AAA And Parents Magazine Select 15 Best Cars For Families

Washington, D.C. – 3/15/2004

AAA and Parents magazine name the 15 “Best Cars for Families” in the current (April) issue of the publication and in AAA Auto Guide: 2004 New Cars and Trucks.

The top picks went through additional scrutiny to make this year’s list. After AAA’s veteran auto reviewers evaluated 200 vehicles, Parents’ staff put this year’s finalists to the ultimate test: family driving.

“We installed our own kids’ car seats, filled the trunks with groceries, and used these vehicles for day-to-day driving and family road trips. In the end we selected 15 cars that combine safety, reliability, and style,” said Parents editor-in-chief Sally Lee, who tested a Volkswagen Touareg. “This list combines Parents’ understanding of what moms, dads and kids want with AAA’s automotive and safety expertise.”

While test-driving the vehicles, AAA and Parents considered everything from air bags and fuel economy to cup holders and cargo space. The reviewers also installed a variety of child safety seats into every car, making sure it could be done easily and securely. Of those vehicles that have been tested, the AAA/Parents picks are among the top performers in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

“Car buyers want to be sure that they’ll get top safety, convenient features, and lasting value for their money when they buy a new vehicle,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s Director of Automotive Information, and reviewer for the AAA Auto Guide: 2004 New Cars and Trucks. “With many parents and children spending several hours per week in the car, it’s important that the car be a safe, happy place for everyone in it.”

Now in its third year, the list includes selections of economy cars, sedans, station wagons, sport utility vehicles and minivans. Complete descriptions of each vehicle are available in the April issue of Parents and in AAA Auto Guide: 2004 New Cars and Trucks. Here are the winners in each category, as described by Parents magazine:

ECONOMY
Honda Civic: “One of the most reliable cars on the market in any price range. Features include a roomy trunk, outstanding safety performance, and thrifty gas consumption.”
Scion xB: “A low chassis and high roofline create tons of headroom and huge windows, giving little kids great visibility. Includes lots of safety features such as antilock brakes, stability control, and traction control.”
Volkswagen Jetta: “Comes with one of the most complete safety arsenals of any inexpensive car, including antilock brakes and side-curtain air bags. Features suave European styling and sporty handling.”

SEDANS
Honda Accord: “Calm and quiet ride. Earns top marks in the government’s frontal- and side-impact crash tests and is an IIHS ‘best pick.’ An optional climate-control feature automatically directs more cool air to the sunny side of the car.”
Chevrolet Malibu: “The front passenger seat folds flat so you can transport long, awkward-size items. Also comes in a sleek hatchback, called the Malibu Maxx, which has a rear seat that slides forward or back seven inches so you can fine-tune cargo and passenger capacity.”
Toyota Camry: “Legendary reliability. Features include a peppy four-cylinder engine, handy storage pockets, and a quiet, spacious cabin. A 60/40 split rear seat gives you more flexibility.”

STATION WAGONS
Chrysler Pacifica: “Three rows of seats are standard, and the rear seat can fold flat for storage purposes. Stellar safety performance—earning top marks in the government’s frontal- and side-impact crash tests and chosen as an IIHS ‘best pick.'”
Volvo V70: “The comfortable interior is luxurious and refined. Three rows of seats include an old-fashioned but totally functional rear-facing bench for older kids and adults in the cargo area, and optional built-in booster seats. Safety features include standard side-curtain air bags, a reinforced passenger cabin, and antilock brakes.”
Pontiac Vibe: “A roomy rear seat easily accommodates two car seats and folds down entirely or in parts. Clever innovations include a regular two-prong electrical outlet and lots of storage nooks. Earned top marks on the government’s frontal impact crash test and near-perfect scores on the side-impact test.”

SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES (SUVS)
Ford Explorer/Mercury Mountaineer: “Seats up to seven. Front and rear side-curtain air bags and a stability-control system are available on most models. Scored four out of five stars in NHTSA’s frontal-impact crash tests and earned a ‘best pick’ rating from IIHS.”
Volkswagen Touareg: “Sophisticated safety technology includes curtain air bags that span the front and rear seats and a stability-control system that manipulates the engine and brakes to steady the car in a swerve. Plenty of storage space.”
Nissan Murano: “Precise car-like control, even on sharp turns, and was rated an IIHS ‘best pick’ for safety. Roomy cargo area expands by folding down the 60/40-split rear seatbacks. Comfortably seats five.”

MINIVANS
Toyota Sienna: “Seats up to eight with the help of an optional split second-row bench. The center portion can be positioned forward nearly 13 inches, giving better access to a baby. All rear seats fold flat into the floor. Rated an IIHS ‘best pick’ for safety, the Sienna features stability control, antilock brakes, and optional side-curtain air bags that protect all three rows.”
Nissan Quest: “Both the second row captain’s chairs and the third-row seat fold flat into the floor for added cargo space. The interior is roomy and easy to maneuver in, thanks to second-row seats that can slide individually forward or back. Optional skylights over the second and third rows give the interior a bright, open feel. Standard side-curtain air bags.”
Honda Odyssey: “Earns the government’s highest safety ratings for frontal- and side-impact crashes. Features include handy storage bins, 11 cup holders, and large, comfy second-row seats that can be positioned either together or apart. Third row of seats easily folds flat into the floor. Has pinpoint steering, sedan-like agility, and quick acceleration.”
Safety features that protect young passengers factor significantly in selecting the “Best Cars for Families.” Additional information for keeping young passengers safe, including tips from AAA’s award-winning child passenger safety public service campaign, “Seated, Safe and Secure,” is on Parents’ web site: www.parents.com, and at www.aaapublicaffairs.com.

AAA Auto Guide: 2004 New Cars and Trucks contains detailed reviews and photos of 200 vehicles. It is available at AAA offices and at retail bookstores. The retail price is $14.95 US/$23.95 CDN.

Founded in 1926, Parents magazine pioneered the parenthood category; and with nearly 14 million readers every month, it continues to lead the field today. From cover to cover, Parents is an active advocate for the American family, providing moms and dads with the information they need to raise happy and healthy children.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides 47 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

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