Consumer Reports Names Tesla Its Top Auto Pick

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Tesla Model S
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesThe Tesla Model S electric car.
By Eric Beech

WASHINGTON -- U.S. electric luxury car Tesla Model S was named by Consumer Reports magazine Tuesday as its overall top pick for 2014, while Japanese models took five spots in the annual rankings, their worst showing in the 18-year history of the ratings.

The Ram 1500 was named the top pickup truck, the first time a Chrysler model has cracked the top picks list since 1998. South Korean automaker Hyundai, and German brands BMW and Volkswagen's Audi also had models topping the 10 Consumer Reports categories.

"The competition in the marketplace has grown fierce. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%There was a time when a handful of brands dominated our top picks list, but in recent years we've seen a more diverse group make the cut," Rik Paul, Consumer Reports' automotive editor, said in a statement.

The top picks were chosen from more than 260 vehicles tested by Consumer Reports for reliability, safety and road-test performance.

The battery-powered Tesla Model S was chosen best overall for its "exceptional performance and its many impressive technological innovations," Consumer Reports said, noting it was "pricey" at $89,650.

California-based Tesla Motors (TSLA), which was founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2003, said it expects to deliver about 35,000 of the model this year. By comparison, the best-selling car in the United States last year, the Toyota (TM) Camry, sold about 408,000 in 2013.

Consumer Reports hasn't named a best overall since a Lexus model took the top honors in 2010.

Honda Motor (HMC) and Subaru were the only automakers with more than one model in this year's top picks. Honda's Accord won best midsize sedan, and its Odyssey was named top minivan. The best compact car went to Subaru's Impreza, and its Forester model was picked as the top small SUV.

Toyota's Prius hybrid, with its 44 mpg overall fuel efficiency, was named best green car for the 11th consecutive year.

Detroit Brands Rank at the Bottom

The Audi A6 took top honors in the luxury car rankings for the second year in a row, while the BMW 328i was chosen best sports sedan, also for a second straight year.

Japanese automakers, which historically have taken more than 70 percent of the top picks, managed to win only five of the 10 categories, the worst showing since Consumer Reports began publishing the list in 1997.

Consumer Reports also released its annual report card on car brands. It rates each manufacturer's individual brands, with a composite score based on reliability and road testing.

Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand, came out on top for the second straight year, with a score of 79. Honda's Acura was second with 75, followed by Audi with 74.

Consumer Reports said of Lexus: "Its models are usually quiet, comfortable, and fuel efficient, and they're among the most reliable cars made."

Subaru and Toyota tied for the fourth spot. Mazda, Honda, Infiniti, Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and BMW rounded out the top 10.

Detroit-based manufacturers fared poorly in this ranking, with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Jeep tying Ford Motor (F) for worst of the 23 brands listed. Consumer Reports said both Jeep and Ford models had reliability problems.

Fiat Chrysler's Dodge and General Motors' (GM) Cadillac were also among the four lowest-scoring brands.

GM's Buick and GMC tied for 12th, the highest rating for Detroit automakers.

Consumer Reports said it didn't have brand report cards for Fiat, Tata Motors' Jaguar and Land Rover brands, Ford's Lincoln, BMW's Mini, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Fiat Chrysler's Ram, Toyota's Scion, Daimler's Smart and Tesla because of a lack of data.

Consumer Reports Names Tesla Its Top Auto Pick

By Michael Zak | AOL Autos

A recent Interest.com study looked at the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the United States to see which median-income households in those respective areas can afford to purchase a new car, the average price of which was $30,550 in 2012, according to TrueCar. The study found that in only one city can residents actually afford a car with this sticker price -- Washington, D.C.

Households with an average income in Washington, D.C. can afford a payment of up to $628, which would allow for purchase of a $31,940 vehicle. The next closest city, San Francisco, can only afford $537 per month, equating to a $26,786.

While it's not news that Americans like to buy things that they can't afford, the data is a little surprising given how many great cars there are out there for well under $30,000. Solid hybrids, CUVs, sedans and sports cars can all be had for less than this.

We've racked our brains and come up with 5 of the best cars that are cheaper than the average car's purchase price. These are affordable, versatile, fun and fuel efficient. Of course, there are some stinkers in this price range, as well, so we've included 5 vehicles we think you should avoid.

Subaru BRZ

MSRP: $25,495 - $27,495
Invoice: $24,327 - $26,112
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg City, 30 mpg Highway

The Subaru BRZ proves that driving bliss doesn't have to cost a fortune. The rear-wheel drive sports coupe is one of the most engaging vehicles on the road today, with utterly superb dynamics and looks. The best part? You can have one for $25,495.

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Volkswagen Golf

MSRP: $18,095 - $25,200
Invoice: $17,371 - $24,192
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg City, 33 mpg Highway

Although the redesigned 2014 version of this handsome hatch will be on sale in the near future, the current generation is still worth buying. It's fuel efficient, fun and surprisingly versatile. Starting at less than $20,000, the Golf is also quite affordable.

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Toyota Prius v

MSRP: $26,650 - $30,295
Invoice: $24,809 - $28,202
Fuel Economy: 44 mpg City, 40 mpg Highway

The Toyota Pirus v is essentially a bigger version of the popular Prius hybrid. This hatchback acheives stellar fuel economy while allowing for transport of numerous people and all of their stuff. Starting at $26,650, you can have all the benefits of a versatile hybrid for an agreeable price.

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Mazda CX-5

MSRP: $20,995 - $28,595
Invoice: $20,396 - $27,771
Fuel Economy: 26 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway

The Mazda CX-5 is one of our favorite crossovers here at AOL Autos even when taking more expensive ones into account. Remarkably fun to drive, fuel efficient and starting at a low price, there's a lot to love about this agile utility vehicle.

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MSRP: $16,695 - $21,115
Invoice: $16,208 - $20,218
Fuel Economy: 28 mpg City, 38 mpg Highway

This small sedan continue to be the darling of both critics and consumers nationwide. Available with tons of standard features, great looks and sweet fuel economy, the Elantra is one of the best cars on the planet right now.

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MSRP: $18,995 - $32,820
Invoice: $18,770 - $31,334
Fuel Economy: 21 mpg City, 29 mpg Highway

The 200 is a holdover from when Chrysler was owned by Daimler and then private equity-firm Cerberus Capital. It's not that this car is awful, especially since the new Chrysler, managed by Fiat, made a series of improvements. It's that the other cars in this category are so good, and much better designed and engineered.

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MSRP: $18,725 - $21,815
Invoice: $17,789 - $20,725
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway

The Scion tC is intended to be a sporty coupe. The problem? It's not sporty. At all. In fact, the tC finds itself on the Consumer Reports list of the least fun cars to drive and we're inclined to agree with that assessment.

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MSRP: $18,995 - $30,795
Invoice: $18,800 - $29,276
Fuel Economy: 19 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway

Short on features and with pretty poor driving dynamics, the Dodge Journey is one you should skip if you're shopping for a sub-$30,000 crossover. We're looking forward to Dodge's next attempt.

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MSRP: $25,900 - $29,200
Invoice: $24,452 - $27,507
Fuel Economy: 24 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway

Don't be fooled by the badge. This is not really a luxury car. With uninspired driving dynamics and a lackluster interior, you should pass on the ILX even though its low sticker price seems very tempting.

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MSRP: $12,490 - $17,890
Invoice: $11,616 - $16,638
Fuel Economy: 34 mpg City, 38 mpg Highway

The idea of the smart fortwo is great. It's the execution that's the problem. The fortwo is loud, terrible to drive and really isn't all that fuel efficient, considering its size. There are way better options between $10,000 and $20,000.

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