In the old days, family cars were either big sedans or station wagons, maybe the occasional minivan – but the showcase of KBB’s 2011 Best Family Cars reveals that a whole lot has changed from then to now. Kelley Blue Book (KBB for short) presents its latest annual list of the best family cars – in the publication’s opinion.

Of course, KBB’s judging criteria includes the usual safety, comfort, economical operation, reasonable purchase price and good resale value, among others. We think they’re right on track, so take a look at KBB’s 2011 Best Family Cars.

2011 Chevrolet Suburban

Need to carry up to nine, possibly tow a load (maximum towing capacity is 9,600 pounds), and still have great cargo capacity (45.8 cubic feet behind the third row)? Then take a look at KBB’s number one choice for best family cars, the 2011 Chevrolet Suburban. The Suburban has been around for more than 75 years, and is still going strong. Fuel economy is respectable – for such a full-size SUV – at an EPA-estimated 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway. In addition, Suburban is comfortable and filled with all kinds of features and amenities a family could want.

2011 Honda Odyssey

Yes, it’s a minivan, but the 2011 Honda Odyssey – a perennial KBB favorite – is also all-new for this year. With seating for up to nine, five LATCH connectors, good cargo space (93.1 cubic feet with third row folded, 148.5 with second row removed), 15 cup holders, and lots of other cubbies and space for storage, the 2011 Honda Odyssey rides comfortably, handles well, and gets 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway fuel economy.

2011 Chevrolet Traverse

Here’s another family hauler, the 2011 Chevrolet Traverse, which can carry up to eight in style and comfort. Great exterior styling, impressive fuel economy (17 mpg city/24 mpg highway), abundant cargo capacity (116.4 cubic feet with second and third rows folded down), and five-star overall crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) help cinch Traverse’s spot on KBB’s 2011 Best Family Cars.

2011 Ford Flex

With its boxy wagon styling, the 2011 Ford Flex won’t appeal to every family, but it’s a great people-hauler as well as filled with people-pleasing features – including an available small refrigerator. Two fuel-efficient engines and great ride and handling are other highlights of the 2011 Ford Flex.

2011 Ford Explorer

All-new inside and out, the 2011 Ford Explorer is now firmly in the crossover category, thanks to unibody construction (versus previous truck-based body-on-frame architecture). This results in Explorer’s better ride, handling and improved fuel economy. Add well-appointed interior and great exterior styling and families have a winner in the 2011 Ford Explorer.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The flagship of the Jeep line, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is redesigned for this model year. That’s good news for families, since Grand Cherokee retains its capable off-road capabilities while improving its on-road manners. Even more impressive is the Grand Cherokee’s cabin, which is comfortable for driver and passengers and very well-appointed.

2011 Kia Sorento

KBB says it often calls this the “two and a half row” segment – and the Kia Sorento is their favorite. Sure, the 2011 Kia Sorento has three rows, but that third is best suited for children, not adults. Still, KBB selected the 2011 Kia Sorento for inclusion in its 10 Best Family Cars for its “superior mix of ride, handling and interior appeal.”

2011 Chrysler 300

One of only a few full-size sedans with prices that are family-friendly, the all-new 2011 Chrysler 300 proves that you can still buy a family sedan to accommodate your needs. Of course, options can quickly load up the price to $40,000+, but if you stick to the basics (in the $30,000-range), there’s keyless entry and start, super-quiet highway ride, luxurious interior, roomy back seat, 8.4-inch LCD control screen and more.

2011 Hyundai Sonata

Some reviewers say the midsize 2011 Hyundai Sonata has taken the automotive world by storm. All-new this year, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata provides that incomparable blend of design, quality and value. From hauling the kids to taking clients out on the road, the Sonata is perfectly suited to all kinds of daily activities. And it’s filled with safety technologies and comes with Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000-mile warranty. There’s even a hybrid model.

2011 Volkswagen Golf

Hatchback versatility, European driving dynamics, and an interior that rivals that of luxury cars, the 2011 Volkswagen Golf – with starting prices under $20,000 — proves that a family car can not only be completely practical, it can also be fun.

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