|  Programs A to Z
CTV.ca

Consumer

powered by: ConsumerReports.com

 
Top picks 2004:
The best models in 10 categories


Of the 183 vehicles that Consumer Reports has recently tested, our Top Picks are worth special attention. Each is an all-around high performer that has:

• Scored the best among its competitors in our rigorous 40-point testing program.

• Shown average or better reliability, according to our latest subscriber survey.

• Performed adequately if crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and/or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Each vehicle's “report card” shows how it fared in those areas.

As a sign of how vehicles in general are improving, a number of new models made this year's list. The Acura TL, Toyota Prius gas/electric hybrid, and Toyota Sienna minivan received major redesigns for 2004, and all topped their categories in our testing. The Ford Focus has always performed well in our testing, and its improved reliability now allows us to recommend it. As a result, the Focus is our Top Pick in two categories: small sedan and fun to drive. The Subaru Forester is our new pick in small SUVs; in luxury sedans, the Lexus LS430. For families that need to seat seven or eight but don't want a minivan, we've added a new category for SUVs with three-row seating, which is topped by the Honda Pilot.

Most categories also list noteworthy runners-up, which have different strengths or driving characteristics. The right model for you depends on your needs and driving style.


Crash-protection Ratings are those reported in the CR Safety Assessment (There is more information about the CR Safety Assessment on ConsumerReports.org). “NA” means no CRSA rating.

SMALL SEDANS


Ford Focus
Ford Focus.
The Focus (about $17,000) is nimble, relatively spacious, well laid out, and fun to drive. The ride is firm, steady, and well controlled. Acceleration is adequate; the new 145-hp, 2.3-liter four-cylinder brings more oomph. Other excellent choices are the Honda Civic EX ($18,000) and Toyota Corolla LE ($17,000).

Test score ..................
Reliability ....................
Crash protection .......



SMALL SUV


Subaru Forester
Subaru Forester.
The Forester is a good vehicle and a good value--about $21,000 for the 2.5X. This all-wheel-drive, car-based SUV handles with agility and rides comfortably. The interior features lots of handy storage compartments and comfortable seats. The Toyota RAV4 ($22,000) is a good runner-up.

Test score ..................
Reliability ....................
Crash protection .......



UPSCALE SEDAN


Acura TL
Acura TL.
The TL's 2004 redesign moved it from the middle of the pack to the front. The TL (about $33,000) provides sporty performance, an impeccable interior, and respectable fuel economy. The BMW 330i (about $40,500) also blends sporty performance with a refined, comfortable driving experience.

Test score ..................
Reliability ....................
Crash protection .......
NA



THREE-ROW SUV


Honda Pilot
Honda Pilot.
The eight-passenger Pilot ($31,000) blends the qualities of an SUV and minivan in one package. Its smooth V6 delivers spirited performance and respectable fuel economy. A comfortable ride; secure handling; impeccable fit and finish; and a fold-away, split third-row seat make it an all-around excellent choice.

Test score ..................
Reliability ....................
Crash protection .......



FUN TO DRIVE


Ford SVT Focus
Ford SVT Focus.
The SVT Focus hatchback ($19,000), available with two or four doors, blends superb cornering abilities, lively acceleration, and excellent brakes with commendable interior space, a usable rear seat, and a tolerable ride. The Subaru Impreza WRX and its STi variant (about $24,500 and $31,000, respectively) are close second choices.

Test score ..................
Reliability ....................
Crash protection .......



FAMILY SEDAN


VW Passat/Honda Accord
VW Passat and Honda Accord.
For the second year, the Accord and Passat share the top spot. The Accord ($21,000 to $23,000) is our pick among four-cylinder cars, the Passat ($30,000) among V6 models. Both provide an excellent balance of comfort, roominess, and handling. The Toyota Camry ($23,000 to $29,000) is another good choice.

.............. Test score ................
............... Reliability .................
.......... Crash protection ..........



MIDSIZED SUV


Lexus RX330
Lexus RX330.
The RX330 (about $40,000 well equipped) is an excellent overall package. It blends a smooth, responsive 230-hp V6 and secure handling with a very comfortable ride. Its well-detailed interior is as quiet and plush as those of many luxury cars. The Toyota Highlander (about $30,000) is similar but costs much less.

Test score ..................
Reliability ....................
Crash protection .......



LUXURY SEDAN


Lexus LS430
Lexus LS430.
The Lexus LS430 (about $70,500 well equipped) is hard to fault. It has a silky smooth V8 powertrain, spacious accommodations, easy-to-use controls, and a plush, quiet cabin. Comprehensive safety features, excellent reliability, and low depreciation also make this car a standout.

Test score ..................
Reliability ....................
Crash protection .......
NA



MINIVAN


Toyota Sienna
Toyota Sienna.
The redesigned Sienna ($28,000 well equipped) leads the class in comfort and safety, and is one of few minivans to offer all-wheel drive. Other pluses are a refined, fuel-efficient powertrain; secure handling; and a roomy, flexible interior. The Honda Odyssey ($27,500) handles better but isn't as quiet or comfortable.

Test score ..................
Reliability ....................
Crash protection .......



GREEN CAR


Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius.
The second-generation Prius hybrid (about $21,500) is more spacious and fuel-efficient than the first version but costs about the same. We averaged 44 mpg overall. The Prius's roomy, versatile interior and good driving performance make it a reasonable alternative to a conventional small or even midsized sedan.

Test score ..................
Reliability ....................
Crash protection .......
NA



How Consumer Reports tests cars


Man working on a car at our auto test track.

These Top Picks for 2004 are a result of the most comprehensive auto-testing program of any U.S. publication or Web site. Here are some of the ways in which Consumer Reports testing differs from that of other auto reviewers.

• We anonymously buy all the cars we test from dealerships, just as you would. Last year, we spent about $1.9 million on test vehicles.

• CR uses a dedicated, specially equipped 327-acre auto-test facility, staffed by a team of full-time auto and tire engineers.

• Each vehicle that CR tests is evaluated for months. Each is pushed to its limits at our track and driven for 6,000 to 8,000 miles in everyday conditions.

• More than 40 individual tests are performed on every vehicle, including evaluations of performance, comfort, convenience, safety, and fuel economy. Many tests were developed exclusively by CR's staff.




subscribe: For complete Ratings and recommendations of appliances, cars & trucks, electronic gear, and much more, subscribe today and have access to all of ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any sponsor or advertiser of CTV.

Copyright © 2003-2007 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.

About CTV | Careers | Press Releases | Advertise on TV | Advertise on Web

Archive Sales | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Site Map

TSN Discovery Channel Corner Gas The Comedy Network The Globeandmail.com 21c Degrassi sympatico.ca

© 2006 Bell Globemedia Inc. All Rights Reserved.