Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2011 Top (Car) Picks from Consumer Reports

2011 Top Picks from Consumer Reports
Best cars in 10 categories proving goodness doesn’t require paying top dollar.

Six new models made our Top Picks list this year, representing a diverse selection from Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. No automaker dominates; the 10 picks come from six manufacturers and eight brands, which reflects the increasing competitiveness within today's auto market. Toyota is the only brand with more than one model.

MORE AT CONSUMER REPORTS
ª Consumer Reports’ annual auto issue
ª Complete Ratings for 200 cars and trucks
Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on Yahoo!.

Our Top Picks are the best all-around models in their categories. Chosen from the more than 270 vehicles we've recently tested, these vehicles scored well in our testing, have average or better predicted reliability, performed well in government or insurance-industry safety tests, if evaluated, and offer stability control—a proven, lifesaving feature.

Small car: Hyundai Elantra
Redesigned for 2011, the Elantra delivers a lot for the money. With its makeover, this well-rounded sedan is now more stylish and engaging to drive. The Elantra provides fairly nimble handling; a decent ride, a smooth, responsive powertrain; a well-finished interior; and a relatively roomy rear seat. It's also miserly on gas, achieving 29 mpg overall in our tests and 39 mpg on the highway. We expect this new model to be as reliable as the previous one. Price: $18,445

Budget car: Honda Fit
Electronic stability control is now a standard feature in the 2011 Fit, which helps solidify this versatile subcompact hatchback as the best in its class and a great value. The Fit provides an amazing amount of interior space for its size, aided by a flexible rear-seat design in which the seatbacks can fold down or the lower cushion can flip up to open an area stretching from floor to ceiling. Agile handling makes the Fit enjoyable to drive. And it pays back with excellent fuel economy: 30 mpg overall with an automatic transmission, 33 mpg with a manual. Price: $16,020 to $16,730

Family sedan: Nissan Altima
The Altima provides an impressive balance of comfort and performance while delivering some of the best fuel economy in its class: 26 mpg overall for four-cylinder models and 24 mpg with a V6. The Hybrid version gets 32 mpg. Its comfortable ride, secure handling, and spirited acceleration make the Altima enjoyable to drive. And it has a roomy, well-finished, and very quiet interior. The four-cylinder models earned an above-average reliability Rating, and the V6 model was average. Price: $23,970 to $30,335

Small SUV: Toyota RAV4
The RAV4 returns to our Top Picks list for the fourth time in the past five years. Its winning formula includes a roomy interior, agile handling, and very good fuel economy for its class. The four-cylinder version provides the best gas mileage of any automatic, nonhybrid SUV we've tested. The spirited V6 version accelerates about as quickly as the Cadillac CTS and Volkswagen GTI and gets only 1 mpg less than the four-cylinder model. A small third-row seat is optional. Price: $25,405 to $31,435

Green car: Toyota Prius
Even as more hybrids have entered the market in recent years, the Prius still gets the best fuel economy—44 mpg overall—of any vehicle we've recently tested. Moreover, the Prius is a pleasant car to drive, with a roomy interior, a comfortable ride, hatchback versatility, and excellent crash-test results. That combination of attributes has helped it earn our pick in this category for the eighth straight year, the longest run of any current model. Software problems in the antilock brake system affected the first-year reliability of this redesigned model, but those problems have been fixed. Price: $26,750

Family SUV: Kia Sorento
The Sorento was redesigned for 2011 and is now a more well-rounded SUV. A roomy, nicely finished interior includes comfortable seats and easy-to-use controls. An optional third-row seat, although tight, allows the Sorento to carry up to seven passengers. The smooth V6 engine provides good performance and fuel economy—20 mpg overall—that's as efficient as the base four-cylinder engine. The Sorento is also stocked with an inviting list of features for its price, making it one of the bargains of this class. Price: $26,590 to $32,390

Sporty car: Ford Mustang
One of the high points of this iconic sports car is the strong, rumbling V8 engine that propels our GT coupe and convertible test cars. It delivers scorching acceleration, a great exhaust sound, and good fuel economy for this class. For 2011, the Mustang received a refined, punchy V6, which provides strong acceleration and a decent 24 mpg overall with a manual transmission. But there's now more to the Mustang than power. Agile handling, a decent ride, comfortable front seats, and very good fit and finish make this thoroughly modern version a reasonable choice for daily driving. A tight rear seat limits passenger versatility, though. Price: $28,880 to $43,880

Sports sedan: Infiniti G37
The G37's inviting combination of agile handling, blistering acceleration, and a luxurious interior makes it one of our highest-scoring sedans and earned it a spot on this list for the fifth straight year. It's fun to drive on a twisty road but is still a fairly comfortable cruiser on the highway. A snug cabin and small trunk are the only notable weaknesses. Rear-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive optional. New for 2011 is a less expensive G25 model that gets 24 mpg, 3 better than the G37. Price: $37,225

Family hauler: Toyota Sienna
The previous Sienna set a high standard for minivans, earning it a place in our Top Picks in three of the past five years. Redesigned for 2011, the current model doesn't quite live up to that standard, but it's still a very comfortable, versatile minivan with excellent reliability. The spacious cabin can seat up to eight people. The engine delivers lively performance and decent fuel economy. And the Sienna is still the only minivan available with all-wheel drive. The redesigned Honda Odyssey scored slightly higher in our testing, but we don't have reliability data yet. Price: $35,810 to $38,201

Pickup truck: Chevrolet Avalanche
This versatile crew-cab model is unique among full-sized pickups. Its unified bed and cab helps give it a steady, comfortable, quiet ride. And the innovative partition between the cab and bed can be folded to extend the cargo area into the back of the cab. That allows the truck to carry longer cargo. A three-piece bed cover provides a weather-tight and lockable cargo area. We recommend getting the optional backup camera to reduce the truck's large blind zone. Price: $47,435.

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