As the Toyota Recallathon fades further into the past, the automaker has returned to its usual dominating position in the annual Consumer Reports list of “Top Picks,” earning fully half of this year’s spots; no other automaker earned more than one place in the rankings.
The Toyota Camry Hybrid made for an interesting choice as the No. 1 Family Sedan, with the victory reflecting a growing public acceptance of hybrids as mainstream vehicles. Naturally, the Toyota earned kudos for its high fuel-efficiency marks, but what’s really impressive is that Consumer Reports was praising the Camry Hybrid’s real-world fuel economy, not its stellar EPA ratings. The publication earned 38 mpg in combined driving during its road tests, a mark that was “best in class and even better than some smaller hybrids.” Also lauded by CR were the vehicle’s comfortable ride, large and quiet cabin, more upscale interior appointments, relatively peppy performance, and improved handling. (Note: The Hyundai Sonata won the Affordable Family Sedan segment, but the Camry Hybrid’s starting point of $25,900 is not uncompetitive with that of well-equipped, traditional mid-size sedans.)
In the Small SUV category it was the Toyota RAV4 that scored highest honors, a slightly surprising feat since there are some newer choices on the market, including the redesigned Honda CR-V. Nonetheless, Consumer Reports loved the little-ish crossover and specifically called out its “inviting blend of performance, fuel economy, and versatility.” Readers should be aware, however, that this may be stretching the point slightly: A number of segment rivals, including the CR-V and especially the new Mazda CX-5, can do better. In fact, the Mazda owns a 5-mpg advantage over the RAV4 in combined driving.
Consumer Reports selected the Toyota Sienna as its Top Pick in the Family Hauler class, but did point out it only recommended the front-wheel-drive V6 model (four-cylinder and four-wheel-drive versions of the Sienna are available as well.) The Sienna’s versatility and roomy interior were key factors in its win, as were its “lively performance, decent fuel economy, and a comfortable ride.” Considering how competitive the minivan segment is—all five mainstream entries were either all-new or significantly refreshed in the past year or so—this somewhat lukewarm recommendation is still a notable achievement.
Unsurprisingly, the Toyota Pruis was at the acme of the Green Car list, since it “still sets the standard for its blend of fuel efficiency, practicality, and affordability.” And certainly when it comes to the first factor, that’s not just marketing fluff. Even after more than 10 years on the market, the “regular” Prius is the most fuel-efficient mainstream vehicle in the U.S. without a plug, and again, we’re talking about CR’s real-world testing. Which, in this case, turned up a 44 mpg mark in combined driving. Plus, when it finally does get surpassed later this year, the car that will do so will be the Toyota Prius c. CR also gives a shout-out to another member of the Prius family, the Toyota Prius v, for its own best-in-class real-world fuel economy of 41 mpg.
The “refined, comfortable, and quiet” Toyota Highlander was CR’s first pick in the Family SUV segment, based on strong marks in the publication’s road-test scores and reliability ratings. High levels of versatility and attention to detail in the Highlander’s interior garnered compliments, too. The vehicle’s real-world fuel economy of 18 mpg in the V6 model was called “decent,” too, and that figure was exactly the same for rivals like the Ford Explorer V6 and Honda Pilot, only available with a V6. (The Ford Explorer with EcoBoost was not on CR’s separate list of the 26 most fuel-efficient “Midsized/Large SUVs,” which, as an FYI, included 10 other entries at 18 mpg combined; I’m looking into the Explorer situation.) The Highlander also offers a hybrid model that led this segment with 27 mpg.
The other members of the Consumer Reports 2012 Top Picks list were:
Sporty Car—Ford Mustang
Affordable Family Sedan—Hyundai Sonata
Sports Sedan—Infiniti G
Small Car—Subaru Impreza
Pickup Truck—Chevrolet Avalanche