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The 10 Best Family Cars of 2011

Content from Kelley Blue Book

These days more than ever families come in all shapes and sizes, so it only makes sense that the family vehicles of today follow suit. Whereas back in the dark recesses of time the typical family owned a sedan or station wagon, contemporary families can choose among SUVs, crossovers, minivans, wagons and hatchbacks in addition to the prosaic family sedan. Certainly, it is nice to have options, but a wide variety of choices can also make the choosing all the more difficult, so each year we at Kelley Blue Book put our collective heads together to sort out the Top 10 Family Cars.

Among the wealth of criteria we use in the spirited judging are the characteristics that make vehicles family-friendly - safety, comfort, economy of operation, child-friendliness, a reasonable purchase price and good resale value tops among them.

Just as there is no perfect family, there is no perfect family vehicle that is right for all families all the time. But that being said, we believe that all of the worthy vehicles on this list will provide excellent service and a fine ownership experience for the families who choose to make them their own. Here, then, are our choices as the Top 10 Family Cars of 2011, presented largest to smallest.

2011 Chevrolet Suburban
2011 Chevrolet Suburban
In addition to seating for up to nine passengers, the ability to tow up to 9,600 pounds and a whopping 45.8 cubic feet of cargo space -- behind the third row! -- the 2011 Chevy Suburban returns better-than-Expedition fuel economy of 15 city and 21 highway miles per gallon. Add to this people- and cargo-moving mix a pleasant ride and all manner of creature comforts, and it's easy to see why the Suburban made our list of Top 10 Family Cars again this year.

2011 Honda Odyssey
2011 Honda Odyssey
As the gold standard of minivans, the Honda Odyssey easily makes our list of family haulers. Designed to please the whole family, including the driver, the 2011 Honda Odyssey offers surprisingly responsive handling while maintaining a comfortable highway ride. The kids will be more impressed by the extra-wide 16-inch rear video display that can function as two side-by-side monitors and show two movies at once.

2011 Chevrolet Traverse
2011 Chevrolet Traverse
No stranger to this list, the Chevy Traverse remains among the most family-friendly vehicles on the market. Practical features like seating for up to eight passengers, abundant cargo space, impressive fuel economy and a five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) appeal to our pragmatic side, while the 2011 Chevy Traverse's attractive exterior styling and surprisingly nimble handling help win over our emotions.

2011 Ford Flex
2011 Ford Flex
The boxy, wagon-like design isn't for every mom and dad, but a quick spin in the 2011 Ford Flex can convert even the most unadventurous buyer. Combining a 262-horsepower V6 with a lower center of gravity than most three-row options, the 2011 Ford Flex is the most fun-to-drive, most car-like family hauler you can get your hands on for less than $30,000. It also offers enough amenities - including a small refrigerator - to make it a viable minivan substitute. Want to have even more fun? Go for the 355-horsepower twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine and you can relive your days as a lead-footed hooligan (after you drop off the kids).

2011 Ford Explorer
2011 Ford Explorer
The 2011 Ford Explorer isn't just new from the tires up, it's different. Whereas every Explorer before it featured truck-style body-on-frame construction, the newest Explorer is a car-based crossover vehicle with unibody construction. The results? Better ride, better handling and better fuel efficiency, to name a few. It doesn't offer all the towing or off-road capabilities of its predecessor, but it delivers far more than most families will ever need. Top it all off with sharp styling and a well-appointed interior and you've got the best Explorer ever.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
For families whose taste for the finer things in life is only rivaled by their lust for adventure, we recommend the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The recently redesigned Grand Cherokee remains every inch the capable off-roader, but improved on-road manners and an elevated level of refinement -- most noticeable in its well-appointed cabin -- propel Jeep's flagship to new levels of excellence.

2011 Kia Sorrento
2011 Kia Sorento
The 2011 Kia Sorento is our new favorite in what we often label the two-and-a-half-row segment. If you need three rows on a daily basis or plan on putting adults in the way back, you'll be better served by something larger. But if your three-row needs are occasional and typically involve elementary-schoolers, the 2011 Kia Sorento is a more affordable, more fuel-efficient, more maneuverable alternative. A superior mix of ride, handling and interior appeal helped cement the Sorento's spot on this year's list of Top 10 Family Cars.

2011 Chrysler 300
2011 Chrysler 300
Before minivans and then SUVs, large sedans were a staple of the American road and the families who roamed them. Today, there are just a handful of large sedans with family-friendly starting prices. The 2011 Chrysler 300 is one of the newest and one of the best. With a HEMI V8 engine and all the accoutrements, a Chrysler 300C will climb well into the $40,000 range, but for under $30,000 you can treat the family to a well-crafted interior, roomy backseat, uncannily quiet highway ride, keyless entry and start, plus an 8.4-inch LCD control screen.

2011 Hyundai Sonata
2011 Hyundai Sonata
The all-new 2011 Hyundai Sonata has taken the mid-size sedan market by storm with a compelling mix of design, quality and value. The Sonata is also chock-full of safety features, comes with one of the best warranties on the market, and even offers a fuel-sipping hybrid model. With enough style and versatility to transform effortlessly from child-hauler to client shuttle on a daily basis, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata is an easy choice for someone who needs to impress while still being practical.

2011 Volkswagon Golf
2011 Volkswagen Golf
In much of Europe, where wagons and hatchbacks enjoy the same popularity that sedans have in the U.S., the Volkswagen Golf is as much a family car as the Toyota Camry is here. With a starting price under $20,000, hatchback versatility, true European driving dynamics and an interior that rivals those of some much pricier cars, the 2011 Volkswagen Golf is a perfectly practical family car that also satisfies a desire for something nice and fun.

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