Honda and Toyota, again.
Consumer Reports has named the Toyota Prius the best overall new-car value from among 300 cars evaluated in its 2009 Annual Auto Issue. And Honda earned CR's top brand rating for the third straight year.
And there was more bad news for Chrysler LLC. It finished at the bottom with "poor performing products" and "sinking reliability results." No Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep vehicle made the magazine's "recommended'' list.
The gasoline-electric hybrid Prius, on the other hand, put in a stunning result, given the complexity of the dual power train. CR said the Prius provides the best overall value because of its comparatively low owner-cost estimate over five years - and a relatively high road-test score of 80 points out of 100.
CR's best values are chosen based on overall road-test scores, five-year owner-cost estimates, and predicted reliability ratings. CR then divides each vehicle's five-year owner cost by its overall road-test score to get the cost of each test-score point. The lower the cost per point, the better the value.
Honda, meanwhile, "builds the best all-around vehicles for American drivers," said CR in its annual auto maker report card that goes on sale Tuesday.
Honda was followed by Subaru, Toyota and Mazda, with four brands tied for fifth place: Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Volkswagen and BMW. Ford and General Motors showed improvement over last year, but CR chided them for not moving more quickly and comprehensively to improve their products.
Of course, not all Japanese-sourced vehicles are excellent. While both Honda and Toyota had starring roles in the '09 CR results, the Honda Element crossover and Toyota Yaris small car failed to win the magazine's "recommended" rating.
Recommended vehicles score well in safety, comfort, performance, reliability and interior craftsmanship.
"Less than a quarter of Consumer Reports recommended vehicles are from U.S. companies, a result of inconsistent reliability and performance," the publication said in a release.
Still, not all Detroit-based models were given poor marks. The made-in-Canada Ford Flex crossover and the F-150 pickup, along with GM's Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac CTS cars "have done well in CR's tests and rank near the top of their classes," the magazine said.
Among the Europeans, Mercedes-Benz "showed the most significant improvement." "Reliability was greatly improved across most of the Mercedes-Benz model line, with 67 per cent of tested vehicles now recommended compared to none in the prior year," said CR in a release.
CR also included two new models among its best-rated SUVs (sport-utility vehicles) and pickups: Toyota Highlander and the Chevrolet Avalanche.
The Highlander dethroned the Hyundai Santa Fe, last year's winner in the midsized SUV category. The improved reliability of the new Chevrolet Avalanche helped it to replace the Chevrolet Silverado as top pickup.