Consumer Reports has released its top-10 cars of the year for 2008 — and not all of the selections are vehicles that readily come to mind. The magazine has selected one vehicle in each of 10 classes. Here’s the list, a magazine comment, additional comments from CNNMoney.com and the approximate price of each vehicle:
Small sedan: Hyundai Elantra, Cost: $18,000 — “The Elantra is a well-rounded small car that provides good fuel economy, a comfortable ride and an interior that’s quiet, roomy and well-equipped.”
(TheWeekly Driver.com comment: I drove a 2007 Elantra about 1,000 miles from San Jose to Los Angeles to Sacramento. It performed surprisingly well, particularly over the ominous Grapevine on Interstate 5.)
Midsize SUV: Hyundai Santa Fe, Cost: $22,000-$31,000 — The recently redesigned Santa Fe performed better than the Honda Pilot in Consumer Reports’ testing. “It provides a quiet and roomy interior, excellent fit and finish, a refined powertrain, a relatively good ride and an optional third-row seat.”
Pickup: Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab, Cost: $27,000 to $39,000 — The Silverado is the first vehicle from a Detroit car company to make Consumer Report’s top 10 since 2005. A bigger surprise is why the Silverado was chosen over the Toyota Tundra, even though the Tundra did better in Consumer Reports’ performance testing. But the Toyota didn’t score high enough on reliability to earn the pick.
Luxury sedan: Lexus LS460L, Cost $77,000 — The LS460L was one point shy of a perfect 100 in Consumer Reports’ road tests. It combines a smooth ride and quietness with quick acceleration and good fuel economy. Despite loads of high-tech electronics, Consumer Reports found the controls easy to use.
Family sedan: Honda Accord, Cost: $22,000 to $31,000 — This is the sixth consecutive year the Honda Accord has been named Consumer Reports’ pick for best family sedan. The redesigned 2008 version is “a well-rounded roomy sedan with a comfortable ride, agile handling and smooth, refined powertrains.” The Nissan Altima actually did better in Consumer Reports’ tests, but affordable versions of the Altima lack Electronic Stability Control, a requirement for a Consumer Reports pick this year.
Upscale sedan: Infiniti G35, Cost: $33,000 to $35,000 — The G35 “successfully blends sportiness and luxury,” Consumer Reports writes. Available with all-wheel-drive, the G35 gets points for a well-crafted interior and agile handling.
Fun to drive: Mazda MX-5, Cost: $27,000 — The MX-5 performed almost as well as a Porsche Boxster in Consumer Reports’ testing, but it costs nearly half as much. Of special note was the manually operated cloth top that can be raised and lowered with one hand. It is also available with a power-operated hard top.
Small SUV: Toyota Rav4, Cost: $23,000 to $27,000 — The Rav4 is “versatile, comfortable, and roomy enough for a small third-row seats.” The V6-powered version accelerates to 60 miles per hour almost as quickly as the Mazda MX-5 sports car. The 4-cylinder version is the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid SUV on the market.
Minivan: Toyota Sienna, Cost: $24,000 to $37,000 — Consumer Reports calls the Sienna’s interior “on par with some luxury sedans.” Its V6-engine is powerful and fuel-efficient. But the Honda Odyssey is more powerful and fun to drive, the magazine reports.
Green car: Toyota Prius, Cost: $24,000 — The Prius hybrid has received top honors from Consumer Reports for the past five years, even though several other hybrid cars and SUVs have debuted in that time frame. The Prius’ 44 mile-per-gallon average is still the best the magazine has ever measured.