Each year, new cars are getting better and better. What was once a slow, evolutionary process is turning into a near-overnight phenomenon as automobiles (and the technology that makes them) improve. After speaking with a co-worker, we decided that at no point in our relatively short lifespans have we genuinely been impressed by most new cars on the market.
It makes the reviewing jobs for sites like Consumer Reports more difficult, but also more rewarding.
“This year several automakers have really hit the mark with their redesigned vehicles,” said Mark Rechtin, Consumer Reports’ Cars Content Development Team Leader, in the magazine’s press statement. “This year’s Top Picks include refreshed models, like the Lexus RX, that have vaulted back to the top of their respective categories after lengthy absences.”
As for how Consumer Reports’ conducts the tests, “models must also have an average or better predicted reliability rating based on problems reported by subscribers for the 740,000 vehicles in CR’s 2015 auto survey. Also taken into consideration is owner satisfaction, which CR obtains by surveying subscribers about their happiness level regarding the 230,000 vehicles in their garages. Finally, and importantly, Top Picks must perform effectively in crash or rollover tests conducted by the government and insurance industry (if tested).”
Midsized car: Toyota Camry
If you’re a regular reader of Consumer Reports, than this shouldn’t come as a great surprise. Commending the Camry’s “great outward visibility, controls that fall easily to hand, [and] a roomy interior,” the magazine noted that it “delivers year after year of outstanding reliability, which when combined with impressive crash-tests results, make it a near-perfect sedan.”
Subcompact car: Honda Fit
Honda has long outperformed the compact hatch market with the Fit. Better-than-average build quality, a highly versatile interior, and commendable crash scores keep the Fit at the top of the pantheon of small cars, though “road noise does boom in, and its rough ride can be tiring on long drives,” Consumer Reports noted.
Compact car: Subaru Impreza
Despite its compact size, the Impreza’s ride and comfort will surprise. It has expansive window glass, lots of interior space for a car of its size, intuitive controls, a suite of available safety technology, great crash-test results, and an available hatchback version to haul bulky cargo. And with the added benefit of superb all-wheel-drive traction, the Impreza is a smart, practical car.
Luxury SUV: Lexus RX
Don’t be thrown by the RX’s aggressive new fascia and crisp, origami-like styling: “it still boasts a quiet and comfortable cabin, effortless power delivery, a smooth ride, and a tastefully done interior fit and finish,” Consumer Reports lauded.
Sports car under $40K: Mazda MX-5 Miata
More impressive than the Mazda’s “lithe, precise handling and a zoomy engine” is the company’s ability to keep its flagship apex predator under the $30,000 mark in basic spec. “With its jumpy, firm suspension, loud cabin, and tight quarters for taller drivers, the Miata isn’t a commuter car. But given a sunny day and a winding road, none of that matters,” the magazine said.
Small SUV: Subaru Forester
It’s not going to blow your socks off, but the Forester is one of those cars that does everything well. “Its AWD system routed the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V in CR’s snow-driving evaluations,” the magazine said, adding that “it also has the best sight lines from the driver’s seat of any model on the market.”
Midsized SUV: Kia Sorento
While Honda, Toyota, Ford, and others have been duking it out in one of America’s most contested segments, Kia has flanked the field and has spent the last several years perfecting the Sorento. “It offers class-above elegance at mainstream prices,” Consumer Reports said, adding that “it’s a shade smaller than its midsized competitors, but that allows it to be city-friendly while still offering the space and features of a larger vehicle.”
Minivan: Toyota Sienna
“The Sienna is super-reliable transport with all of the modern features an active, connected family would want,” Consumer Reports commended. “Its spacious and multifunctional interior, with available seating for eight, mates well with the Sienna’s magic carpet ride and energetic powertrain.” We recently reviewed the Sienna ourselves, in the range-topping Limited trim, and for the most part agreed.
Pickup truck: Ford F-150
Ford has been sweeping the truck category with the F-Series (as per usual, we suppose), and Consumer Reports could see why. “The cabin is extremely quiet and spacious. The intuitive Sync 3 infotainment system is a welcome update from the MyFord Touch, [and] the F150 has the best predicted reliability of any domestic truck.” Hard to argue there.
Large car: Chevrolet Impala
Of all the major redesigns in the last decade or so, the Impala was probably the biggest surprise. It went from rental lot special to competitive full-size sedan seemingly overnight, “combining a cushy ride with responsive handling, beating some elite luxury sedans at their own game.” It does everything a large sedan should do, and it does it well.