Employing complex scientific formulas and methodologies probably best described as "Whatever we felt like choosing," Automobile has named its All-Stars for the 2013 model year. The 11 vehicles earned their trophies for being "the best and most significant" offerings to the mag's staff and contributors, and while we were surprised to see a couple of them on the list, none of them were shocking. In no particular order, they are:
Random notes: The least expensive vehicle on the list was the Ford Focus at $16,995 however, it was the $24,495 Focus ST that was actually driven; the least expensive vehicle as-tested, when such indication was given, was the $28,265 BRZ; the most expensive vehicle as-tested was the $75,615 Porsche Boxster S, hurdling the price of the A7 by nearly $4,000; the greatest disparity between base and as-tested price was the Ram, from the $24,395 skin-and-bones truck to the $54,335 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab; the GTI was viewed through the history of its birthplace, Wolfsburg.
There you have it. Head on over to Automobile for the full story and the adventures they created to test each winner.
Small SUVs are one of the hottest vehicle categories. Their good fuel economy, easy access, all-weather traction, and plenty of passenger and cargo space make them an appealing choice for many car buyers. In this crowded segment, it can be challenging for consumers to determine which one is best to buy. That's where we come in.
Most automakers offer a small SUV in their lineup, but the list below focuses on popular models priced between $20,000 and $30,000. All score high enough to earn a Consumer Reports Recommendation, although not all have proven their reliability to be worthy of the accolade.
The list is organized in rank order of overall test score. While we cover the highlights here, it is well worth visiting their respective model pages to read the detailed road test and review the complete ratings.
Check out our SUV buying guide for quick access to the latest advice, Ratings, road tests, and videos.
Subaru Forester: The straight-A student
The 2014 redesign brings many changes that helps the Forester go to the top of the class, leaving its competition far behind. Improvements include class-leading fuel economy at 26 mpg overall and 35 mpg highway, a standard backup camera, excellent visibility, a roomy interior, and very easy access. In addition, the Forester is the only small SUV to receive a Good score in all five Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests. It isn't perfect, however. The ride is a bit jittery, and the infotainment system feels antiquated.
Honda CR-V: Easy-going and sensible
Buyers prizing reliability and space will appreciate the CR-V. A flexible and roomy cabin provides plenty of storage and cargo space. The engine is smooth, but fuel economy is falling a bit behind the curve, thanks to Mazda and Subaru. Handling is responsive but emergency handling is less competent. Road noise is excessive. A standard backup camera is welcome, especially as rearward visibility is challenged. Mazda CX-5: Aimed at fuel-frugal fun-seekers
Combining quick acceleration, impressive fuel economy, and agile handling seems like a tall order, but the CX-5 manages this feat. The new 184-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine feels more muscular and provides much quicker acceleration than the previous-generation powerplant, now relegated to the base Sport trim. Plus, the CX-5 got the same impressive fuel economy—25 mpg overall—with the bigger engine. However, cabin noise is loud and the price is relatively high. A blind-spot monitoring system comes on most trim lines. A sleeper in this class, the CX-5 is good enough that consumers should wake up to its virtues.
Toyota RAV4: A good all-around package
The RAV4 is a safe overall choice, even if it doesn't stand out in any one attribute. Its 2013 redesign made notable improvements, such as removing the awkward side-hinged rear gate and moving the spare tire to under the cargo floor. Handling is now more agile, too. Power and fuel economy are good from the capable four-cylinder engine and slick six-speed automatic. Interior trim gained attractive touches in some places but skimped elsewhere. Still, rear-seat room is generous, access is super easy, controls are mostly intuitive, and a backup camera is standard.
Ford Escape: Sophisticated and athletic, at a price
Many small SUVs tend to be loud and stiff riding. But the redesigned Escape is solid, sophisticated, and athletic. Highlights agile handling and an impressively supple and composed ride, plus its cabin is one of the quietest in the class. However, there are a few shortcomings, including controls that are needlessly complicated, such as the optional MyFord Touch infotainment system. You need to pay a lot to get a model with the optional rear camera. Plus, we don't have reliability information yet. Consider the Escape to be the model reaching for the luxury class, both in refinement and price.
Nissan Rogue: Starting to feel old
Compared to the other models on this list, the Rogue is one of the oldest small SUVs available; a redesign is imminent. Handling is responsive and the ride is supple. The 170-hp engine is raspy at high revs, and fuel economy isn't keeping up with newer competitors. The cargo area is small and rear visibility is poor. We expect a redesign to bring similar improvements as seen on other freshened models, such as a standard backup camera and improved fuel economy to make it more competitive. Kia Sportage: Sporty and reliable, but less practical
With appealing styling and nimble handling, the Sportage adds some sport to the small SUV segment. But the styling makes for difficult rear visibility. You also sacrifice refinement for sportiness, with a stiff ride and pronounced road noise. Performance is leisurely, unless you get the optional turbocharged engine, and fuel economy is falling behind newer competition. On the plus side, the Sportage has been very reliable.
Hyundai Tucson: Styling stands out, but little else
Unlike many of its boxy rivals, the Tucson's more coupe-like styling catches the eye. But the sloping roof robs cargo space and inhibits the view to the rear. Overall, facing freshened competition, the Tucson proves forgettable. Buyers seem to agree, as owner satisfaction is below average. Handling is secure but uninspiring, and the ride is stiff. Road noise is pronounced, making the Tucson feel insubstantial.
On paper, many of the small SUVs look the same, with similar size, features, and power. Through the road tests, we're able to discern meaningful differences. Continue your research in our SUV buying guide and model pages, then test drive the standouts yourself and see if their personality is a good fit with yours.
Playing a game of Frisbee is rarely about power - it's more about agility, precision and open-air enjoyment. Much the same can be said of the Mazda MX-5 Miata, whose charm has always originated more from its finesse and tactility rather than brute strength and outright speed, qualities the evergreen roadster has traditionally lacked.
So consider it a fine match that Mazda has taken a couple of its popular convertibles out with a handful of crack Frisbee players and put them on a closed circuit in Surrey, England for a stylish game of catch. It's a simple recipe for entertainment - check out the video by scrolling below.
The life of a car guy isn’t always easy or as satisfying as one might think. Most of you know what I mean. You spend your free time reading, thinking about cars, taking care of your own car-just Something associated with cars. And if you keep this up long enough, your family, neighbors, and co-workers are bound to catch on to your curious affliction. You know what happens next-they are going to ask your opinion of what car they should buy. And in North America, every year hundreds of thousands of car guys are asked that same question, yet almost no one ever follows our advice. While I do not have concrete proof to back this up, something tells me that if these people were taking the advice of car guys, the Mazda6 would surely be selling in greater numbers than they do.
So, what’s going on here? Your neighbor Joe leans over the fence, and tells you he’s looking for a nice, mid-size family car, and what do you recommend?. You pause for a moment, think, and respond, as a car guy, recommend the Mazda6. And you roll off what you’ve read in the car magazines, that it is engaging, fun to drive, offers crisp handling and steering. Meanwhile, Joe’s eyes are glazing over, and he doesn’t hear a word you’re saying, because in reality Joe already made up his mind. He’s buying a Toyota Camry, he just wanted approval from the neighborhood car guy. Joe may as well have asked where he should go for Italian for dinner. You tell him about the small Italian restaurant downtown, where the chef makes the pasta fresh everyday, buys farm fresh produce, and then he goes to eat at Olive Garden.
Such has been the maddening problem with the Mazda6, held as one of the most respected mid-size cars available from the auto enthusiast community, yet one that is constantly overlooked by the general buying public. And Mazda has been struggling to find the right answer. While past 6′s have been praised for their handling and fun to drive capabilities, some critics blamed the 6 as being a size too small to go toe to toe with the Accord and Camry. In its 2009 redesign, the last generation 6 grew up in size, yet the sales figures just were not there. I even heard from a Mazda rep that sales of the last 6 never met what the company thought they could sell.
With the all-new Mazda6, you get the feeling Mazda took a step back and figured they couldn’t beat Honda and Toyota by imitation. Instead, they have gone the opposite direction-build on the virtues of the 6 and upon its reputation, and see what that brings. Mazda’s smaller role in the mid-size car business actually works to its benefit, in that style-wise, Mazda can take far more risks without the fear of offending long-time customers. And let’s face it, if Mazda buyers expect a fun to drive car, it should be exciting to look at as well. Even on our base model test car finished in a somber Meteor Gray, there is no way you can miss the deep-dish front spoiler, pronounced grill opening flanked with aggressive-looking headlights that taper back to flowing fender lines for a much softer, elegant look than the front end suggests. Taken as such, the Mazda6 may sound like a disjointed design, but in person, it all blends very well. Style is subjective, but in my opinion, the Mazda6 sits at the top of its class, alongside the Kia Optima and Ford Fusion.
Step inside the Mazda6 and its position as the driver’s car of mid-size sedans is confirmed. Slip into the bucket seat and it is immediately clear that Mazda understands that a driver’s car is all about creating an environment that is driver-centric. It sounds simple enough, but in some mid-size sedans you get the sense the driver is just a passenger with the seat with the steering wheel in front of him. Not here. All controls are clear, easy to use, and within short reach. The meaty, just-right sized steering is a pleasure to hold, and would be at home in any German sport sedan. The same can be said of the beautifully executed gauge cluster. Our base Mazda6 may have been low on frills, but provided a distraction-free driving environment. No, there are not four dozen cupholders, or stowage space for six smartphones, tablets and game consoles, but this isn’t a minivan. That said, the Mazda has a roomy cabin with plenty of room for the family.
Presently, the only engine available in the Mazda6 is a new 2.5L four cylinder, rated at 184hp. Our base model test car featured a delightful six-speed manual. A six-speed automatic is an option, but in higher trim levels the automatic is your only choice. Interestingly, in Canada the manual is available on all trim levels. The 6 has always been known as a car with decent pep, and the new car is no different. However, when it came to gas mileage, the 6 always fell short of the competition-a major no-no when fuel consumption ranks fairly high on most shopper’s list of priorities. Mazda has finally addressed the issue with its SkyActiv technology, and the proof is in the numbers. EPA fuel economy estimates are 25/37 MPG city and highway, respectively, which is an impressive figure. While the powerful but thirsty V-6 is no longer on the menu, Mazda plans to add a 2.2L turbo diesel to North America. Until now, Volkswagen has been the sole provider of diesel powered family cars here, and the addition of a diesel Mazda6 should be interesting.
In North America the Mazda6 is available only as a four door sedan, while foreign markets continue to offer the 6 as a wagon. Trim levels in the US start with the base Sport, Touring, and top-spec Grand Touring. Standard equipment on our Mazda6 Sport included 17″ alloys, dual exhaust, LED taillights, six-speaker audio with USB port, and remote keyless entry. In other words, a pretty basic car, but very attractively priced at $21,675USD, including delivery. Of course, features most purveyors of family cars desire like satellite radio, navigation, and other luxury goods are available on higher trim levels. Yet I took delight in the simplicity of our Mazda6, and marveled that such a well-composed, enjoyable car with this much usable space could be had at this price. Short on content, maybe, but at no time did I ever feel I was driving a cheap car. The high standard of quality and driving pleasure make the Mazda6 Sport an outrageous bargain.
And to all the car guys out there, I sympathize. You passionately tell your neighbor Joe this is the family sedan he wants, for all the reasons we’ve just shared. And without fail, he shows up the next day, proud of his new Toyota Camry. You politely decline his offer of dinner at Olive Garden, instead opting for the small Italian restaurant in town. And you take the long way home. The reality of the mid-size car war is the Accord/Camry/Altima is they constantly try to appeal to as many people as possible, yet live in terminal fear of offending anyone. The result are near perfect cars that offer practically nothing in terms of personality, or character, the very thing that draws us to cars. The new Mazda6 is a success because Mazda realized they weren’t going to build a Camry killer, but more importantly, is that they didn’t want to.
Memorial Day is fast approaching and that means millions of Americans will be hitting the road for a family trip. The roads will be crowded and you should expect lines at gas stations. A car bred for long-haul driving, with bladder-bursting range, can give a distinct advantage, especially on cross-country journeys. To aid travelers, we have compiled a list of the best road-trip friendly cars that can go the distance.
If you are in the market for a new car or looking to rent one for travel, these best-fuel economy vehicles with their lengthy cruising ranges will help you reduce stops for fill ups.
For the summer travel season, regular gasoline retail prices are projected to average $3.63 per gallon with it peaking in May at $3.69 per gallon and ending at $3.57 in September. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects prices to average $3.56 per gallon in 2013 compared with $3.63 in 2012, so there is some relief, but gas will continue to be a big part of the travel budget. Choosing a fuel-efficient model can provide dividends for years to come, no matter how gas prices fluctuate.
The list below highlights the top three vehicles in a variety of categories that have the longest cruising range. Be aware, however, that not all cars that can go the distance have the best mileage. For example, in the large car category, the V6-powered Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger only get 22 miles per gallon overall and 32 highway in our tests, even though their range is over 420 miles. The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque has a range of 385, but it only gets 21 mpg overall and 29 mpg highway.
The vehicles that can travel far and return the best fuel economy are hybrids and diesels. The Volkswagen Passat TDI and Golf TDI have a 690- and 545-mile cruising range, respectively, with highway mileage around 50 mpg. The Toyota Camry Hybrid has a range of 650 and returns 43 mpg on the highway.
There's no question that hybrids and diesels are the fuel economy champs. However, they often cost more to buy. To save money, consider going for a simple four-cylinder model. For example, the Mazda6 returns 32 mpg on the highway, as well as having an impressive 525-mile cruising range. The four-cylinder Nissan Altima got 44 mpg on the highway in our tests and can go 560 miles between fill ups. Another worthy candidate is the four-cylinder Honda Accord- 40 mpg highway and a 510-mile cruising range.
All those cars free you from a fill up for quite a while!
Plenty of other vehicles have great gas mileage in our list of best cars for fuel economy, but small cars are limited by small tanks, even though many get over 40 mpg.
Buying a vehicle with good fuel economy is one way to save money, but also make sure the vehicle performs well in our tests and is reliable. You don't want the savings in fuel to go to repairs. For more on saving fuel and alternative fuel vehicles, see our special sections. Also, check out our summer road travel guide to help you prepare for your next driving vacation.
The redesigned Subaru Forester is the only small SUV out of 13 tested to earn a top score of Good in the new small overlap crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Both the Forester and the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, which received an Acceptable score, earn the Institute's Top Safety Pick+ award.
For this test, vehicles careen into a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph, replicating the impact with a tree or pole. The simulated crash involves just 25 percent of the width of the vehicle, concentrating the force on the driver-side front corner. (To learn more about crash tests, read our primer "Crash test 101.")
Visit our SUV buying guide for quick access to the latest advice, Ratings, road tests, and videos.
To reward good performers, the IIHS added a "+" to their coveted Top Safety Pick award for those models that earn a Good or Acceptable in this rigorous test. To qualify for a Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must earn Good ratings in at least four out of five of their tests, which include the moderate front overlap crash, side impact, rollover, and evaluations of how well seat and head restraints protect occupants from neck injuries in rear impacts. Plus, the car has to earn no less than an Acceptable in the small front overlap crash test. (Watch previous crash tests.)
Nine of the 13 SUVs tested earn the Top Safety Pick award (without the +) by receiving good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear tests, regardless of their ratings in the small overlap front test. They include the BMW X1, Buick Encore, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan, and the 2014 Patriot.
One notable small SUV missing from the list is the 2013 Toyota RAV4. It earns the Top Safety Pick award, but the Institute didn't run it through the small overlap test yet because Toyota asked for a delay so they could make changes to the RAV4 to improve performance.