Washington — Two Chevrolets – the Cruze and Impala – were named tops in their class in the Consumer Reports 2017 Annual Top Picks list, an influential designation for shoppers looking for new cars. And two American brands were ranked in the Top 10: Tesla (No. 8) and Buick (No. 10.)
The magazine said the redesigned Chevy Cruze earned top remarks in the highly competitive compact car category, beating out the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, which historically have dominated the top picks list.
“The best way to describe (the Cruze) is they took the Impala and they shrunk it down and have many of the same virtues in a smaller package,” Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports director of automotive testing, said.
“If you look at the competitors, you look at Corollas or any other compact cars, there’s a lot that they could learn from the Cruze in terms of ride, quietness and just a substantial-feeling vehicle, along with having the latest infotainment, which again you can navigate,” Fisher continued. “It’s not overwhelming. It’s well-laid out.”
The Chevrolet Impala was named top large sedan for the third year in row.
“I know when we first said the Chevy Impala was a top pick, there was a lot of confused faces,” Fisher said. “This is not the rental car version. This is the new version that they have which drives like a luxury vehicle, continues to be reliable and it’s just good owner satisfaction. It drives terrific.”
Other vehicles ranked tops in their category were the Subaru Forester, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Toyota Yaris iA, Kia Optima, Toyota Highlander, Audi Q7, Toyota Prius and Honda Ridgeline. Findings from four areas went into the rankings: road-test performance, predicted reliability, owner satisfaction and safety.
Audi topped the overall brand rankings for the second year in a row. Audi was followed by Porsche (like Audi, it also is owned by Volkswagen), BMW, Lexus and Subaru in the top five of the group’s brand rankings. Kia and Mazda ranked No. 6 and No. 7; Honda was No. 9, between Tesla and Buick.
“What’s nice seeing on this list is Subaru and Kia,” Fisher said. “It shows it can be done at a lower price. Again, cars that are very satisfying for the drivers and cars that are reliable as well and clearly offering a lot of value.”
Fisher said some GM brands may have been hurt by the reliability scores of their trucks.
“General Motors continues to be kind of a dark horse of the industry,” Fisher said. “They’re making excellent cars right now. They are a bit held back by their trucks, and not because their trucks don’t drive well, but because the reliability hasn’t been there. So a lot of the brands from General Motors that have the Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe, Escalade, any of those heavy trucks, that’s going to wind up hurting those brands. That’s why you see Buick up front.”
Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln brand was ranked 15th, GM’s Chevrolet brand was ranked 16th and its Cadillac brand was ranked 17th.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler brand was ranked 19th in the survey, which was seven places better than last year. “This is really attributed to the performance of the Pacifica,” Fisher said. “We were extremely impressed when we tested the Pacifica. I think that’s really important because that is really the first chance that we’ve seen a really domestically built car from FCA for awhile. This is not a vehicle that’s based off a Fiat... this is, ‘Let’s see what Chrysler can do when they actually build a vehicle,’ and it kind of blew us away.”
Fiat was ranked last in the brand ranking survey in 31st place.
Fisher said the Consumer Reports group was including for the first time in its scores the ease and safety of shifting mechanisms that are not located in traditional locations.
“More and more vehicles are offering electronic shifters, which operate differently,” he said. “Now we’re seeing shifters of all shapes and sizes, buttons, knobs, stalks, a lot of them return to center now. And some are difficult to use. There have been reports of crashes, there’s been reports of deaths where people think the car is in park and it turns out it’s not. If you listen to our subscribers, they’ve been complaining about these shifters. They’ve been talking about near-misses.
“They’re a little bit all over the place, and some are better than others,” he said of electronic shifters that are being used by many automakers in newer models. “One thing we’re looking for is a shifter that can not be confused with other controls. Consumers have told us that they went to turn down the volume and they ended up in neutral.”
Fisher praised the Ford Fusion, which he said has an alternative shifter that can’t be confused with other controls, is easy to consistently select gears and has automatic rollaway prevention.
“If you turn off the engine in reverse, neutral or drive, it’ll automatically go into park,” he said. “If you open up the doors in those gears, it will automatically go into park. We have no problem with a shifter like this.
“We’re not against new technology on these shifters. But if it’s done, we want to see it done right,” Fisher added.
Consumer Reports Top Picks
Subcompact car: Toyota Yaris IA
Compact hybrid: Toyota Prius
Luxury SUV: Audi Q7
Sports car: Mazda MX-5 Miata
Small SUV: Subaru Forester
Midsized SUV: Toyota Forester
Compact pickup: Honda Ridgeline
Compact car: Chevrolet Cruze
Midsized sedan: Kia Optima
Large sedan: Chevrolet Impala