Best in class: SUVs, wagons & pickups

These vehicles are among Consumer Reports' top recommended models in their categories.

Consumer Reports has the most comprehensive, consumer-oriented autos-test program in the U.S. We anonymously buy our test cars from dealerships and conduct more than 50 evaluations on each vehicle, focusing on performance, safety, comfort, convenience, interior quality, fuel economy, cargo capacity, and more.

Below, we've listed the SUVs, wagons, and pickups that are among the top recommended vehicles in their categories. Not only did each of these vehicles earn a high overall score in their class, but they also meet our stringent requirements to be recommended.
Mazda5
SMALL WAGONS
Mazda5 Touring
You can call it a wagon, or you can call it a mini-minivan. Either way, the Mazda5 is an unique and appealing package at an attractive price. It offers good fuel economy, seating for six in three rows, and offers about as much space inside as a medium-sized wagon. Its versatile interior features large, handy storage bins under the second-row seats, and third-row seats that fold flat into the floor. The ride is comfortable, visibility and access are excellent, and its agile handling makes it enjoyable to drive. More wagons
Subaru Outback
MIDSIZED WAGONS
Subaru Outback 2.5 Limited x/VDC
Comfortable and versatile, the all-wheel-drive Outback is essentially a Subaru Legacy wagon with more ground clearance and SUV styling cues. It has agile handling, with good steering feel, and the ride is supple. The wagon has a useful cargo area, but rear seat is on the tight side. A light freshening for 2008 eliminates the Outback sedan and makes stability control available on more models, but the system was slow-to-react in our tests. More wagons
Volkswagen Rabbit
HATCHBACKS
Volkswagen Rabbit
The Rabbit is essentially a versatile hatchback version of the Jetta and is offered with two or four doors. The 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine is responsive, but 24 mpg overall on regular gas is mediocre for a small car. Responsive and quick steering combined with well-suppressed body lean make the Rabbit feel agile in corners. Handling is much like the sportier GTI, making the car fun to drive. The Rabbit has impressive interior quality. The front seats are supportive, but only two adults will fit in the rear seat. More hatchbacks
Toyota RAV4
SMALL SUVs
Toyota RAV4
With a more powerful four-cylinder engine and other upgrades for 2009, the RAV4 is our top small SUV for the third straight year. It provides agile handling, a roomy and quiet interior, a comfortable ride, and an optional third-row seat. The four-cylinder version gets the best fuel economy of any automatic, nonhybrid SUV we've tested. And the spirited V6 version accelerates as quickly as a Mazda Miata, while getting only 1 mpg less than the four-cylinder. ESC and curtain air bags are standard. More SUVs
Toyota Highlander Hybrid
MIDSIZED SUVs
Toyota Highlander Hybrid
The Toyota Highlander Hybrid offers the same refinement, quiet interior, ride comfort, power, and flexible, roomy second-row seat as the regular Highlander. The main difference is that it got 24 mpg overall in our fuel economy testing, which is impressive for a vehicle this large. The standard Highlander managed 18 mpg. While the handling is secure, it's not very agile. The tight third-row seat doesn't fold in sections as others do, limiting its versatility. The fuel savings might not justify the extra cost of the Hybrid for some. More SUVs
Chevrolet Avalanche
FULL-SIZED PICKUPS
Chevrolet Avalanche
The Avalanche is a full-sized crew-cab pickup with a unified bed and cab. That allows for an innovative partition that can be folded down to extend the cargo bed into the back of the cab. A standard three-piece removable bed cover makes this flexible cargo area weatherproof. The ride is comfortable and quiet. The 5.3-liter V8 provides decent acceleration but is thirsty at 13 mpg overall. There is a very large rear blind zone; the optional backup camera is a big help. ESC is standard, and for 2009 so is a six-speed automatic. More pickups