DEERFIELD, Ill. — Thirty-six vehicles and 13 companion models received Best Buy ratings from Consumers Digest out of some-240 total 2008 models. The ratings, published in CD's December issue , span 10 categories: Small Cars, Family Cars, Luxury Cars, Sporty Cars, Trucks, Vans, Compact SUVs, Midsize SUVs, Full-Size/Luxury SUVs and Hybrids. The Best Buys — based on behind-the-wheel testing, safety ratings, ownership costs, warranty, price, comfort, ergonomics, styling and amenities — reflect CD's assessment of which 2008 vehicles offer the most value for the money.
Six "Small Cars" received Best Buys: Dodge Caliber, Honda Civic, Honda Fit, Jeep Compass, Nissan Versa and Scion xB.
Eight "Family Car" Best Buys are: Ford Fusion, Ford Taurus, Honda Accord, Lincoln MKZ, Mercury Milan, Mercury Sable, Saturn Aura and Toyota Camry/Camry Solara.
Four "Luxury Cars" received Best Buys: Acura TL, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G35 and Lexus LS 460.
Six "Sporty Cars" Best Buys are: BMW 3-Series, Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Mustang, MINI Cooper, Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.
Four "Trucks" and five "Vans" earned Best Buys. Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra and Toyota Tundra are the top pickups, and Chrysler's Town & Country, Dodge's Grand Caravan, Honda's Odyssey, Hyundai's Entourage and Kia's Sedona are the best van values.
Three compact SUV Best Buys include: Honda CR-V, Jeep Wrangler and Toyota RAV4. Five midsize SUV Best Buys include: Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, Mazda CX-7, Saturn Outlook and Saturn VUE. Full-size/luxury SUV Best Buys include: Acura MDX, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Mercedes-Benz M-Class.
Four hybrid vehicles rose to the top to earn CD Best Buys: Ford Escape Hybrid, Mazda Tribute Hybrid, Mercury Mariner Hybrid and Toyota Prius.
"'Value,' as we see it, is based on purchase price and ownership costs relative to quality, performance and subjective factors like comfort and design," says Randy Weber, CD's publisher.
Performance characteristics evaluated comprise starting and acceleration, shifting, steering, handling, braking, ride quality and fuel economy.
In contrast to the magazine's tradition of combining compact and midsize SUV segments, this year the two categories were split. Rich Dzierwa, CD's editor, explains that the decision was based on expansion of crossover SUVs. "Consumers gravitated toward the combination of car-like ride and SUV utility that crossovers bring to the table. Not surprisingly, manufacturers reacted quickly to grow this component of their vehicle line up."
The Consumers Digest Best Buy rating was also applied to hybrid autos for the first time. "In the past, we didn't rate hybrids due to a minimal number of entries," Dzierwa says. "But today there are 13 true hybrids coming off auto makers' production lines. We still would remind consumers that a hybrid carries a price of some $2,000 more than a conventional version of the same vehicle and that it could take six or seven years or more to recoup the difference in sticker prices based on gas savings."