|Consumer Reports 2009 top picks
|Consumer Reports has named its Top Picks for 2009. The Toyota Highlander and the Chevrolet Avalanche — top choices for midsized SUVs and pickups — dethroned the Hyundai Santa Fe and Chevrolet Silverado.
||Hyundai Elantra SE
||The Elantra SE ($18,695) is a comfortable, roomy small car that provides good fuel economy, a quiet and nicely finished interior, and plenty of features for the money. Only the SE version comes with standard electronic stability control, which is absent on many other small cars.
||The Highlander ($26,000 to $41,000) is a very refined and versatile vehicle. It provides a comfortable and quiet ride, a nicely finished interior, three rows of seats, and decent fuel economy for its class. The Highlander Hybrid’s fuel economy, 24 mpg overall, is among the best of any SUV in Consumer Report’s Ratings. First-year reliability has been excellent.
||The Chevrolet Avalanche full-sized crew cab ($36,000 to $47,000) is one of the most versatile and comfortable pickups that Consumer Reports has tested. Its unified bed and cab helps give it a solid feel and a comfortable, quiet ride. Its innovative partition, between the cab and the bed, can be folded to allow longer cargo to extend into the back of the cab.
|BEST OVERALL VEHICLE
||Lexus LS 460
||With a road test score of 99 out of 100, the Lexus LS 460 ($64,000 to $77,000) is Consumer Reports’ highest-scoring vehicle. It provides a luxurious, uncompromising driving environment, with a supremely comfortable ride and a roomy, well-finished, and exceptionally quiet interior. The LS is brimming with electronic amenities, yet the controls are easy to use. Its 380-hp, 4.6-liter V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission deliver smooth, quick acceleration and relatively good fuel economy.
||The Honda Accord ($21,000 to $31,000) is a roomy, wellrounded sedan that’s easy to live with and enjoyable to drive. It offers a comfortable ride, agile handling, and efficient, refined four- and six-cylinder powertrains. Electronic stability control is standard, and crash-test results are impressive.
||One of the highest-rated sedans tested, the G37 (33,000 to $36,000, formerly G35) combines sportiness and luxury in a very appealing package. It has a very lively powertrain, agile handling, a comfortable ride, and a nicely appointed interior. For 2009, it also has a larger, 328-hp, 3.7-liter engine and a seven-speed automatic transmission, which improves fuel economy.
|FUN TO DRIVE
||Mazda MX-5 Miata
||The Miata ($22,000 to $29,000) is a true sports car at a reasonable price. With quick, precise steering, a crisp-shifting manual transmission, and balanced handling, it virtually tied the Porsche Boxster in test scoring, but it costs about half the price.
||Thanks to a larger and more powerful four-cylinder engine and other upgrades for 2009, the RAV4 ($23,000 to $30,000) narrowly outscored the Subaru Forester to remain our Top Pick for the third straight year. It provides agile handling, a roomy and quiet interior, a comfortable ride, and an optional third-row seat. The four-cylinder version gets the best fuel economy of any automatic, nonhybrid SUV CR has tested.
||The Sienna ($26,000 to $38,000) offers a spacious, versatile, and comfortable way to carry up to eight people. Consumer Reports found that the quiet, well-finished interior rivals that of some luxury sedans. Electronic stability control is standard. This is the only minivan available with all-wheel drive.
||Despite the arrival of more gas/electric hybrids, the Prius ($22,000 to $24,000) leads this category for the sixth straight year. The base model’s 44 overall mpg is the best Consumer Reports has measured in any five-passenger car. The interior is roomy and versatile, and reliability remains excellent. A redesigned Prius will arrive in early summer.