While a great number of the posts on Motor1 breathlessly describe the merits of high-performance cars, more pragmatic motorists on limited budgets usually have to settle for a vehicle that meets more realistic expectations than any of the quickest and most nimble coupes can meet.
That usually means choosing a ride that performs well, is sufficiently roomy, gets good fuel economy, and earns top marks for safety.
For the sake of our more practically minded visitors, we dug deep into spec sheets and databases to find 11 new vehicles in various market segments for 2017 that are ideal for commuting, carpooling, weekend shopping excursions, and long summer road trips. Specifically, each boasts among the best fuel economy and most spacious cargo volume in their respective classes and earns a Top Safety Pick+ designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (which means receiving top marks in each of the IIHS’s crash tests and offering a frontal auto-braking system to help a driver avoid collisions).
By that measure, we're featuring a large number of hatchbacks/wagons and crossover SUVs for their expansive cargo room and several hybrid gas/electric-powered models for their stellar fuel economy (though those looking to save money up front could alternately choose the conventionally-powered version of the same model). We excluded plug-in hybrid and full electric models for both range and cost considerations, as well as models in segments for which there are no TSP+ winners. All prices quoted are for base models and include the manufacturer's destination charge.
1. Small Car: Subaru Impreza Hatchback
In a close race between the Impreza and the hatchback version of the Mazda3, the Subaru gets the nod by including all-wheel-drive for about the same money. The Impreza is EPA rated at 24/34 miles per gallon city/highway in its base version and features 20.8 cubic feet of stowage with the rear seats upright and 55.3 cubic feet with the seat backs folded flat. MSRP: $19,970.
2. Midsize Car: Toyota Prius V
The longer, wagon-like member of the Toyota Prius family of hybrid-powered cars falls short of the standard version’s lofty 52-mpg rating, but it’s still plenty frugal at 43/39 mpg, and offers additional cargo space at 34.3 cubic feet with the rear seat upright and 67.3 cubic feet with it folded flat. MSRP: $27,560.
3. Midsize Luxury Car: Volvo V60
With an impressive list of safety features coming standard and several more optional, the V60 is rated at 25/36 mpg with the standard turbo-four engine, and boasts a maximum cargo capacity of 43.8 cubic feet. MSRP: $37,145.
4. Large Car: Toyota Avalon Hybrid
The hybrid version of the large Avalon sedan is every bit as amenable as the gasoline-powered version, with a roomy interior and a sufficiently spacious 16.0 cubic feet of trunk space, but gets top fuel economy at 42/38-mpg city/highway. MSRP: $38,185.
5. Large Luxury Car: Lincoln Continental
Among the smattering of big luxury sedans that received a Top Safety Pick+ designation by the IIHS, the new-for-2017 Continental gets the nod by virtue of its 16.7 cubic feet of trunk space and an 18/27 mpg fuel economy ratings with the 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 engine. MSRP: $45,645.
6. Small SUV: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
The fuel economy champ among small crossover SUVs, the lively RAV4 Hybrid is rated at 34/30 mpg and features 35.6 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat upright and 70.6 cubic feet with the rear seat folded flat. It comes standard with all-wheel-drive for added foul-weather safety. MSRP: $28,870.
7. Small Luxury SUV: Lexus NX 300h
Lexus’ small hybrid all-wheel-drive crossover may give up a bit of cargo space to some of its rivals, with 16.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 53,7 with the seatbacks deployed, but the hybrid version makes up for it with superior fuel economy at 33/30 mpg. MSRP: $40,695.
8. Midsize SUV: Toyota Highlander Hybrid
The seven-passenger Highlander Hybrid crossover SUV is rated at 29/27 mpg city/highway and affords 13.8 cubic feet of storage behind the third-row seat and a total of 83.7 cubic feet with second and third rows folded. Like Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid above, all-wheel-drive is standard. MSRP: $37,230.
9. Midsize Luxury SUV: Lexus RX 450h
The EPA rates this popular hybrid-powered crossover at 31/28-mpg and includes an all-wheel-drive system that utilizes separate electric motors for the front and rear axles. It affords 18.0 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats upright and 55.9 cubic feet with the seatbacks folded. MSRP: $54,010.
10. Minivan: Chrysler Pacifica
The roomy and capable Pacifica is actually quite stylish and offers some innovative family minded features. It’s the only minivan to earn a Top Safety Pick+ designation by the IIHS. There’s 32.3 cubic feet of space behind the third-row seat and a full 140.5 cubic feet with both the second and third rows folded flat into the floor. Fuel economy is a decent 19/28-mpg city/highway. (A costlier plug-in hybrid version is also available that can run for an estimated 33 miles solely on electricity with a full charge.) MSRP: $30,090.
11. Pickup Truck: Honda Ridgeline
Pickup trucks are already among the most practical vehicles in existence, offering large cargo beds and spacious interiors. Like the above Pacifica, the midsize car-based four-door Honda Ridgeline is the only pickup to earn Top Safety Pick+ status from the IIHS; it gets 19/26 mpg, and comes with many practically minded features that include a two-way tailgate, and both under-seat and under-bed storage areas. MSRP: $30,415.