Each year, the automotive editors of Consumer Reports select their Top Pick Cars, representing vehicles that are the best in their individual segments. These cars are deemed to have "average or better" predicted reliability and have scored high marks in government safety testing. In past years, automakers like Honda and Toyota have dominated this list, but since more and more manufacturers are ramping up their quality within each competitive segment, the 2010 list proves to be the most diverse CR Top Picks group in over a decade.
So, which cars garner the most praise from CR? The Nissan Altima has officially dethroned the Honda Accord from the top family sedan spot, the Volkswagen GTI takes honors as the best sporty car, the trusty Subaru Forester takes the cake in the small SUV category, the quirky Mazda5 wins for best family hauler, and both the Chevrolet Traverse and Silverado stand tall as the best family SUV and pickup truck. These six newcomers join the Hyundai Elantra SE, Infiniti G37, Toyota Prius and Lexus LS460L to round out the entire list of Top Pick Cars.
Unlike most automotive media outlets (Autoblog included), Consumer Reports actually buys its own test cars before putting them through rigirous evaluations of handling, braking, comfort, safety and more, and each test car is roughly 6,000 miles older by the time all of the tests have been completed. Follow the jump to read the official press release from CR, and scroll through our attached gallery to see high-res shots of all the 2010 Top Pick Cars.
[Source: Consumer Reports - sub. req.]
Mazda5, Cheverolet Traverse and Volkswagen GTI among the new additions
YONKERS, N.Y., Feb. 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumer Reports names six new models to its annual Top Picks car list for 2010. Comprised of nine different car brands, this year's list is the most diverse group of Top Picks in over a decade.
Findings from Consumer Reports' Annual Auto Issue, including the new Top Picks, were announced today at a Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA) press conference in Washington, D.C.
The Mazda5, Nissan Altima, Subaru Forester, Volkswagen GTI, and Chevrolet Traverse and Silverado join the Hyundai Elantra SE, Infiniti G37, Toyota Prius and Lexus LS460L as Consumer Reports' selections for best models of the year based on performance, reliability, and safety.
"The diversity of this year's Top Picks reflect how competitive the industry has become," said Rik Paul, Consumer Reports' automotive editor. "Today's car buyers have more choices than ever when looking for good all-around cars."
Consumer Reports' Top Picks are the best all-around 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 the more than 280 vehicles Consumer Reports recently evaluated at its Auto Test Center; has average or better predicted reliability (based on the problems subscribers reported on more than 1.4 million vehicles in Consumer Reports' Annual Auto Survey), and performed adequately in overall safety if tested by the government or insurance industry. In addition, each model must offer electronic stability control (ESC), a proven lifesaving safety feature as standard equipment or as a readily available option. All of this year's Top Picks provide standard ESC and curtain air bags.
In recent years, Toyota and Honda models have had their share of spots among Consumer Reports Top Picks list. But the automotive landscape continues to grow more competitive. This year, the Nissan Altima managed to dethrone the Honda Accord as the Top Pick for Family Sedan--making it the first time since 1998 that a Honda model was not selected.
The Toyota Prius retains its position as the Top Pick for Green for the seventh consecutive year, while the Lexus LS460L returns as Consumer Reports pick for Best Overall vehicle. At the time of publication, sales of the Toyota Highlander and RAV4 had been halted and currently Consumer Reports has suspended its recommendation for both vehicles removing them from contention in the Small and Family SUV category.
"The competition is quite fierce, and often the difference between a Top Pick and a runner-up can be slim. We believe all of our Top Picks this year to be exceptional vehicles that excel in a number of areas," Paul added.
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. Roughly 6,000 miles of general driving and evaluations are racked up on each test car during the testing process. CR buys all its test cars anonymously from dealers. Other reviewers base their evaluations on press cars that are hand-picked by the automakers.
Here, by category, are the 2010 Top Picks.
SMALL SEDAN: Hyundai Elantra SE
The Elantra SE ($18,695) made the Top Picks list for the third time this year. It is a solid, all-around car that's relatively comfortable, quiet, and roomy, and provides good fuel economy and plenty of features for the money. The SE comes with standard ESC, a critical safety feature that's absent on other small cars (including the lower-end Elantras).
FAMILY SEDAN: Nissan Altima
The Altima ($23,970 to $30,335) has been a Consumer Reports top-rated family sedan for a couple of years, but lacked easily available ESC. A 2010 freshening made it better and improved gas mileage and for the first time provides standard ESC in all trim lines. It offers an appealing balance of comfort and performance, while getting some of the best fuel economy in its class: 26 mpg overall in four-cylinder models and 24 mpg with a V6. The cabin is roomy, well finished, and quiet. And the secure handling, comfortable ride, and spirited acceleration make the car enjoyable to drive.
SPORTY CAR: Volkswagen GTI
Freshened for 2010, the GTI ($27,504) is the sport version of the Volkswagen Golf (formerly called the Rabbit). The GTI is exhilarating to drive and easy to live with. It delivers the agile handling, spirited acceleration, and responsive steering of a true sports car, along with a decent ride, a well-finished interior, and the cargo-carrying practicality of a hatchback. Good fuel economy of 27 mpg overall is another plus, although premium fuel is required.
SMALL SUV: Subaru Forester
The Forester ($20,972 to $28,860) provides one of the most car-like driving experiences of any SUV. It combines agile handling with the most comfortable ride in its class. Passengers are treated to a spacious cabin, with a roomy rear seat and excellent visibility. The 2.5X provides an impressive 22 mpg overall with an automatic, 24 mpg with a manual. And the turbocharged 2.5XT delivers effortless acceleration and 20 mpg, but it takes premium fuel. The 2.5X has had excellent reliability, while the 2.5XT's is average.
BEST CAR OVERALL: Lexus LS 460L
The LS ($76,572) scored an outstanding 99 out of 100 in Consumer Reports road tests, making it the highest-rated vehicle. It provides a comfortable ride and luxurious driving environment, including a roomy, well-crafted and exceptionally quiet interior. It offers a plethora of electronic amenities, including an optional self-parking system. Yet, its controls are easy to use. Its efficient 380-hp V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission deliver smooth, brisk acceleration and a relatively good 21 mpg overall. All-wheel drive and a hybrid version are available.
FAMILY SUV: Chevrolet Traverse
The Traverse ($39,920) stands out as an impressive overall package with a quiet, spacious cabin that can comfortably seat up to eight adults and leave room for cargo. It provides a pleasant ride, communicative steering, and responsive handling. The tested model returned 16 mpg overall, which is respectable for its size. Rear visibility isn't great, but small convex side mirrors and an optional rear-view camera help.
SPORT SEDAN: Infiniti G37
The G sedan ($37,225) tops this category for the fourth straight year. It is one of the highest-rated sedans tested, with a score of 95 out of 100. It provides agile handling, blistering acceleration, a refined powertrain, a fairly comfortable ride, and a high-quality, luxurious interior. The G37 is as inviting to drive on a twisty road as it is on the highway. But compromises include a snug cabin and small trunk. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional. Coupe and convertible versions are also available.
FAMILY HAULER: Mazda5
The Mazda5 microvan ($23,805) offers lots of practicality in a compact, affordable package. With three rows of seats and sliding rear side doors, it combines the convenience of a minivan with the maneuverability and stingy fuel economy--24 mpg overall--of a wagon. The interior is airy, with good fit and finish. It's fun to drive, with a nimble feel and a comfortable ride. The addition of standard ESC for 2010 improved its emergency handling. If you need more room, consider the Honda Odyssey minivan.
GREEN CAR: Toyota Prius
The Prius ($26,950) received a redesign for 2010 and leads this category for the seventh straight year. It's still the most fuel-efficient car in Consumer Reports' ratings, with 44 mpg overall. The Prius is a pleasant car to drive, with a roomy interior, a steady ride, hatchback versatility, and excellent reliability and crash-test results. The 2010 redesign also gave it a more solid feel and a dedicated EV mode that allows it to run longer on electric power at low speeds, an advantage in slow, congested traffic.
PICKUP TRUCK: Chevrolet Silverado
The Silverado 1500 ($37,235) returns to the top of the list after a year off. The crew-cab 4WD model is a well-rounded pickup with a roomy cabin, generous payload capacity, decent ride quality, available full-time 4WD, and, on higher-end models, very good interior fit and finish. The GMC Sierra is a twin of the Silverado. Reliability has been average.
Consumer Reports' Annual Auto Issue goes on sale March 2 wherever magazines are sold. Free highlights from the issue will be available at www.ConsumerReports.org. Subscribers will be able to access all the stories and ratings from the issue.
With more than 7 million print and online subscribers, 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 become a subscriber, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645. Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at www.ConsumerReports.org.