Top 5 family cars
Cars end up being second
homes for busy families; so if you have kids
your vehicle will need to have it all -- features
that keep occupants safe, entertained, comfortable
and, of course, headed in the right direction.
Multitasking moms are finding
cars outfitted with technology never before
seen: gadgets that provide directions, tools
that enable them to safely talk on the phone,
video systems with wireless headsets and the
ability to watch the kids via mirrors and
"A lot of this is about
helping women do everything they do,"
says Pam Scholder Ellen, an associate professor
of marketing at Georgia State University in
Atlanta. "For some women, their car is
a means to accomplish many important jobs.
All of the technology is there to allow the
drivers to focus on what their primary job
is -- which is driving the car."
This small-size sport utility vehicle is a newcomer to this year's
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's top safety picks list (electronic
stability control comes standard); named to AAA and Parents Magazine's
list for its smooth ride and features like reclining rear seats.
Base price $20,600
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The minivan market is still
a strong one, but there is backlash against
the vehicles for being "incredibly dull
and just boxes on wheels," says Jack
Nerad, executive editorial director and executive
market analyst with Kelley Blue Book. That's
why crossover sport utility vehicles are growing
in popularity -- they offer utility, economy
and comfort but with a bit more style, he
Space is a key factor, from storage to seats. Cars like
the Honda Pilot and new Buick Enclave can
seat as many as eight or nine people with
a lot of cargo space, Nerad says. Russ Rader,
spokesman for the nonprofit Insurance Institute
of Highway Safety, agrees that the more popular
SUVs are coming with three rows of seats instead
If you're driving an SUV or minivan with three rows of seats, you'll want a vehicle with side curtain air bags. Rader says they usually provide protection for the heads of people in all three rows of seats, but other kinds of airbags don't always provide that.
When families look for a new
vehicle, women are often the key decision
makers and safety is always a top priority,
The Institute provides a list
of top safety picks that includes several
family vehicles, chosen because of their performance
in crash tests.
This year, the Institute required
that vehicles on the list have electronic
stability control, or ESC, which helps drivers
avoid accidents. At this point, ESC comes
standard in almost 90 percent of sport utility
vehicles and in about 60 percent of cars.
"If you're buying a new vehicle, electronic stability control is a must-have feature. It's a feature most people haven't heard of but it's the most important safety feature since seat belts and airbags," Rader says.