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Top Picks 2013

Best car models of the year in 10 categories

Consumer Reports magazine: April 2013

Looking for a new car? Start here. Our Top Picks are as close as it gets to “no-brainers” in the auto market. They’re impressive all-around vehicles, chosen from more than 280 we’ve recently tested, that have excelled in our testing, are reliable, and have performed well in independent crash tests. What’s not to like?

For 2013, we have new winners in seven categories. Honda was a no-show last year, but it has picked up three slots on this year’s list with the redesigned Accord and the CR-V and Odyssey. Two European automakers return to the list; the BMW 328i and the Audi A6 are those carmakers’ first entries in our winners’ circle in 10 and 13 years, respectively. Also new are the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ sports-car twins. And the Hyundai Elantra has returned after a one-year hiatus. No pickup was chosen because GM’s and Chrysler’s full-sized models have been revamped and we haven’t yet tested them.

What it takes

Top Picks must meet our criteria in three areas:

  • Road test. Each must rank at or near the top of its category in overall test score.
  • Reliability. Each must have earned an average or better predicted-reliability Rating, based on the problems Consumer Reports subscribers reported on 1.2 million vehicles in our latest Annual Auto Survey.
  • Safety. Top Picks must perform adequately if tested in crash or rollover tests conducted by the government or insurance industry.

Each model’s overall road-test score, predicted-reliability Rating, overall fuel economy, detailed pricing, and much more is available on their model pages. Prices reflect the sticker prices when we bought our tested cars.

Midsized sedan

The Accord was redesigned for 2013, and Honda nailed it, sending this sedan to the top of its class. This new model is roomy, nice to drive, well equipped, and very fuel efficient. With its four-cylinder engine, the Accord squeezes out 30 mpg overall and 40 on the highway, which is as good as the tiny Honda Fit. Higher-trim models have safety features seldom found in this category. And the Accord’s price is very reasonable: $23,270 to $30,860.

Sports cars

If you take your driving fun seriously, these almost identical twins were built for you. Co-developed by Subaru and Toyota, which builds Scion vehicles, both are exhilarating to drive, with super-sharp handling, excellent braking, and ample acceleration. Other draws: impressive gas mileage and reasonable sticker prices. Yes, they are purebred, rear-wheel-drive sports cars, with a jittery ride, noisy cabins, and small rear seats. So Camry lovers might want to cruise on by. FR-S $25,025; BRZ $27,117.

Budget car

You don’t have to settle for a subcompact when looking for an under-$20,000 car. The well-rounded Elantra delivers a lot for the money, and it’s one of our top-rated compact sedans. It’s roomier and more refined than a typical subcompact yet gets competitive fuel economy. The Elantra also provides nimble handling; a fairly comfortable ride; a smooth, responsive powertrain; and a well-finished interior. And did we mention its affordable price? $18,445.

Green car

Sure, today’s electric cars are getting the equivalent of 100 or more mpg. But no current plug-in car can match the Prius hatchback for its blend of fuel efficiency, practicality, and affordability. Its 44 overall mpg is still the best we’ve measured in any five-passenger, non-plug-in vehicle. And its roomy interior, comfortable ride, and hatchback versatility make it easy to live with. We also give a thumbs-up to the 41-mpg Prius V wagon, but skip the slow, noisy Prius C econobox. $26,750.

Compact car

Subaru’s 2012 redesign breathed new life into the all-wheel-drive Impreza. Both sedan and hatchback versions are good, sensible cars, with nimble handling and a compliant, absorbent ride that rivals some luxury sedans. Fuel economy is impressive for an AWD car. And the roomy interior, spacious rear seat, simple controls, and refreshingly good visibility make it easy to live with. OK, noise isolation is so-so, but that’s no deal-breaker. Sedan $21,345; hatchback $22,345.

Luxury car

Redesigned for 2012, the A6 is agile, quick, and a joy to drive. It surrounds you with a sumptuous, impeccably finished cabin that’s brimming with the latest high-tech features. Its potent supercharged V6 engine, super-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission, and comfortable ride add to the business-class feel. And it returns respectable gas mileage, even with all-wheel drive. Some controls are complicated, so be ready to cozy up with the owner’s manual. $56,295.

Small SUV

With redesigns of the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester just arriving, the CR-V has taken over as our top small SUV. Virtues include a smooth, responsive powertrain, good fuel economy, a compliant ride, excellent braking, a roomy rear seat, and outstanding reliability. It’s also one of the more competitively priced choices in the class. $26,455.

Midsized SUV

The Highlander is for people who want the practicality of an SUV with the refinement of a good sedan. It provides a quiet, well-finished cabin, as well as a cushy ride, sound handling, and a smooth powertrain. The Highlander has also consistently maintained above-average reliability. The V6 model delivers a competitive 18 mpg overall, and the hybrid model tops all SUVs at 27 mpg. $38,578 to $47,255.

Sports sedan

The 3 Series is legendary for its handling prowess and fun-to-drive character. With its recent redesign, it has also become roomier, more luxurious, and more fuel efficient. Ride comfort and fit and finish are impressive. And its 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers quick acceleration, while posting the best gas mileage in its class. Sure, the rear seat is snug and the start/stop system is a bit abrupt. We’ll live with it. $43,195.

Minivan

Reliability of the Odyssey has improved, and it has earned our top spot among family haulers. It provides a comfortable ride and a roomy, quiet, and versatile cabin. The rear seat is generous and easy to access. The V6 engine performs well and delivers a competitive 19 mpg. And a backup camera­—a great safety feature—is now standard on all models. $36,830.

   

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