive classes. Small families who need an urban runabout can find practicality and value in the 2011 Honda Fit, the Best Subcompact Car for Families. The Fit is also the Best Hatchback for Families, earning the highest possible initial quality rating from J.D. Power and Associates. At 20.6 cubic feet with all seats in use, the Fit has the most cargo space in its class, easily swallowing strollers and diaper bags.

On the other end of the spectrum, large families who like to keep going when the road ends will be happy with the seven-seat 2011 Ford Explorer, the Best Off-Road SUV for Families. The Explorer earns excellent reviews from the automotive press. It’s the 2011 North American Truck of the Year and is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick. Parents who want to leave the planet in good shape for their kids should shop the 2011 Toyota Prius, which is the Best Hybrid Car for Families. In addition to an EPA-estimated 50 mpg combined fuel economy rating, the Prius has a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

The list of award winners includes luxury cars that any kid would be lucky to be chauffeured in. The 2011 Buick Regal is the 2011 Best Upscale Midsize Car for Families (it is also the 2011 Best Upscale Midsize Car for the Money) and features a standard USB port with iPod interface and standard Bluetooth. Most car reviewers also rate the Regal as fun-to-drive, which is an added bonus for mom and dad. The 2011 Lexus RX350 is the Best Luxury Midsize SUV for Families. Reviewers say it features a quiet ride that allows kids to sleep or watch DVDs in peace, and has fuel economy ratings of 18/25 mpg city/highway. The 2011 Volvo S80, with advanced accident avoidance features like lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and collision warning with automatic braking, is the Best Luxury Large Car for Families.

Of course, sometimes families want classic family cars like station wagons and minivans, and the awards have those classes covered too. The Best Wagon for Families is the 2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring, which has budget-friendly pricing and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. The 2011 Honda Odyssey is the Best Minivan for Families. The Odyssey has five sets of Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH), which keep car seats extra-secure. No other minivan has as many LATCH connections. Families with lots of little ones will want to make sure to shop the Odyssey.

Automakers are offering lots of models that seem like they could do family duty just fine. With today’s families spending more time in the car than ever before, a family car that works just fine isn’t going to cut it. The Best Cars for Families award winners all combine the features that families want, like comfort, cargo space and interior tech, with the strong safety ratings and ownership costs they need.

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