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When shopping for a large family-friendly vehicle the options have traditionally been somewhat limiting. The choices were a jumbo sport utility vehicle or the tried and true minivan.

Three years ago, Ford took somewhat of a daring move and introduced the quirky looking Flex, giving car shoppers one more option for a vehicle that can accommodate seven passengers. While the Flex’s appearance – long, boxy shape and a very low roofline – may not be suited to everyone’s taste, most everything else about this crossover wagon is pretty appealing.

2013 Ford Flex

  • Performance: 3.5-liter, V6, 285 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 18-25 mpg
  • Price: $30,885 to $39,230
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain 5 years/60,000 miles; corrosion 5 years/unlimited; roadside assistance 3 years/60,000

Some exterior changes arrive for 2013. The vehicle, which is about 5 inches longer in wheelbase and overall length than the Explorer, has a new front fascia, headlamps and sleek new trim.

While the Flex’s appearance might not be for everyone, it’s difficult to find fault with its versatility.

The front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is an option) Flex provides great interior roominess even with the maximum seven passengers. It also features plenty of storage areas, handles well, provides admirable performance, and gets decent gas mileage (18-25 mpg) for such a large vehicle.

Much like the minivan, the Flex would serve as an ideal vehicle on long trips. Yet the Flex doesn’t have that “soccer mom” stigma. The addition of optional entertainment features, combined with its smooth ride and generous amount of space are more than enough to keep the kids satisfied for long stretches in the Flex.

The comfort the Flex offers is a big plus on trips as well. Ford avoided going cheap with the interior styling, providing lots of soft-touch material, smart storage spaces, and comfortable seating that is easy to access. Note that the Flex also provides lots of comfort for 6-footers in all three rows.

While ideal for longer trips, the Flex is also pleasant enough to utilize in day-to-day tasks, like taking kids to soccer practice or other car-pooling situations that can be done with ease.

The Flex redesign included an upgraded performance as well. The vehicle comes equipped with a 3.5-liter, V6 that produces 285 horsepower (an increase of 20 hp) and 255 pound-feet of torque (up from 248 pound-feet).

For people wanting a more powerful engine, the turbocharged EcoBoost is still available. It features a 3.5-liter, V6 that generates 355 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.

Thanks to its low stance, the Flex provides an extremely stable ride that absorbs bumpy surfaces very well. That low center of gravity was evident during an extremely windy day when other cars were having difficulty maintaining their lane, and the Flex never wavered in the wind.

The Flex cargo area is quite generous. The floor is completely flat when the seats are folded down and can hold a maximum of 83 cubic feet of stuff behind the first row. One of the few downsides to the Flex interior is the MyFord Touch system can be frustrating to master.

There’s plenty of admirable qualities regarding the Flex, which starts at $30,885. It’s a solid vehicle that handles well, has good performance and provides plenty of comfort for all. The lingering question is the physical appearance – you either like it or you don’t.