Midsize sedans: The best family cars

Car key in door lock

Shopping for a midsize sedan can be mind-boggling with 50 different models and prices ranging from $15,000 to more than $25,000.

But we've done a lot of the work for you by finding the best of the bunch. Three offer the most comfort or performance. Three offer the best value, with an emphasis on price and gas mileage.

Buy one of these and you can't go wrong and will have a great family car.

All offer seating for five. They're easy to get in and out of through all four doors. Trunks are roomy with fold-down rear seats and an opening through the trunk to carry cargo.

All have a full array of state-of-the-art safety features as standard equipment or pay-extra options. Quality and reliability generally is topnotch.

Fuel efficiency is decent, ranging from a little more than 20 miles per gallon to a little more than 30 m.p.g. It all depends on whether you choose a smaller engine that's plenty powerful enough for around town and daily commutes, or a bigger V6 for quicker acceleration and passing.

You can even get two of our picks with a hybrid powertrain.

Let's start with those offering standout comfort or performance:

Toyota Camry

If you ever wanted to drive a Lexus luxury sedan but couldn't afford it, a top-of-the-line Camry is the ticket. Long synonymous with the quality and reliability, the Camry now features an exquisitely crafted and well-appointed interior on par with expensive luxury cars and a near-silent, comfortable ride.

Safety is ratcheted higher with new equipment. There are seven standard airbags, including a knee airbag for the driver, which you won't find in any other midsize car. A hybrid version gets a midsize leading 40 m.p.g. in city driving and 38 m.p.g. on the highway.

Camry's new look may strike some as quirky. And if you like to be fully engaged in a spirited driving experience, the Camry may disappoint. It is designed to cocoon the driver from the outer world.

But this is a car that should be on everyone's shopping list. It's the standard by which all mid-size sedans should be judged.

Gas mileage: 22-24 m.p.g city/31-33 m.p.g. highway (non-hybrids)

Base sticker price: $18,720-$27,520

Honda Accord

The Accord is no sports car, but it's more fun to drive than the Camry. Although its appearance may strike some as bland, we like its clean, uncluttered look, inside and out, with simple, intuitive controls.

A solid reputation for quality and reliability ensures a high resale value when you trade it in. The engines are smooth, refined and powerful. The steering feels precise, giving the driver good control. It's all-around easy to live with.

Although this is the other model that comes as a hybrid, it's designed to maximize horsepower, not mileage, and only gets 25 m.p.g. in the city and 24 on the highway.

Gas mileage: 20-25 m.p.g. city/29-34 m.p.g. highway

Base sticker price: $18,225-$32,990

Saturn Aura

The all-new 2007 Aura is just going on sale and we guarantee it's the snazziest Saturn you've ever seen. Its exterior design is handsome with a European flair. That, in and of itself, sets it apart in the class since the only Europeans in the segment are from Volkswagen.

The interior is contemporary, using different materials from other midsize cars. The seats and trim feature a textured leather unlike any vehicle sold in the U.S. It resembles leather used on expensive furniture to give it a classy look.

The Aura shares many of its mechanical components with the proven Chevrolet Malibu, Saab 9-3 and Pontiac G6, although it's longer to create a roomier interior.

Unlike most mid-size cars, the Aura doesn't offer a four-cylinder engine. It gives buyers a choice of two larger V6 engines, including a smooth and powerful one it shares with the Cadillac CTS.

On top of everything else, there's the pampering you'll receive at Saturn dealerships.

Gas mileage: 18-20 m.p.g. city/27-30 m.p.g.

Base sticker price: $19,945-$23,945

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