It's December, and by now, nearly every automaker has rolled out its 2014 models, giving new-car shoppers lots to look at. And right on cue, Consumer Reports has just named its best and worst new-car picks.
To determine where models fall in the rankings, Consumer Reports compiles data on each car, truck, and SUV: its reliability; its performance in the magazine's extensive road tests; and its projected five-year cost of ownership, which factors in everything from fuel and insurance to maintenance costs and depreciation.
For the second year in a row, the Toyota Prius has nabbed the title of Best New-Car Value. Not only has the Prius performed well in Consumer Reports' tests, but it's proven to be highly reliable, and its cost of ownership averages out to be just 47 cents per mile. According to the magazine's automotive editor, Rik Paul, "The Prius’ 44 mpg overall is the best fuel economy of any non-plug-in car that Consumer Reports has tested. Though it’s not particularly cheap to buy, the Prius’ depreciation is so low that it costs less to own over the first five years than its initial MSRP. We call that a bargain."
In its cruise to the top, the Prius topped several serious contenders. Here are all ten of the magazine's best-in-class winners:
- Best Compact /Subcompact Car: Toyota Prius Four
- Best Midsized Car: Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium
- Best Large Car: Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited
- Best Luxury Car: Lexus ES 300h
- Best Sports Car/Convertible: Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring
- Best Wagon/Minivan: Mazda5 Grand Touring
- Best Small SUV: Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium
- Best Midsized SUV: Nissan Murano SL
- Best Luxury/Large SUV: BMW X1 xDrive28i
- Best Pickup: Honda Ridgeline RTS
At the other end of the scale, we find the Nissan Armada. Not only did the Armada score poorly in reliability, but the chunky SUV earns just 13 mpg. Its cost of ownership is nothing to smile about, either, at $1.20 per mile. The full list of Consumer Reports' losers includes:
- Worst Compact /Subcompact Car: Volkswagen Beetle 2.5L
- Worst Midsized Car: Nissan Altima 3.5 SL
- Worst Large Car: Ford Taurus Limited
- Worst Luxury Car: BMW 750Li
- Worst Sports Car/Convertible: Chevrolet Camaro convertible 2SS (V8)
- Worst Wagon/Minivan: Chrysler Town & Country Touring-L
- Worst Small SUV: Ford Escape SE (1.6T)
- Worst Midsized SUV: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara
- Worst Luxury/Large SUV: Nissan Armada Platinum
- Worst Pickup: Ford F-250 Lariat (6.7L V8)
Some people dislike Consumer Reports because of its alleged bias toward foreign cars, especially those from Japanese automakers. Take a look at the magazine's big winners above, and it's tempting to think that those charges might be true: of the ten cars on the best-of list, nine hail from Japan, the one outlier being a BMW. And on the bottom, six of the ten worst-performers come from Detroit, with just two from Asia.
That said, it's hard to argue that Consumer Reports tests are biased. To our knowledge, they're as rigorous and thorough as any others, even though we disagree with their findings now and then.
Whether or not you agree with the magazine's rankings, the important thing is this: Consumer Reports is just one source, just one perspective. If you're shopping for a new car, we encourage you to sift through the widest possible range of reviews and analyses, includingConsumer Reports, J.D. Power, and of course, our own ratings of new and used vehicles.
The complete rundown on Consumer Reports' new-car rankings will be published in the magazine's February issue.