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Consumer Reports adds Honda Civic, Infiniti M35, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Honda Ridgeline to 2006 Top Picks List

Posted Wednesday, March 22, 2006

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First time since introduction of top picks that all ten are Japanese nameplates

Yonkers, NY – Consumer Reports has named four new models to its Top Picks list for 2006. The Honda Civic, Infiniti M35, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and the Honda Ridgeline are all new entrants into Consumer Reports annual list.

This marks the first time that all the vehicles are Japanese nameplates since Consumer Reports introduced its Top Picks list in 1997. Historically, Consumer Reports Top Picks have been a blend of Japanese, European, and domestic models.

The addition of the Highlander Hybrid brings to two the number of hybrid models to make the Top Picks list. The high ratings of the Highlander Hybrid is based on its excellent overall package, which includes all the inviting attributes of the conventional Highlander as well as better acceleration and moderately better fuel economy. The Toyota Prius remains the Top Pick in the “green” car category for the third year in a row. The Prius demonstrated an excellent 44 mpg overall fuel economy, the best of Consumer Reports tests of any five-passenger vehicles.

CR’s respected list of Top Pick vehicles appears in the Annual April Auto Issue, which hits newsstands Tuesday, March 7.

Consumer Reports’ Top Picks are recommended models and all-around high-performers that scored at or near the top among competing vehicles in CR’s rigorous testing program; have average or better predicted reliability, based on CR’s Annual Car Reliability Survey; and performed adequately in overall crash protection if tested by the government or insurance industry. Top Pick vehicles were selected from among the more than 200 vehicles that Consumer Reports has recently tested.

Consumer Reports’ new Top Pick list for 2006 also includes the Honda Ridgeline, which is CR’s top-rated pickup.

“The 10 vehicles on Consumer Reports’ Top Picks list are standouts across the board for performance, versatility, reliability, safety, and interior fit and finish,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut. “CR’s Top Pick list is an excellent place for consumers to start when they’re in the market for a new car.”

Consumer Reports’ testing procedures are the most comprehensive of any U.S. publication or Web site. More than 50 individual tests are performed on every vehicle, including evaluations of performance, comfort, convenience, safety, and fuel economy. Many tests were developed exclusively by CR’s auto engineers and adopted by the auto industry.

Here, by category, are the issue’s best performers. Changes from last year’s Top Picks list are noted:

  • SEDAN (Less than $20,000/Small Sedan): Honda Civic. The new Civic ($17,000 to $20,000) has a roomy interior, a comfortable ride, and good handling and fuel economy. Manual- and automatic-transmission versions get 31 and 28 mpg overall. The hybrid gets 37 mpg overall. Curtain air bags are standard and crash-test results are impressive. (Last year’s Top Pick for Small Sedans was the Ford Focus.)
  • SEDAN ($20,000-$30,000/Family Sedan): Honda Accord. The Accord provides an excellent balance of comfort, roominess, and handling. Each model provides good fuel economy for its class, with the four-cylinder and V6 models getting 23 and 24 mpg overall. The Hybrid delivers quicker acceleration and moderately better gas mileage of 25 mpg overall.
  • SEDAN ($30,000-$40,000/Upscale Sedan): Acura TL. The TL is among the highest-scoring sedans and provides a near-ideal blend of comfort, convenience, and sportiness – all at a reasonable $33,700. It handles well and delivers a controlled, quiet ride. The interior has excellent fit and finish. The TL is quick, while still getting a commendable 23 mpg.
  • LUXURY SEDAN: Infiniti M35. The M35 provides an excellent balance of performance, comfort, and handling. Available in rear- or all-wheel drive, the V6-powered M35x (about $50,000) is as capable threading a twisty road as it is cruising on the highway. A $69,000 V-8 powered M45 model is also available. (Last year’s Top Pick was the Lexus LS430.)
  • FUN TO DRIVE: Subaru Impreza WRX/STi. The rally-car inspired Impreza WRX and its high-performance STi variant (about $25,000 and $33,000, respectively) prove that consumers don’t have to spend a lot of money or give up practicality to get a fun-to-drive sports car. Both cars blend quick acceleration and very agile handling with the practicality of four doors.
  • SUV (Less than $30,000/Small SUV): Subaru Forester. The Forester is a good vehicle and a good value—about $23,000 for the 2.5X. This car-based, all-wheel-drive SUV handles nimbly and rides comfortably. The Honda CR-V ($24,000) is a very good runner-up, with more room and standard electronic stability control.
  • SUV (More than $30,000/Midsized SUV): Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The Highlander Hybrid ($35,000 to $40,000) is a well-rounded SUV that delivers quick acceleration, a comfortable ride, and a third-row seat. Its 22 mpg is impressive for a midsized SUV. This hybrid and its near twin, the 23 mpg Lexus RX400h ($50,000), are the only SUVs to achieve an excellent overall score in CR’s testing. Another excellent choice, with a better third-row seat, is the Honda Pilot ($29,000 to $35,000). (Last year’s Top Pick for Midsized SUV was the Lexus RX330.)
  • MINIVAN: Honda Odyssey. The Honda Odyssey ($26,000 to $37,000) leads the minivan class with agility, refinement and interior flexibility. Electronic stability control and curtain air bags are standard. The interior is well-crafted and comfortable. The Toyota Sienna ($25,000 to $39,000), another high scorer, is quieter, rides more comfortably, and offers all-wheel-drive, but is less agile.
  • GREEN CAR: Toyota Prius. For the third year, the $23,000 gasoline/electric hybrid Toyota Prius is CR’s pick, thanks to its excellent 44 mpg overall fuel economy. It is certified by the California Air Resources Board as a near-zero-emission vehicle. With a roomy interior, reasonable performance, and the versatility of a hatchback, the Prius is a good alternative to a midsized sedan.
  • PICKUP TRUCK: Honda Ridgeline. The Honda Ridgeline ($28,000-$35,000) redefines the pickup, combining the comfortable ride and agile handling of a car-based chassis with a good payload capacity. The roomy cab features nice details and is easy to access. It even offers a weather-tight trunk in the bed. For consumers who want a longer bed and more towing capacity, Consumer Reports suggests the Toyota Tundra.

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CR’s Annual April Auto Issue is on sale from March 7 through June 7. The Consumer Reports Auto Issue is available wherever magazines are sold and may also be ordered online at www.ConsumerReports.org. Free highlights from the April Auto Issue will be available at www.ConsumerReports.org/autos2006.

Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. CR has the most comprehensive auto-test program and reliability survey data of any U.S. magazine or web site. Our team of automotive experts brings decades of experience to the unbiased, independent Ratings, Recommendations and advice in the Annual April Auto Issue: Engineers test the cars we feature in our magazine; the Consumer Reports National Research Center's statisticians and researchers design and analyze the surveys that tell us about our subscribers' experiences with their cars; and our editors investigate and report on important automotive issues, making all the information easily understandable for consumers.

 
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Consumer Reports adds Honda Civic, Infiniti M35, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Honda Ridgeline to 2006 Top Picks List
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