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HERE ARE A FEW RELIABLE USED CARS TO CONSIDER

You don't have to spend a lot to get a lot when it comes to buying a used car. Reliability, comfort and safety are qualities that any car shopper would value. Cars.com has found a few cars that have them:

2003 Ford Taurus: There is plenty of passenger and cargo space in this car, whether you get the wagon or the sedan. The Taurus has also scored well in reliability rankings. You can expect fairly good gas mileage, and the Taurus is strong in safety features, with items such as antilock brakes and side airbags available.

2002 Chevrolet Impala: You get some nifty styling touches to go along with the strong V-6 engine. The Impala scored quite well in crash test scores and did well in reliability ratings. With its roomy interior, families can ride in comfort. Antilock brakes and a driver's-side, side-impact airbag were standard on the LS model.

2002 Honda Civic:This is a Honda, so you really don't have to say much more when you think about reliability - it's great. In addition to being inexpensive, this car saves you money in another way: at the gas pump. You can expect to get mileage in the mid 30s on the highway. It does well in crash tests, even for a small car.

Audi lab works on CO2 emissions

If German automaker Audi AG has its way, the term "optimized CO2 route" will someday be as familiar as "HOV lane" or "SIG alert." Through an effort called "Clean Air, a Viable Planet," Audi is using its technological expertise to make cars, and motorists, smarter. Audi's California Electronic Research Lab is partnering with Stanford, UC-Berkeley and UC-Riverside in researching ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Their project focuses on "connected" vehicles that would electronically share traffic and other data - information that drivers could use to plot the best route for maximizing fuel efficiency and lowering CO2 emissions. "The path between two points can be measured in distance, but it can also be measured in the amount of carbon dioxide that our vehicles emit," said Daniel Rosario, Audi's manager of Connected Vehicles.

Service centers get swankier

In the past year or so, several dealership chains have begun giving their luxury car showrooms multimillion-dollar makeovers. The goal is to create the look and feel of five-star hotels for customers, increase the dealerships' car allocations and even make it less likely that rival dealerships will pop up nearby. AutoNation Inc., the country's largest chain of auto dealerships, has opened a gleaming glass-and-stone Lexus store in West Palm Beach. The sales floor is made of polished porcelain tile, and the walls and counters are accented with cherry and bird's-eye maple veneer. "We have customers checking into world-class hotels, they shop on Fifth Avenue and they expect a certain kind of experience," says Mike Jackson, AutoNation's CEO. Over the next year, AutoNation will open a new Mercedes store in Delray Beach and redo BMW stores in Dallas, Tucson, Ariz., and Las Vegas; and Mercedes stores in Miami and Sarasota.

My First Car- Ed Considine, 81, Largo

'29 Nash: It had 30,000 miles on the odometer and four new tires. For four years, I used the Nash to drive to school, deliver newspapers in Des Moines, Iowa, and date Miss Iowa of 1944.

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