If the idea of piling the family into the car for a drive to the beach or a road trip along Route 66 sounds like the perfect way to spend time this summer, don't let the price of gas damper that dream. These cars - all American-made, in honor of the 4th of July holiday - can comfortably accommodate a family and your cash flow.


2011 Ford Fusion

41 mpg city / 36 mpg hwy.

A family of four can ride comfortably in this five-seater, which is the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan on the road. Supportive seats with lumbar support for the driver provide back relief on long drives, while Ford's slick Sync voice-controlled infotainment system can keep the family entertained and give directions when equipped with navigation. Sync will also alert 911 if a collision occurs, providing extra peace of mind.


2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

41 mpg city / 36 mpg hwy.

The MKZ Hybrid also has the Sync system for crash notification, emergency response and navigation, plus plenty of airbags with deployment sensors. This five-passenger luxury sedan provides a comfortable ride with plush leather seats (the front seats can heat or cool) and separate climate control for front and back passengers.


2011 Ford Escape Hybrid

34 mpg city / 31 mpg hwy.

Escape drivers rave about how easy this small SUV is to drive: it's high up without being too big to handle. And the gas mileage can't be beat on an American model in the class. This five-seater has 30.9 cubic feet of cargo space in the rear and a roof rack that carries up to 100 pounds, making it easy to tote luggage and gear. With the Sync system, child locks on the rear doors and individual temperature zones, everyone will be safe and comfortable.


2011 Dodge Caliber

24 mpg city / 32 mpg hwy.

Although it won't provide blistering performance, the base Express model of the Caliber is a perfectly comfortable option for daily and long-haul driving. This well-priced compact crossover comes with a few fun extras: a standard refrigerated beverage cooler, one year of Sirius Satellite Radio, MP3 player connection and optional liftgate flip-down speakers, which can add ambience to camping or beach trips.


2011 Jeep Patriot

23 mpg city / 29 mpg hwy.

This affordable compact SUV is a great option for the outdoorsy family because of its off-road capabilities. (Plus it has liftgate speakers and a rechargeable flashlight.) Jeep took note of past complaints of an uncomfortable interior and upgraded it with leather and higher quality materials. Thanks to features such as airbag sensors and active head restraints, the insurance industry named it a Top Safety Pick.


2011 Chevrolet HHR

22 mpg city / 32 mpg hwy.

The HHR, which stands for Heritage High Roof, is a compact wagon with retro styling that harkens back to the original suburban. The car, touted for its comfortable, smooth ride, is MP3-player compatible, has child safety locks and comes with XM Satellite Radio for three months and OnStar for six months, which is handy on road trips for roadside assistance and remote door unlock.


2011 Chevy Equinox

22 mpg city / 32 mpg hwy.

There's plenty to make this sporty looking small crossover comfortable for the family. This five-seat vehicle has driver lumbar support, a sliding rear seat, optional dual rear-seat entertainment system, a comfortable cabin, XM satellite radio for the first three months and OnStar for the first six months. With better-than-average fuel efficiency to boot, this is a smart choice.


2011 GMC Terrain

22 mpg city / 32 mpg hwy.

There's plenty that makes the Terrain even more attractive than its economic gas mileage and affordable price tag. The five-passenger car has a sliding rear bench seat, OnStar and XM Radio subscriptions, a spacious backseat, a power liftgate, optional rear entertainment system (with flip-down screens and DVD) and a standard rearview camera system. With safety features such as an air bag passenger sensing system, the Terrain is an attractive option to take on the road this summer.

author photo

Meg Hemphill is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle writer who covers the good life: style, food, automotive, travel and entertainment. When it comes to cars, it is less about the nuts and bolts and more about the aesthetic, luxury and occasional practicality. A former editor at InStyle, she writes for the Huffington Post and a variety of other publications.

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