Car comparison: Which family car is right for you?

Editor’s note: This is the third in a five-part series comparing a range of cars during what can be prime season for car buyers.

WASHINGTON — Though the shift toward SUVs and trucks is undeniable, cars are still the choice of many buyers. In the first half of 2018, the Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Civic were among the 10 best-selling vehicles in the U.S., according to Kelley Blue Book.

While all of those — and the stalwart Honda Accord — are excellent choices for a test drive, drivers looking for a family-friendly car also have some new-for-2019 choices that might be worth considering as well — along with a model you may not know.

In this crowded market, and with end-of-year car-buying opportunities here, WTOP is comparing some of the models to figure out which might be best for you and your brood. WTOP’s John Aaron and Mike Parris looked at the new-for-2019 Altima and Jetta, along with a wild-card pick, the hatchback version of the Corolla.

Nissan Altima

$31,780 as tested (approximate)

Pros: The new mid-size Altima has a cavernous and comfortable interior. A number of trim levels are available, starting at under $24,000. All-wheel drive is available for the first time.

Cons: Optioned-up models can reach nearly $40,000, and the comfortable steering and suspensions setup can leave the driver feeling detached.

(WTOP/John Aaron)

Volkswagen Jetta

$27,795 as tested

Pros: The Jetta feels nimble and maneuverable, is large for a compact sedan and has stylish looks borrowed from its larger and more-expensive brethren: the mid-size Passat and the now-departed mid-size CC.

Cons: It can get pricey in higher trim levels (base price is under $19,000). Taller drivers may still find the interior to be cramped.

(WTOP/John Aaron)

Toyota Corolla Hatchback

$24,090 as tested (approximate)

Pros: The Corolla hatchback we tested had a visually stimulating interior featuring “moonstone” (white) leather seats and accents. The hatchback offers the ability to fit larger items than some larger cars’ trunks would allow. A manual transmission is available, and drivers can expect Toyota’s typical high build quality.

Cons: The manual transmission is meant for utility and not fun. Don’t expect the white seats to stay white for long.

(WTOP/John Aaron)

Pick: 2019’s improvements make the Nissan Altima worth a drive in a competitive segment. All-wheel drive gives it an advantage over much of its competition, and gives shoppers for other mainstream all-wheel drive cars something else to look at. The comfortable interior will make it a hit with passengers.

(WTOP/John Aaron)


Read all five parts of the Car Comparison series:

Part 1: 3-row SUVs

Part 2: Hatchbacks

Part 3: Family cars

Part 4: Muscle cars

Part 5: Flashy SUVs

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, PA, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP sports.

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