Best Bets in Affordable Autos

Buyers looking for affordable vehicles will find that this model year has a promising variety of autos in all sizes. U.S. News & World Report offers their summary of rides -- from large SUVs to subcompacts -- that are affordable and reliable. Their numbers are compiled from the reports of analysts and editors from leading automotive reviews and ratings, as well as test drive results. Here are the top picks from each category.

Minivans

Those seeking out a family-mobile won't want to look much further than the top contender Honda Odyssey. A long list of luxurious standards edges out the Odyssey over strong contenders Toyota Sienna and Kia Sedona, which tied for second. Critics argue that the Sedona offers the best value for economy-minded individuals, but the Odyssey and Sienna offer more of the bells and whistles buyers desire.

Compact Cars

Affordability in a small package is what most of these models are all about. They'll offer a peppy ride and a fuel-efficient way of getting around. This makes them ideal for students, first-time buyers or eco-activists. The Honda Fit and Honda Civic are best bets for compact cars, offering style, innovation and an excellent price tag. Those looking beyond the Honda make should consider the Hyundai Elantra.

Midsize Cars

It's possible to get a little luxury even in well-priced midsized models. The Ford Fusion and close cousin Mercury Milan offer roomy interiors without the high price tag. The Fusion is the 2010 Motor Trend Car of the Year, and the hybrid model is garnering rave reviews. Looking for the best fuel efficiency? Seek out the Toyota Prius, which offers the best around. And with its 2008 redesign, the Chevy Malibu rounds out the top spots in this class.

Large Cars

If you desire a sedan with a little more passenger and storage room, then these models priced generally under $35,000 are worth investigating. The entirely new Ford Taurus is a major contender with style and electronics not seen in similar class vehicles. The Toyota Avalon and Chrysler 300 are close behind for power and reliability.

Compact Crossovers/SUVs

The recently redesigned Honda CR-V leads the way for affordable small SUVs. Great fuel economy and safety ratings for its class make it a favorite. The visually appealing GMC Terrain is quickly garnering good reviews in this class. It shares the same mechanical platform as the Chevrolet Equinox. The Toyota RAV4 is still selling strong 10 years after its introduction.

Midsize Crossovers/SUVs

The Buick Enclave screams luxury without the price tag of some of its luxury competitors. With stylish appointments and classy exterior, it has become a fan favorite. Close behind is Chevrolet's Traverse, which is turning out to be a super minivan alternative, according to reviewers. It seats up to 8 and the interior can be manipulated for plenty of storage. Distinctly designed, the Lincoln MKT blends the best of sedan with SUV. Plus, it offers V-8 type power with the fuel efficiency of a V-6.

Large Crossovers/SUVs

Those who still desire a large ride with plenty of towing and storage capability should look to the Toyota Sequoia, Mazda CX-9 or Chevrolet Tahoe.

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