• Mar 4th 2009 at 2:58PM
  • 54
For the second straight year, Consumer Reports has seen fit to release a second set of Top Picks comprised solely of American automobiles, and we're betting there will be plenty of discussion regarding the merits of such a distinction from both the pro-import and pro-domestic crowds, just as there was a year ago. We'll leave that up to you in the comments, but please remember to be civil.

Getting to the actual rankings, there were enough surprising omissions from the list that CR decided to list its Top Performers, which don't necessarily earn a Recommended rating, alongside the actual Top Picks. Taking top honors in the Small Car category for '09 is the Ford Focus. Back in 2008, no American automaker had a small car that CR felt comfortable recommending. Ford also took the win in the hotly-contested Midsize SUV category with its Taurus X, though that model is currently scheduled to be cancelled after MY2009.

CR's Top Pick for an American Family Sedan is the Chevy Malibu, which narrowly beat out the previous generation of the highly reliable Ford Fusion. Expect those wars to heat up when the revised 2010 Fusion makes it through CR's barrage of testing procedures. If there's one category that U.S. automaker have on lock down, it's pickup trucks. This year, the Chevy Avalanche grabbed the win away from last year's winner and its corporate sibling, the Chevy Silverado. See the full rundown after the jump.

[Source: Consumer Reports, Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty]

Consumer Reports American Top Picks for 2009
Top Pick
Top Scoring
Small car
Ford Focus
Ford Focus
Family sedan
Chevrolet Malibu
Chevrolet Malibu
Upscale sedan
Lincoln MKZ
Cadillac CTS (reliability too low to recommend)
Luxury sedan
Cadillac DTS
Cadillac STS (reliability too low to recommend)
Small SUV
Ford Escape Hybrid
Ford Escape Hybrid
Midsized SUV
Ford Taurus X

Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia/Saturn Outlook
(no reliability data for Traverse, reliability too low to recommend for others)

None qualify
Chrysler Town & Country (reliability too low to recommend)
Pickup truck
Chevrolet Avalanche
Chevrolet Avalanche
None qualify
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (reliability too low to recommend)
Green car
Ford Escape Hybrid
Ford Escape Hybrid

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      None qualify under "Fun to Drive"?

        • 6 Years Ago
        Well..unless you're a Flintstone, there's more to a car than just the engine.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Okay, Noz, I'll play. What else is wrong with the Z06? What would cause it to be considered "unreliable?"
        • 6 Years Ago
        Apparently they see them as "reliability too low to recommend" even though it's likely the only people that would respond to such a survey are the ones who had trouble. The rest are out having fun in their car.

        I have trouble believing anything from consumer reports based upon the fact that those who have trouble are more likely to complain than those who like it are likely to praise it.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes, Noz. becuase the Z06 has nothing going for it outside of it's engine right? How ever will we cavemen ever understand that?
        • 6 Years Ago
        "But doesn't that same standard apply to everyone, foreign-car drivers included? Owners with problematic Civics will complain to CR just as much as owners with problematic Focuses. So in that sense it's still a fair comparison."

        Maybe not. See, they bought the Civic because CR said it was great. If anything goes wrong with it they don't get too upset over it. After all they were so smart for listening to CR in the first place, right?. There is a term for this in psycology, maybe someone else here knows it. But it has to do with self-enforcing something or other. On the other hand if you buy a car not recommended by CR and something goes wrong you might beat yourself (and the car) up and say "I should have listened to CR, now I own a piece of junk!", when all that went wrong was a sensor that was replaced under warranty. Unfortunately this is how many people think.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Doug A. wrote "I have trouble believing anything from consumer reports based upon the fact that those who have trouble are more likely to complain than those who like it are likely to praise it."

        But doesn't that same standard apply to everyone, foreign-car drivers included? Owners with problematic Civics will complain to CR just as much as owners with problematic Focuses. So in that sense it's still a fair comparison.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Consumer Reports also shows excellent reliability for cars like the Ford Taurus. This whole ridiculous conspiracy theory about how Toyota/Honda owners won't complain on surveys is seriously ridiculous. Again I'll point out that Consumer Reports subscribers pay for the magazine so they can read accurate stats. If they themselves aren't filling out the surveys accurately then they're messing up the stats that they're paying for.

        And anyways, the reliability ratings for Toyota sank a few years ago which triggered the removal of automatic recommendations...because people filled out surveys complaining of problems. So enough with the crazy conspiracy theories-they make no sense because there are domestic models that get great scores and imports that get lousy scores.

        The only real issue with Consumer Reports is with comparisons where there are a lot of models on the market that they didn't include in a comparison. It makes their data less useful because they'll test like 20 televisions out of the 300 models on the market.

        But their car surveys cover pretty much everything out there and are probably the most accurate you can get. It's not perfect but nothing in life is, and it sure as heck is a lot more objective than reading Motor Trend.
      • 6 Years Ago
      When the domestic scene already has a horrible reputation, which has been standing for numerous years now, the CR rankings really don't mean much to a lot of people. Those who simply know to start the car and go do read CR, and some are very influenced by it.

      Personally, I can't say I will be buying an American car again in my lifetime. I've been a lifelong Toyota devoted man, but have owned a few domestic cars, such as a 1991 GMC Sonoma, an Olds Silhouette van, and most recently a Cobalt.

      The Cobalt I had for six months. The transmission went out on it at 8,000 miles, O2 sensor blew twice, and I had a stuck speedometer needle. I was appalled. It was obviously under warranty, but I sold it privately and bought a Volvo 850 wagon. No problems with the Volvo yet.

      My Olds van had so many problems I can't even fit them in here. The Sonoma was just a rust bucket after the first three years of driving it off of the lot, and I wash my cars on a weekly basis.

      We make junk cars here. I certainly will never, ever buy a GM car. The way they handled my claims for my cars was unprofessional and not even worthy of my respect. GoodYear Eagle tires that last 10k miles when BOTH rear tires blow steel belts? The tread was still perfect! GM wouldn't honor a warranty, neither would GoodYear. I was furious. I don't even know why I bought the Cobalt. It was one mistake I regret.

      I'm happy with my older cars. Only domestics I would buy right now are a 300C or a Challenger R/T.

      Shame on you GM. I wish they go out of business.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It's nice to see them loosen up their import bias but now they went too far in the other direction.

      I find it really hard to believe they go from recommending all imports to all domestics in 2 years without their own bias and agenda entering into the mix.

      More reason to take their results with a grain of salt and look to the real pro's for ratings like Ward's or JD Power.
        • 6 Years Ago
        If you need any evidence that most CR critics don't even read what they're criticizing, this is it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      A Focus is your idea of a small car?

      What about fiat 500/ ford fiesta, ford Ka, alfa MiTo... Your green car is an SUV...Upscale sedan a lincoln. And then you're suprised people buy 'imports'...

      That's a pretty poor list you got there. If that's supposed to be the cherry on the cake for American automobiles, you're in deep trouble. I feel that at least one of those Detroit 3 should go bancrupt for the crap they've produced over the years. Three of them is just too much of a bad thing...
        • 6 Years Ago
        It's not because YOU want to fit 4 full size adults and a trunk full of belongings in a car, that it would be considerd 'small'.

        Small is what the industry makes it out to be. If I had to get a family of 6 from A to B i would also say that a Ford mondeo is 'small'.

        Besides, if you live 2 hours from school, why do you need a whole trunk. I live 2 hours away from uni and i had never more than a simple travelling bag with clothes for one or more weeks. (on a train, no less)

        Obviously, a fiesta is a small car (as is the VW polo for example, or yaris) but it's not meant for what you want to do with it. Mondeo is a sedan, focus a 'midsize sedan' and everything under that i would consider to be small cars. As is always the case in America, these criteria should appearantly be moved up one step,. Focus small, mondeo midsize sedan, ...

        And yes, i'm 6"4 and on the passenger side i can easily fit behind another 6"4' in a normal Euro spec new focus. I'm not saying i can travel 1000 miles in a single stint like that, but it's do-able.

        I almost always drive on my own, so i won't be buying big cars just to accomodate the rare occasion i need to transport several people. They can go in their own car, or have the smaller ones sit in the back seat.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes, the Focus is a small car...

        Not everyone can make do with a sub-compact like the euro cars you listed, although the Fiesta arrival will be interesting.

        I have a Fusion, and that is the perfect car for me. I test drove a focus and it was too small for me. I constantly travel back and forth from school to home (2 hour drive) and take my belongings with me. If I had gotten a focus, the car would be packed, where as with my fusion, my trunk is almost full and I can still fit 3 more people in the car.

        Question for you; how much legroom is available in the backseat of the cars you listed? I'm 6 foot 1 and still can have a normal (5-8) person sit behind me. The Focus I test drove had very little room once I adjusted my seat and I was wondering how the room was in a "sub-compact" like the Fiesta.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Fun cars aka fast cars they are FAST and logically FAST car they broke down faster than slower cars because the stress on the engine is more than the slow cars. As we all know nothing last forever that is why slow honda and toyota are reliable because they dont push the engine too hard. its not just Z06 i bet porsche and Ferrari also have problems the funny thing is those people who own ferrari,porsche they dont usually push their car to the limit.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hmm splitting between American and Foreign while seemingly a good Idea defeats the purpose of Competition...
      • 6 Years Ago
      Is there a list that includes foreign vehicles?
        • 6 Years Ago
        I meant, is there one that can be found online by a reliable source.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The primary list is dominated by them, yes.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Just because a car is built in America by American workers doesn't mean it's the best thing for the American economy. American companies with American interests are the most profitable for the country. Just look at the Japanese automakers...they're canceling plans for more US plants now that the economy is down...imagine what it would be like if those were our only source of manufacturing jobs.

      Thanks Consumer Reports for once again delivering a ridiculously biased recommendation when it comes to foreign vs. domestic vehicles. The accord and the camry dominate every year...I suppose at this point it's just a matter of bringing up last year's recommendations and changing the year. CR does a lot of things well...unbiased rankings of cars is not one of them. What about the Fusion's many, many awards and excellent build quality? What about Toyota's increasing recalls and fall from #1 most reliable down the list? Apparently none of that matters to CR. They're an automotive joke.
      • 6 Years Ago
      To add on; from the Consumer Reports Auto Edition:

      Report Cards:
      Ford (highest of big 3) : Score 63 (including Linc/Merc)
      70% of vehicles recommended
      All but 3 Ford's were "CR Recommended" (Ranger and Explorer, both of which haven't been re-designed in a while, and the Flex, which is "too new for data")

      GM Score: 57 (second lowest)
      17% of vehicles recommended

      Chrysler Score: 48 (lowest of all)
      0% of vehicles recommended

      As far as fun to drive, they could've put the mustang in there, both the V6 and V8 versions were CR Recommended good buys. It's not Corvette, but I would consider it fun to drive.
        • 6 Years Ago
        And again, different cultures i guess, but how could a 3500 pound boat with that medieval suspension as 'fun to drive'. In straight line traffic lights burnouts maybe.

        It's design is also pretty grotesque and cartoony. Very 'chizzled' and no refinement at all. Look at the rear light blocks. The new dodge challenger is much more elegant and fluid looking.

        Also, imagine telling people in the '70/'80's that cars in 2010 would look almost exactly the same as they did then, they would declare you insane :) Can you remember the futuristic visions on cars of the future from those days? Put the neoclassics next to what they then thought cars would look like. Pretty funny :)

        I've never been a big fan of 'homage' vehicles, but that's just me. The 2009 looks of a mustang are almost an insult to the sleek and more slender original one.
        • 6 Years Ago
        That 3500lb "Boat" is considered small by American standards. But more importantly its inexpensive ($27k USD for a V8) and insanely fast for the price. Yes it has a live axle, because it is a drag strip car. A live axle is MUCH better for drag racing. And in the USA, many people do consider straight line rockets fun to drive, myself included. Weight is also not a good indication of how well a car will perform. The GT-R isn't very light, but its handling is superb. The 420hp Camaro has me very interested, as its ring times are better than plenty of far lighter cars.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I agree, it's very inexpensive for what it delivers and good value for money.

        Here it's only sold as grey import, i've only seen a couple of them in the flesh. But there's so much unused potential there. Look at what roush can do with a mustang, fitting it with decent suspension. Yes, it makes the car more expensive, but it's also worth it, and it could cater to a different segment (that would go audi or bmw otherwise)

        Ford should offer these chassis enhancement as an option. Keep the cheap one for people wanting to burn tires and show off at the lights, and have a true 'drivers' car for the rest.

        But yes, no European car will ever compete on horsepower/dollar. 27000 dollar is 21000 euros. You get a midrange focus/citroen/renault (+-120-140 bhp) for that kind of money (taxes included). That's why no European factory brings their hatches stateside. They would just not be competitive against all the cheap muscle avaible.

        Still, i wouldn't mind owning that beautiful challenger :)
      • 6 Years Ago
      Funny that the Taurus X beat the goofy Flex (as it should).

      Imagine the money Ford would have saved had they just advertised the "new for 2008" Taurus X than "designed" the Flex...which is the same vehicle.

      Bold Moves.

      • 6 Years Ago
      I think it gives foreign car lovers who have decided to make the switch to American something to evaluate
        • 6 Years Ago
        I had a stove recomended by CR that lasted only two years, a coffe maker recomended by CR that lasted only four months and caught fire, a printer recomended by CR that never worked right, and a digital camera they recomended that after a year took a crap.
        On the other side of the coin, an 06 STS-V with 47K that's been flawless and my wifes 08 CTS, also flawless. Both not recomended by CR.
        We keep a copy nearby in case we run out of Charmin.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Sure shoots my nascent love affair for the STS-V.

        Now off the "next car" list.

        Too bad. But I have zero tolerance for poor reliability especially in this age of advanced engineering (too many Alfa/Jaguar/BMW headaches in my past).
        • 6 Years Ago
        For this reason, Consumer Reports has nearly single handily (with the unions, of course) ruined the American auto industry...
        • 6 Years Ago
        ...When the domestics weren't shooting themselves in the foot with cars like the Pinto, Vega, current-gen Sebring, current-gen Avenger...
        • 6 Years Ago

        How has CR contributed to ruining the American auto industry? By providing comparative information on reliability? So if consumers just didn't know that American cars had been less reliable, we would have been buying them?

        Um, no.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This is Consumer Reports' version of the Special Olympics.
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