Consumer Reports' annual brand report card is out. The consumer research group changed the way it does its rankings this year, breaking out individual brands from their parent company. In years past, Toyota took a lot of titles, but now the company has broken up Toyota into three brands -- Lexus, Toyota and Scion.
Lexus got top scores as the best brand, but here are other category winners from Consumer Reports.
BEST MINIVAN: Honda Odyssey
With improved reliability helping it earn the top spot among family haulers, it provides a comfortable ride and a roomy, quiet, and versatile cabin. The V6 engine performs well and delivers a competitive 19 mpg. And a backup camera -- a great safety feature -- is now standard on all models.
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BEST MIDSIZED SUV: Toyota Highlander
For those who want the practicality of an SUV with the refinement of a good sedan, it provides a quiet, well-finished cabin, as well as a cushy ride, secure handling, and a smooth powertrain. The Highlander has also consistently maintained above-average reliability.
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BEST LUXURY CAR: Audi A6
Redesigned for 2012, the A6 is agile, quick, and a joy to drive, surrounding drivers and passengers with a sumptuous, impeccably finished cabin that's brimming with the latest high-tech features. The A6's potent, turbocharged I4 engine, super-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission, and comfortable ride add to the business-class feel.
It returns respectable gas mileage, even with all-wheel drive.
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BEST COMPACT CAR: Subaru Impreza
The 2012 redesign breathed new life into the all-wheel-drive Impreza. Both sedan and hatchback versions are good sensible cars, with nimble handling and a compliant, absorbent ride that rivals some luxury sedans. Fuel economy is impressive for an AWD car. And the roomy interior, spacious rear seat, simple controls, and refreshingly good visibility make it easy to live with.
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BEST GREEN CAR: Toyota Prius
Today's pure electric cars are getting the equivalent of 100 or more mpg. But no current plug-in car can match the Prius hatchback for its blend of fuel efficiency, practicality, and affordability. Its 44 overall mpg is still the best CR has measured in any five-passenger, non-plug-in-vehicle. The Prius' roomy interior, comfortable ride, hatchback versatility and low running costs make it easy to live with.
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BEST BUDGET CAR: Hyundai Elantra
One of Consumer Reports' top-rated compact sedans, the well-rounded Elantra delivers a lot for the money. It's roomier and more refined than a typical subcompact yet gets competitive fuel economy. The Elantra also provides nimble handling, a fairly comfortable ride, a smooth, responsive powertrain, and a well-finished interior at an affordable price.
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BEST SPORTS CARS: Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ
Co-developed by Subaru and Toyota, which markets the Scion brand, both are exhilarating to drive, with super-sharp handling, excellent braking, and ample acceleration. While they are dedicated rear-wheel-drive sports cars with jittery rides, noisy cabins and small rear seats, their impressive gas mileage and reasonable sticker prices are welcome nods towards practicality.
BEST MIDSIZED SEDAN: Honda Accord
Honda nailed it with this redesign -- it's roomy, nice to drive, well equipped and very fuel efficient. With its four-cylinder engine, the Accord squeezes out 30 mpg overall and 34 on the highway. Higher-trim models have advanced safety features seldom found in this category; all models come with a standard back-up camera.
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BEST SPORTS SEDAN: BMW 328i
With its recent redesign, the 328i has become roomier, more luxurious and more fuel efficient while retaining most of its sporty, fun-to-drive characters. Ride comfort and fit and finish are impressive. And its 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers quick acceleration, while posting the best gas mileage in its class.
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