While the classic buff books (Car and Driver, Road & Track, Automobile, etc.) are full of McLarens, Porsches, and Ferraris in any given issue, when many Americans research their next cars, they go to a source that’s been trusted for over 80 years: Consumer Reports. And while your average automotive outlet is talking about things like “passion” and “feel,” CR is interested in facts, everyday drivability, and that’s about it.
Which is why their word is held in such high esteem. They buy all their test vehicles, and they don’t accept anything from automakers — not even advertising in their magazine. They judge cars based on a strict rubric, and report accordingly. No error is overlooked, and there aren’t any bonus points awarded for things like design flourishes or engine notes. If you looked up “unvarnished” in the dictionary, there might be a photo of a CR issue next to it.
That’s why their recommendations are such a big deal. And with the industry expanding after years of explosive growth, the market is clogged with all kinds of vehicles, and it may seem hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Until today, that is; because we’ve put CR’s highest-rated new models together in one place. If you’re in the market for anything from a hybrid to a sports car to a luxury SUV (or anything else in between), read on and see what models CR has deemed the cream of the crop. You may be surprised.
10. Toyota iA
It’s a Mazda! It’s a Scion! It’s the Toyota iA! Hitting the market in late 2015, the iA is sold in the rest of the world as the Mazda 2, and for its first year stateside, it was badged as a Scion. But with the demise of that brand, the thrifty subcompact comes to the Toyota stable, where it’s garnered praise for offering some serious bang for your buck. Solid and well built, the iA offers standard emergency braking, an optional full infotainment system, and a peppy 1.5 liter inline four mated to either six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Starting at under $16K, the iA is rare in that it’s a safe, reliable, fun-to-drive entry-level car. It’s also CR’s highest-rated subcompact.
9. Chevrolet Cruze
The Cruze is the best-selling Chevy car in the world, and with good cause. An all-new Cruze bowed for 2016 in both sedan and hatchback trims, appealing to more buyers than ever before. CR’s reviewers praised the car for its good looks, quiet roomy interior, and fuel-efficient 1.4 liter turbocharged inline four. In fact, they were so impressed with this compact that they called it a viable alternative to some of the less inspiring midsize cars on the market.
8. Toyota Prius
Like the Cruze, the Prius was all-new for 2016, and for the first time in its 20 year history, Toyota went big and bold. Its combined 52 mile per gallon average makes it the most fuel-efficient non-plug in on the market, and a comfortable ride, quiet interior, and host of standard safety features only sweeten the deal.
7. Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Miata is a world-class sports car that’s affordable (under $30K), reliable, good-looking, and delivers way more fun than its price tag would suggest. If you want a perfectly balanced rear-wheel drive convertible that won’t break the bank, cost a fortune to insure, or rack up massive repair bills, the Miata is the way to go.
6. Kia Optima
The Optima is one of the most popular midsize sedans on the market, and with good cause. With its upscale look, comfortable interior, and standard features that would be pricey options on competitors, Kia’s mid-sizer offers serious value. Add to it a legitimate sporty feel, excellent fit-and-finish, and an iron-clad 10 year/100,000 mile warranty, and you’ve got one of the safest bets in the industry.
5. Chevrolet Impala
The full-size sedan segment doesn’t get much attention nowadays, but the Chevy Impala continues to dominate in it. With ample room for five adults inside and all their stuff in the trunk, the Impala is the modern version of the classic highway cruiser. It offers a luxurious ride, good power and fuel economy, and arguably the cushiest interior in the Chevy lineup.
4. Subaru Forester
For a small SUV, the Forester does just about everything right. Boxy and roomy inside, with standard all-wheel drive, this popular people mover has helped make Subaru one of the fastest-growing brands in the U.S. And thanks to the available fuel-efficient boxer engines and excellent safety marks, the Forester is a great car for a growing family.
3. Toyota Highlander
The Toyota Highlander got a comprehensive update for 2017 with more power, a new transmission, and more safety features. In other words, Toyota kept what worked, added a lot more to it, and ditched what didn’t. The midsize SUV segment is a crowded one, and the Highlander may not be the newest or sexiest model, but it does everything so well that it still trounces the competition.
2. Audi Q7
While much ado was made about the Tesla Model S breaking CR’s review rubric, the Q7 came close too, scoring 96 out of 100 in a recent test. Clean and good-looking on the outside, and equal parts luxurious and tech-forward inside, there isn’t much full-size seven-seat SUV can’t do — and that includes delivering a sporty, engaging performance that’s an Audi hallmark.
1. Honda Ridgeline
It may not be a Ford F-150, but then again, that’s the point. Honda’s pickup offers virtually everything you’d want in a pickup without any of the drawbacks. Inside, there’s room for 5 and plenty of storage space. Out back, there’s a deep storage locker under the bed, and a tailgate that drops down and swings out for extra versatility. It may not be a dedicated off-roader or heavy-duty hauler, but for almost everything else, the Ridgeline is just right.