One of the highlights of Consumer Reports' Annual Auto Issue coverage is our Top Picks list, featuring the best choices across 10 vehicle categories. This episode of our “Talking Cars with Consumer Reports” video podcast dissects those selections, highlighting why some cars make the grade while others fall short.

This year features one of the biggest changes we've ever made in our scoring system. Our new Overall Score factors in not only road test score, based on over 50 tests conducted at Consumer Reports’ dedicated test track, but also reliability, owner satisfaction, and safety. Everything that the conscientious car buyer cares about is wrapped up into this one-stop number. We explain changes to how we predict reliability, and why vehicle scores will change much more frequently than in the past.

Overall, it's a year of change, with only three Top Picks—the Chevrolet Impala, Subaru Impreza, and Subaru Forester—carrying over from last year. It's no surprise that the new Overall Score changed some of this year's standouts. Superior reliability helps put the Toyota Camry over the Subaru Legacy, the previous winner, for midsized sedan honors. Same goes for the Toyota Sienna besting the Honda Odyssey among minivans. Several recently redesigned cars—the Ford F-150, Honda Fit, Kia Sorento, Lexus RX, and Mazda MX-5 Miata—take their place among the best.

Even though Toyota is well-represented in our roster of Top Picks, one long-time winner is missing: the Toyota Prius. With its 2016 redesign having just gone on sale, we haven't been able to fully test the Prius in time to determine if it qualifies to make the list. But we have been racking up miles on our new test car, which reveals a Prius that's improved in many, many ways. We discuss the gains made by Toyota's ground-breaking hybrid, as well as the car's few setbacks. 

Jake Fisher, Tom Mutchler, and Gabe Shenhar on Talking Cars with Consumer Reports
Jake Fisher, Tom Mutchler, and Gabe Shenhar

As with the other "Talking Cars," this episode on popular cars is also available free through the iTunes Store. Subscribe to the video or audio. You'll also find the video on YouTube.

Share your comments on this show below, and let us know if you need any advice for choosing a car.

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2015 Automotive Year in Review, episode 84
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