The massive SUVs and even the minivans that seat eight can be way too much car for a family of three or four — and often the sticker price of those big vehicles are budget busters as well.
But there are plenty of four-door sedans on the market that are perfect for a family or four (or fewer). We found these deals on AOL Autos.
1. Hyundai Elantra
Price: $16,695 - $21,115
Fuel Economy: 28 mpg City/38 mpg Highway
AOL Autos says: One of Consumer Reports' top-rated compact sedans, the well-rounded Elantra delivers a lot for the money. It's roomier and more refined than a typical subcompact yet gets competitive fuel economy. The Elantra also provides nimble handling, a fairly comfortable ride, a smooth, responsive power-train, and a well-finished interior at an affordable price.
The Elantra is, and has been, a favorite of AOL Editors, too. Last year, and this year, we named it the best vehicle overall under $20,000.
2. Subaru Impreza
Price: $17,895 - $22,995
Fuel Economy: 29 mpg City, 33 mpg Highway
AOL Autos says: Sometimes we think the Impreza gets lost a bit in the discussion around compact sedans because the preferred body style for the car is the five-door hatch.
Either way, the Impreza is a wonderful piece of work for reliability, quality, driving characteristics and the best all-wheel-drive system in the business. And the company has managed, in this fairly new design, to dramatically improve the fuel economy, compared with the last Impreza, up to 33 mpg in highway driving--very good considering the weight of the all-wheel-drive system that comes standard on each car.
The Impreza, for all those reasons, is a number-one in many parts of the country where the weather tends to be snowy for a good part of the year -- New England, Great Lakes and Pacific Northwest.
3. Chevrolet Cruze
Price: $17,130 - $23,550
Fuel Economy: 25 mpg City, 36 mph Highway
AOL Autos says: The Chevy Cruze Eco, our favorite trim level of the this car, suffers only from name recognition. Chevy has had a terrible time achieving consistency in this category having sold cars named Cobalt and HHR here for a few years before launching the Cruze.
The ECO, with the 1.4 liter, in-line four cylinder engine and a manual transmission, gets 28 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. Even without going Eco, and staying with a different trim and automatic transmission, the real world mileage is above 30 mpg for mixed driving in our experience.
4. Ford Focus
Price: $16,200 - $24,200
Fuel Economy: 26 mpg City, 36 mph Highway
AOL Autos says: The new Ford Focus is much better than its predecessor, but it also has stiff competition — including from cross-town rival GM for the first time in a long while.
We like the versatility of choice between the sedan and the hatchback, the interior design and the latest version of Sync, which makes pairing one's phone with the car much easier.
We also like that Ford invested to offer an electric version of the Focus, which we like a lot, as well as the performance-equipped Focus ST.
Where the Focus bugs us a little is in how the price creeps up in a hurry when you start checking the boxes on the stuff we want. Even the standard Focus in the Titanium trim level we spec'd out in the online configurator would hit our wallet at over $26,000 before destination charges. The SE four-door sedan, though, was a respectable $19,000.
Buy it locally: Bill Selig Ford in Windsor, Family Ford of Enfield, Ray Seraphin Ford in Vernon
5. Dodge Dart
Price: $15,995 - $19.995
Fuel Economy: 25 mpg City, 36 mph Highway
AOL Autos says: The Dodge Dart has sporty styling, a very nice interior, and an efficient power-plant under the hood. We also love Chrysler's Uconnect (AOL Autos 2012 Technology of the Year) system that handles all the smartphone connectivity, navigation, etc. Our favorite version is the Dodge Dart Limited.
But here's where it gets to be a problem. Like the Ford Focus, the Dodge Dart creeps up the pricing ladder in a hurry when you start checking the attractive boxes. The one we like spec'd out at almost $26,000. Value is important in this category, and as much as we like driving the Dart and recommend it, the car is a little shy on total value for us in this highly competitive category.
Buy it locally: Artioli Dodge in Enfield or Mitchell Chrysler Dodge RAM of Simsbury.