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Consumer Reports American Top Picks 2010

Consumer Reports News: February 26, 2010 11:29 AM

Every year we look at our Top Pick list from an alternative point of view, highlighting the best of the domestic industry. While we support buying the best car for your needs, regardless of where it's made, our mailbag and e-mail inbox shows us that many buyers prefer to buy from an American brand. This is especially evident as Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors fight their way back from recent market challenges. (Read: " Who makes the best cars?")
 
The good news is that preferring a domestic car doesn’t condemn you to a bad product. Indeed, two of the vehicles on this list, the Chevrolet Traverse and Silverado, are on our our official Top Picks list, as well. In addition, Ford has done notably well in reliability. For example, the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan have proven to be more reliable than a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. While these high-scoring cars come in a notch below some Japanese competitors in the marketplace as a whole, the Fusion/Milan/Lincoln MKZ sedans show up a lot when looking at domestic-branded Top Picks, as does Ford in general.
As a quick review, here are the qualifications for being named a Top Pick:
  • The vehicle must rank near the top of its category in our ratings
  • It must have average or better reliability, according to our latest Annual Auto Survey
  • It must have performed well if included in a government or insurance-industry crash or rollover test
  • It must provide electronic stability control (ESC) as standard or a readily available option

Given those parameters, we present the domestic-branded Top Picks for 2010. We have also included the top-scoring domestic-branded vehicles in each category and below provide additional insights into the list.


Consumer Reports American Top Picks 2010

Category Top Pick Top Scoring
Small car Ford Focus Ford Focus
Family sedan Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan
Sporty car Ford Mustang GT Ford Mustang GT/Chevrolet Cobalt SS
Small SUV Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain
Family SUV Chevrolet Traverse Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia
Sports sedan Lincoln MKZ Cadillac CTS
Green car Ford Fusion Hybrid Ford Fusion Hybrid
Family hauler None qualify None qualify
Pickup truck Chevrolet Silverado Chevrolet Avalanche
Best car overall Ford Fusion Hybrid Chevrolet Corvette Z06


Small Car: The Ford Focus is the clear pick here. However, the Focus scores quite a bit below other small-car competitiors. We're looking forward to the 2012 Focus previewed at this year's Detroit auto show, as well as the Chevrolet Cruze.

Family sedan: There are a lot of excellent family sedans on the market from both foreign and domestic brands. Our highest-scoring domestic family sedans are the Ford Fusion and its twin, the Mercury Milan. These well-rounded cars are very reliable. The Chevrolet Malibu doesn't score far behind.

Sporty car: We define sporty car as something fun-to-drive and reasonably affordable. The Ford Mustang GT is a blast and surprisingly easy to live with. Like the Fusion, the Mustang benefited from a thorough 2010 freshening. The Chevrolet Cobalt SS scores the same as the Mustang. A long way from the rental-grade Cobalt sedan, the turbocharged SS is a lot of fun, but we don't have reliability data and thus can't recommend it.

Small SUV: The V6 versions of the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain twins are our top-rated small domestic SUVs, but we can’t recommend the Equinox and Terrain because we don’t have reliability data for this new model. The V6 and hybrid-powered Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner both tie the four-cylinder Equinox and Terrain in overall score, and we can recommend the Escape and Mariner because they have average or better reliability. That said, both of these domestic SUVs score significantly below the best foreign competition.

Family SUV: Domestics compete strongly in this category. The Chevrolet Traverse is this year's Top Pick for Family SUV. The GMC Acadia is essentially the same car, but the later-introduced Traverse has better reliability in our data. (The Traverse's reliability benefited from working out bugs from the Acadia.) The Ford Flex doesn't score far behind.

Sports sedan: The Cadillac CTS does very well in our tests, outscoring sedans from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but it hasn't been reliable enough to recommend. The Lincoln MKZ is more of an upscale version of the Fusion rather than an apex-clipping sports sedan, but it has been very reliable and scores well.

Green car: This is an easy pick. The Ford Fusion Hybrid is enjoyable to drive and gets an impressive 34 mpg overall in our tests. The domestics haven't managed a high-mileage Prius-beater yet, but the Chevrolet Volt and Ford Focus EV are on the horizon.

Family hauler: In our primary Top Pick list, this went to the Mazda5. It's very practical with three rows of seats, but is smaller, more efficient, and less-expensive ($23,000) than a normal minivan. This mini-minivan doesn't have domestic competition yet, but the Chevrolet Orlando and Ford C-Max are on the horizon. As for full-sized minivans, the only domestic offering is the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan twins. But their reliability is well below average, so they aren't recommended.

Pickup truck: The Chevrolet Avalanche is our top-scoring truck, but its reliability has fallen below average this year. Beyond that, you can basically pick a domestic pickup truck based on your brand preferences. The Silverado is our Top Pick for pickups; it outscores the Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram, but not by much. All three trucks have average reliability.

Best Car Overall: This category goes to the top-scoring recommended car in our tests. The awesome Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is our highest scoring domestic-branded car, but its reliability is below average. The highest-scoring recommended domestic car is the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Review our Top Picks 2010, complete with videos. And see our 2009 American Top Picks.

Tom Mutchler

   

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