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7 of the most reliable cars you can buy

Toyota

Styling, handling and gas mileage all loom large when you are shopping for a new car. But don't forget reliability -- knowing that there is only a slim chance you will face frequent and costly repairs with that vehicle.

To help with that, we have compiled a list of seven of the most reliable cars you can buy -- from subcompacts to luxury sedans. To make our list, a model had to appear among the top three in its class in the recently-released J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study. In addition, the car or SUV had to have a strong reliability record in Consumer Reports' annual auto issue. Both rankings involve surveys of people who own a specific vehicle and so reflect real-world experience.

While our list is heavy with Japanese and Korean brands, Buick does get two vehicles on the list. That General Motors division has fared the best among U.S., brands, ranking number two for reliability in the Power study. Buick also finishes seventh in the Consumer Reports brand rankings -- a broader rating of how many of a brand's vehicles make the CR recommended list.

For a model that combines high reliability with very high gas mileage, take a look at Toyota's hybrid Prius V (pictured above).

Here's a closer look at our picks in seven categories.

Subcompact: Honda Fit

Honda/Wieck

The Fit offers an unusual combination of roomy hauling capacity, the latest technology and high gas mileage -- at a price under $20,000 for most versions. The Fit was the top affordable subcompact among reviewers surveyed by U.S. News. The Fit offers good acceleration compared with competitors. It is rated for 33 MPG in city driving and 41 on the highway when equipped with automatic transmission. Standard tech features include a rearview camera, Bluetooth connection for cell phones and audio controls on the steering wheel. The Fit list price ranges from $15,560 to $20,925.

Compact: Honda Civic

Honda/Wieck

A top seller among small cars, the Civic has a comfortable ride, a smooth transmission and is rated for 28 MPG in city driving and 36 on the highway. Test drivers also like its responsive handling. Inside, cabin materials project a cheerful and upscale feeling. Seating is roomy and comfortable, front and back. The Civic comes standard with Bluetooth connectivity and a rearview camera. List price on the Civic ranges from $18,290 to $29,390.

Midsize car: Toyota Camry

Toyota

The Camry, long the best-selling car in the U.S., also is a perennial reliability winner. Consumer Reports' experts say they believe the Toyota brand overall scores well on reliability because the company is very deliberate in introducing new technology once it has been thoroughly tested. The Camry, with a partial makeover for 2015, comes standard with a four-cylinder engine (estimated at 25 MPG in city driving, 35 highway) but also has an optional V-6 (21 MPG city, 31 highway). Camry list prices range from $22,970 to $31,370.

Large car: Buick LaCrosse

Al Vanderkaay/Buick

Buick not only has increased its reliability, it is attempting an image makeover to target younger buyers. "But that doesn't look like a Buick," the people in the ads say. LaCrosse not only looks like a new-style Buick, it sports some of the latest technology. It is one of the General Motors models that offers a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot that can stream music or videos to several devices at once. And the LaCrosse offers a partial hybrid version called eAssist that is rated for 25 MPG in city driving and 36 on the highway. The standard V-6 engine is ranked at 18 city, 28 highway. As options, the LaCrosse also offers the latest in safety technology: Lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitor. Reviewers praise its quiet and comfortable ride.

Small SUV: Kia Sportage

PAUL MAGGETTI/Kia

For drivers who like brisk acceleration and sharp handling, the Sportage is a good choice. Reviewers advise taking the optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine over the less lively standard four. The mileage trade off to get that turbo boost isn't too bad (20 MPG city 26 highway for the turbo vs. 21 city, 28 highway for the standard four). And if you accelerate a little too much, reviewers praise the Sportage's braking response. At a time when many new car owners complain of confusing controls, test drivers found the controls in the Sportage straightforward and easy to use. List price for the Sportage ranges from $21,900 to $29,600.

Midsize SUV: Buick Enclave

Buick

For families needing three rows of seats, Enclave offers good value in this high-priced category with list prices ranging from $39,050 to $49,305. With seating for up to eight, some reviewers cite Enclave as an especially good example of Buick's transformation to a modern line of vehicles. And they praise its comfortable ride and stable handling. Enclave comes with a V-6 engine rated by the EPA for 17 MPG in city driving and 24 on the highway -- about standard among its competitors. And if it is cargo you need to carry instead of people, the Enclave boasts 115 cubic feet of space with the second and third-row seats folded down.

Luxury car: Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Mercedes-Benz/Wieck

Within the E-Class designation, Mercedes offers sedans and coupes, convertibles and wagons. And there is a big choice of engines, from a V-6 and V-6 hybrid to the 577 horsepower V-8 in the performance model E63 AMG S. Mercedes was one of the earliest brands to sell diesels here, and the E250 BlueTec with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine is an intriguing choice. The diesel version is rated for 28 MPG in city driving and 42 on the highway -- a very high number for this category. Predictably, reviewers praise the car's comfortable cabin and smooth ride. Advanced safety features like forward collision warning and an alert if the driver is getting drowsy are standard in the E-Class. Like the cars themselves, prices can accelerate quickly for the E-class. List prices range from $51,800 to $103,200.

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