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Consumer Reports' Top Picks 2014

The best cars, SUVs, and trucks in 10 categories

Published: February 2014

All-around winners. That, in essence, is what our Top Picks are. Each is an exceptional, well-­rounded vehicle, chosen from more than 260 we’ve recently tested. They have excelled in our testing, are reliable, and have performed well in independent crash tests. In other words, it’s hard to go wrong with any of them.

Our 2014 picks include models from eight automakers; only Honda and Subaru earned more than one spot. And there are four new winners: the slick, electric-powered Tesla Model S, the impressive Subaru Forester and Hyundai Santa Fe SUVs, and the freshened Ram 1500 pickup truck, which is the first Chrysler model to make the list in 16 years.

What it takes

Top Picks must meet our criteria in three areas:

Test performance. Each must rank at or near the top of its class in our overall test score.

Reliability. Each must have an average or better reliability Rating, based on the problems our subscribers reported on 1.1 million vehicles in our latest Annual Auto Survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

Safety. Top Picks must perform adequately if included in crash or rollover tests conducted by the government or insurance industry.

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

Best overall

Sure, you can talk about this electric luxury car’s blistering acceleration, razor-sharp handling, compliant ride, and versatile cabin, which can fit a small third-row seat. But that just scratches the surface of this technological tour de force. The Tesla is brimming with innovation. Its massive, easy-to-use 17-inch touch screen controls most functions. And with its totally keyless operation, full Internet access, and ultra-quiet, zero-emission driving experience, the Tesla is a glimpse into a future where cars and computers coexist in seamless harmony. Its 225-mile driving range and 5-hour charges, using Tesla’s special connector, also make it the easiest, most practical, albeit pricey, electric car to live with.
Price as tested: $89,650

Small SUV

The Forester climbed to the top of its class after its 2014 redesign. With a space-efficient design and large windows and doors, this user-friendly SUV provides the easiest access and best visibility in its category. It has an excellent driving position, simple controls, and one of the roomiest rear seats in the category. Plus the Forester delivers a class-leading 26 mpg overall and a frugal 35 on the highway. OK, the ride is a bit firm and the in-car electronics are behind the curve; there’s still room for improvement.
Price as tested: $26,814

Midsized sedan

The four-cylinder Accord occupies a true sweet spot in today’s auto market. It’s a roomy, well-equipped, and competitively priced sedan that gets a lot right. The four-cylinder Accord 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. Just avoid the HondaLink infotainment system that comes on EX-L versions; we can’t recommend those versions because of reliability problems.
Price as tested: $23,270

Compact car

The all-wheel-drive Impreza gives you a lot for its affordable price. Both sedan and hatchback versions are well-rounded packages, with nimble handling and an impressively compliant, absorbent ride that’s among the best in its class. Fuel economy is also commendable for an AWD car. And the Impreza is easy to live with, thanks to a roomy interior, spacious rear seat, simple controls, and refreshingly good visibility. Our only serious gripe is pronounced road noise. But it’s no deal breaker.
Prices as tested: Sedan $21,345, hatchback $22,345

Midsized SUV

Redesigned for 2013, the seven-passenger Santa Fe is one of the most pleasant and well-rounded SUVs. This spacious vehicle provides a comfortable ride, a quiet interior, a limolike rear seat, and generous cargo area. Yet the Santa Fe doesn’t feel too bulky to drive or park. Its smooth, refined 290-hp V6 engine delivers a decent 20 mpg overall. And the Santa Fe offers a lot of features for the money, including a standard backup camera. But the tiny third-row seat is for kids only.
Price as tested: $36,290

Green car

Today’s showrooms have no shortage of hybrids. But none can match the combination of affordability, practicality, and fuel efficiency that the Prius delivers. That’s why it has captured our Green Car pick for the 11th year in a row. Its 44 mpg overall is still the best we’ve measured in any five-passenger, non-plug-in vehicle. And its roomy interior and hatchback versatility make it practical. Skip the slow, noisy Prius C econobox. The 41-mpg Prius  V wagon is efficient and roomy, but it did poorly in an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash test.
Price as tested: $26,750

Pickup truck

With its 2013 freshening, the Ram 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. Still, the Ram is fully capable of getting its hands dirty when duty calls. The 5.7-liter V8 and new eight-speed automatic transmission deliver effortless power while returning a relatively good 15 mpg overall. The Chevrolet Silverado outscored the Ram in our testing, but its reliability is unknown.
Price as tested: $42,810

Luxury car

Simply put, the A6 is a joy to drive. Its potent, supercharged V6 engine and super-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission deliver invigorating power. Its agile handling is complemented by a comfortable ride. Inside you’re treated to a sumptuous, impeccably finished, first-class cabin that’s brimming with the latest high-tech features. And the A6 returns a respectable 22 mpg overall, even with all-wheel drive; the diesel-powered TDI delivers 28 mpg. Yes, some controls take getting used to, so you may have extra homework. It’s worth cramming.
Price as tested: $56,295

Sports sedan

The 3 Series has long set the standard for sports sedans. And the current model delivers excellent handling and a high fun-to-drive factor. It’s also roomier, more luxurious, and more fuel-efficient than past models. The 328i’s 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine is quick and thrifty, posting 28 mpg overall, which is best among gas-powered models in its class. Ride comfort and fit and finish are also impressive, although the rear seat is a bit snug. A diesel version, called the 328d, is new for 2014.
Price as tested: $43,195

Minivan

The Odyssey is the most complete family vehicle you can buy. It can easily carry up to eight people, and the comfy second- and third-row seats can be configured in myriad ways to accommodate a wide range of cargo- and passenger-carrying needs. Other highlights include easy access, excellent child-seat accommodations, a quiet interior, and plenty of cabin storage. Decent fuel economy helps, too. The Odyssey is also relatively fun to drive for a minivan, with its vigorous V6 engine, responsive handling, and supple ride. A backup camera is standard.
Price as tested: $36,830

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the April 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
   

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