Best car values & top picks

February 23, 2010 8:48:15 PM PST
Vehicles at Consumer Reports' test track go through more than 50 tests and evaluations and are driven thousands of miles. Then once a year, the Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue unveils its Top Picks.

For a car to be a Top Pick in Consumer Reports, it has to have done extremely well in the testing. If it has been crash-tested by the government or the insurance industry, it has to have done well there, too. It has to have electronic stability control, either standard or easily available. And it has to have average or better reliability, based on findings from Consumer Reports' survey covering more than 1.4 million cars.

The Nissan Altima is this year's Top Pick for Family Sedans. It outscored the Honda Accord, which has held the top honor since 2003. The Altima gets really good fuel economy. It has a very comfortable, roomy interior.

The Subaru Forester is the Top Pick for small SUVs, replacing the Toyota RAV4, which at the magazine's press time had been pulled from sale due to a recall. The Subaru Forester is a really nice small SUV. It's very easy to drive and has a very comfortable ride. The handling is very good. And it also gets very good fuel economy. And it scores about the same as the RAV4.

The Chevrolet Traverse is the Top Pick for midsized family SUVs. It replaces the Toyota Highlander, whose sales were also suspended.

Consumer Reports also rates which cars offer the best values. To find the best value, Consumer Reports identifies cars that give you the best performance, the best fuel economy, and the best reliability for the price. This year the $16,000 Honda Fit tied with the Toyota Prius as Consumer Reports' best value car.

Toyota has recalled 133,000 Priuses in the 2010 model year to update the software in the antilock brake system. The software has been updated on Priuses that are now for sale. Here's the complete list of Consumer Reports' 2010 Top Picks: www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/april/cars/top-picks/overview/index.htm.

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