Koreans come on strong, a domestic makes it and Toyota nabs four

Consumer Reports will soon release its highly anticipated Annual Auto Issue and we've got the scoop on which cars will be honored as Top Picks within its pages. This year there were some surprises among the 10 categories, including Hyundai, which broke out with two Top Picks: the Elantra SE for Small Sedan and Sante Fe for Midsized SUV. Even a domestic vehicle managed to make it on the list (the first time in two years), with the Chevy Silverado 1500 Crew Cab earning a Top Pick in the Pickup Truck category. The rest of the honored vehicles all hail from Japan, including four Toyota models, one Mazda, one Infiniti and one Honda.

The fact that Hyundai earned two Top Picks and a domestic received one at all is a testament to our long held suspicion that Japanese automakers aren't the only ones who know how to build a good vehicle. Other automakers, particularly our own domestic ones, just forgot for a while. But they're remembering, and quickly. Many new Ford and GM models are performing extremely well in CR's battery of tests, as well as ranking higher and higher in its readership surveys. CR is still withholding a Recommended rating for some of them based on past models that weren't fit for road use, but that won't last forever.

Check out the full list of Top Picks after the jump within the Consumer Reports official press release.

[Source: Consumer Reports]


PRESS RELEASE

CONSUMER REPORTS NEW TOP PICKS FOR 2008: HYUNDAI ELANTRA SE, HYUNDAI SANTA FE, CHEVROLET SILVERADO AND LEXUS LS 460L

First time a South Korean automaker represented in Top Picks
First time since 2005 a U.S. model makes list for pickup truck

YONKERS, NY - Consumer Reports has named four new models to its Top Picks list for 2008-the Hyundai
Elantra SE and Hyundai Santa Fe as top choices for small sedans and midsized SUVs, respectively; the redesigned Chevrolet Silverado as the top choice for pickup truck; and the Lexus LS 460L as the best luxury sedan.

The announcement was made today during a Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA) press conference. Details can be found in CR's Annual April Auto Issue, on sale Tuesday, March 4.

This marks the first time that a South Korean automaker – Hyundai – is represented, and the first time since 2005 that a U.S. model – the Chevrolet Silverado – has made the list. Historically, Consumer Reports Top Picks have been a blend of Japanese, European, and domestic models, but for the last two years the Top Picks have all been from Japanese manufacturers.

The Toyota Prius remains the Top Pick in the "green" car category for the fifth year in a row. The Prius demonstrated an excellent 44 mpg overall in Consumer Reports' real-world fuel economy tests, the best of any five-passenger vehicles tested by CR.

Consumer Reports' Top Picks are the most well-rounded models in their categories and must meet stringent road test, reliability, and safety requirements. Each Top Pick scores at or near the top of its category among more than 260 vehicles CR recently tested at its Auto Test Center; has average or better predicted reliability (based on the problems subscribers reported on in CR's Annual Car Reliability Survey of almost 1.3 million vehicles), and performed adequately in overall safety if tested by the government or insurance industry.

Starting this year, they also must provide a critical safety feature, electronic stability control (ESC), either as standard equipment or as a readily available option. That's why the Honda Accord, for example, is the Top Pick in family sedans over the Nissan Altima. The Altima scored slightly higher in CR's testing, but offers ESC only as a pricey option on the V6 and standard on the hybrid model.

"All the vehicles in Consumer Reports' Top Picks list are standouts for performance, versatility, reliability, and
safety," said David Champion, senior director of automotive testing, Consumer Reports. "CR's Top Picks list is a great place for consumers to start when they're looking for a new car."

Consumer Reports' testing procedures are the most comprehensive of any U.S. publication or Web site. More than 50 individual tests are performed on every vehicle, including evaluations of braking, handling, comfort, convenience, safety, and fuel economy. Around 6,000 miles of general driving and evaluations are racked up on each test car during the testing process.

Here, by category, are the issue's best performers. Changes from last year's Top Picks list are noted:

• SMALL SEDAN: Hyundai Elantra SE. The Hyundai Elantra SE ($18,000) is a well-rounded small car that
provides good fuel economy, a comfortable ride, and an interior that's quiet, roomy, and well-equipped. The
SE also has standard electronic stability control, a proven safety feature that's absent on many other small
cars. The Honda Civic EX and Mazda3 scored almost as well and are more fun to drive, but lack ESC on
more affordable versions. (Last year's Top Pick for Small Sedan was the Honda Civic.)

• MIDSIZED SUV: Hyundai Santa Fe. Redesigned for 2007, the much-improved Santa Fe ($22,000 to
$31,000) edged out the Honda Pilot in CR's tests. It provides a quiet and roomy interior, excellent fit and
finish, a refined powertrain, a relatively good ride, and an optional third-row seat. Standard ESC helps
provide secure handling. (Last year's Top Pick for Midsized SUV was the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.)

• PICKUP TRUCK: Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab. The redesigned Silverado ($27,000 to $39,000)
is considerably improved. It achieves a nice balance between work attributes and livability, including a
generous payload rating, a comfortable ride, improved interior quality and steering feel, and easy access. ESC
is standard on all crew-cab models. The GMC Sierra is virtually identical to the Silverado. The redesigned
Toyota Tundra outscored the Silverado in CR's tests, but first-year reliability of the 4WD, V8 version was
below average.

• LUXURY SEDAN: Lexus LS 460L. With a score of 99 out of 100 in CR's road test, the LS 460L ($77,000)
is CR's highest-rated vehicle. It provides a no-compromise environment of comfort and roominess, coupled
with an isolating quietness. It also delivers quick acceleration and relatively good fuel economy. While it's
brimming with electronic amenities, its controls are easy to use. (Last year's Top Pick for Luxury Sedan was
the Infiniti M35.)

• FAMILY SEDAN: Honda Accord. The Accord ($22,000 to $31,000), redesigned for 2008, is a well-
rounded roomy sedan with a comfortable ride, agile handling, and smooth, refined powertrains. Electronic
stability control is standard on all models, and crash-test results are impressive. Although the Nissan Altima
edged out the Accord in CR's ratings, most affordable versions of the Altima lack ESC, a requirement to be a
Top Pick. (This is the sixth consecutive year that the Accord was named a Top Pick for Family Sedan.)

• UPSCALE SEDAN: Infiniti G35. The G35 ($33,000 to $35,000) successfully blends sportiness and luxury.
Available in rear- or all-wheel drive, it has an exuberant powertrain, agile handling, and a well-crafted
interior. (This is the second consecutive year the G35 was named Top Pick for Upscale Sedan.)

• FUN TO DRIVE: Mazda MX-5 Miata. The MX-5 ($27,000) won drivers over with its balanced handling,
quick and precise steering, and crisp-shifting six-speed manual transmission. It virtually tied the Porsche
Boxster in CR's test scoring, but it's roughly half the price. The manual top can be lowered and raised with
one hand from the driver's seat, making open motoring a snap. (Unchanged from last year.)

• SMALL SUV: Toyota RAV4. The impressive RAV4 ($23,000 to $30,000) is versatile, comfortable, and
roomy enough for a small third-row seat. The spirited V6 version accelerates quickly (the same as a Mazda
Miata from 0 to 60 mph), yet delivers an excellent 22 mpg overall. The four-cylinder version gets 23 mpg, the
best of any nonhybrid SUV CR has tested. (Unchanged from last year.)

• MINIVAN: Toyota Sienna. The Sienna ($24,000 to $37,000) is CR's pick for the second year in a row. Its
spacious, quiet, and refined interior is on par with some luxury sedans and its V6 engine is powerful and fuel
efficient. It is also the only minivan available with all-wheel drive. The Honda Odyssey, on the other hand, is
more agile and fun to drive.

• GREEN CAR: Toyota Prius. The gas/electric Prius hybrid ($24,000) retains its lock on this category for the
fifth straight year. Despite a wave of new hybrid models, the Prius' 44 mpg overall is still the best CR has
measured in any five-passenger car. The interior is roomy and versatile, and the Prius has been very reliable.

CR's Annual April Auto Issue is on sale from March 4 through June 4. The Consumer Reports Auto Issue is available wherever magazines are sold. Free highlights from the April Auto Issue will be available at
www.ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Web site; the magazine's auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To subscribe to Consumer Reports, call 1-800-234-1645.

Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at www.ConsumerReports.org.