When shopping for a good used car seems more like a chore than it should be, consider what it is you really need in the way of wheels and refine your search accordingly. If a reliable, good-looking and affordable used V6 cars is in your sights, here are three picks that you should seriously consider.

These choices are based on recommendations from Consumer Reports, Edmunds 2009 Used Car Best Bets, as well as reviews and comments from various automotive experts. Look them over and maybe check out the other good choices as well.

  • Toyota Camry (2002-2007) – Consumer Reports, in their Best Used Vehicles Under $20,000 (published in Toyota_Camry_v6April 2009), lists the Toyota Camry in seven categories: from $4,000-$6,000 all the way up to $16,000-$18,000. Years encompass 1999 through 2007. Edmunds gives the 2002-2007 Camry the nod in the midsize sedan category, lauding its “fine build quality, legendary reliability and a hushed ride.” In a review of the model, Edmunds extols the “powerful and fuel-efficient [268-hp 3.5-liter] V-6, plush ride quality and top crash test scores.” Cons include some “disappointing interior plastics, inconsistent fit and finish and uninspired driving dynamics for non-SE models.” The 6th generation Camry bowed in 2007, while antilock brakes (ABS) were added in 2005 as standard equipment on all models.
  • Nissan Altima (2002) – Edmunds hails the Altima for its “ample yet refined power, especially with the optional [270-hp 3.5-liter] V6, along with perhaps the sportiest handling of any family sedan.” Pros include responsive steering, high crash test scores, and attractive inside and out styling, high-quality interior materials and strong engines. Edmunds cons include “mediocre rear seating comfort [and] complex option grouping.” Consumer Reports lists Altima in three categories: $4,000-$6,000 (1999), $8,000-$10,000 (2003) and $12,000-$14,000 (2005-2006).
  • Chevrolet Malibu (2008-2009) – All-new in 2008, the Chevrolet Malibu midsize family sedan “boasts a level of refinement and overall competence,” says Edmunds, and its “comfortable, quiet ride, a roomy cabin, satisfying performance, handsome styling and value pricing make Chevrolet’s latest Malibu a strong choice.” The front-wheel drive (FWD) Malibu, priced considerably less than a comparable Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, is available with a 252-hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Cons for Edmunds include “no rear-center armrest, some subpar cabin materials, and fussy manual shift feature.” Note that electronic stability control (ESC) became standard on all models in the 2009 model year. The 2008 Malibu was named the North American Car of the Year.

Other V6 cars to consider include the 2004-2005 Lexus GS, Audi A4 compact entry-level luxury sedan (with 165-hp 3.2-liter V-6), Audi A6 luxury midsize sedan (255-hp V-6 or supercharged 300-hp V-6), Ford Fusion (with 221-hp 3.0-liter V-6), Honda Accord (with 271-hp 3.5-liter V-6), and Saab 9-3 (with 255-hp 2.8-liter V-6).

By Suzanne Kane

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