In the meantime, check out the archives to the right for some helpful tips on what to look for in a family car or truck or get in touch if you want your car featured here.
1) Honda Accord
This midsize sedan can hold up to five passengers in comfort and with style, with optional XM Satellite radio, navigation system and leather interior. It also has an optional 240hp, 3.0 liter V-6 engine or the standard 160 hp, 2.4 liter 4 cyl, with available 5 speed automatic or 5 or 6 speed manual.
The Accord Hybrid is supposed to launch in late 2005, with an EPA-estimated gas mileage of 26/city and 34/highway, which is average for the normal sedan. Also the Accord is available in the two door coupe version. Honda's clean reliability level is an average 10 out of 10 so this is a good buy. It has a good amount of space in the back and space to stretch legs in the front. The ride is soundless with the V-6 engine. As I noticed it has a lot of power going up hills with both engines, but the Hybrid may not do so well on steep hills. The Accord's nice sharp turns can get thru the morning commute with ease. Pack up your things. It is a wild ride!
Pricing: MSRP $16,195 - $26,800
Two door : $19,775 - $26,000
2005 Honda Accord shown
2) Toyota Camry
Toyota's fifth generation Camry has an exterior light design changed from the 2004 model. The Camry can have an optional 225hp with a 3.3 liter V-6 with 5 speed manual or 5 speed automatic. Unfortunately, the side curtain airbag system that protects the front and back side seating is optional for every type of Camry, and there is no XM radio available. There is an optional satiability control system and adjustable pedals for the LE V-6 and up. The average EPA gas mileage is 24/city and 34/highway.
The Camry has a clean ride and reliability but it lacks power and standardized features. The turning is not as good as the Accord but can get you around the commute. As you can tell by the pricing below it is worth every penny!
Pricing: Starting MSRP $18,000 - $26,000
2005 Toyota Camry shown
3) Hyundai SonataIt
I was surprised that a Hundai got into 3 rd place but its true. The Sonata is a good midsize sedan, with available 170 hp 2.7 liter V-6 or 138 hp 2.7 liter V-4 with 4 speed automatic or 5 speed manual. Sadly the Sonata only got one new change in 2005; electro-chromatic mirrors with Home Link is now standard in LX models. The Sonata gets about 22/c ity 30/highway. There are not many standard features on the Sonata and there never were. With cruise control optional you can see that Hundai holds back on essential standard features. But Hundai gave a nice base price, nice ride and enough horsepower to get you around on the highway.
But the thing that blew me away was the reliability. Hundai did a nice job. It's as reliable as the Camry and the Accord, and reliability is my number one priority!
Pricing: Starting MSRP $15,999 - $19,799
2005 Hyundai Sonatalt shown
The Mazda6 is the sportiest in the passenger car section, with available 220hp 3.0 liter V-6, or the standard 155hp 2.3 liter V-4. The 6 has a standard 4-speed automatic, or 6-speed manual or automatic, which shows what's sporty under the hood. The exterior is the same as the '04 model, but the interior includes leather, navigation, and a 6-CD changer. Mazda is partly owned by Ford which is not a good thing. Ford has a history of unreliable cars, trucks, and SUV's. The 6 is based on the Ford Focus base, but the engine is modified and so is the leg room. With 15.2 cubic feet of space in the interior it is a little bigger than the Focus. The 6 is also available in Sport Wagon or Hatchback models.
What brought this car in forth is its reliability. Because of the Focus base and Ford parts in the engine the 6's reliability is fair but not so good. This car will probably last about 65,000 miles before breakdown. The EPA gas mileage is 23/city and 31/highway.
Pricing: Starting MSRP $18,995 - $26,795
Sport wagon MSRP $22,895-$26,795
Hatchback - $22,025-$23,995
2005 Mazda Mazda6 4dr Sedan
5) Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable
Mercury's parent company Ford is putting the Taurus/Sable into 2005. Surviving the debut of the Five Hundred/Montego sedans, they come with a front wheel drive standard 153hp, 3.0 liter V-6. For the interior, leather is available. Not much has changed for both cars for '05 inside and out. Anti- lock brakes are standard, and traction control is optional for both models. The EPA gas mileage is about City: 19 – 20 Highway: 27 . As I said in the Mazda 6 article, Ford is not the most reliable company or the cheapest. The Taurus is not really up to date with style and features. The Taurus and Sable are still using most of the parts from 2001 when Ford redesigned the Taurus and Sable. The Sable is more expensive than the Taurus for no reason. Usually the Sables come with standard leather, but not for this year. The Ford and Mercury reliability will get you to 50,000 miles with minor problems, but after that I don't know what to tell you!
Pricing: Sable: Starting MSRP $21,200 - $24,165
Taurus: Starting MSRP $20,830 - $22,740
Pricing courtesy of cars.com; Photos courtesy of cars.com.
1) Lexus LS430
The LS430 has now gained a six speed automatic transmission with over drive auto/manual and is considered a luxury sedan. To live up to its luxury name it has standard knee airbags for those who sit in the front. For those who sit in the back, you can have optional rear air conditioning and heat that you can control. Under the hood you have a 4.3 liter V-8 that pushes 290 horsepower. However, big engines get smaller numbers on the EPA gas mileage scale. For 2005 the gas mileage is 18 city, 25 highway which is somewhat below average. Another downside is the price, but extremely reliable luxury sedans like this one doesn't come cheap.
Lexus LS430 shown.
2) Chevrolet Impala
The Impala has joined the above average reliability class. The Canadian built Impala has impressed me with that. It now comes with three V6 engines. A standard 180hp 3.4 liter, a 200hp 3.8 liter, and a 240hp 3.4 liter for the SS supercharged which are impressive as well. Some of the features are the XM Satellite radio system and OnStar. The Impala is competing with the new Chrysler 300C and 300, Buick Park Avenue, and the Ford Crown Victoria in performance, reliability, and features. In my opinion the Impala would win!
Pricing: Starting MSRP $22,350 - $28,555
2005 Chevrolet Impala 4dr Sedan shown
3) Chrysler 300
An extreme makeover for 2005, the Chrysler 300 is fully redesigned and more reliable. With a Hemi C model available, the five speed automatic and a standard rear wheel drive system will work together to make the ultimate ride. The 300 has a standard 190-hp, 2.7-liter V-6, or the optional 250 3-hp 2.5 liter V-6. Another notable feature is the interior space. The rear legroom is about 40 inches and the front legroom is about 43 inches. On the outside you see sort of a half parallelogram and a square which gives it the roominess. The only downsides are the winter handling with the rear wheel drive, and the not so outstanding reliability. Other than that, it's fine!
Pricing: 23,295 to 35,000
2005 Chrysler 300 4dr RWD Sedan shown
4) Ford Crown Victoria
Ford's classic sedan has gained an average reliability level and up to date features. For example, one of the convenient features is a six disc CD changer. The engines for this police interceptor are; a 4.6 liter 224hp V-8, or the optional 4.6 liter 139hp V-8, both impressive engines. The EPA gas mileage is 18 city 25 highway. Not much has changed since its modification in 2003. Some new things about the new "Crown Vic" such as the turning circle were reduced by one foot and a different sort of lighting system while entering the car. The ride in my opinion is comfortable and sort of choppy in some spots and the rear wheel drive makes it hard in the rain. So, some upsides, some downsides it's not perfect but it will get you around town.
Pricing: Starting MSRP $24,335 - $30,420
2005 Ford Crown Victoria 4dr Sedan shown
5) Cadillac DeVille
The DeVille has a slightly below average reliability. The spacious DeVille has some remarkable features -- heated steering wheel and seats, OnStar, and night vision. The engines for the DeVille are similar to the Crown Vic's. A 275hp 4.6 liter Northstar V-8 or the optional 290hp 4.6 liter Northstar V-8. The gas mileage for the DeVille is: City: 17 - 18 Highway: 24 - 26. There is also an armored version of the DeVille as of 2004.The front wheel drive will do better in bad weather and the standard leather interior and radio controls on the steering wheel are a plus for the DeVille.
Starting MSRP $46,045 - $51,600
2005 Cadillac DeVille 4dr Sedan shown
Pricing, photos, gas mileage courtesy's of cars.com.
1) Toyota Corolla
The Corolla is competing fiercely with the Honda Civic and Mazda3, with the new trim line "XRS" as shown on the Toyota Matrix, which has the same platform as the Corolla. The "XRS" has many sport features which stand out on the street, such as a stock body kit including side skirts and front and back sport bumpers. The Corolla is also known as the best non- hybrid car for fuel economy, with gas mileage City: 26 - 32 Highway: 34 - 41 (miles per gallon), which is impressive. Under the hood you have a standard 130hp 1.8 liter I-4, or the optional 170hp 1.8 liter I-4. Inside you can have an optional leather seating for five, a sunroof, and power everything. The Corolla should be a hybrid but the gas mileage is fine for now. The Corolla has a loud engine while on the highway and doesn’t have the best emergency handling.
Pricing: Starting MSRP $13,680 - $17,455
2005 Toyota Corolla 4dr Sedan
2) Honda Civic Hybrid
Honda is the first hybrid car company, with its debut of the 1999 Honda Insight which gets up to 62 miles per gallon. It remains the leading hybrid car. So now the Civic has been added to the hybrid family. With a tiny 93hp 1.3 liter I-4 engine you will not have fun going up a mountain. Honda has nice features for older and younger. With remote CD compatible for the younger and headroom of 39.8 inches in front it is useful for all ages. The EPA gas mileage is: City: 48 Highway: 51 MPG. The Civic reliability is excellent as usual for every Honda. The Civic hybrid doesn't have many optional features such as leather. And the engine is so weak, with the 1.3 liter 93hp engine, don't buy a mountain house!!
Pricing: Starting MSRP $13,160 - $19,800
2005 Honda Civic Hybrid shown.
The Mazda3 is based on the Ford Focus sedan. With the same suspension and almost the same engine they are almost the same vehicles. The 3 has a standard 144-hp, 2.0-liter I-4, an optional 148hp 2.0-liter I-4 or optional 160hp 2.3-liter I-4. Some of the standard features include: driver and passenger airbags, SIRIUS satellite radio system, and radio controls on your steering wheel. The average gas mileage for the 3 is City: 24 - 28 Highway: 29 - 35 MPG. The 3's reliability is surprisingly outstanding for the first year redesigned. So I recommend the 3.
Pricing: Starting MSRP $13,680 - $17,105
2005 Mazda3 4dr Sedan shown
4) Scion xA
Scion is a Toyota company with two small hatchbacks; the xB, which is a box on wheels (literally) but very reliable, and the xA, a smarter looking car with less room in the back seat then the xB. The xA has a small 108hp 1.5 liter I-4 engine which it shares with the Xb and the Toyota Echo. The xA doesn't have an essential safety feature: stability control. But a weird thing about this car is that it has optional neon lighting in the cabin. The ride is fair but choppy and the engine is noisy. The gas mileage for the xA is: City: 31 - 32 Highway: 37 - 38 MPG. The positive features about this car are the price, the reliability, and the comfort. Go try the new car company on the street, they got it right the first time!
Pricing: Starting MSRP $12,480
2005 Scion xA 4dr Sedan shown
5) Nissan Sentra
The Nissan Sentra is the exact model as the 2004 (carryover,) but it should be redesigned soon. But for now, the Sentra has a standard 126hp 1.8 liter Inline-4cyl. For optional engines there is a 165hp 2.5 liter I-4, and 175hp 2.5 liter I-4. The gas mileage for the Sentra is 27 city and 35 MPG highway. The Sentra lacks standardized features compared to other compact sedans and has not many useful optional features. The Sentra has a below average reliability but has low depreciation, an average ride, and has a lower base price.
Pricing: Starting MSRP $12,600 - $17,700
2005 Nissan Sentra 4dr Sedan shown
All pricing courtesy of cars.com. EPA gas mileage courtesy of cars.com .
As a frequent-traveling father, my main complaint about the current generation of SUV's is their paucity of cargo space. These vehicles have been marketed as giants of the road, but anyone who has packed for a family vacation of even a few days duration knows how little space there is at the rear ends of these behemoths.
The Sport Trac is, for my money, one of the more imaginative ways out of this dilemma. For families overwhelmed by the size of the Chevy Suburban or Ford Expedition [which themselves offer only so-so cargo area with the third row of seats engaged], the Sport Trac is a very well-bred marriage of an SUV with a sophisticated, cool truck.
Don't be put off by the truck part. You won't see many gun racks in the rear windows of this vehicle. This is strictly a suburban hybrid, offering all the advantages of a five seat, four wheel drive automobile, with the flexibility and cargo space of a small truck.
The Sport Trac is longer than the typical Explorer, to accommodate the far larger cargo area offered by the truck bed. But the car is all Explorer, including the four full-sized doors and the Explorer's standard front and rear seating arrangement.
We put the car through it paces, traveling many hours on both freeways and country roads to pick up our daughter Morgan at her Pennsylvania overnight camp. Driving wih the optional automatic transmission was seamless, with plenty of power in the V6 for highway driving at upwards of 75mph [it was a long drive to camp!].
What a pleasure it was to simply throw all of Morgan's camp trunks and supplies into the rear without having to calculate space requirements and play trial and error with the various suitcases and boxes to get all of our gear to fit.
Another bonus, with all of our luggage set apart in the cargo bed, the interior of the car itself felt totally uncluttered, except for the DVD-equipped laptop we plugged in to distract our five year old, Joshua.
What happens if it rains?, you ask. No problem. a hard, lockable cover is available.
I loved the new Ford Explorer sport pickup. Its hybrid design alone is an adventure for the eye. While my mom was filling up the tank at a gas station, one man even came up to her to say: "That is one cool lookin' car." Inside, it seats 5 very comfortably and has a six cd changer which proved very useful for a family of five with contrasting music tastes. The interior design is also very attractive and contemporary. The silver and tan theme gave the truck an even more sporty and fun feel. The truck is also low to the ground, making it more stable and less intimidating. All in all the truck or SUV or whatever its name is, is a great looking, useful car that's real fun to ride in.
For pix see http://media.ford.com.
Ford Sport Trac Two wheel drive base price $22,240
Four wheel drive base price $25,010
At first glance, Ford's new Escape seemed like all the other SUVs--- an over sized car with a few truckish accessories. But the Escape was surprisingly different and deserves a hearty thumbs up. The Escape is the baby in Ford's family of SUVs, but don't let that steer you away. The Escape holds its own with fun, sporty aesthetics and a surprisingly roomy interior According to the 2001 auto addition of Consumer Reports, the Escape has 29 inches of leg room, 2 inches more than the CRV from Honda and 3 inches more than Toyota's Rav 4. The Escape also boasts 33.5 cubic feet of luggage space and a powerful 3.0 liter 201 horsepower V6 engine.
With gas prices lingering around the 2 dollar mark in many major cities, fuel economy is an important consideration when buying a vehicle. Although SUVs are cursed as gas guzzlers, the Escape defies this label, getting 23 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. But car-like mileage doesn't mean that the Escape has abandoned its SUV-hood. The Escape is perfectly capable of towing 3500 lbs plus and performs well off-road and in bad weather with its unique 4 wheel drive system.
The downside to the Escape is the prospect that its reliability might be similar to the reliability of other Ford vehicles, none of which received higher than an average reliability rating from Consumer Reports. However, the Escape received an excellent side crash test safety rating and has a good chance of surpassing its competitors in the upcoming years.
I hadn't driven a truck in a long time before stepping into the cab of the Ford Ranger. And what did I discover -- in almost every respect, a car in front, with an open bed in back. For weekend warriors, this will be a perfect combination of comfort and utility.
After a day or two of driving, my kids discovered two seats built into the back of the cab. Appropriate for kids, these seats offer an extra degree of versatility. These seats have a lap seat belt but lack the more secure shoulder harness belts. With the turn of a switch, the passenger side air bag can be disabled. This makes it possible for small kids to sit in the front seat. Otherwise my three year old son Joshua would not have been able to ride in the vehicle. I know that I could never have put a car seat in one of the back seats, especially in the two door version I was driving.
I've always thought that I would enjoy having an open bed, and I was right. My trips to the hardware store and nursery were much more fun. It was great just throwing stuff over the side into the truck. I also put the truck through its paces, shifting into four wheel high [a flawlessly easy procedure] to climb a dirt track in search of landscaping stones. I found quite a few, and the Ranger handled the extra weight without complaint. It was at this time that I noticed the carpeting on the floor, or rather I noticed the mud all over the carpet on the floor. A truck with carpeting. I should have guessed that this model was the citified version. The vehicle's purple sheen and the "Splash" logo, well, splashed across the side panels, should have tipped me off. But the vehicle's power, the workmanlike five speed shift, and the hard working soul of this Ranger seduced me.
"This truck was full of surprises. First of all you can turn the airbags on and off, so someone like me could sit in the front. Second of all, there are two "Murphy" seats behind the driver and passenger seats. There very comfortable, and even a fat person could fit in them, contradicting their appearance. I like the big space in the back, and the small sliding window, that Shadow could stick his head out of. I also like the truck, because, it's not the kind you have to keep real clean in terms of dirt and dog hair, This and the above truck are also good because you can take them off the road. This truck, however, did have one problem. I don't like the material of the seats, cause crumbs get stuck in them."=
If you buy a Ford Windstar be sure to keep a spare set of keys, especially if you've got young kids. My five year old son Joshua has been in many a car, and he styles himself something of an automotive afficionado, but it was all I could do to keep him from playing in and with Ford's signature family mini-van.
The minivan design has been refined over the years to meet the demanding requirements of families with young children. A dedicated mirror allows the driver to peer into the rear seats — two captain-like chairs in the passenger row [far enough apart to keep feuding siblings at bay] and a third bench-like seat for two or three in the rear. There are two rear doors, and you don't have to be a heavyweight wrestler to open or shut them – the simple push of a button will do. These can even be opened from "hundreds of feet away," according to Joshua, who never permitted me do this neat trick myself. A media system, comprising both a VHS VCR and a radio with headphones allow families to travel together without interacting with each other – an admittedly mixed blessing, but one with advantages that any traveling parent will recognize.
The vehicle acquits itself quite well – on the highway and in errands around town. It is a no brainer to operate. Horn, parking brake, assorted switches and signals are more or less where one would expect. We operated the VCR without reference to the manual – my personal litmus test for consumer friendliness. Gas mileage, at 16.5 mpg is the price to be paid for keeping assorted spouses and children happy and at a safe distance from each other on family outings. The back seat folds over and up, adding space to the smallish cargo area. Air conditioning, so important in some climates, is more than adequate, with separate front and rear controls controlled by the driver.
My one complaint is about the Windstar's bells and whistles. Some are shrill and bothersome. Others, like the one that comes on after it decides that a turn signal has been on too long, had me searching frantically for an open door or blown head gasket. There are so many I mistook my cell phone chirping for another mysterious automotive complaint. That said, the Windstar will spoil you, especially if your family likes the open road.
The new Ford Windstar is GREAT. The seats are real comfortable with plenty of leg room. There's so much space, at one point my parents in the front were listening to music, my brother was watching a video on the wonderful tv that was so thoughtfully put into this van, and I was reading a book -- all at the same time comfortably and without noise interference. The controls in the back are also real helpful to adults since they don't have to constantly change the radio stations for their kids. The monotonous beeping when one doesn't fasten the seatbelt right away or when the turning signal is on too long gets annoying though. But this problem is extremely minimal if you weigh it against all the advantages and luxuries that this van offers. It should definitely be a strong consideration for families in need of space, entertainment, and a great ride.
What can you say about a vehicle whose seating in back is so tight that your five-year-old complains about leg room? I drove two models, the four door sedan and the wagon. The most lasting impression of the former was the ill-fitting steering column, which could not be modified to a more comfortable position. The wagon's designers inexplicably removed the mechanism for opening the rear hatch without a key or someone in the driver's seat to push a button. This desire to be different is simply crazy.
The Focus is smaller than the Escort, Ford's first "world" car, models of which can be found on almost every continent. For Americans, however, particularly those with the means to afford larger and more expensive models, the Focus feels small and cramped, especially for passengers in the rear and front seats. Even as a rental vehicle, I would not recommend it for family travel.
This workmanlike vehicle handled well enough, power is adequate on the highway, even with the well-designed air conditioning unit running. Exterior noise, however, forced me to turn up the volume on my best of Artie Shaw CD as I scooted along the Interstate.
Cargo space proved more than adequate for handling chores around town or packing for a week's vacation at scuba camp for my daughter Eve. The car offers basic transportation, with the added caveat that Ford's engineers have needlessly complicated some of its basic features.
The Ford Focus was just an average compact. Nothing worth drooling over. It was real small and although it is made out to be a cool new car, the only slightly cool touch it has are the back lights. If you're looking for a car in its class, especially for a family, the Focus isn't a good choice.
1999 Lincoln Navigator
These are two monster vehicles! The top of the line Navigator and its slightly less expensive cousin,--Ford's Navigator -- target drivers who want to tower over almost everything else on the road save the odd 18 wheeler and some late model Blazers. These cars--well cars is not an apt description of these beasts -- make Jeeps and Explorers seem downright puny when ranged against them at traffic lights.
It is doubtful that most owners will take these vehicles off road, where their four wheel drive capabilities can be put to the test. Where I live, when it snows no one ventures out, not so much because of the weather but because of the masses of snow-phobic drivers. Four wheel drive doesn't help much in a suburban snow squall!
1999 Ford Expedition
These vehicles are surprisingly easy to drive . . . for trucks. Turning and accelerating pose no problem for even the most reticent of drivers. And both share that "driving on air" feel of big American-made cars. On the inside, these behemoths are far less intimidating. The real difference between the Navigator and the Expedition are the former's use of two bucket seats behind the driver in place of the Expeditions's 3 person bench seat. They are both chock a block with all manner of bells and whistles which aim at making driving seem more like sitting in your living room. The controls permitting back seat passengers to fiddle with the radio are a mixed blessing for families with young kids...or teens. Speaking of kids, mine loved these vehicles. Their size and seating options gave them no end of enjoyment. The automatic environmental system worked like a charm, and the sound and light systems were comfortable.
I was, however, peeved by the need to constantly unlock doors and the back hatch, which lock automatically. And I was afraid to exit without my keys for fear of being locked out.
Each vehicle sports a third bench seat, which can easily accommodate three adults. Unfortunately, when this seat is installed, there is virtually no storage space, well, only enough for five grocery bags. Folding the back seat up doesn't make much of an improvement. In order to free up some real room, either the back bench or the second row seats must be removed -- an easy enough task in and of itself. But not one that you want to do regularly. Nor for $40,000 plus, should you.
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The stories on this website were accurate when published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.