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Asian Brands Dominate Consumer Reports "Top Picks" List

YONKERS, NY (WWJ) - Consumer Reports annual list of "top picks" among new cars and trucks has a lot of Toyota and Honda's and even a Hyundai and an Audi, but no vehicles from Ford, Chrysler and GM.

It was a great report for Honda, which saw two vehicles return to the top of their respective categories.

"Definitely an excellent year for Honda," says Mike Quincy, an auto content specialist with Consumer Reports. "They are kinda like the comeback kid for 2013."

Consumer Reports Top Picks

INTERVIEW: Mike Quincy of Consumer Reports talks with WWJ's Jeff Gilbert.

The top picks, detailed below, are featured in Consumer Reports annual auto issue. Quincy says the domestic brands were hurt by changes in models.

"Usually they do a good showing in either sporty cars--previous picks for top sporty car included the Ford Mustang--there's also been a regular showing for pickup top picks."

There was no choice for top pick in the pickup category, because Consumer Reports hadn't finished testing new models from Ram and General Motors. The Ford Mustang was pushed out of the top of the sporty car category by the Scion FRS and Subaru BRZ, which are mechanically identical.

It was obvious that Ford was hurt by complaints involving its My Ford Touch technology. Consumer Reports Director of Automotive Testing, Jake Fisher, says that cost Ford as they put together their brand report card.

"That's unfortunate because many of Ford's new models ride and handle as well as European luxury cars costing much more. And Ford's latest hybrids, the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max, are impressive," Fisher said.

Top Auto Brands, as listed by Consumer Reports are Lexus, Subaru and Mazda.

Consumer Reports Top Picks, by Category:

MIDSIZED SEDAN: Honda Accord ($23,270 to $30,860).  Honda nailed it with this redesign – it's roomy, nice to drive, well equipped and very fuel-efficient.  With its four-cylinder engine, the Accord squeezes out 30 mpg overall and 40 on the highway, which is as good as the tiny Honda Fit. Higher-trim models have advanced safety features seldom found in this category; all models come with a standard back-up camera.

SPORTS CARS: Scion FR-S ($25,025) and Subaru BRZ ($27,117).  Co-developed by Subaru and Toyota, which markets the Scion brand, both are exhilarating to drive, with super-sharp handling, excellent braking, and ample acceleration. While they are dedicated rear-wheel-drive sports cars with jittery rides, noisy cabins and small rear seats, their impressive gas mileage and reasonable sticker prices are welcome nods towards practicality.

BUDGET CAR: Hyundai Elantra ($18,445). One of CR's top-rated compact sedans, the well-rounded Elantra delivers a lot for the money.  It's roomier and more refined than a typical subcompact yet gets competitive fuel economy. The Elantra also provides nimble handling, a fairly comfortable ride, a smooth, responsive powertrain, and a well-finished interior at an affordable price.

GREEN CAR: Toyota Prius ($26,750). Today's pure electric cars are getting the equivalent of 100 or more mpg. But no current plug-in car can match the Prius hatchback for its blend of fuel efficiency, practicality, and affordability. Its 44 overall mpg is still the best CR has measured in any five-passenger, non-plug-in-vehicle. The Prius' roomy interior, comfortable ride, hatchback versatility and low running costs make it easy to live with.

COMPACT CAR: Subaru Impreza (Sedan, $21,345; hatchback $22,345).  The 2012 redesign breathed new life into the all-wheel-drive Impreza.  Both sedan and hatchback versions are good sensible cars, with nimble handling and a compliant, absorbent ride that rivals some luxury sedans. Fuel economy is impressive for an AWD car. And the roomy interior, spacious rear seat, simple controls, and refreshingly good visibility make it easy to live with.

LUXURY CAR: Audi A6 ($56,295). Redesigned for 2012, the A6 is agile, quick, and a joy to drive, surrounding drivers and passengers with a sumptuous, impeccably finished cabin that's brimming with the latest high-tech features. The A6's potent, supercharged V6 engine, super-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission, and comfortable ride add to the business-class feel. It returns respectable gas mileage, even with all-wheel drive.

MIDSIZED SUV: Toyota Highlander ($38,578 to $47,255). For those who want the practicality of an SUV with the refinement of a good sedan, it provides a quiet, well-finished cabin, as well as a cushy ride, secure handling, and a smooth powertrain. The Highlander has also consistently maintained above-average reliability.

MINIVAN: Honda Odyssey ($36,830).  With improved reliability helping it earn the top spot among family haulers, it provides a comfortable ride and a roomy, quiet, and versatile cabin.  The V6 engine performs well and delivers a competitive 19 mpg.  And a backup camera – a great safety feature – is now standard on all models.

SMALL SUV: Honda CR-V ($26,455).  Virtues include a smooth, responsive powertrain, good fuel economy, a compliant ride, excellent braking, a roomy rear seat, very functional interior, standard backup camera, and outstanding reliability.  It's also one of the more competitively priced choices in the class.

SPORTS SEDAN: BMW 328i ($43,195).  With its recent redesign, the 328i has become roomier, more luxurious and more fuel-efficient while retaining most of its sporty, fun-to-drive characters.  Ride comfort and fit and finish are impressive.  And its 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers quick acceleration, while posting the best gas mileage in its class.

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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