As Consumer Reports prepares to release its 2014 Autos Spotlight, which includes our highly anticipated Top Picks, we asked our Facebook followers to tell us what's the best car on the market in the U.S. today.
From the followers' initial submissions, we asked people to “vote” on the six most popular models*: Ford Mustang, Hyundai Sonata, Subaru Outback, Toyota Camry*, Toyota Prius, and Toyota RAV4.* All have been considered good, safe, reliable models, earning the distinction of a Consumer Reports recommendation. From these, the Subaru Outback won, garnering a quarter of the votes.
The genre-bending Outback wagon stood out amid a crowd of popular models. Reading through the comments, it is clear that the Outback’s esteem is elevated by owners like Amy, who wrote, “I love my Outback! The best car I have ever owned.”
In our tests, the Outback has earned a solid overall test score, but there are several higher-rated wagons. The key to its appeal is the rare blend of adventurous styling, frugal fuel economy (for the four-cylinder), generous interior space, and winter-ready features.
Celebrating 50 years as a motoring icon, the Mustang is the only American-branded model to make the list. The current car remains at the apex of an impressive performance legacy, staying true to the original concept. One commenter noted, “That’s no contest. Make mine a Mustang!”
With prices beginning under $23,000, the Mustang starts with 305 horsepower and climbs seemingly to the stratosphere with 662 hp. Available as a coupe or convertible, the Mustang can be configured to suit many personalities and budgets, remaining engaging and entertaining throughout its product line. Look for a redesigned Mustang in late 2014.
A perennial hot-selling sedan, the Camry is roomy, quiet, refined, fuel efficient, and reliable, earning it a high rank among our ratings, and placing it in high-esteem among drivers. As Chris wrote on our wall, “All great choices, but my pick is the Camry.” The same can be said in the marketplace, which is currently crowded with smart choices in the segment and yet routinely sees the Camry as the most popular.
Even after all these years on the market, the Prius remains a revolutionary car, and its recognition as such is clear. The key is that the Prius is no one-trick pony. As Al points out about his Prius, “Best car I have ever owned—fuel efficient and reliable.” Fuel economy is excellent at 44 mpg overall and 55 mpg on the highway in our tests. And despite its hybrid complexity, the Prius remains one of the most reliable cars in our annual survey. Plus, for a small car, it is relatively roomy, with a large back seat and good cargo space. Yes, there is much to like, especially at today’s gas prices.
That this curvaceous sedan made the cut is further proof that Hyundai has risen to be tough mainstream competitor. No question: the Sonata delivers a lot for the money. Its 200-hp four-cylinder engine is smooth and responsive, yet delivers an impressive 27 mpg overall. Good handling, a supple ride, and comfortable seats are other pluses. (We’d suggest skipping the hybrid version, which didn’t score as well in our tests and returns relatively mediocre fuel economy for a hybrid.)
A popular choice among the vibrant small SUV contenders, the Toyota RAV4 stood out to our Facebook followers. As we have seen in recent surveys, small SUVs represent a sweet spot in the marketplace that small car owners aspire to and larger vehicle owners are looking to downsize to. While it created this car-based, soft-roader category in the last century, we feel there are better alternatives today.
The people have had their say. Soon it will be our turn.
Consumer Reports will release its 2014 Top Picks at 12:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday, February 25.. Until then, share your thoughts on our Facebook wall and name your dream car. Our staff will be doing the same. See you there!