Consumer Reports Top Auto Picks 2008

Here are the cars Consumer Reports says are standouts in 2008 for “performance, versatility, reliability, and safety.”

Small Sedan: Hyundai Elantra SE ($18,000)
Midsized SUV: Hyundai Santa Fe ($27,000 to $39,000)
Luxury Sedan: Lexus LS 460L ($77,000)
Family Sedan: Honda Accord ($22,000 to $31,000)
Upscale Sedan: Infiniti G35 ($33,000 to $35,000)
Fun To Drive: Mazda MX-5 Miata ($27,000)
Small SUV: Toyota RAV4 ($23,000 to $30,000)
Minivan: Toyota Sienna ($24,000 to $37,000)
“Green” Car: Toyota Prius. ($24,000)

A good starting guide if you’re looking to pick up a new car this year.

Top Picks 2008 [Consumer Reports]

Comments

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  1. Corydon says:

    Interesting…I happened to catch a piece about this article on the Today show this morning as I was getting ready for work. They offered some good advice about factoring in how much it will cost to operate the vehicle over the next five years (fuel efficiency, reliability, insurance, etc.) and then displayed four of the “top picks”

    In addition to the Prius and one other import, they felt obliged to show a Saturn and a Lincoln model as well.

    Yet there’s not a single car from a US manufacturer on the actual list here.

  2. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    What’s the difference between “luxury” and “family”?

  3. stevegoz says:

    But will this endorsement push Accord ahead of Camry in sales? Or will the hybrid option help keep Camry at the top??

  4. SVreader says:

    @The Great Aussie Evil: Grape juice stains.

  5. livefastjohnny says:

    @ Corydon

    Actually if you read the article via the link, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 made “Best Pickup.” Not sure why the author left that one out of the list here. Sad, but certainly emblematic of the fact that trucks are still the bread and butter of the Big 3.

  6. chiieddy says:
  7. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    @stevegoz: I was shopping for a new car in late 2006 and decided on a new Camry over an Accord. I thought the Camry looked much sportier and had some design to it, while the Accord looked like a box on wheels.

    I went to an auto show a few weeks ago, and couldn’t believe how much the 08 Accord looks like the Camry. I’ll be interested to see how sales improve as well, but their external design has improved a lot.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Why is there no top pick for full size suv’s?

  9. UpsetPanda says:

    @CaptainCynic: Because they’re no longer “trendy.” Trendy now is going green, it’s driving a sedan that can pull decent gas mileage but still carry the kiddies..apparently the Rav-4 is the only SUV that fits the bill.

  10. Caswell says:

    @Corydon:

    It’s what happens when you let the bean counters run a company that produces an engineering-intensive commodity item.

    The domestic OEM bean counters source parts from crap suppliers (Valeo, I’m looking at you) to save $0.02 a car, despite pleas from engineers to go elsewhere. Never mind the fact that it trashes the reputation of the company and costs you $0.25 a car in warranty. The genious who “saved” you all of that money up front will be promoted by the time the blowback hits.

  11. nffcnnr says:

    i’m looking to buy a pre-owned car soon. What were the Top Picks of 2006? 2005? Any recommendations from readers out there?

  12. mopar_man says:

    Small Sedan: Hyundai Elantra SE ($18,000)
    Midsized SUV: Hyundai Santa Fe ($27,000 to $39,000)

    A friend of mine is a mechanic and he absolutely loathes any time someone comes in wanting work done on a Hyundai. He’s shown me some of the chassis components from them too. They barely look sturdy enough to support a bicycle let alone a vehicle.

  13. MissPeacock says:

    Would the “small sedan” category be considered a compact car?

  14. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    Man, when I was a kid, if you used the words performance, versatility, reliability, and Hyundai all in the same sentence, someone would cart you off to the nuthouse.

  15. SpenceMan01 says:

    Hey, that’s my car on the cover! Well, not MY car, but I do own a maroon ’08 Accord. We decided on the Accord over the Camry because of a bunch of little things on the Camry bothered me. The controls were very ‘plasticy’. The Accord’s are plastic as well, but they have a much better feel to them. The location of the aux input on the Camry was hard to get to, the engine on the 4-cylinder seemed a bit noisier than the Accord’s, and we just liked the overall feel of the Accord.

    I’m also confident that it will be a great, reliable car that we’ll be driving for years to come.

  16. matto says:

    In other news, Consumer Reports releases list of Top 10 Cars I’d Never Be Caught Dead In.

  17. dapuddle says:

    @Dead Wrestlers Society: That is what bores me about the segment. They all looks the same.

    I’d never, ever, buy a dodge but at least dodge has some creativity in their designs.

    I am due for a new car, but nothing out there inspires me, the Altima comes close though.

  18. Near clean sweep for Japan/Korea. Again. Some thoughts:
    1- Detroit is run by idiots. That’s the only way to explain that they have been getting their asses kicked on quality for pretty much 30 years now. And before anyone suggests it’s something wrong with the American worker, these Camrys and Accords are being built here. In the midwest. Same as Detroit’s cars that aren’t hecho en Mexico.

    2- What is up with Japan not being able to knock Chevy out of the top truck spot. Is there something fundamentally alien to Japanese/Korean engineers about great trucks? At this point, aren’t they rich enough to hire away Chevy’s top guys and have them make Honda and Toyota and Hyundai trucks?

    3- The evolution of Hyundai. It started about 6-8 years ago. They decided to stop being the low end and actually compete on quality with the Japanese (around the same time they bought DaeWoo). Now, there they are, real cars. The above poster who’s mechanic friend hates Hyundais is clearly talking about the first couple generations of them, the ultra low cost ones. The new ones are very good.

    4- Who buys new cars? I know someone must, but it just seems like a total dump of money. Let someone else lease it, suck 50% of the price and 15% of the value, and buy it pre-owned. Not bad. So, these will be the cars to buy in 2010 and 2011.

  19. LadyKathryn says:

    Car selecting is going to drive me absolutely crazy. I want a 1 or 2 year old, good gas milage, four wheeled box with a CD player and that can fit my long legs. I’d love the Accord Hybrid…except I know from experiance that the dashboard cuts into my knees. If anyone has any good suggestions, I will bake you cookies.

  20. livefastjohnny says:

    @PotKettleBlack: If you read the explanation on the Chevy, it said they felt the Tundra had actually outperformed it but was plagued by issues in the popular big V8 and 4×4 segments. FWIW, I test drove all of the Big 3′s full size offerings as well as the Toyota and Nissan and still settled on the Silverado. I’m not really loyal to any one brand at all but the Silverado certainly felt the most “finished” and had the options I needed at a lower price. This was before Toyota started offering rebates last fall.

    It is highly likely the Japanese will be on par with the Big 3 in the truck class within a year or two at least objectively in performance tests, although brand loyalty is probably at the highest for trucks so it will be a tough market to penetrate.

    As to buying new, here in the Mountain South, trucks don’t have near the depreciation they have in other areas and generally used specimens with the features I need (off road package, towing gear, torque) are pretty well abused. I’m sure I could find *some* example but I dig the peace of mind I get with my dealer and warranty and since I keep them between 10-15 years apiece and pay cash when I do, I don’t take that big a hit.

  21. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    @dapuddle: Yeah, I think I may have looked at the 07 Altima when I was shopping around. I think the tailights and the dash drove me away.

    The 08 Altima looks nice. I do remember that the Camry now looks like a lot of the Lexuses (Lexii) as far as body type. There are so many things a manufacturer can screw up on a car, when you are shopping for a new car, one little detail can completely turn you off of something.

  22. friendlynerd says:

    @PotKettleBlack:
    Hyundai bought Kia, not Daewoo. GM owns Daewoo. See Chevy Aveo (Daewoo Lanos underpinnings), Suzuki Forenza (Daewoo Nubira underpinnings), and Suzuki Verona (Daewoo Leganza).

  23. redhelix says:

    @PotKettleBlack: There is more to buying a new car than the up-front cost; don’t forget the savings on parts and labor over the course of the manufacturer’s warranty.

    There is also a certain peace of mind in being the sole owner of a car throughout it’s lifetime on the road. When buying a used car, for all you know the previous owner put 60,000 miles on it and changed the oil once. My girlfriend bought a used car a few years ago and has been piling up repair costs brought about by a horribly neglectful previous owner. Meanwhile, I’ve had my 1998 Explorer since it first rolled off the lot, taken great care of it, and it still runs like a champ.

  24. redhelix says:

    Also I was kind of surprised to see the ’08 Focus absent from that list. What a great little car… and it looks easy to work on, too.

  25. coaster.n3rd says:

    @stevegoz:

    Currently the Chevrolet Malibu is crushing both of these vehicles in sales and shopping.

  26. coaster.n3rd says:

    @PotKettleBlack:

    Regarding #2. There are only two Japanese trucks on the road. Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra, Why are they not kicking the crap out of the americans in this war?

    Simple. google Tundra+Tailgate or Tundra+Prop shaft or Tundra+ Engine Sludge and you will see why.

  27. KyleOrton says:

    @nffcnnr: You actually want a CR Buyer’s guide. It looks at every year and tells you about reliability and all the rest. If the 2004 whatnot is more reliable than the 2005 thingamajig with better owner satisfaction, that might be more helpful.

  28. coaster.n3rd says:

    @CaptainCynic:

    because Detroit dominates this section. It would go against Consumer Reports (or the Toyota Ad magazine) to list an American vehicle.

  29. KyleOrton says:

    @coaster.n3rd: Only in shopping. The Accord is beating it in sales. Sales are still more important, but the Malibu certainly has the reviews and acclaim to make up some ground.

  30. livefastjohnny says:

    @coaster.n3rd: Also Titan+Rear axle brings up some interesting reading.

  31. KyleOrton says:

    @redhelix: Gimme the Mazda(speed!) 3 over that any day. When they update it to match what they have in Europe, that’ll be another story.

  32. theblackdog says:

    What, nothing about compact cars? You would think with the green trend they’d be looking at smaller cars for commuters such as the Fit or the Yaris.

    Oh, and to the guy who said the Hyundais were crap, tell that to my 12 year old Hyundai Elantra, the only major non-maintenence repair work done to that car has been to replace the clutch and that was after 11 years.

  33. cruster says:

    @coaster.n3rd: A) The engine sludge issue affected certain Toyota 4- and 6-cylinder engines…a few generations ago. I believe it primarily affected Camrys. To my knowledge it would not in any way apply to the current generation Tundra (introduced as an ’07).
    B) The propeller shaft issue affected only 15,600 trucks, from 2007 MY only, and a recall was started months ago.
    C) The tailgate issue is unfortunate, but my understanding is that a recall is pending…and it’s been resolved on 2008 MY trucks past a certain date (not sure what the date is, but they’re on lots now). Most dealerships have also been very accommodating in replacing tailgates without cost to the buyer, even without an “official” recall campaign.

    I get it if you don’t like the truck, but those issues are relatively small, and have all been addressed.

  34. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    @coaster.n3rd: Um..where exactly are you getting that data from.

    Cars
    1 Camry 31,601

    2 Accord 23,957
    3 Altima 21,635
    4 Civic 20,993
    5 Corolla/Matrix 20,736
    6 Impala 17,544
    7 Cobalt 17,310
    8 Malibu 14,541

    9 Pontiac G6 13,942
    10 Focus 11,600

    I pulled calendar yr 2006 and the data looked about the same. Couldn’t find CY 07

  35. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    @Dead Wrestlers Society: That is # of sales for Jan 08

  36. coaster.n3rd says:

    @cruster:

    Any person buying a truck for actual work use (which I feel is the only reason you should buy one) is going to abuse the hell out of it. Toyota failed and they only got one chance at it. Real truck owners will not stand for that kind of shenangians. A tailgate failing is not minor when it is the back bone of the vehicle. You can’t load an ATV on a broken tailgate or sit on it and pick up bails of hey on the farm.

    Minor issues is spinning it.

  37. coaster.n3rd says:

    @Dead Wrestlers Society:

    Unfortunatley sales do not go by fiscal year unless you are counting the big picture (example all of GM 2008 sales vs Toyota 2008 sales)

    The Malibu broke 60,000 sales in the last two months of 2007 while the Camry suffered (not only in sales but CR dropped their recommended rating for the Camry as well) I’ll dig the numbers when I get home.

  38. coaster.n3rd says:

    @coaster.n3rd:
    My bad, 6,000 sales. lol… 60,000 would be great though.

  39. KyleOrton says:

    @coaster.n3rd: @Dead Wrestlers Society:

    I just read this on autoblog. I usually trust their numbers but go on their and search for the original article. The Malibu truly is crushing everyone in terms of shopping but is behind (only) the Accord for sales.

  40. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    @KyleOrton: Here is a link to the data I posted above. It looks as if the source is autoblog.

    [www.carbuyersnotebook.com]

  41. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    @Dead Wrestlers Society: autodata. Not autoblog.

  42. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    Same thing here. Click on the link in the middle of the page and the top 10 tab in the Excel worksheet.

    [wardsauto.com]

  43. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    Counting on Constipated Reports as the authority on cars is like asking the residents of a nursing home where the hottest nightclub in town is.

    A friend of mine works in the car magazine business. I recall a story he told when they didn’t give a particularly shining review of the Lexus self-park thing. Prior to the article going public, a bunch of suits from Lexus corporate caught wind. They arrived unannounced and tried a bunch of strong arm tactics to get them to retract the story or they would pull advertising money. Let’s just say the article was quite watered down after that.

    I’m sure it goes on everywhere, but take a look at Constipated Reports’ lists, then look at all the ads… Hmmm…

  44. jollymonjeff says:

    Who, in their right mind, would pay up to $39k for a Hyundai Sante Fe?
    I mean, with every option and all the rustproofing paint sealant pinstrips and crap you can put on there, how can you even get one to $39k?

  45. cruster says:

    @coaster.n3rd: Sorry, I was not clear; when I said “small” I meant the cross-section of vehicles affected, not the severeity of the issues themselves. The tailgate problem in particular is a massive misstep, and Toyota is going to have a long way to climb to get out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves re: the public’s perception of the “toughness” of the truck. I do believe that the manifestation of “the tailgate problem” is not as severe as most folks who do not actually own Tundras seem to believe – but it’s by no means acceptable, and I do not mean to imply that Toyota should be let off the hook in any way. I believe it’s not a question of “if” but a question of “when” the tailgates will be recalled, and when the campaign has begun I will be first in line…and if a campaign does not begin soon, then I’ll take things up with my dealer if and when my tailgate starts to show any damage (it has not, as of yet).
    I do stand by my statements re: the “sludge” and propeller shaft issues, however.

  46. theblackdog says:

    @TheSpatulaOfLove: Wait, there’s ads in them now?

  47. Sudonum says:

    @cruster:
    I had not heard about a sludge problem, but I have heard about a camshaft recall. [www.supraforums.com]

  48. wHATEver says:

    [Owner of a 2002 Hyundai Elantra here...] From what I read before buying, it appears that there’s a split in quality for Hyundais: those made before about 1998-99, and everything afterward. That’s when they changed a lot of their manufacturing approaches, and then they introduced those 10 year/100K warranties (which we take for granted now, but were amazing back then).

    My 2002 Elantra GT Hatchback is going strong without any real complaints. I hope to drive it quite a few more years, by which time the electric Range Extended Vehicle (eREV), like the Chevy Volt or the Tesla Whitestar, should have most of the bugs worked out.

  49. stevegoz says:

    @coaster.n3rd: You’ve got numbers through the first two months of ’08 to share? Camry was best-selling passenger car in America last year with 473,108 units sold – up 5.5 percent over 2006.

    Facts trump bluster; show me the data!

  50. Orv says:

    @PotKettleBlack: There are two reasons Japan hasn’t taken over the truck segment.

    The first is the import tariff on trucks. Google “chicken tax” if you want to know more.

    The second, and probably more important, issue is that truck buyers tend live in rural areas, and people in rural areas tend to be fiercely patriotic. I’ve lived in places where you couldn’t show your face in public if you bought an import car.

    @theblackdog: As far as I know Consumer Reports does not, and has never, accepted advertising. If it does now it’s a pretty recent change.

  51. ajones4 says:

    Consumer Reports isn’t reputable in the slightest. I thought the child safety seats debacle of ’07 taught us that?

  52. livefastjohnny says:

    @stevegoz: I don’t want to speak for him, but this may be what he was referring to.

    Autoblog Malibu Shop Data

  53. bob9 says:

    @stevegoz:

    What does 2007 have to do with now? The Impala was the best selling car once, the Ford Taurus was as well.

    I’m failing to see your point.

  54. gingerCE says:

    I recently drove a 2008 Hyundai Elantra as a rental–and I was really surprised by how much I liked the car. Good buy for the price. I have a Honda, but I’d take a look at Hyundai after this.

  55. stevegoz says:

    @bob9: Bob — I thought 2007 was just two months in the past or something, and not yet in the dustbin of history.

    But to recap: I wondered way early in this thread if CR’s selection of the Accord over the Camry would be reflected in sales this year, or if Camry would again repeat. Someone else opined that the Malibu was crushing them both. I asked for proof. Someone else linked to a source that said the Malibu is seeing heavy interest in showrooms (which it should, what with the hype-y reviews), but still being outsold by the Accord.

    And your point about the Impala and Taurus is ______?

  56. stevegoz says:

    @livefastjohnny: Interesting stuff, Johnny. Thanks for the link.

  57. swalve says:

    @TheSpatulaOfLove: There are no ads in CR for exactly that reason.

    CR sucks, but not for that reason. I’d bet any money if you slapped a Toyota logo on a Dodge, they’d cream their shorts over it.

    I was in a Honda dealership over the weekend, and while the cars seemed solid, the body panels were really flimsy and the build quality seemed low.

  58. JR13 says:

    How do they judge reliability on brand new cars? Does it get a “+1″ if it doesn’t break down while they are test driving it?

  59. AlphaWolf says:

    I have one of those really good mobile mechanics, the kind that works on word of mouth and does not advertise. He say the reliability reports in Consumer Reports are pretty dead on.

    Also the graph in the 2008 issue that shows the reliability after 3 years is pretty cool stuff. Stick with Honda, Toyota but also Ford beat out a lot of other car makers as well surprisingly after 5 years of ownership.

  60. morganlh85 says:

    Where are the Big Three?!?!

  61. annap says:

    You can pick up a copy of Consumer Reports on any newstand. The issue will cover some used cars as well. You can also go to your local library – most carry previous copies of Consumer Reports. The Auto issue is always published in April, so search for the April issue in the year that you’re interested in. They also publish a Used Car Buying Guide. The most recent issue came out a few months ago and that too can be found at most newstands. You can also check the website – some content is free, and they give you the option of paying $4.95 for a one month subscription which will allow you to search the entire website for information.
    While a previous posting stated “CR sucks”, that’s really unfair. They are the last bastion of unbiased testing. They accept no advertising and purchase all thier products just as a consumer would – they use secret shoppers. They perform exhaustive testing on most products and are a good resource for unvarnished information. The poster may not like them, but they have an incredible reputation.

  62. annap says:

    @morganlh85:
    Ford, Chrysler, General Motors.

  63. swalve says:

    @annap: “They are the last bastion of unbiased testing. They accept no advertising and purchase all thier products just as a consumer would – they use secret shoppers. They perform exhaustive testing on most products and are a good resource for unvarnished information. The poster may not like them, but they have an incredible reputation.”

    What exhaustive testing? All I see is customer self-reporting surveys. Last thing I saw that was close was printer ink cartridge volumes. Pfft.

    They are unbiased and don’t accept advertising and have a good reputation. NONE of that goes to their competence or accuracy.

  64. Bobg says:

    Am I the only one that thinks that it is wrong that not one of our American manufacturers thinks enough of their reputation to be in the top ten?

  65. dandd says:

    @swalve: “I was in a Honda dealership over the weekend, and while the cars seemed solid, the body panels were really flimsy and the build quality seemed low.”

    As compared to what?

  66. Orv says:

    @annap: That’s the big 2.5. Chrysler is now mostly owned by the Germans.

  67. friendlynerd says:

    @Orv:

    Not anymore. They couldn’t make Chrysler work either and sold it to Cerberus, a US based firm.