For years, moms have gotten a raw deal on the automotive front. If you wanted a family car, you basically had two choices: the uncool minivan or the brawny SUV. Sure, the minivan is practical, but is it fun? Does it make your heart skip a beat? If you go the SUV route, you're resigned to truck-like handling and spending half your life at the gas pump.
Well, no more. We hip moms finally have more choices that combine practicality and style. Our top picks prove bigger isn't necessarily better. And with today's gas prices, you'll love the mpgs.
28 City / 35 Hwy
The sporty Honda Fit is so much fun to drive, you'll have a hard time believing it's just as practical. The tiny subcompact lets you zip through traffic and squeeze into tiny parking spots (take that, Odyssey), and its fuel-efficient 1.5-liter engine has plenty of get-up-and-go. But the best part about the Fit is its impressive interior space. Front-and-rear seating offer adult-friendly space while ample headroom makes putting kids in car seats a breeze. Better yet, the hatchback's cargo area provides as much space as the Pilot's. And did we mention the 10 beverage holders? Despite its diminutive size, the Fit also earns top scores in nearly all NHTSA crash tests and received a four-star rollover rating.
22 City / 28 Hwy
This posh little sport wagon stands out in a class of its own. It's hard to match Audi's upscale German styling, engineering and safety. Inside, you'll feel pampered with its leather seating, dual-zone automatic climate control and 10-speaker audio system that makes "Old McDonald" sound new again. Admittedly, the back seat is short on adult-sized legroom, but it more than makes up for it in cargo space. The spirited 2.0-liter turbo is a thrill to drive, and the 2010 model is even available in a fuel-efficient diesel. Out of your price range? Consider its sister, the VW GTI.
41 City / 36 Hwy
We know what you're thinking: Ford? Hip? Really? Yes, yes and yes. In the wake of the near meltdown of the American automotive industry, Ford has managed to redefine its brand and produce an entire fleet of award-winning vehicles. The roomy midsize Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan proves that driving a hybrid doesn't have to be dull. Sporty handling makes it a fun ride, and its engaging SmartGauge with EcoGuide instrument panel helps you maximize fuel efficiency along the way. With 41 mpg city, sharp styling and a whole host of smart upgrades, the Fusion proves driving American is cool again.
22 City / 28 Hwy
This funky cult favorite may be marketed toward young urbanites, but the affordable price and practical interior space make the xB a great choice for the unconventional mom. Generous legroom in the back means your front passenger doesn't have to eat dashboard if you have a rear-facing child seat. There's plenty of room for the stroller plus groceries in the rear cargo space. Designed with hipsters in mind, the upgraded audio system is a nice plus. However, we seriously doubt you'll need the new RCA output that's pre-wired for an aftermarket subwoofer.
20 City / 28 Hwy
Lucky for us moms, the CX-7 delivers some of the same "Zoom-Zoom" performance as Mazda's popular sports cars like the MX-5, RX-8 and Mazdaspeed 3. Its sleek design, crisp handling and peppy acceleration make this bold crossover tons more fun to drive than any of its more bland competitors. Its sporty good looks are carried over to the inside, with high quality materials and helpful information displays and gauges. Plus, the all-new 2.5-liter engine offers a cheaper alternative to the turbo and returns better fuel economy. We're also over the moon about the CX-7's excellent safety ratings.
22 City / 31 Hwy
If you dream of getting into a Mercedes, the Volkswagen CC is a much cheaper alternative for you. Taking styling cues from the Mercedes-Benz CLS four-door coupe, the well-equipped "Comfort Coupe," or CC, is so refined and beautifully finished that it's hard to compare it to any other mainstream midsize sedan. With only two seats in back, the CC is not a traditional family sedan, but the middle storage console and fold-down armrest with cup holders is awfully convenient. The rear bucket seats are unusually comfortable and there's actually plenty of legroom. We also like the punchy and fuel-efficient turbo-charged four cylinder engine.
21 City / 28 Hwy
If you're looking for an inexpensive yet practical hatchback that's not totally pedestrian, consider the SX4 Crossover. Its small-box styling makes it a competitor to the Honda Fit or Nissan Versa. However, it stands out with its low-cost AWD system and more powerful 2.0-liter engine that make it an affordable all-weather vehicle. The airy cabin provides wiggle room for little ones and cargo space for endless grocery trips. We were pleasantly surprised by the list of available features, such as the automatic climate control, navigation system and six standard airbags. For the price, the SX4 is definitely worth your consideration.
With today's wide array of family-friendly options, hip moms finally can have it all: a safe, fuel-efficient vehicle with plenty of interior space for kids and stuff that also looks good and is a thrill to drive.
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