• 1 2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T

    2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T


    22 City / 33 Hwy

    Hyundai's redesigned Sonata is a great-looking car for parents who value the feel of a sporty sedan. Interior styling is upscale with above average materials. The cleverly designed steering wheel and center stack give access to premium features like Bluetooth, automatic dual-zone climate control and integrated iPod controls.

    The roomy interior provides enough legroom for adults and kids alike. It's hard to reach the two sets of lower Latch anchors, but a rear-facing child safety seat fits easily once installed.

    Take the turbocharged four-cylinder for a drive and you see where it really shines: the 274-horsepower, six-speed automatic provides plenty of power paired with impressive handling. By using the turbo engine, versus the six-cylinder typically offered by competitors like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, the Sonata can achieve better fuel economy while offering equivalent power. It gets a fuel-efficient 22 city/33 highway mpg and runs on regular unleaded gas.

    The Hyundai Sonata received both a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a five-star overall safety rating from the federal government using its latest crash-test procedures.

  • 2 2011 VW Jetta SportWagon TDI

    2011 VW Jetta SportWagon TDI


    29 City / 39 Hwy

    Aside from a facelift and higher fuel economy ratings, the 2011 Jetta Sportwagen remains the same. That's just fine with us, because we happen to love the Sportwagen's high-grade fit and finish ? leatherette seats are a breeze to clean up ? and roomy, stroller-storing cargo space.

    Admittedly, the back seat is tight for adults, which also makes it harder to easily fit rear-facing child safety seats, but it's worth the compromise to many parents.

    The biggest thing that sets the Jetta apart from other compact wagons is the TDI option. The diesel engine with self-cleaning filter reduces noxious emissions by up to 95 percent. Turbocharging boosts power while delivering mpg that surpasses the Ford Escape Hybrid.

  • 3 2012 Mazda5

    2012 Mazda5


    21 City / 28 Hwy

    Yes, it's different. You might even say it's a little weird looking. But here's the thing: if you want a flexible interior with seating for six, and you're not ready to commit to a minivan, the Mazda5 is your answer.

    The Mazda5 is comprised of three rows of two seats. The second row's captain's chairs slide forward and backward, making it easy to fit rear-facing child safety seats in the second row and booster seats in the third row. A passage-way between the second row seats makes it easy to access the third row. Additionally, the third row easily folds flat for extra cargo space. The minivan-like sliding doors are an added benefit, too.

    The diminutive size (for a minivan) makes it easy to zip around in traffic and a breeze to park. With its relatively fuel-efficient engine and affordable price tag, it's a smart choice for young families.

  • 4 2011 Ford Edge

    2011 Ford Edge


    19 City / 26 Hwy

    If you don't care about a third row, this midsize five-passenger crossover is worth a look. The 2011 Edge gets freshened exterior styling and an overhauled interior that replaces low-grade hard plastic with soft-touch materials and road-noise eliminating acoustics. A revamped engine line-up combines increased performance with best-in-class fuel economy.

    The center stack houses the new Sync-powered MyFord Touch with touch screen display that drives the entertainment, navigation, climate control and phone systems. Thousands of voice commands assist in hands-free operation of MP3 interfaces, HD Radio, Bluetooth connectivity and more.

    The Edge offers ample legroom in back and spirited yet refined driving. In 2010 government crash tests, last year's Ford Edge scored five stars for the driver and four stars for the passenger in frontal-impact tests, while it earned five stars in side-impact testing for both front and rear passengers. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Edge scored the highest possible rating of "Good" in both frontal-offset and side-impact testing.

  • 5 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

    2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee


    16 City / 23 Hwy

    This SUV looks and acts more like a crossover, thanks to a sleek redesign. The distinctive grille is housed inside a much less boxy exterior. Sitting lower to the ground, it's easier to get in and out of than a traditional SUV. The interior is just as impressive with a wood-grain and chrome trim and comfortable leather seats.

    The biggest draw for parents is the Rear DVD Entertainment Center package with Sirius Backseat TV that features kid-friendly channels. This is a real life-saver on road trips. The included wireless headphones ensure blissful silence for parents up front. Jeep's Uconnect system lets you navigate, call home and play your favorite music all with relative ease.

    Jeep increased backseat legroom for a roomier ride, and the rear cargo offers generous storage space. Second row seats fold down for even more room.

    The downside is the less-than-stellar gas mileage. The standard V-6 with all-wheel drive gets 16 city/22 mpg highway. However, the 2011 Grand Cherokee has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

  • 6 2011 Nissan Quest

    2011 Nissan Quest


    16 City / 24 Hwy

    We're willing to bet you've heard a lot about the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. So if you're seriously considering a minivan, why not be a little more unconventional in your choice? The quirky Quest is the funky option among typically conservative minivans, thanks to its distinctive blocky rear. In fact, those huge windows that aren't sacrificed for a more swoopy design make for great visibility.

    The Quest offers many of the same conveniences as its competitors: power-sliding doors, adjustable second-row captain's seats and fold-flat third row seat. There's a deep covered storage well behind the rear bench for extra cargo. The range-topping LE offers an intuitive infotainment system with navigation and Bluetooth, rear DVD entertainment, blind-spot warning and more.

    You'll find the V-6 with CVT offers plenty of power for a variety of traffic conditions.

  • 7 2011 BMW 535i xDrive GT

    2011 BMW 535i xDrive GT


    19 City / 27 Hwy

    This sporty sedan with hatchback is ideal for the mom who has to give up her M3 or Z4 for something more practical. Pushing $60,000, this is undoubtedly one expensive kid hauler, but maybe you?re not ready to give up luxury, high performance and sleek lines.

    And why should you? With powerful motors, well-tuned suspensions and excellent brakes, high-performance cars are inherently safe (as long as you don't have a lead foot). Plus, this is a car, so it doesn?t have an SUV or crossover's high center of gravity. With xDrive, you get BMW's all-wheel drive system, so you can drive with confidence in any type of weather.

    The innovative rear hatch can open like a trunk or a hatchback, so it's perfect for loading and unloading the stroller or packing up at Costco. The vast rear seat boasts a 40/20/40 split, allowing for selective fold-down. The back seat technically seats three passengers, but this car is best used for one to two kids.

    The unique GT has all the luxury and convenience of the 5 series, but with space more on par with the 7 series.

author photo

Patricia Palermo is a freelance web content writer with more than ten years experience. She has written marketing copy and informational articles for a variety of industries and has been covering the automotive world for AutoTrader.com since 2003.

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