10 Top Picks of 2019: Best Cars of the Year

The best cars based on CR's track tests, safety evaluations, and survey data on reliability and owner satisfaction

BMW X-5 Photo: Consumer Reports

Each year CR experts test nearly 50 new cars and analyze data from our exclusive Auto Survey, which covers about 470,000 vehicles this year. We also look at which key safety features these cars have, as well as their performance in government and insurance industry crash tests. All of that is factored into our Overall Score—the most comprehensive view of vehicle quality available.

But once a year we go further. When we choose our Top Picks, we highlight the attributes that CR members care about most: Cars that deliver superior reliability and satisfaction over the long haul and push the envelope when it comes to safety, technology, fuel economy, and performance. These are the vehicles that set the standard for the industry.

See the vehicles that made Consumer Reports’ annual Top Picks list in 2022, 2021, 2020, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012.

2019 Autos Spotlight

Speaking of standards, we feel so strongly about the benefits of automatic emergency braking, a technology that slows or stops a car when a crash is imminent, that we think it should be standard in all new cars. That’s why this year, CR considered only vehicles that include AEB as standard equipment for our Top Picks.

“Once a technology has been proven to reduce crashes and injuries, we push the industry to make it available to all car shoppers and not leave it as a pricey option,” says Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing for Consumer Reports. “Even the least-expensive car on this list has AEB standard. It’s time all new cars had it.”

After you check out our Top Picks, take the poll below to tell us which car you’d be most likely to buy.

Midsized SUV: Subaru Ascent

Subaru Ascent

Photo: Consumer Reports Photo: Consumer Reports

The three-row Ascent debuted at the top of CR’s midsized SUV ratings thanks to its smooth power delivery, comfy ride, and functional interior. It has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s energetic in everyday traffic, with plenty of reserve power for passing. Like most Subarus, the Ascent comes standard with all-wheel drive. It especially shines because of its excellent ride: The suspension handles road bumps better than some luxury cars. Its cabin is one of the finest in the segment, with comfortable seats and many soft-touch surfaces, especially on upper-trim versions. There is a handy, kid-friendly third-row seat. The infotainment system, with its clear buttons and large touch screen, is simple to use.
Price as tested: $43,867

Read the complete Subaru Ascent road test.

Midsized Car: Toyota Camry Hybrid

Toyota Camry

Photo: Consumer Reports Photo: Consumer Reports

The Camry Hybrid is a hyperefficient car that gets 47 mpg overall in our tests, and its hybrid-electric powertrain doesn’t compromise the driving experience. The hybrid battery pack doesn’t reduce trunk space, either. Plus, this car is a hair quicker from 0 to 60 mph than the regular four-cylinder Camry. (The four-cylinder returns great fuel economy in its own right, at 32 mpg overall, and starts at $4,305 less.) A comfortable ride and capable handling add to the appeal. The striking, angular center dash houses an infotainment system that now offers compatibility with Apple CarPlay (but not Android Auto). Standard safety gear includes pedestrian detection and lane departure warning.
Price as tested: $28,949

Read the complete Toyota Camry Hybrid road test.

Compact Luxury Car: Audi A4

Audi A4

Photo: Audi Photo: Audi

The A4 is a thoroughly satisfying sports sedan with precise handling, the latest technology, and undeniable cachet. Its interior is quiet and decked out in high-quality materials. The front seats are comfortable and supportive­. The rear seat, however, is a bit tight, which is typical for the class. The optional Virtual Cockpit transforms the instrument panel into a high-tech display that can be reconfigured on the fly to show trip information, audio details, phone tasks, or navigation guidance. The balanced suspension provides secure handling and a taut ride that effectively smooths rough patches in the road. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine has superb response, with plenty of power when needed and a slick-shifting automatic transmission.
Price as tested: $48,890

Read the complete Audi A4 road test.

Subcompact SUV: Hyundai Kona

Hyundai Kona

Photo: Consumer Reports Photo: Consumer Reports

The Kona is a fun new entry in a growing class of subcompact SUVs. It has a snazzy-looking exterior and an inviting interior. The natural step-in height makes it easy for drivers to settle into the comfortable front seats. The cabin has easy-to-use controls and a good, full-featured infotainment system that’s compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Despite its compact proportions, the Kona’s smart design creates quite a bit of versatility thanks to its tall liftgate and split rear seats that fold down. Handling is a strong point—limited body lean and quick steering make it a joy to drive. Despite its entry-level pricing, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane keeping assist are all standard.
Price as tested: $25,025

Read the complete Hyundai Kona road test.

Subcompact Car: Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris

Photo: Toyota Photo: Toyota

The Yaris sedan (sold by Toyota but built by Mazda) delivers an impressive degree of quality and a joyful driving experience at an affordable price. The 2019 model gets improvements that include a new XLE trim level that adds upscale touches such as convincing leatherlike upholstery and automatic climate control. The ride is good for the class, and the handling is responsive. The smooth four-cylinder engine is teamed with a quick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. All told, the Yaris is an energetic and nimble little car in a segment known for cars that feel more like rolling penalty boxes. And the Yaris shows that critical safety equipment needn’t be reserved for high-priced vehicles. It comes with a standard city-speed AEB system that can help prevent collisions or at least reduce the severity of an accident.
Price as tested: $17,570

Read the complete Toyota Yaris road test.

Large Car: Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Toyota Avalon

Photo: Consumer Reports Photo: Consumer Reports

The redesigned Avalon is a smart, value-driven alternative to luxury sedans such as the Acura TLX and Lexus ES. The hybrid version in particular offers more room, comfort, and fuel efficiency for the money. The spacious, richly furnished cabin has an upscale feel, with soft materials, intricate stitching, and other tasteful details. The front seats are wide and supportive, and the rear has generous legroom and available heated seats. The optional hybrid powertrain, with its electric drive, provides immediate power as well as impressive efficiency. The Avalon Hybrid returned 42 mpg overall in CR tests and 52 mpg on the highway—astounding numbers for such a large car. It delivers both nimble handling and a plush ride, a combination that shames direct competitors and many prestige-branded alternatives.
Price as tested: $38,643

Read the complete Toyota Avalon Hybrid road test.

Luxury SUV: BMW X5


Photo: Consumer Reports Photo: Consumer Reports

Redesigned for 2019, the midsized X5 is one of the best SUVs that CR has ever tested. It’s difficult to make an SUV both luxury-car comfortable and fun to drive, but here BMW strikes the perfect balance. The turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine is powerful and responsive, helped by its quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. The X5 delivers swift acceleration and fuel economy that’s impressive for its class, although it does require premium fuel. The interior has impeccable fit and finish, and lots of rich materials. The iDrive infotainment system is packed with early adopter, high-tech features—such as the ability for drivers to make changes with the wave of a hand—yet it’s still easy to use.
Price as tested: $68,730

Read the complete BMW X5 road test.

Hybrid/Electric Car: Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius

Photo: Toyota Photo: Toyota

The Prius returns to our Top Picks list for a record 16th time. This pioneering hybrid has long been a paragon of efficiency, with the current model achieving 52 mpg overall and a stunning 59 mpg on the highway. But it’s more than just thrifty; the Prius is a standout car with a stellar track record for reliability and owner satisfaction. For 2019, a newly available all-wheel-drive option makes this supremely practical car even more appealing. There’s decent room in the Prius, and the hatchback adds cargo-toting versatility. Plus, Toyota throws in a full suite of safety tech, including forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist, as standard equipment.
Price as tested: $27,323

Read the complete Toyota Prius road test.

Compact SUV: Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester

Photo: Consumer Reports Photo: Consumer Reports

The Forester is a multitalented, no-nonsense vehicle that has broad appeal. This compact SUV’s roomy interior focuses on practicality and functionality. The 2019 redesign doesn’t look much different from its predecessor, but the Forester is now a more solid vehicle—quieter, with a more premium feel inside. Its power is admittedly modest, but its fuel economy tops the class. The ride is comfortable, the steering is responsive, and its body doesn’t lean too much around corners. The Forester has large doors, making it easy to get in and out, and tall, upright glass all around, providing unrivaled visibility. Inside, there’s generous room for passengers and cargo. Bonus: Forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist come standard.
Price as tested: $29,341

Read the complete Subaru Forester road test.

Full-Sized Truck: Ford F-150

Ford F-150

Photo: Consumer Reports Photo: Consumer Reports

The F-150 continues to be King of Pickup Mountain, despite tough competition from the recently redesigned Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, and Ram 1500. The F-150 lineup ranges from basic work trucks to richly appointed trailer haulers, and there are many steps in between. Five engines are offered, and the core two are potent, turbocharged V6s with 10-speed automatic transmissions. There’s a wide range of equipment to make driving and connectivity easier, such as WiFi, an easy-to-use infotainment system, and a rearview camera that’s specially designed to help drivers line up with their trailer. The 2.7-liter V6 turbo version we tested delivered brisk acceleration, effortless towing ability, and impressive fuel economy. The cabin has generous room for the driver and passengers in the widely sold crew cab.
Price as tested: $52,535

Read the complete Ford F-150 road test.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the April 2019 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Jeff S. Bartlett

A New England native, I have piloted a wide variety of vehicles, from a Segway to an aircraft carrier. All told, I have driven thousands of vehicles—many on race tracks across the globe. Today, that experience and passion are harnessed at the CR Auto Test Center to empower consumers. And if some tires must be sacrificed in the pursuit of truth, so be it. Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSBartlett).