Buying a car or a truck is a major purchase, and in these tough economic times it is more important than ever to get the most bang for your buck. There is a lot of information out there, but a reliable source is Consumer Reports. And this is the time of year when the magazine brings out its April Annual Auto Issue.
In addition to the usual topics covered — Top Picks, automaker report cards and lists of the most and least reliable used cars — for the first time CR is calculating the best new-car values.
So, which new cars are the best values? The magazine is asking and answering that question, using a very complex formula and coming up with what it believes are the best new-car values in nine categories.
CR found the 2009 Toyota Prius Touring model to be the best overall value among 300 cars. The Prius Touring had a cost-per-point of $325. After that, rounding out the top five models with the best overall value were the Mini Cooper at $330, the Volkswagen Rabbit at $330, the Honda Civic EX at $340 and the Honda Fit at $350. Among the worst values is the Hummer H2 with a cost-per-point of $3,620.
To determine the scores, CR divides each vehicle’s five-year owner cost by its overall road-test score to get the cost of each test-score point. The lower the cost-per-point, the better the value. (Yes, it’s a complex formula). Choices are then limited to those vehicles with above-average predicted reliability ratings, to make sure the models hold up well over time.
What are the 2009 Top Picks? Top Picks are the best all-around models in each of 10 categories. That means they have done well in CR’s stringent road tests, have average or better-predicted reliability, have performed adequately in overall safety in tests by either the government or insurance industry, and offer electronic stability control as standard equipment or as a stand-alone readily available option.
This year’s Top Picks include two new models, the Toyota Highlander and the Chevrolet Avalanche. The Highlander replaced the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Avalanche replaced the Silverado. The Toyota Prius remains the Top Pick in the “green” car category for the sixth consecutive year.
The other Top Picks are the Hyundai Elantra SE, Honda Accord, Infiniti G37, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Toyota RAV4 and Sienna. The best overall vehicle is the Lexus LS 460.
Who makes the best cars? With a major purchase, you want something that is reliable, and this 2009 issue of CR gives out “report cards” on the various automakers. The overall score for each automaker is based on the average of its vehicles’ overall scores in Consumer Reports’ road tests and their average predicted reliability.
Honda leads for the third year in a row, followed closely by Subaru and Toyota. Mazda was fourth. Tied for fifth were Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Volkswagen and BMW. All three Detroit automakers continued to score low, but at least General Motors and Ford improved their overall scores from last year. Chrysler is at the bottom of the heap and did even worse than last year.
The latest models from General Motors now rank among the best in testing. And models like the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook, Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Corvette and Malibu all scored well. According to the magazine, some Ford models now rival their competition from Honda and Toyota in reliability. The only bright spot for Chrysler is the new Dodge Ram.
Toyota rebounded after last year when three of its vehicles fell below average in reliability. The three — the Camry V-6, Tundra V-8 all-wheel drive, and the all-wheel-drive Lexus GS — improved to average reliability this year.
What are the most and least reliable used cars? In this issue the magazine identifies the most reliable used vehicles in nine categories. Toyota and Honda dominate most of the categories with vehicles such as the Honda Civic, Accord, and Odyssey and the Toyota Corolla, Matrix, and 4Runner. But a few domestic models qualify, such as the Pontiac Vibe and Ford Fusion.
This year Consumer Reports also found 19 used cars with above-average reliability that cost $6,000 or less, including the 1999 Acura CL and the 2003 Buick Century.
Also helpful are a list of “Used Cars to Avoid” and “Worst of the Worst.” The CR magazine will be on newsstands through May 4 and free highlights are available at www.ConsumerReports.org..
EDITOR’S NOTE: Consumer Reports has issued its stringent “Recommended” rating on the following 2009 new cars and trucks. Vehicles receive a recommended from CR based on road testing, reliability and safety standards.
Any one and all of these 2009 models with images and overviews are available for download from Motor Matters (click “2009 e-Auto” at www.motormatters.biz).
BMW 3 Series
BMW 5 Series
BMW 6 Series
Ford Taurus X
Hyundai Santa Fe
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009