Seven Cars for Moms to Escape the Minivan Rut

By Russ Heaps Lifestyle and Budget

Vehicles wait during a traffic jam along a major thoroughfare in Beijing August 10, 2007. The Chinese capital will hold a test drill for keeping cars off the road during its 2008 Olympic Games, a crucial hurdle for the city beset by pollution and ... traffic jams, officials announced on Friday. Between Aug. 17 and 20, about 1.3 million of the city's 3 million vehicles will be ordered off the streets each day depending on whether licence plates end in an odd or even number. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV (CHINA)

Moms Can Have Cool Cars, Too

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Choosing seven 2013 vehicles that moms will love isn't an attempt to group cars and trucks by gender preference. Rather, it simply presents a variety of cars and trucks that make a busy mom's life a bit easier.

Each has some feature or attribute designed to save time, money or effort as Mom fulfills her various roles as chauffeur, errand-runner and income-producer.

Bankrate included everything from a hybrid to a full-size pickup truck. What you won't find is a minivan. There are several very good ones out there that could have made this group, but think of this as a list of minivan alternatives.

All but one of these entries are available with all-wheel drive as an extra-cost option.

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Although many of these vehicles are larger than cars, fuel economy was still an important qualifier. Every vehicle on this list had to get at least 20 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, based on Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

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Chevrolet Traverse 2LT FWD

  • Base price: $36,580
  • Gas mileage:
    • City - 17 mpg
    • Highway - 24 mpg

Convenience and safety are the Traverse's key attributes. When decked out in its 2LT trim, it comes with a power rear liftgate, rear parking sensors and a backup camera. Every Traverse gets a new front center air bag, bringing the total air bag count to six.

Structurally unchanged for 2013, the 2012 Traverse received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest crash-test scores.

With flexible seating that can accommodate up to eight, interior space is generous and usable. Access to the adult-friendly third row is made easy by a Smart Slide second-row seat that powers out of the way with one hand.

A 288-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 provides the go. Other standard features include three-zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, 10-speaker Bose audio system with smartphone integration and full power accessories.

Ford Flex Limited

  • Base price: $39,200
  • Gas mileage:
    • City - 18 mpg
    • Highway - 25 mpg

Mom will like Flex's top-end Limited model because it includes safety enhancements like a Blind Spot Information System and rear-view camera, as well as other sought-after extras such as power liftgate and power-adjustable pedals with memory.

Flex earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest crash-test scores in 2012, and it is structurally unchanged for 2013. Optional safety technology includes a collision warning system with brake support. It seats up to seven.

Power goes to the front wheels via a six-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission from a 287-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6.

Other standard features: MyFord Touch interface with voice control for multiple functions such as cellphone and navigation system, SYNC Bluetooth connectivity, and a 12-speaker Sony Audio System with MP3 player interface.

Infiniti JX35

  • Base price: $42,650 (AWD version)
  • Gas mileage:
    • City - 18 mpg
    • Highway - 24 mpg

The Infiniti JX35 should appeal to moms looking for gobs of passenger space, upscale amenities and a wide array of optional, high-end safety technology.

Second-row seats with a tilt-and-slide feature create a wide opening for accessing the third row that can accommodate adults.

Included in the base price are a number of key features, such as a rear-view monitor and a power rear liftgate. Other standard equipment: keyless entry/ignition, three-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and iPod interface.

To the price above add $3,100 for the technology package, and you get lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, blind spot warning, Blind Spot Intervention and front pre-crash seat belts, which tighten preemptively in a frontal collision.

A 265-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 mated to an automatic continuously variable automatic transmission delivers the giddyap.

Lexus CT 200h

  • Base price: $32,050
  • Gas mileage:
    • City - 43 mpg
    • Highway - 40 mpg

Ideal for around-town errand running, the CT 200h is really designed for smaller families with one or two children. Not only is it the only hybrid on this list, it's the only vehicle without available all-wheel drive.

It's hard to take issue with the outstanding fuel economy delivered by the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine paired with two electric motors. Total combined horsepower is 134, which is delivered to the front wheels by way of automatic continuously variable transmission.

Although the premium interior lives up to the Lexus name, it's not as opulent as the cabins of its Lexus stablemates.

It earned top crash-test scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Among its standard equipment are eight air bags, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and iPod interface.

Ram 1500 Crew Cab SLT

  • Base price: $33,820
  • Gas mileage:
    • City - 18 mpg
    • Highway - 25 mpg

Finding a full-size pickup truck on a list of vehicles for busy mothers might surprise you, but Bankrate believes there are moms out there looking for the added utility only a truck can provide.

You may not be able to readily tell from its outside wrapper, but the Ram 1500 was redesigned for 2013.

A new 305-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine sends output to the rear wheels via the only eight-speed automatic transmission in the segment. It uses a rotary gear selector rather than a shift lever. This combination delivers the best fuel economy in the big-truck segment.

The roomy cabin seats up to six with lots of hidden storage. Standard features include full power accessories, Bluetooth connectivity and iPod interface.

Rear parking sensors and a backup camera are available as options.

Toyota Venza XLE

  • Base price: $31,360
  • Gas mileage:
    • City - 21 mpg
    • Highway - 27 mpg

Venza does a number of things well, and moms can appreciate its versatility. It's priced here with the fuel-efficient 181-horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. A six-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission ushers power to the front wheels.

Even when carrying five in its roomy, comfortable cabin, it still has plenty of cargo space behind the second-row seat.

Venza earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's top scores in its crash tests.

Among its serious mom-has-to-have features are a backup camera and power rear liftgate. Other standard gear: seven air bags, reclining rear seats, leather-trimmed seating, and a six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity and iPod interface.

Volvo XC60 3.2

  • Base price: $34,350
  • Gas mileage:
    • City - 19 mpg
    • Highway - 25 mpg

You almost have to expect a car list with safety as a key element to include a Volvo of some stripe. The XC60 received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest crash-test scores for the past three years.

A 240-horsepower 3.2-liter in-line six-cylinder engine delivers output to the front wheels.

Adding to the 3.2's base model, the Platinum version includes all manner of goodies, not the least of which are a power rear liftgate, front and rear parking sensors, and a backup camera.

Seating five, the interior is roomy and features popular amenities, such as navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity and an optional surround-sound audio system with iPod interface.