Family Onboard: Eco-Friendly Family Vehicles
A useful family vehicle doesn’t have to be a gas-guzzler.

With two young kids, my friend Sherry thought she needed a giant vehicle in which to haul them around safely. Now she’s on a first-name basis with her gas-station attendant and spends three times more money fueling her Suburban than I do filling my Accord.

Like many car buyers, Sherry wasn’t thinking “good gas mileage” when she went shopping for family transportation. According to AutoPacific, an automotive research company, new-vehicle buyers rank good gas mileage 19th on their list of the 41 most important attributes they seek in a vehicle – behind quality, styling and safety.

“But after they buy a vehicle, people always want better gas mileage,” says AutoPacific’s George Peterson. “They resent spending money on gas.”

If a wallop to your wallet isn’t enough to get you to rethink your family transportation, maybe you should consider the environmental consequences. Every gallon of gas your vehicle burns spews 20 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Driving a vehicle that gets 20 mpg compared with 25 mpg will put an additional 10 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere over the lifetime of the vehicle.

There are simple things anyone can do to improve fuel economy, such as keeping tires inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, obeying speed limits and avoiding “jack-rabbit” starts. But the best thing you can do is shop for the right kind of family transportation to start with.

NT face=Verdana>“Don’t insist on the most powerful engine. Base models have plenty of power for real-world driving,” says Jim Kliesch, transportation analyst with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and co-author of ACEEE’s Green Book – An Environmental Guide to Cars & Trucks. “If you’re in the market for an SUV, consider a crossover vehicle, such as the Subaru Forester or Volvo Cross Country. Crossovers combine car-like handling with SUV-like versatility and get better gas mileage than trucks.”

NT face=Verdana>Below are some of the best, most fuel-efficient family haulers. Drive one, and your family can make more stops at the ice-cream store and fewer stops at the gas station. Each is EPA-rated for city/highway mpg fuel economy.

NT face=Verdana>Compact Sedans

NT face=Verdana>• Toyota Prius (52/45, auto) – Powered by a gas engine and an electric motor, the Prius can go 500 miles on a single tank of gas.

NT face=Verdana>• Honda Civic Hybrid (50/50, auto) – America’s best-selling compact car now available with gas/electric power.

NT face=Verdana>Midsize Sedans

NT face=Verdana>• Honda Accord (23/30, auto) – Reliable, roomy and always practical.

Toyota Camry (23/32, auto) – There’s a reason it’s the top-selling family sedan.

Large Sedans

font-weight: normal">Toyota Avalon (21/29, auto) – Roomy and comfortable, just like a Buick.

font-weight: normal">Station Wagons

font-weight: normal">• Ford Focus (25/33, auto) – Superb handling and loads of cargo capacity.

font-weight: normal">• Volkswagen Passat (20/29, auto) – Stylish, roomy and a favorite of Consumer Reports.

font-weight: normal">Minivans

Toyota Sienna (21/29, auto) – It drives just like a Camry.

• Honda Odyssey (18/25, auto) – A favorite of Consumer Reports, it drives like an Accord.


• Ford Escape (23/26, auto) – Drives like a car and is rated for all kinds of weather.

Toyota RAV4 (24/29, auto) – Cute, compact and a miracle of thriftiness.

Toyota Highlander (22/27, auto) – A nontruck SUV with all the attributes of a Camry.

• Jeep Liberty (19/23, manual) – Real off-road capability and a comfortable highway ride.

For more information on the fuel-economy leaders in each category, visit or Or order ACEEE’s Green Book ($8.95) by calling 202-429-8873.