Consumer Reports Strips ‘Recommended’ Rating From VW TDIs

Overwhelmingly, the best values come from Japanese automakers, including most of the top models in each category. Of the 48 best values in CR's lists, 34 are from Japanese brands. Six models come from European brands (mostly Volkswagen), five come from American ones (mostly Ford), and three are from South Korean automakers.

Overall, the report finds that small cars and family sedans provide the best value. In addition to the Honda Fit, the Toyota Prius hybrid, diesel-powered Volkswagen Golf TDI (with manual transmission), Scion xD and Toyota Corolla also made CR's list of best values in the small car category. Even the lowest-scoring small car, the Chevrolet Cruze, is close to average in overall value.

>> Best value, small car: Honda Fit

>> Worst value, small car: Chevrolet Cruze 1LT

The family-sedans category is led by the four-cylinder Nissan Altima, which scored 75 percent higher than average. That's followed by the four-cylinder Kia Optima, the Subaru Legacy, the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the four-cylinder Honda Accord. Larger and luxury vehicles are among the worst values overall, usually scoring at only about 70 percent of the average.

>> Best value upscale and luxury sedan: Lexus ES 350

>> Worst value upscale and luxury sedan: Jaguar XJL

The analysis also revealed that wagons and small SUVs tend to provide better value than larger SUVs or minivans. Among wagons, the diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta TDI with manual transmission is the top scorer, offering almost 70 percent more value than the average car. Other good choices are the Mazda5 microvan and Subaru Outback, with almost one and a half times the average value.

>> Best value, small SUV: Toyota RAV4 (base, 4 cylinders)

>> Worst value, small suv: Jeep Liberty Sport

The top small SUVs are even better values than wagons. Leading that class are the four-cylinder Toyota RAV4 and the Subaru Forester, with scores that are 84 percent and 70 percent better than average, respectively. Midsized SUVs represent less of a bargain because of their higher purchase prices and fuel costs. Even the best midsized SUVs in the chart scored only a little better than average. Among luxury SUVs, only the BMW X3, Acura RDX and MDX, Infiniti EX and gas and hybrid versions of the Lexus RX had above-average value scores.

>> Best value, midsized SUV: Toyota Highlander Limited (V6)

>> Worst Value Midsized SUV: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara

Minivans generally get better fuel economy than most midsized or larger SUVs, have more space than all but the largest SUVs and usually cost less. But as a class, subpar reliability drags them down. Even the most reliable minivans, the front-wheel drive versions of the Toyota Sienna, have only average reliability.

CR's analysis also showed that hybrids can be relatively good values because of a combination of good fuel economy, low depreciation and above-average reliability. As a class, hybrids have an overall value that's at least one and a half times that of the average model, and on average they cost about 65 cents per mile to drive over the first five years.


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