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Cargo

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TJ Kim doesn’t even have his driver’s license yet, but he’s already flying across Virginia delivering medical supplies to small, rural hospitals in need. The 16-year-old turned his weekly flight lessons into relief missions carrying precious pandemic cargo like gloves, masks, gowns and other equipment.

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Think of the Honda Insight as an electrified Civic. The two match up pretty closely in terms of size, price and equipment, and both have plenty of passenger and cargo room. The Insight’s hybrid powertrain is the primary differentiator. Depending on trim, the Insight earns 48-52 mpg in the EPA’s combined cycle, while the turbocharged Civic gets 33-36 mpg combined.

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America’s cheapest CUV, the Hyundai Venue, is a front-wheel-drive hatchback in drag, sharing its driveline with Hyundai’s least expensive car, the Accent. But while it’s more than a foot shorter than its sedan cousin, the Venue offers more headroom, more legroom and an additional 5.3 cubic feet of cargo space. Yes, it costs $2,055 more, or about $39 a month on a 60-month car loan, but it’s worth it.

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Looking modern without seeming goofy, the Nissan Kicks handsomely wears the latest in Nissan tailoring. Performance is peppier than you’d expect, although it comes only with front-wheel drive. The cabin is roomy, the seats are high, and cargo space is a generous 25.3 cubic feet. You’ll get a kick out of it.

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The EcoSport resembles a Ford Edge that’s been left in the dryer too long, albeit with tiny tires and short rear overhang that give it an awkward look. Built using the front-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta platform, it’s athletic, although the base engine seems short on power. The cabin is unpretentious, yielding to function, not fashion. Rear seat space is tight, but cargo space is decent. All-wheel drive is optional.

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Fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong finds herself on the trail of the same missing cargo of a freight train that her father had been investigating in the ’90s, when skeletal remains are found near an excavation site in the Texas desert. She soon learns that she must also deal with the aftermath of a massacre that claimed the lives of all the workers at a private intelligence company. The cases are connected by a long-buried secret, one that men have died to protect. Caitlin knows she must be as strong as steel to solve this bloody and complicated mystery. Look for Land’s next installment in the series, “Strong from the Heart.”

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Note: Please enjoy your leftover Thanksgiving turkey and this slightly edited, warmed-over column first published back in 2000, when the Great Smokey Mountains Railroad train now called the Polar Express was known as the Santa Express and hauled a cargo of youngsters, parents and grandparents on a two-hour holiday-themed excursion with a giant red-nose reindeer and a plump snowman who may or may not have been Rudolph and Frosty, depending on how one interprets this nation’s trademark laws.

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