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"FOOTPRINT-FRIENDLY"

Ashley Bryan, 26, Las Vegas

HER CARGO; 2-year-old twins, plus a baby on the way SHE DRIVES: 2004 Lexus RX 330 WHAT SHE LOVES: The sporty look, great gas mileage and handling, automatic back hatch, DVD system, and leather seats WHAT SHE WANTS: A reliable, inexpensive-to-repair car that fits three car seats and a triple stroller and isn't so nice that she'll stress about dirt. She's "anti-minivan," though. BUDGET £25,000 to $30,000 ON HER A GMC Acadia. Tom Appel, associate publisher of Consumer Guide Automotive, calls Bryan's choice "outstanding," but, for a slightly cheaper alternative, suggests the Chevy Traverse, which Is "mechanically identical, has one of the nicest third rows in the Industry," and was rated a Consumer Guide Best Buy for 2010. Another option: the Honda Pilot, which is "a little more fun to drive,"

"SPORTY, WITH A LITTLE ZIP"

Kari Kuhn, 36, Eden Prairie, MN

HER CARGO: One 5-month-old SHE DRIVES: 200S Pontiac Grand Prix

WHAT SHE LOVES: The mileage, acceleration, overall sporty look WHAT SHE WANTS: Something larger, with lots of space, good acceleration, a good safety rating, and ABS, plus extras like a DVD system and leather seats. Easy access to the middle-seat car seat and doors that don't open as wide as the Grand Prix's are a plus, as is a backup video camera

BUDGET Under $25,000 ON HER LIST: A Nissan Murano or a minivan. The Murano's options "get pricey in a hurry," says Appel, so Kuhn's dream car would likely top 525,000. To stick to budget, Appel recommends the Honda CR-V, which lacks huge acceleration power (though it's "more than adequate") but boasts a backup camera. Price tag for a 2009: $25,600,

"ROOMY, AND USED"

Denrse Dauplaise, 42, Green Bay,

HER CARGO: One 5-year-old and 2-year-old twins SHE DRIVES: 2001 Impala WHAT SHE LOVES: Room for three in the backseat, a huge trunk, and good gas mileage WHAT SHE WANTS: A vehicle that can fit a family of five in the two front rows, and optional third-row seating BUDGET: $8,000 to $12,000 ON HER LIST: Something used, possibly a minivan. Try a 2004 Honda Odyssey EX, which is reliable, has a foldable third row, and can be had for $11,600 on the private market, says Philip Reed, consumer advice editor for Edmitnds.com. The 2007 Chevrolet Mailbu LT is another option that won't break this budget. Appel's choice: The Kia Rondo, a wagon with a roomy second row and a high roof that makes loading and unloading "super easy." The best news: A 2007 Rondo runs about $11,000.

"EASY ON THE GAS"

Carol Lowe Brooke, 4J, Arlington, VA

HER CARGO: One 6-year-old SHE DRIVES: 1994 Toyota Corolla

WHAT SHE LOVES: Gas mileage WHAT SHE WANTS: An SUV or a wagon that's roomy, safe, fuel-efficient, and reliable BUDGET: $10,000 ON HER LIST: A newer used Subaru. Subarn's SUV, the Tri-beca, is a little pricey for this budget, says Reed, Instead, try the Subaru Forester, which "feels like an SUV, with slightly higher ground clearance." A high roof and upright seating make it "great for getting a child in and out of a booster seat," adds Appel. And it has safety favorites like an ABS braking system, all-wheel drive, and front and side alrbags. To save cash and a little gas, try manual transmission. Or consider the Ford Escape, which has a similar layout. "On her budget, she can get into a 2004 (or earlier)," says Appel.

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