Here’s a dozen 2014 cars and crossovers that are safe, reliable, get good fuel economy, feature expansive cargo carrying abilities and are all priced under $25,000

By Jim Gorzelany CTW Features

Except for those whose budgets and/or lifestyles enable them to drive plush luxury cars or racy sport coupes, most of us, by choice or chance, seek out a more practical ride for commuting, shopping and the occasional family road trip.

Consumers most want a car that’s both reliable and fuel-efficient, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Automobile Dealers Association in MacLean, Va., with safety and design/utility likewise being top concerns among new vehicle shoppers.

To that end we scoured various databases to winnow the universe of new-vehicle offerings for the 2014 model year down to a list of 12 cars and crossovers that meet all of the above criteria and are priced affordably, starting at $25,000 or less.

All are Top Safety Picks as determined by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and earned average or better marks for long-term durability in the J.D. Power 2014 Vehicle Dependability Study. Beyond that we chose models that boast top fuel economy ratings and cargo capacity in their respective classes.

Not surprisingly, most of the models in our list are hatchbacks or crossover SUVs, given that their tall-roofed designs and rear tailgates inherently afford expansive cargo capacity and easier loading/unloading than comparable sedans. As an example, the hatchback versions of the compact Ford Focus boast 23.8 cubic feet of stowage behind the rear seats (which swells to 44.8 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded flat) versus just 13.2 cubic feet for the sedan variants.

As a frame of reference, a standard airline carry-on bag (at 22- x 14- x 8- inches) represents around 1.4 cubic feet of cargo space.

Here’s a look at the “most practical” cars and crossovers for 2014 that are priced less than $25,000, get top marks for safety and reliability and deliver top cargo capacities with relatively frugal fuel economy:

Compact Cars:

 Ford Focus Hatchback: 27/37 mpg city/highway, cargo capacity 23.8 cubic feet (44.8 maximum with the rear seats folded flat), $19,115. Practically minded features include a self parking system.

 Hyundai Elantra GT: 24/34 mpg; cargo capacity 23.0 cubic feet (51.0 cubic feet maximum): $18,750. The hatchback version of the Elantra sedan is both sportier and more practical to own.  Mazda3: 30/40 mpg, cargo capacity 20.2 cubic feet (47.1 maximum), $18,945. An available infotainment system can read text messages aloud to reduce distractions; several collision avoidance systems are available for added safety.

 Subaru XV Crosstrek AWD: 25/33 mpg, cargo capacity 22.3 cubic feet (51.9 maximum), $21,995. All wheel drive comes standard for added traction on wet or snowy roads.

Midsize Cars:

 Chevrolet Malibu: 25/36 mpg, cargo capacity 16.3 cubic feet, $22,340. Forward collision, blind spot and lane departure safety systems are optional.

 Ford Fusion: 25/37 mpg, cargo capacity 16.0 cubic feet, $21,970. Optional inflatable rear seatbelts help reduce chest injuries in a crash.

 Honda Accord Sedan: 27/36 mpg, cargo capacity 15.8 cubic feet, $21,955. Forward collision and lane departure safety systems are available, but only on the top V6 sedan.

 Toyota Prius: 51/48 mpg, cargo capacity 21.6 cubic feet, $24,200. An available multimedia system includes hands-free text messaging; a pre-collision safety system, lane departure warning and a head-up display are optional.

 Subaru Outback AWD: 24/30 mpg, cargo capacity 34.3 cubic feet (71.3 maximum), $23,495. SUV-like wagon offers optional pre-collision braking and a lane departure warning system.

Crossover SUVs:

 Nissan Rogue: 26/33 mpg, cargo capacity 32 cubic feet (70.0 maximum), $22,790. Optional safety systems include a 360-degree backup monitor and blind spot, lane departure and forward collision warning systems.

 Subaru Forester AWD: 24/32 mpg, cargo capacity 34.4 cubic feet (74.7 maximum), $21,995. Options include adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking and vehicle lane departure warning systems.

 Chevrolet Equinox: 22/32 mpg, cargo capacity 31.5 cubic feet (63.7 maximum), $24,440. Forward collision and lane departure systems are available to help avoid accidents, but only on top models, similar to the GMC Terrain.

© CTW Features