Consumer Reports picks top 2010 models

Consumer Report magazine announced its Top picks for 2010, and the list includes six new models.

Consumer Reports? Top Picks are the best all-around models in their categories and must meet the non-profit organization?s stringent road test, reliability, and safety requirements. Each Top Pick scores at or near the top of its category among the more than 280 vehicles?Consumer Reports recently evaluated at its Auto Test Center; has average or better predicted reliability (based on the problems subscribers reported on more than 1.4 million vehicles in?Consumer Reports? Annual Auto Survey), and performed adequately in overall safety if tested by the government or insurance industry. In addition, each model must offer electronic stability control (ESC), a proven lifesaving safety feature as standard equipment or as a readily available option. All of this year?s Top Picks provide standard ESC and curtain air bags.

  • SMALL SEDAN: Hyundai Elantra SE. The Elantra SE ($18,695) made the Top Picks list for the third time this year. It is a solid, all-around car that?s relatively comfortable, quiet, and roomy, and provides good fuel economy and plenty of features for the money. The SE comes with standard ESC, a critical safety feature that?s absent on other small cars (including the lower-end Elantras).
  • FAMILY SEDAN: Nissan Altima. The Altima ($23,970 to $30,335)?has been a?Consumer Reportstop-rated family sedan for a couple of years, but lacked easily available ESC. A 2010 freshening made it better and improved gas mileage and for the first time provides standard ESC in all trim lines. It offers an appealing balance of comfort and performance, while getting some of the best fuel economy in its class: 26 mpg overall in four-cylinder models and 24 mpg with a V6. The cabin is roomy, well finished, and quiet. And the secure handling, comfortable ride, and spirited acceleration make the car enjoyable to drive.
  • SPORTY CAR: Volkswagen GTI. Freshened for 2010, the GTI ($27,504) is the sport version of the Volkswagen Golf (formerly called the Rabbit). The GTI is exhilarating to drive and easy to live with. It delivers the agile handling, spirited acceleration, and responsive steering of a true sports car, along with a decent ride, a well-finished interior, and the cargo-carrying practicality of a hatchback. Good fuel economy of 27 mpg overall is another plus, although premium fuel is required.
  • SMALL SUV: Subaru Forester. The Forester ($20,972 to $28,860) provides one of the most carlike driving experiences of any SUV. It combines agile handling with the most comfortable ride in its class. Passengers are treated to a spacious cabin, with a roomy rear seat and excellent visibility. The 2.5X provides an impressive 22 mpg overall with an automatic, 24 mpg with a manual. And the turbocharged 2.5XT delivers effortless acceleration and 20 mpg, but it takes premium fuel. The 2.5X has had excellent reliability, while the 2.5XT?s is average.
  • BEST CAR OVERALL: Lexus LS 460L. The LS ($76,572) scored an outstanding 99 out of 100 inConsumer Reports road tests, making it the highest-rated vehicle. It provides a comfortable ride and luxurious driving environment, including a roomy, well-crafted and exceptionally quiet interior. It offers a plethora of electronic amenities, including an optional self-parking system. Yet, its controls are easy to use. Its efficient 380-hp V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission deliver smooth, brisk acceleration and a relatively good 21 mpg overall. All-wheel drive and a hybrid version are available.
  • FAMILY SUV: Chevrolet Traverse The Traverse ($39,920) stands out as an impressive overall package with a quiet, spacious cabin that can comfortably seat up to eight adults and leave room for cargo. It provides a pleasant ride, communicative steering, and responsive handling. The tested model returned 16 mpg overall, which is respectable for its size. Rear visibility isn?t great, but small convex side mirrors and an optional rear-view camera help.
  • SPORT SEDAN: Infiniti G37. The G sedan ($37,225) tops this category for the fourth straight year. It is one of the highest-rated sedans tested, with a score of 95 out of 100. It provides agile handling, blistering acceleration, a refined powertrain, a fairly comfortable ride, and a high-quality, luxurious interior. The G37 is as inviting to drive on a twisty road as it is on the highway. But compromises include a snug cabin and small trunk. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional. Coupe and convertible versions are also available.
  • FAMILY HAULER: Mazda5. The Mazda5 microvan ($23,805) offers lots of practicality in a compact, affordable package. With three rows of seats and sliding rear side doors, it combines the convenience of a minivan with the maneuverability and stingy fuel economy?24 mpg overall?of a wagon. The interior is airy, with good fit and finish. It?s fun to drive, with a nimble feel and a comfortable ride. The addition of standard ESC for 2010 improved its emergency handling. If you need more room, consider the Honda Odyssey minivan.
  • GREEN CAR: Toyota?Prius. The Prius ($26,950) received a redesign for 2010 and leads this category for the seventh straight year. It?s still the most fuel-efficient car in?Consumer Reports?ratings, with 44 mpg overall.?The Prius is a pleasant car to drive, with a roomy interior, a steady ride, hatchback versatility, and excellent reliability and crash-test results. The 2010 redesign also gave it a more solid feel and a dedicated EV mode that allows it to run longer on electric power at low speeds, an advantage in slow, congested traffic.
  • PICKUP TRUCK: Chevrolet Silverado. The Silverado 1500 ($37,235) returns to the top of the list after a year off. The crew-cab 4WD model is a well-rounded pickup with a roomy cabin, generous payload capacity, decent ride quality, available full-time 4WD, and, on higher-end models, very good interior fit and finish. The GMC Sierra is a twin of the Silverado. Reliability has been average.

More from Our Auto Expert