Consumer Reports tests a lot of cars, and as one of the only publications that buys its own vehicles, it has the freedom to evaluate them in exactly the manner it wants. After putting dozens upon dozens of cars per year through the ringer at its test facility in Connecticut, some emerge as clear winners while others emerge as clear losers.
These are the eight winners for 2015.
8. Volkswagen Golf
The Volkswagen Golf is an affordable little hatchback that feels much more expensive than it actually is. Interior materials are top notch, giving the cabin a high-end feel that you don’t get from most of the competition, while the sophisticated ride and handling serve to reinforce that feeling. You also get the choice of a gasoline or diesel engine, both of which are quite fuel efficient.
7. Volkswagen GTI
Based on the Golf but tuned for significantly more fun, the Volkswagen GTI is an absolute blast to drive. The 40 more horsepower makes it faster in a straight line, but the real fun comes in the corners thanks to the GTI’s sport-tuned suspension. Unlike some of the competition, though, the GTI is actually comfortable around town.
6. Ford F-150
The new Ford F-150 actually lost out to the Chevrolet Silverado and the Ram 1500 in Consumer Reports’ most recent test, but the editors were impressed with its aluminum construction and 700-pound weight loss. They also praised its turbocharged V6 engine for making 325 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque while still returning a combined 17 miles per gallon. If this is the direction pickup trucks are headed in the future, you can expect the future to be pretty awesome.
5. Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The C-Class has historically been “the cheap Mercedes” in the lineup, and it’s shown. Now, it appears the brand is taking a different approach and has turned the C-Class into a serious luxury car. Its interior blows away the cabin in the BMW 3 Series, but it still just as fun to drive as its rival at BMW.
4. Porsche Macan
Porsche enthusiasts may hate the fact that the company sells SUVs now, but it does a very good job of building them, and they’re selling like hotcakes. With the Cayenne’s record of success, it should come as no surprise that the Macan is excellent as well. Consumer Reports says it feels like a taller, wider version of the Porsche 911, which is about as large a compliment as anyone can give any vehicle.
3. Subaru Legacy
Family sedans aren’t exactly known for being the most exciting vehicles on the market, but that hasn’t kept Subaru from trying to inject some personality into the Legacy. It’s still comfortable, spacious, practical, fuel efficient, and affordable, but it’s also pretty fun to drive. In a segment devoid of all-wheel-drive alternatives, it’s also probably the best choice for people living in snowy locations.
2. Kia Sorento
The Kia Sorento isn’t quite as small as other compact crossovers, but it also isn’t quite as large as other midsize crossovers. Instead, it occupies a niche in the market that offers buyers the best of both worlds. With a comfortable ride, a quiet cabin, commendable handling, and a great infotainment system, it makes a case for itself as a great vehicle, not simply as a great vehicle for buyers on a budget.
1. Subaru Outback
What do you get when you take the already-great Subaru Legacy, add more cargo room, and increase the ride height? You get the Subaru Outback. It’s a vehicle that’s well-rounded and capable of performing almost any task you want to throw at it, but thanks to the fact that it’s a wagon, it offers significantly more practicality than its sedan sibling. If you need a winter-ready family vehicle, this is the one to choose.