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In addition to the Camry and Highlander, two other new picks are the Hyundai Sonata and the redesigned Subaru Impreza. The other selections are returning models: the Chevrolet Avalanche, Ford Mustang, and Infiniti G.
Toyota's ability to maintain its competitive lead among hybrids and SUVs is a big factor in its strong presence on this year's list. But another factor is today's weaker minivan field. The current Sienna scored lower in our tests than its predecessor, but the front-wheel-drive version is the only minivan that didn't have below-average reliability in our latest survey. So it's the only minivan we recommend.
Our Top Picks are the best all-around models in their categories, chosen from the more than 260 vehicles we've recently tested. For car shoppers, they are a great place to start. To see the best & worst 2012 cars and best new-car car values, go to Consumer Reports' annual auto issue hub.
How We Decide
Top Picks must meet our criteria in three areas:
- Road test: Each must rank at or near the top of its category in overall test score.
- Reliability: Each must have earned an average or better predicted-reliability Rating, based on the problems Consumer Reports subscribers reported on 1.3 million vehicles in our latest Annual Auto Survey.
- Safety: Top Picks must perform well if included in crash- or rollover tests conducted by the government or the insurance industry.
Each model's report card shows its overall road-test and predicted-reliability Ratings, as well as its overall fuel economy in our tests. If multiple Ratings are displayed, they apply to different versions of a model. Prices reflect the sticker prices when we bought our test cars. You can find more details on all of the Top Picks in our vehicle ratings.
Toyota Camry Hybrid
With its 2012 redesign, the Camry Hybrid jumped to the top of the family-sedan category. One eye-opener for a car of this size is its impressive 38 mpg overall fuel economy, the best in class and even better than some smaller hybrids that lack the Camry's performance. Other high points include a comfortable ride; a roomy, quiet cabin; fairly quick acceleration; and for 2012, a nicer interior and somewhat crisper handling (although the Camry is still no sports sedan).
Price: $28,880 to $43,880
The heart of this iconic sports car has always been its strong acceleration and rumbling V8 power. And the 5.0-liter V8 in our GT coupe and convertible test cars doesn't disappoint, providing scorching acceleration, a great exhaust sound, and good fuel economy for this class. Even the 3.7-liter V6 is punchy and refined, and it's more fuel efficient than the V8. But now there's more to the Mustang than power. Agile handling, a decent ride, comfortable front seats, and very good fit and finish make the current version an inviting package. The rear seat is tight but usable in a pinch.
Affordable Family Sedan
With last year's family-sedan pick, the Nissan Altima, due for a redesign soon, we chose the four-cylinder Sonata as a more affordable alternative to the Camry Hybrid. For less than $22,000, the Sonata provides a roomy, well-equipped cabin, supple ride, nimble handling, and thrifty 27 mpg overall. And despite its swoopy, coupelike styling, the Sonata still provides decent rear-seat room and rear visibility, unlike many other cars today.
Price: $25,405 to $30,328
With its inviting blend of performance, fuel economy, and versatility, the RAV4 continues to set the pace among small SUVs. It also provides a roomy interior, comfortable ride, and responsive handling, as well as excellent reliability. With a four-cylinder engine, the RAV4 delivers some of the best gas mileage in its class. The spirited V6 version accelerates as quickly as many sports sedans and gets only 1 mpg less than the four-cylinder model. Its optional third-row seat is small but useful.
**A runner-up is the Subaru Forester.
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You buy a brand, but you have to live with the dealer. Our KIA dealer is close and is fantastic for scheduled maintenances. At my dealer, they don't try to fix something that isn't broken. I know dealer integrity varies from shop to shop, but the quality of my dealership overrides CR recommendations.
My wife's 2- yr-old KIA has been a super performer with has a warranty that no other brand can touch. Each to their own and nothing against CR, but KIA has been a best buy for us.
Uh....Altoona, thanks for supporting foreign manufacturers. Your Mustang has less American parts and materials in it than a Toyota Tundra. THAT'S why it's a quality vehicle.
Frosty, Frosty, Frosty. Yes, foreign manufacturers pay taxes, salaries as do the dealerships who sell the products. It's the PROFITS that go back to the Fatherland. Also true that imports have an ever increasing domestic content. Why? Because it's cheaper for a foreign manufacturer to make and assemble the product than it is to ship the entire product stateside. Less taxes, more profit.
Again, very true that US manufacturers use a great deal of foreign content. Thank NAFTA for that one. Manufacturers, foreign and domestic aren't stupid.
I must be imagining all those superior imports out in my dealership's parking lot awaiting repairs. Check engine lights, oil leaks, blown transmissions and a whole myriad of electrical problems. None of them are more than four years old. Don't take it personally, there are a few domestics out there, too.
Gotta get my head out of the sand and get back to work. Lots of broken cars to fix.