Consumer Reports at the National Press Club in Washington DC today announced the magazine's well regarded Top 10 Picks from the magazine's much anticipated April Annual Auto Issue. They presented their findings on vehicle and quality rankings on a wide range of automakers and vehicles.
Jake Fisher, Director of Auto Testing for Consumer Reports, and Rik Paul, Consumer Reports Auto Editor, presented the non-biased and independent findings to an eager audience of Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA) members, various well-known media outlets, and reps from most of the leading automakers. Jessica Anderson, the President of WAPA, even commented it was a noticeably large turnout. Hey it's Consumer Report's and a lot of people turn to this information when shopping for a new car.
Consumer Reports Top Pick's for 2013
- Honda Accord (Midsized Sedan) – Consumer Report's really felt that Honda “nailed it” with the redesign of the Honda Accord. The reliability, roominess, comfort, reasonable pricing, and fuel efficiency all helped the Honda Accord earn high marks and a Top Pick this year. ($23,270 to $30,860)
- Subaru Impreza (Compact Car) – The Subaru Impreza won the Compact Car category last year and now takes the “Top Pick” title this year too. Consumer Report's noted that both the sedan and hatchback are great values and have great features. This includes nimble handling, a compliant and absorbent ride which the editors note rivals luxury sedans. Along with impressive fuel economy for an All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) car the Subaru Impreza is hard to beat.
- Hyundai Elantra (Budget Car) – This one of the Consumer Report's top rated compact sedans and it is clear why. Hyundai offers a really great value for those on a budget. The Hyundai Elantra is more roomy, provides decent handling, a comfortable ride, smooth powertrain, a nice interior with good fit and finish. ($18,445)
- Toyota Prius (Green Car) – The Toyota Prius can't seem to be dethroned from winning this category. It has been named a Consumer Report's “Top Pick” 12 times before and this now this is the 10th consecutive year it has won a Top Pick. The editors noted that it is hard to beat the fuel economy, hatchback versatility, practicality, affordability, and value the Toyota Prius offers consumers. Environmentalists and liberals can rejoice and can continue to feel proud of the beloved Toyota Prius. ($26,750)
- Audi A6 (Luxury Car) – This comes as a bit of surprise since Audi has not had a car be named a “Top Pick” be Consumer Report's in over 10 years. The Audi A6 received good marks for having a stunning supercharged V6 engine, smooth 8-speed automatic transmission, and a ride you would expect from a German automobile. Handling is also quick, precise and agile and driving an Audi A6 is a sinful pleasure. The interior and high-tech features also impressed the Consumer Report's editors. ($56,295)
- BMW 328i (Sports Sedan) – The BMW 328i edged out the Infiniti G37 which took the Sports Sedan category for 4 years. Like the Audi, BMW had not had a Consumer Report's “Top Pick” for 10 years. What made editors change their minds? The redesigned BMW 328i is roomier, more luxurious, and has better fuel efficiency with the 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Like all BMW's it still retains fun-to-drive characteristics. ($43,195)
- Honda CR-V (Small SUV) – A smooth ride, responsive powertrain, excellent fuel economy, a great ride, roomy interior, standard backup camera, and Honda reliability make the Honda CR-V a Top Pick. ($26,455)
- Toyota Highlander (Midsized SUV) – The Toyota Highlander returns for 2013 as it won this category last year. Consumer Report's notes that it has the practicality of an SUV with the refinement of a great sedan. The Toyota Highlander provides a quiet cushy ride along with secure handling and a smooth powertrain. With Toyota reliability it is hard to go wrong with the Toyota Highlander. ($38,578 to $47,255)
- Honda Odyssey (Minivan) – Consumer Report's renamed the “Family Hauler” category to Minivan this year. That's probably because you can't get anything better than a minivan for a family hauler! 🙂 Editors noted that Honda Odyssey provides a comfortable ride, roominess, and versatile cabin that is quiet. Rik Paul noted that is provides a rear backup camera as standard which Consumre Report's that was an essential safety feature around a car that is going to have small children around it. With Honda reliability the Honda Odyssey takes the Minivan category. ($36,830)
- Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ (Sports Car) – These twin sisters might have different names but are the same car underneath. The super-sharp handling, fabulous braking, a powerful engine, and Rear-Wheel-Drive (RWD) make this a true driver's car. (I know since I have drove a Subrau BRZ quite fast at the WAPA Rally.) Reliability, good fuel economy, and good fit and finish all at a reasonable price earned the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S a Top Pick. ($25,025 and $27,117)
To earn the coveted Top Pick from Consumer Report's they must meet high criteria in 3 areas: road test, reliability, and safety. The vehicles must rank at or near the top of the vehicle category and earn above average reliability grades. Reliability data is calculated from the Consumer Report's survey that non-profit organization send out every year to subscribers. In the last survey data on 1.2 million vehicles was collected. Vehicles should also perform adequately in testing conducted by the government or insurance industry.
What is interesting is that last year no Hondas were on the Top Picks list. Honda seems to have adjusted quickly though and has come back into the ring fighting strong earning 3 Top Picks for 2013. Hyundai earning a top pick shows how far the automaker has come in a few years. It is also nice to see the Audi A6 and BMW 328i earn Top Pick selections, but it will remain to be seen whether they can retain the title next year.
Noticeably absent on the Consumer Reports Top Picks list were vehicles from domestic automakers, which means Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors (GM). Jake Fisher commented during his presentation that while domestic automakers have made significant strides and impressive improvements to their vehicle lineups over the past couple years, they still have quite a long way to go. Japanese, German, other automakers are also improving their lineups making it somewhat difficult to compete and catch-up so to speak with the competition’s quality and reliability.
Interestingly though during the Q&A after the press conferences I asked Jake Fisher and Rik Paul, “What car would you the two of you personally buy with your own money?” To my surprise they were willing to answer the question and did not say “No!”
Rik Paul commented he had been recently driving the Ford Fusion and really liked it but said that it does depend on a someone's priorities. Notably the Ford Fusion scored just below the Honda Accord in Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue this year. If he was going to get a Ford Fusion he would probably opt for the Ford Fusion Hybrid. Rik Paul did mention to me that he changes his mind every other week since he gets to test drive so many different cars. If only we could all be so lucky!
Jake Fisher reply to my question was that he really enjoyed the VW Golf TDI since it is a lot of fun-to-drive. He did mentioned that it would of course have to be a stick-shift, like any auto enthusiast would want. Although squeezing kids in back would be tough. (By the way he said “That's a good question!” in case you were wondering!”
The Consumer Reports auto testing is widely regarded in the auto industry as the best. The cars that Consumer Reports uses in testing are not given to them by the automakers as press fleet vehicles, like most auto publications get them. Consumer Reports buys the cars anonymously to make sure the cars do not have any special “tweaks” to them. They go through an extremely comprehensive testing procedures and all ratings are non-biased.
While there might be disagreement and hard-feelings about the ratings and the Top Picks list…it is hard to deny the impact the Consumer Report's Annual Auto Issue has on the auto industry.