In its annual Top Picks list, Consumer Reports has crowned four new vehicles—the Hyundai Santa Fe, Ram 1500, Subaru Forester, and Tesla Model S—with the top honor in each of their respective categories.
Although pricey, the Tesla Model S nabbed Consumer Reports’ Top Pick for Best Overall vehicle for its exceptional performance and its many impressive technological innovations.
For the first time in 16 years, a Chrysler earned a spot on the list with the Ram 1500 nabbing best Pickup Truck, a category that had taken a hiatus in 2013 because Consumer Reports had not yet tested two newly-released vehicles in that segment, the extensively updated Ram 1500 and the redesigned Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra. The last Chrysler vehicle to earn Consumer Reports’ Top Pick honors was the 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Japanese brands have historically done well on Consumer Reports’ Top Picks list, taking more than 70 percent of the spots since 1997. But their hold may be slipping; this year, Japanese brands took five spots—the fewest in the 18-year history of CR’s Top Picks. Models from eight manufacturers are represented on this year’s list of 10 Top Picks. Only Honda and Subaru earned more than one spot each on the list.
The redesigned Subaru Forester knocked the Honda CR-V from the top of the Small SUV category, and the Hyundai Santa Fe took top honors in the Midsized SUV category.
For the 11th consecutive year and 13th overall, the Toyota Prius reigns as Consumer Reports’ Top Pick for Green Car. The only other vehicle since 2001 to be named a Top Pick in the Green Car category was the Honda Civic Hybrid—which took the honor in 2003. The Prius continues to offer the best fuel economy, at 44 mpg overall, of any five-passenger, non-plug-in vehicle.
For the second year in a row, the Audi A6 and the BMW 328i top the Luxury Car and Sports Sedan categories respectively. Until last year, neither carmaker had a Top Pick in more than 10 years. The A6 was praised as a joy to drive and the 328i touted for setting the standard for sports sedans.
Consumer Reports’ Top Picks are the best all-around models in their categories; chosen from more than 260 vehicles the organization has recently tested. Top Pick models must meet CR’s stringent criteria in three areas: road test, reliability, and safety. They must rank at or near the top of their category on overall road test scores; they must have earned an average or better predicted-reliability Rating, based on problems Consumer Reports’ subscribers reported on 1.1 million vehicles in the latest survey; and they must perform adequately if tested in crash or rollover tests by the government or the insurance industry.
Consumer Reports’ 2014 Top Picks By Category:
BEST OVERALL: Tesla Model S ($89,650) This electric luxury vehicle offers blistering acceleration, razor-sharp handling, a compliant ride, and a versatile cabin with room for a small third-row seat. This technological tour de force, while pricey, is brimming with innovation and offers a 225-mile driving range and 5-hour charges with Tesla‘s special connector.
MIDSIZED SEDAN: Honda Accord (4-cyl.) ($23,270) This roomy, well-equipped, and competitively priced Honda Accord sedan gets a lot right and squeezes out an impressive 30 mpg overall and 40 on the highway which is as good as the tiny Honda Fit subcompact. Handling is agile, although the ride isn’t quite as comfortable as that in some competitors.
COMPACT CAR: Subaru Impreza (sedan, $21,345; hatchback, $22,345) This all-wheel-drive vehicle gives a lot for its affordable price. Both sedan and hatchback versions are well-rounded packages. They deliver nimble handling and an impressively compliant, absorbent ride that’s among the best in its class. For an AWD car, fuel economy is also commendable.
GREEN CAR: Toyota Prius ($26,750) There’s no shortage of hybrids on the showroom floor; however none can match the combination of affordability, practicality, and fuel efficiency that the Prius delivers—which is why it leads in this category for the 11th year in a row. Its 44 mpg overall is still the best Consumer Reports has measured in any five-passenger, non-plug-in vehicle. And its roomy interior and hatchback versatility make it practical.
LUXURY CAR: Audi A6 ($56,295) A joy to drive with its potent, supercharged V6 engine and super-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission delivering invigorating power; the interior is an impeccably finished, first-class cabin brimming with the latest in high-tech features. And the Audi A6 returns a respectable 22 mpg overall, even with all-wheel drive; the diesel-powered TDI delivers 28 mpg.
SPORTS SEDAN: BMW 328i ($43,195) The 3 Series has long set the standard for sports sedans. The current, roomier, more luxurious model delivers excellent handling and a high fun-to-drive factor. It’s more fuel-efficient than past models, posting 28 mpg overall—the best among gas-powered models in its class.
SMALL SUV: Subaru Forester ($26,814) This user-friendly small SUV climbed to the top of the class after its 2014 redesign. With a space-efficient design and large windows and doors, it provides the easiest access and best visibility in its category; plus a class-leading 26 mpg overall and a frugal 35 mpg on the highway.
MIDSIZED SUV: Hyundai Santa Fe ($36,290) Redesigned for 2013, this seven passenger mid-sized SUV provides a comfortable ride, a quiet interior, a limo-like rear seat, and generous cargo area—yet doesn’t feel too bulky to drive or park and offers a lot of features for the money. Its smooth, refined 290-hp V6 engine delivers a decent 20 mpg overall.
MINIVAN: Honda Odyssey ($36,830) The most complete family vehicle available—easily carrying up to eight people—features comfy second- and third-row seats that can be configured in a myriad of ways to accommodate a wide range of cargo- and passenger-carrying needs. This minivan is relatively fun to drive and gets decent fuel economy too.
PICKUP TRUCK: Ram 1500 ($42,810) With its 2013 freshening, the Ram 1500 is surprisingly refined and inviting. A coil-spring rear suspension—unique for full-sized pickups—makes it the most comfortable-riding truck. And the whisper-quiet cabin makes it feel like a luxury vehicle, while being able to get its hands dirty when duty calls.