2011 Best Family Car $21,000-$30,000: Kia Optima EX tops for good value, great options

Kia’s Optima will fit most families’ needs thanks to a full complement of safety features.

  • Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away

As dealerships clear 2011 models out of their lots, Wheels picks the best cars still out there

BEST: Kia Optima EX ($26,695)

My first two picks — the ($27,025) Volkswagen Golf TDI Wagon and the ($21,795) Mazda5 compact minivan — are only available as 2012 models. But the by-default-winning Kia Optima mid-size sedan is still a fine pick as a primary mode of transportation for the average-sized Canadian family.

The base Optima LX (the only model available with a manual gearbox) starts at $21,995 and is powered by a 200 hp, 2.0-litre four-cylinder. But for the price of a well-equipped compact sedan, the much roomier Optima (a quality surely your long-legged kids will appreciate) comes standard with a full complement of airbags, electronic stability, traction and brake assist systems, heated front seats, and a decent audio system with Bluetooth hands free connectivity.

I suspect the mid-range $26,695 Optima EX would suit most families’ needs bet.

It adds an in-house designed six-speed automatic transmission, leather throughout, and such niceties as automatic climate control, rear-view camera for about the price of a loaded compact sedan.

If you can afford more, there’s also the ($28,000) Optima Hybrid. It scores a stellar 4.9L/100 km highway rating. While the top-line, 278 hp turbocharged ($33,695) SX seriously (seriously!) threatens entry-level sports sedan stalwarts like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.

NEXT BEST: Hyundai Elantra Touring ($21,849 Loaded)

If you want to load up the Elantra Touring — automatic transmission, heated front seats and so-on — you can spend $21,849 and it will be worth it.

If you want to spend a little less, the five-speed manual without the fancies will cost you $15,799.

If you want a break from the oh-so-trendy Soul/Cube/xB wagonoids, the Elantra Touring is a rare small station wagon I’m sure you’d enjoy. Unlike the new-this-year Korean-built Elantra sedan, the four-door Touring was designed for Europe, where the car goes up against the likes of the Golf wagon.

The Touring is not only spacious on the inside, its build quality and soft-touch materials are a cut above its cubist rivals.

Also consider:

Kia Sportage, $21,995 — If you do feel the need for the extra height a cute-ute offers, the underrated Sportage offers class-leading value and a sophisticated AWD system.

Ford Flex SE, $28,499 — With plenty of room for seven, even the base model Flex comes standard with such niceties as rear parking sensors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, roll stability control, and 17-inch aluminum wheels.

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