Sedan vs. SUV
 Sedan Strength vs. SUV

• Low step-in height.

• Security of a lockable trunk.

• Looks professional, taking you from business lunch to soccer games with ease.

• Handles easily, like a car – because it is a car!

• Better gas mileage.

• Easy to maneuver and park.

• Low overall height, so no worries about scraping off your bike rack on the ceiling of a parking garage.

• Lower center of gravity makes it feel more secure to drive, less of a rollover risk.

• Doesn’t encourage clutter like a big SUV or minivan does.

• Good vehicle for families with older kids, who will end up driving it to high school.

• Lower price. You can get a really well-equipped sedan for the same price as a base SUV.

Weaknesses vs. SUV

• Limited carrying capacity for passengers and cargo.

• Constricted visibility (you can’t see over other cars).

• Fewer all-wheel-drive models.

• Less towing capacity.

• Not as intimidating in parking-space standoffs.

• Less ground clearance.

• Older, more conservative image.

Five Family Sedans

In the market for a family sedan? Here is a handful of easy picks:

• Honda Accord – about $16,000 to $25,000. With a vroomier V6 engine (up 40 hp to 240 hp) and a sleek new body that conveys “the muscular grace of a cheetah,” Honda hopes to pounce on buyers who might otherwise purchase a Volkswagen Passat. Completely redesigned for 2003, Accord features a roomier back seat, a body-hugging driver’s seat (“We could sell this car on the seat alone,” says Accord’s project manager), dual AC controls, and all sorts of thoughtful touches like (my personal favorite) water-bottle holders in all four doors. Also available is a sweet-running 160-hp, 4-cylinder engine that’s stingy with gas.

Toyota Camry – $19,500 to $25,980. America’s perennial best seller got a complete redo for 2002. It got bigger, more powerful and more stylish. While it still looks a bit bland, the Camry is as safe, reliable and dependable as the boy your mom wanted you to date in high school. Available with a 157-hp, 4-cylinder engine, or a 192-hp V6 engine, the Camry is a car that, like the Accord, you’ll never have to explain to the neighbors why you bought it.

• Volkswagen Passat – $22,300 to $38,500. This is Consumer Reports’ favorite family sedan, and it combines Euro-styling, solid German engineering and a warm, well-crafted interior. Beautifully constructed and enjoyable to drive, the Passat is giving the Camry and Accord a run for their money. Speaking of which, the Passat costs a bit more than its rivals. But it also matches some near-luxury models in quality, spaciousness and comfort. Passat is available with front- or all-wheel drive and a choice of three engines: a 170-hp, 4-cylinder; a 190-hp V6; or the new 275-hp “W8” – VW’s first 8-cylinder engine ever.

Ford Taurus – $19,685 to $23,950. The standard reference for family sedans, Ford’s best-selling car offers good ride, plenty of elbow room in back, and enough cargo space to stash most everyone’s toys. At one time, the Taurus’ jelly-bean shape was considered radical; now it just looks like a rental car inside and out. Still, the Taurus is comfortable, affordable, spacious and one of the safest family sedans around. If only it looked better. Available with a 155-hp V6 or a 200-hp V6.

• Nissan Altima – $17,200-$23,700 – All-new for 2002, the Altima sports the most dramatic exterior of all mid-size competitors. It also has a sporty ride, outstanding powerplants and best-in-class cabin space. Altima is huge inside, with a limousine-like rear seat. It only loses points on interior style, where the materials feel cheap. Available with a choice of two punchy engines: a 175-hp, 4-cylinder and a 240-hp V6. Don’t buy a mid-size family sedan without first test-driving the Altima.
Prices provided by manufacturers, October 2002. For updated pricing information, visit their Web sites or your dealer.

Read more about family sedans.

From United Parenting Publications, October 2002.