YONKERS, NY— Despite the influx of new vehicles into the small- and budget-car marketplace, Consumer Reports said the Honda Fit remains on top in its list of best-value small cars. The Fit also reemerged as the best overall value among some 200 different vehicles that were analyzed.
“A low price doesn’t necessarily make a car a good value,” said Rik Paul, automotive editor at Consumer Reports. “A cheap vehicle can wind up costing you more money over time or can be disappointing down the road. We think real value is what you get for your money.”
Consumer Reports mined its performance, reliability, and ownership cost data to calculate value scores for some 200 different vehicles, ranging from small cars to luxury sedans. Scores were calculated based on the five-year owner cost for each vehicle along with Consumer Reports’ road-test score and the organization’s own predicted-reliability.
Of the 48 best values in the lists, 34 are from Japanese brands. Six models came from European brands (mostly Volkswagen), five came from American brands (mostly Ford) and three came from South Korean brands.
Overall, the report found that small cars and family sedans provide the best value. And in addition to the Honda Fit, the Toyota Prius hybrid, diesel-powered Golf TDI (with manual transmission), Scion xD and Toyota Corolla also made Consumer Reports’ list of best values in the small car category. Most scored at least twice as high as the average model and higher than any other model in the analysis. Even the lowest scoring small car, the Chevrolet Cruze, is close to average in overall value.
The family-sedans category was led by the four-cylinder Nissan Altima, which scored 75 percent higher than average, followed by the four-cylinder Kia Optima, the Subaru Legacy, the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the four-cylinder Honda Accord. Again, even the lowest-rated family sedans had value scores that were slightly better than average.
Larger and luxury vehicles were among the worst values overall. The best large and midsized SUVs tended to earn about the same value score as the lowest-ranked family sedans. Large or luxury sedans and SUVs usually score at only about 70 percent of the average.
There were exceptions, such as the top-scoring upscale sedan, the Lexus ES 350. It earned a value score almost one and a half times the average. Its cost per mile is a relatively high 77 cents, however, and its five-year owner cost is $11,000 more than the Nissan Altima’s. That dropped its value score slightly below the Nissan, according to Consumer Reports.
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 was the top scorer, offering almost 70 percent more value than the average car. Also listed as good choices were the Mazda5 microvan and Subaru Outback, with almost one and a half times that of the average value, according to Consumer Reports.
The top small SUVs are even better values than wagons, as the four-cylinder Toyota RAV4 and the Subaru Forester led the class with scores that were 84 and 70 percent better than average. Midsized SUVs represented less of a bargain because of their higher purchase prices and fuel costs, according to the analysis. 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.
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, according to Consumer Reports. But as a class, subpar reliability drags the category down. Even the most reliable minivan, the front-wheel drive versions of the Toyota Sienna, has only average reliability. As a result, they also are the only minivans that earned a better-than-average value score.
Consumer Reports 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 is at least one and a half times that of the average model. They also cost, on average, about 65 cents per mile to drive over the first five years.
For more information, visit www.consumerreports.org.
Best Value Small Car: Honda Fit
Worst Value Small Car: Chevrolet Cruze 1LT
Best Value Upscale & Luxury Sedan: Lexus ES 350
Worst Value Upscale & Luxury Sedan: Jaguar XJL
Best Value Small SUV: Toyota RAV4 (base, 4-cyl.)
Worst Value Small SUV: Jeep Liberty Sport
Best Value Midsized SUV: Toyota Highlander Limited (V6)
Worst Value Midsized SUV: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara