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Consumer Reports reveals best 2016 cars, brands


The Ford F-150 pickup -- already a sales champ -- also wins Consumer Report's praise as the best in class as part of the magazine's 2016 ratings of individual models and automotive brands.

The F-150, with an innovative aluminum body for lighter weight and better fuel economy, is Ford's first model winner since the 2012 rankings and tops this category for the first time since 1999. The magazine praised the F-150 for its good fuel economy, quiet and spacious cabin and easy-to-use infotainment system (a strong upgrade from a previous problem area).

Several redesigned models got top pick status. "This year several automakers have really hit the mark with their redesigned vehicles," said Mark Rechtin, head of content development for Consumer Reports. "This year's top picks include refreshed models like the Lexus RX that have vaulted back to the top of their respective categories after lengthy absences."

In automotive brand rankings, Audi topped the list followed by Subaru (see bottom for the Consumer Reports' full brand ranking). Lexus, a frequent winner in the past, was third with Porsche fourth, BMW fifth and Mazda sixth. Buick ranked seventh -- the only Detroit-based brand to make the top 10. Toyota was eighth, Kia ninth and Honda took the tenth spot.

Consumer Reports computes its rankings based on a combination of test-drive scores by the magazine's staff and projected reliability as ranked by a survey of its readers. Ford, Lincoln and Chevrolet finished in the middle of the 30 brands ranked. All Fiat-Chrysler brands, including Jeep, finished in the bottom third with Fiat dead last.

Here are some other highlights of the Consumer Reports rankings:

  • The Toyota Camry, the best-selling sedan in this country, topped the midsized car category, displacing past winner Honda Accord. The magazine praised the Camry for a roomy interior, good visibility and outstanding reliability.
  • Subaru gained its number two brand ranking partly by having two category winners. The Forester topped small SUVs, with special praise of its all-wheel drive system. Impreza was the top compact car, with citation of its safety equipment and great crash test results.
  • Chevrolet Impala ranked as the best large car, the only domestic winner besides the Ford F-150. Test drivers said it combined a comfortable ride with responsive handling.
  • Since rankings are based strictly on cars currently for sale, they excluded Volkswagen and Audi diesels. Sales were halted for both after Volkswagen AG, the parent company, admitted having manipulated emission test results. The magazine weighed in on this issue in light of Audi getting the top brand score. "Despite Audi's score, Consumer Reports strongly believes that Volkswagen AG should be held accountable for manipulating emissions testing with its vehicles," a statement said.
Audi has the strongest brand reputation among car makers, according to Consumer Reports, while Buick is the only U.S. auto manufacturer to make the top 10.
Consumer Reports
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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.