Japanese automaker Toyota dominated the competition in Consumer Reports’ 2018 ranking of the best vehicles in the U.S.
Although Toyota has lost its throne as the world’s largest automaker by sales volume — falling behind Volkswagen and the alliance of Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi — the Consumer Reports verdict served as a reminder that Toyota remains on top in the areas that matter most to consumers.
The consumer magazine’s rankings are closely watched because it is known for being fiercely independent, buying its own cars for reviews at dealerships and tapping thousands of members for information on how their cars have performed.
This time, Toyota landed four of the 10 category honors in the magazine’s annual Top Picks list. The winners were the Corolla for compact car, Camry for midsize car, Highlander for midsize SUV and Sienna for minivan.
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Chalk it up to Toyota’s dependability, mainstream design and safety, Consumer Reports says.
“Part of what helps Toyota is just really impressive reliability across the board,” said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports.
Another factor: standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking and forward-collision warning systems.
“Our continued commitment to bringing quality products with key safety technologies to our customers remains a top priority,” Toyota said in a statement.
That doesn’t mean the company is impervious to external threats.
In fact, the Chevrolet Bolt, made by General Motors, snatched the crown away from the Toyota Prius in the “compact green car.”
The Bolt recently became the first mass-market long-range electric car. Fisher said the Bolt tested, which was priced at $38,424 before a $7,500 federal tax credit, got 250 miles of battery range.
But the Bolt’s design is also paying off. Though it has a compact hatchback body style, it sits up high like a crossover.
Chevy was the only brand other than Toyota to take two slots. The brand’s Impala scored in the large car category.
Notable snubs for 2018 included the Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia brands. Fiat Chrysler, whose brands include Jeep and Ram, was also shut out.
The picks reflect “a combination of how we’re testing them at the track and creature comforts, as well as performance and fuel economy,” Fisher said. Also, “a big piece of it is reliability, which comes from our annual survey.”
At least one automaker bristled at the report. Fiat Chrysler said “we respect but don’t always agree with Consumer Reports’ opinion, as they’re one of the many third-party evaluators we receive comments from, and we find Consumer Reports’ ratings don’t always align with customer preferences.”
The company noted that it’s still “aggressively pursuing both product and launch-quality improvements because we are committed to our customers and their complete satisfaction.”
On a separate overall Consumer Reports Brand Report Card, which judges overall brand performance based on the magazine’s testing and ownership surveys, Hyundai’s new luxury Genesis brand ranked at the top among 34 brands.
Genesis is relatively new, though, as a standalone brand and has only two models on the market.
Audi, BMW, Lexus, Porsche, Kia, Subaru, Tesla, Honda and Toyota rounded out the top 10.
Jeep and Fiat were in the basement, occupying the bottom two slots. The luxury Land Rover brand was third to last.
Consumer Reports 2018 Top Picks list:
LARGE CAR: Chevrolet Impala. Lauded for “commendable” handling and a quiet interior. Price as tested: $39,110
COMPACT CAR: Toyota Corolla. Liked for its “strong reliability” and ride quality that’s “a cut above for its class.” Price as tested: $20,652
COMPACT GREEN CAR: Chevrolet Bolt. Praised for its strong battery range and high riding perch. Price as tested: $38,424 (before $7,500 federal tax credit)
COMPACT SUV: Subaru Forester. Rewarded for a strong overall performance, including fuel economy, reliability and sensible design. Price as tested: $27,145
MID-SIZED CAR: Toyota Camry. Lauded for adding “styling flair” with critically acclaimed redesign. Price as tested: $26,364-$28,949
MID-SIZE SUV: Toyota Highlander. Complimented for its strong overall performance and maneuverability. Price as tested: $41,169-$50,875
MINIVAN: Toyota Sienna. Embraced for its big interior and strong performance. Price as tested: $38,424
FULL-SIZED PICKUP TRUCK: Ford F-150. Commended for its turbocharged engine, solid fuel economy and towing capacity. Price as tested: $52,535
LUXURY COMPACT CAR: Audi A4. Celebrated for its nimble handling and zippy engine. Price as tested: $48,890
LUXURY COMPACT SUV: BMW X3. Admired for a redesign that accentuated technology, utility and handling. Price as tested: $53,745