U.S. News and World Report is among the leaders in rankings for universities, hospitals, and automobiles. Of note are the news outlet’s rankings for top upscale cars. U.S. News and World Report uses a system that averages critics’ reviews based on performance and interior design, as well as the overall reviewer rating. Next, editors factor in NHTSA safety ratings and reliability scores from J.D. Power and Associates. They finally factor in awards won by the automobiles, and arrive at the vehicles’ overall scores. Here are the nine best-scoring cars worthy of holiday splurge, accord to the Report.
Note: For pricing info, quotes were taken from dealerships near 48342 in Pontiac, Michigan.
9. 2013 Ford Focus Electric
Ford brought a lot to the table with its 2013 Focus Electric. Able to drive more than 70 miles on a charge (in ideal conditions), the gas-free Focus scored a perfect 10 in the safety category in U.S. News and World Report’s survey, and a 7.4 overall. The plug-in scored high on performance, with the capability of generating 141 hp and fully charged in less than 4 hours using a 240 V outlet. Pricing is just south of $35,000 around Pontiac for the electric hatch. As always, buyers can factor in the $7,500 tax credit for EVs when calculating the total cost.
8. 2013 Volvo C30
Volvo (VOLVY.PK) is discontinuing the C30 following the 2013 model, but drivers looking for an attractive, small car can still take advantage of the eighth-best ride, according to the U.S. News and World Report. Not surprisingly, the C30 scored best in safety (9.9), and was lauded by reviewers for its styling and handling of the transmission. This Volvo manages about 30 mpg on the highway, and 21 mpg in the city. A manual transmission model was available for $25,060.
In the luxury hybrid hatch category, the 2013 Lexus CT 200h scored very high on fuel economy (43 mpg in the city) and had a nearly perfect reliability score, via JDPower.com’s rankings. Critics were unenthusiastic about the 134 hp and interior quality, but there’s a lot to like about the mileage, not to mention the style. The cargo space also got enough mentions to warrant a nod from U.S. News and World Report’s team, and although none were available in the Pontiac area, the MSRP runs $32,050.
6. 2012 Nissan Leaf
Electric cars and hybrids held down a good portion of this list, as the ability to operate without gasoline is considered a luxury, not to mention the higher price tag that’s naturally associated with an EV. The 2o12 Leaf by Nissan (NSANY.PK) scored highest on safety (9.4) and matched an 8.0 or better in performance, interior, and overall critics’ ratings as compiled by U.S. News and World Report. It can reach close to 73 miles on a full charge, though it takes a long time to get the Leaf to full power. The nearest available model was in Toledo, Ohio, for $22,990.
5. 2013 Audi A3
Though in a statistical dead heat with the Leaf (8.0), the Audi (VLKAY.PK) A3 gets the edge on this list because it is more stylish than the practical EV. The Report editors noted its impeccable safety rating of 9.9, and the A3 from 2013 delivered excellent performance with its turbocharged four-cylinder engine (30 mpg on the highway). The available diesel engine is even more economical. The A3 was quoted at $27,375 around Pontiac. Pictured is the 2015 A3 sedan.
The 2013 Acura TSX scored highest on safety and reliability, but reviewers loved the V6 engine, (offering 201 horsepower in the base model), as well as the reliability factor (JDPower.com gave it a 4 out of 5). It’s also got the style that gives it fourth place in the U.S. News and World Report ranks of small upscale rides. The starting price was $28,570 near Pontiac, Michigan.
General Motors took third place in the U.S. News and World Report rankings with its 2013 Buick Verano. The editors also awarded the car top small upscale car for the money and best upscale small car for families. Those ratings weighed the safety factor heavily (9.8), while showing a JDPower.com reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5. The base model Verano has a four-cylinder engine capable of generating 180 hp. Near Pontiac, it was available for $22,513.
Second place on the U.S. News and World Report list was nabbed by the BMW (BMW.PK) 1-Series cars, which clocked an overall 8.4 score out a possible 10. Critics loved the standard engine capable of producing 230 hp as well as the agility and brakes on these cars. The safety ratings were unavailable, but the performance factor landed the 1-Series a 9.0 score. A 128i Coupe was quoted at $32,125 by a dealer outside of Pontiac.
1. 2013 Volkswagen GTI
Between the critics’ praise and strong performance, interior features and safety ratings, the Report editors tallied a rating of 8.7, making the 2013 Volkswagen GTI its top upscale small car. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine and smooth manual transmission made this little car fun to drive. At $23,180 just outside of Pontiac, this car was also among the most economical on the list.
Small upscale cars are ideal for families who want style and performance while still able to find a parking spot around town. Whether you want all-electric or top-performing, there are at least nine cars over $20,000 worthy of a test drive.