Forget about the presidential primaries. Another big contest has taken place—the People's Picks. With this contest, the debate is virtual and the results are clear. The people have cast their votes with mouseclicks, indicating the most popular cars so far this year on ConsumerReports.org.
Several models dominate the traffic to the ConsumerReports.org car model pages: the Subaru Forester (shown above), Toyota Highlander, Subaru Outback, Toyota RAV4, and Honda CR-V. Each of these models has garnered significantly more page views than all other models. And for good reason.
These excellent vehicles shine in our tests and surveys, as well as crash tests. Leading the trend demonstrated throughout the list, these People’s Picks are all competitively priced, mainstream models that offer advanced safety features. Clearly, our site visitors are being smart about researching their next new car—and following our guidance.
Further, these 10 most popular cars on ConsumerReports.org are all recommended models, meaning they did well in our road tests, have average or better predicted reliability, and performed adequately, if included in government or insurance-industry crash tests.
Plus, all 10 people’s picks earn 2016 Top Safety Pick accolades from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And nine of these vehicles claim IIHS' Top Safety Pick Plus designation, meaning they earned good ratings in five crashworthiness tests, as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.
When it comes to luxury-brand models, the leaders are the Lexus RX (#13), Acura MDX (#17), and Audi Q5 (#26)—again models that earn a Consumer Reports recommendation.
So if you’re looking for a leg up in researching your next new car, consider these shrewd choices. They're presented here in order of popularity.
Small SUVs don't get more practical than the Ratings-topping Forester. Its positives include large windows, big doors, an excellent driving position, and unusually spacious rear seating. In our tests, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and CVT averaged a near-class-leading 26 mpg overall. The ride is supple and handling is very secure, though not sporty. Engine noise is pronounced at times. Controls are very simple, and the infotainment and connectivity systems have finally been updated with an easy-to-use touch screen. Midtrim Foresters bring a lot of content for the money. The optional X-Mode gives the car some off-road ability. A backup camera is standard. The optional EyeSight system includes lane-departure warning and front-collision warning.
Read our complete Subaru Forester road test.
The midsized Highlander SUV handles responsively, the ride is steady and absorbent, and interior space is generous. A wide third row allows seating for eight, or seven with optional second-row captain's chairs. The smooth and punchy 3.5-liter V6 is matched to a six-speed automatic. The Hybrid version uses a continuously variable transmission mated to the V6, and adds a hybrid battery pack and three electric motors. In our tests, the all-wheel-drive V6 averaged 20 mpg overall; the Hybrid version got 25 mpg. It's a long reach to some controls, particularly the standard 6.1-inch touch screen. The Entune system includes a larger 8-inch screen. A backup camera is now standard across the line.
Read our complete Toyota Highlander road test.
This Outback wagon is roomy, refined, and utterly devoid of flash. It rides very comfortably, with secure handling. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder returns 24 mpg overall, and the unobtrusive continuously variable transmission operates more like a conventional automatic. Opting for the 3.6-liter six-cylinder makes the car quicker and quieter but gives up 2 mpg. The controls are all easy-to-use, including the touch-screen infotainment system. A rear camera is standard. Optional advanced safety gear includes blind-spot monitoring and Subaru's EyeSight safety suite, which adds forward-collision warning with automatic braking. Crash-test results are impressive.
Read our complete Subaru Outback road test.
The RAV4 uses an energetic 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a smooth six-speed automatic, which returned 24 mpg overall in our tests of an AWD version. Handling is quite nimble and very secure. The ride is compliant and controlled. Inside, the controls are clear and intuitive, and fit and finish is decent. The XLE is a good value with the automatic climate control, sunroof, and power rear tailgate, but the seats lack adjustable lumbar support unless you step up to the Limited trim, which included faux leather and power-adjustable lumbar. Access is very easy, and the rear seat is roomy. A rearview camera is standard. A freshening for 2016 brought improvements, including better noise isolation, as well as a new hybrid version.
Read our complete Toyota RAV4 road test.
The CR-V is one of the roomiest, most functional small SUVs. The 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder and CVT returned 24 mpg overall in our tests. All but the base LX version use a distracting, difficult-to-use, and frustrating infotainment system. Handling is responsive and secure, but the ride is stiff, with bumps coming through in a pronounced way. The interior is somewhat quieter than before, but overall the CR-V is still loud inside. The rear seats are roomy, and folding them is a breeze. Small rear windows hurt the view out back, but the standard rearview camera helps. Reliability has been average of late. Active safety features such as forward-collision warning are only available on the top Touring trim.
Read our complete Honda CR-V road test.
If you're looking for smooth, dependable transportation that skews toward comfort and convenience, the Camry delivers what you need. Interior appointments have been upgraded and center dashboard controls simplified. Suspension changes made the already comfortable ride steadier, and further isolated noise. Handling is sound and secure. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder delivers ample, unobtrusive power and returned a competitive 28 mpg overall in our tests. The available 3.5-liter V6 is punchy yet still got a very good 26 mpg overall, while the Hybrid gets an amazing 38 mpg overall. The long history of solid reliability and owner satisfaction scores is another asset.
Read our complete Toyota Camry road test.
The Accord is well equipped and competitively priced, and performs well, making it one of our top-rated family sedans. It handles responsively, though the ride can be choppy. It has a roomy, well-finished interior, and gets 30 mpg overall with its mostly unobtrusive continuously variable transmission. The 3.5-liter V6 is lively and refined, and gets a very good 26 mpg overall. EX, EX-L, and Touring trims have an unintuitive-to-use infotainment system. The Hybrid model returned 40 mpg overall but is on a hiatus for 2016; Honda has promised to bring it back with an updated powertrain in 2017. The plug-in version has been discontinued.
Read our complete Honda Accord road test.
Spry and fuel efficient, Mazda's mainstay small SUV competes well in this crowded segment. Agile handling, combined with plentiful power from the 2.5-liter, 184-hp four-cylinder, makes it fun to drive; a less powerful 2.0-liter four comes only with FWD and a manual transmission. Updates for 2016 brought slightly improved ride comfort and interior noise but added a more complex rotary dial-controlled infotainment system that takes some time to master. Cabin and cargo space are plentiful, and driver visibility is good, aided by standard blind-spot monitoring on higher trims. The Grand Touring trim offers forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
Read our complete Mazda CX-5 road test.
A 2016 Top Pick, this midsized SUV is functional and refined, and its wide price range makes it an alternative to small and midsized SUVs. Three engines are available: the base 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder; a 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four; and the smooth and quiet 290-hp, 3.3-liter V6. All use a six-speed automatic. The cabin is quiet, and the ride is comfortable and composed. Handling is responsive and secure. Supportive seats and simple controls help make the Sorento easy to live with. Available safety gear includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a surround-view monitor. Good crash-test results are a plus.
Read our complete Kia Sorento road test.
Redesigned for 2016, the Civic has been significantly improved, and is now a more substantial, refined, and capable car than the previous model. The base engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder; a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder comes on EX-T and Touring versions. The continuously variable transmission works well with the turbo. The ride is more comfortable, handling is precise, and the quieter interior has a lot more storage space. However, the car's low stance means difficulty getting in and out. In addition, the front seats lack adjustable lumbar, which could cause discomfort on a long drive. Advanced safety features are available, but a full blind-spot monitoring system is not offered. EX trims and above have a complicated radio.
Read our complete Honda Civic road test.
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