Top picks in 2011 Consumer Reports car issue: Ford, Kia, and Used
The 2011 Consumer Reports car issue recommends new models by familiar brands, including Toyota and Honda. And for value-conscious buyers, it offers this time-tested advice: Buy Used.
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Speaking of Toyota, it gains some new status in this year's rankings. It accounts for three of the 10 top picks: the Prius ($26,750) winning again in the "green car" group, the Sienna ($35,810 to $38,201) displacing the Mazda 5 as best "family hauler" (minivan), and the Rav4 ($25,405 to $31,435) winning a small-SUV contest that went to the Subaru Forester a year ago.Skip to next paragraph
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The Honda Fit ($16,020 to $16,730) is a top pick in a new budget-car category. The Japanese brand also garners top praise, alongside Suburu, in an overall "report card" comparing major carmakers. They shared top billing last year as well. The report card ranks the companies on the expected reliability of their cars and on road-tests of things like handling, safety, and fuel economy.
Loser: Volkswagen and European cars
With VW's loss of top sporty-car status, no European car is among the magazine's top picks. Euro brands also come in for criticism on reliability. "If the new Jetta sedan, with its low-grade interior and mediocre fuel economy, is an indication of where Volkswagen is headed, it’s going in the wrong direction," Consumer Reports says.
Loser: General Motors
GM is still tops in Consumer Reports' list of pickup trucks, with Chevy's Avalanche ($47,435). Last year the Chevy Silverado won. But a year ago GM was making headlines with its Chevy Traverse as top pick in family SUV, a title that went to Kia this year.
Overall, GM has been on a comeback trail, reporting profits in recent quarters as a restructured and leaner company. And in the magazine's overall report card, it improved in both road tests and reliability. But its average test score of 67 is still slightly behind that of Ford (70).
No news is bad news here. Chrysler doesn't have any models among the 10 top picks. The smallest of the Detroit-based carmakers, Chrysler also scored badly in the overall report card. And in rating "best value" cars – that blend of price and performance – Consumer Reports also pointed out poor-scoring models: "Among the worst values, three models are from Chrysler, seven are from GM, and nine are from European brands," the magazine says. Chrysler has hopes for a turnaround under part-owner Fiat, but it has a big job ahead.
A final note: Consumer Reports gives good marks to lots of cars, not just to its top picks. A car buyer may get happy results from a brand regardless of whether it's an incremental loser or winner in this year's rankings.