Nobody assesses motor vehicles quite like Consumer Reports. The trusted and reputable organization goes to great lengths to carefully evaluate and grade each brand and model of car released every year – all in an effort to tell consumers their picks for the best vehicles in terms of safety, reliability, and cost.
Recently, Consumer Reports issued its annual list of the 10 best vehicles of the year for 2017, and we feel it would be helpful to share this list with our readers in hopes that it will help you make more informed automotive purchase decisions. As Consumer Reports states: “The best new cars of 2017 are outstanding all-around performers—shown to be reliable, safe, and satisfying.” Here is the list with some analysis of our own added.
10. Subcompact Car: Toyota Yaris iA
While marketed and sold under the Toyota brand, the Yaris iA was actually developed by Mazda. Owners of this car will notice that the Yaris iA packs a punch. Consumer Reports describes this car as “frisky” and says that “the Yaris iA proves that subcompact cars can delight.” Note that the Yaris iA is not to be confused with the Toyota Yaris hatchback.
While sharing a name, the iA is a sedan meant to appeal to urban sophisticates. It has an impressive four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission, and has earned praise for being an extremely smooth ride. Observant drivers will feel the work of Mazda engineers in the steering and handling of this car, both of which are superior to competing subcompact sedans. Other reasons to buy this car include a full infotainment system that comes standard in the base model.
Starting Price: $17,500
Fuel Economy: 35 miles per gallon
9. Compact Car: Chevrolet Cruze
Getting the nod from Consumer Reports in the compact car category is the Chevy Cruze. It’s a bit of an upset, since the Honda Civic or the Toyota Corolla typically wins this honor. However, Chevrolet pulled off the victory by putting out a Cruze sedan and hatchback that are clearly at the top of their class.
Key to the Cruze earning top scores from Consumer Reports was the fact that Chevrolet produced this car using the same approach it takes to larger vehicles such as the Malibu and Impala. The Cruze might be smaller in size, but the engineers have taken care to preserve the driving experience and features found in larger models.
The result is a quiet and smooth-driving sedan that’s roomy enough to be a viewed as a budget-friendly alternative to a pricier mid-sized car. Of course the 153 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine has also helped to sell critics on this model.
Starting Price: $23,000
Fuel Economy: 30 miles per gallon/47 miles per gallon highway
8. Compact Hybrid: Toyota Prius
No real surprise here, as the Toyota Prius is the vehicle that launched the hybrid car movement and continues to dominate the segment to this day. It’s as if other car companies continue to play catch-up with Toyota in the hybrid market. Consumer Reports says that the Prius “still stands tall as an innovative green machine.”
The success of the Prius is largely based on its fuel economy, which is an impressive 52 miles per gallon on the 2017 model. That’s the highest fuel economy ever recorded by Consumer Reports for a hybrid gas/electric vehicle.
The Prius also earned top marks for reliability, design, noise level, comfort, and handling. Critics have said that this is the most advanced, comfortable, and driver friendly Prius yet. The car also boasts a comprehensive suite of safety and entertainment features. So many, in fact, that you may forget that you’re driving a green vehicle.
Starting Price: $27,000
Fuel Economy: 52 miles per gallon
7. Sports Car: Mazda MX-5 Miata
In terms of pure driving pleasure, you’re not likely to do better than the Mazda MX-5 Miata, according to Consumer Reports. The main ingredients that make the Miata a success have not really changed much since the car was first introduced in the early 1990s. They include a four-cylinder engine, rear-wheel drive, sharp handling, and a light weight body and chassis.
By keeping these elements in place, and fine tuning them through the years, Mazda have just about perfected the Miata. They have turned it into one of the most fun cars to drive on the road today. Consumer Reports states that “the real magic is in how the machine responds to the driver.”
Particularly impressive is how the power is harnessed through a slick manual transmission where the gear ratios are closely and carefully spaced. Consumer Reports goes on to gush that “the Miata truly comes alive on winding roads, with immediate steering response and a handling balance that will make you grin.” Add in great fuel economy and it is no wonder that the MX-5 Miata won sports car of the year honors.
Starting Price: $30,000
Fuel Economy: 34 miles per gallon
6. Midsized Sedan: Kia Optima
This category featured another upset over the traditional stalwarts – namely the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. In 2017, the Kia Optima beat them both, and all other competitors, in the midsized sedan category thanks to responsive handling, a strong powertrain, short stopping distances, easy-to-use controls, and plenty of legroom. Consumer Reports says that “the Optima is a vehicle that delivers all of these virtues in a stylish, value-laden package that’s filled with features usually found on pricier cars.” This Kia vehicle also won top marks across the board for having outstanding reliability and an extensive warranty that is streets ahead of comparable vehicles. The perfect car for a family, Consumer Reports urges shoppers to take this redesigned 2017 model for a test drive. Forget that it is a Kia. Enjoy the driving experience.
Starting Price: $25,800
Fuel Economy: 28 miles per gallon
5. Large Sedan: Chevrolet Impala
Kudos to Chevrolet for landing a second vehicle on this list with its large scale and immensely popular Impala. This well-known car “continues to reign as the leading large sedan,” according to Consumer Reports’ evaluation. Roomy and wide, the Impala scored big points for its comfort level and intuitive controls. The handling was also singled out for its responsiveness, as was the car’s ability to absorb anything it encounters along the way.
“Road imperfections are effectively absorbed, resulting in a ride reminiscent of a pricier luxury sedan,” states Consumer Reports. They also noted that three adults can fit comfortably into the back of the Impala, and the trunk is one of the largest on the market today.
“Sedan shoppers browsing upmarket choices would be wise to give this smart, competitively priced alternative serious consideration,” concludes Consumer Reports. While not as fuel efficient as many of the smaller cars on this list, the Impala’s miles per gallon are comparable to other large sedans.
Starting Price: $40,000
Fuel Economy: 22 miles per gallon
4. Small SUV: Subaru Forester
At this point, the Subaru Forester has morphed from a competent crossover to a full blown SUV. The results are pretty damn impressive, says Consumer Reports. In fact, the company goes so far as to state that the Forester “sets the standard for small SUVs, combining relatively roomy packaging, fuel efficiency, solid reliability, and easy access.”
Adding to the praise is the fact that the Forester has large windows and a boxy shape that maximizes room for passengers inside the vehicle. Basically this is a vehicle that maximizes both style and practicality in one impressive package. Secure handling and a responsive ride add to the appeal of this Subaru, one of the company’s top selling models over the past two decades.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine provides more power and torque than one might expect, and the fuel economy is among the highest for any SUV in this category. But what really put the Forester over the top in terms of Consumer Reports evaluation is the safety features, that include a best in class collision warning system and automatic emergency braking.
Starting Price: $27,000
Fuel Economy: 26 miles per gallon
3. Midsized SUV: Toyota Highlander
While known more for its Camry and Corolla sedans, Toyota is making headway in the SUV market with its midsized Highlander. In fact, Toyota has made up ground on its competitors in recent years by making small (but essential and impressive) adjustments to the Highlander.
Buyers of the Highlander will get a SUV that has family-friendly functionality, all-weather traction, three-row seating, generous cargo space, and the capability of light towing. Throw in solid performance, excellent fuel economy, and reliability, and it becomes clear that the Highlander is a winner.
The 2017 model has 25 more horsepower in the V6 engine than previous models, as well as two additional gears and advanced safety equipment that comes standard. Not surprising that Consumer Reports summed up its evaluation of the Toyota Highlander by stating: “This gem of an SUV has all the right moves.”
Starting Price: $41,000
Fuel Economy: 20 miles per gallon
2. Luxury SUV: Audi Q7
People seeking luxury need look no further than the seven passenger Audi Q7, which is the highest-rated SUV (luxury or not) that Consumer Reports has tested in recent years. Calling this vehicle “sumptuous and pampering,” Consumer Reports says that the Q7 feels more like a luxury sedan than an SUV.
A quiet interior is outfitted with premium trimmings and road-trip-friendly seats. Plus the infotainment system provides seamless interaction with phones, audio, and other functions. And, despite its ample size and roominess, the Audi Q7 has genuine road performance, with agility, road gripping tires, and excellent brakes for quick stops.
While it is a tad expensive for the average consumer to purchase, Consumer Reports says the Audi Q7 is worth the price. It’s certainly worth your consideration.
Starting Price: $68,500
Fuel Economy: 20 miles per gallon
1. Compact Pickup: Honda Ridgeline
Consumer Reports is clear that what distinguishes the Honda Ridgeline is its innovation. New and innovative technology is abundant in this pickup that is aimed more at suburban commuters than weekend warriors or off-roaders. Consumer Reports says that the Ridgeline proves that “trucks can be both refined and versatile.”
The company notes that after testing the Ridgeline, they found the truck drives more like a sedan than comparable pickups. It also handles better than any compact or full-sized pickup truck on the market today. Plus, this Honda has better fuel economy than any non-diesel truck out there.
“The Ridgeline isn’t up for big-time towing or off-road adventures, but this smartly designed truck more than makes up for that with other benefits,” states Consumer Reports. While a lot of people who are in the market for a pickup truck want a rugged monster of a vehicle, the Ridgeline excels at being a sophisticated urban vehicle.
Starting Price: $36,500
Fuel Economy: 20 miles per gallon