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Once again, Honda tops Consumer Reports' top picks Add to ...

After not making the list last year, Honda garnered the most Top Picks in Consumer Reports’ recently released rankings of which vehicles combined the best reliability, road test scores and crash test ratings.

Honda won for its mid-size Accord, CR-V crossover and Odyssey minivan.

Since the consumer group bases its ratings on vehicles it actually purchases to evaluate at its test centre, with reliability information coming from detailed consumer surveys it collects from owners of these vehicles, it’s not a sample that includes all the latest 2013 models, if that information has not yet been collected, vehicles purchased (even CR can’t afford to buy them all) or tests completed.

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So vehicles such as the redesigned Ford Fusion that came out last year or the revamped Ram 1500 were ineligible. But it is still interesting to note that there were no vehicles from the Detroit Three in the magazine’s Top Picks list, although CR did put out a separate list of “American Top Picks,” which includes one vehicle built exclusively in Canada, the Chrysler 300.

Other official Top Pick winners included the Hyundai Elantra as Budget Car, the Subaru Impreza as the Compact Car choice and Toyota Prius for Green Car winner.

As for the American Top Picks list, it was more convoluted, and certainly a consolation list, as CR published a table that clearly spelled out the “domestic” vehicles that met all Top Pick criteria, as well as vehicles that scored the highest in CR’s testing. This latter group often couldn’t capture even an “American Top Pick” designation because its reliability data was either not yet collected, or reliability was below the industry average.

GM did best by far in scoring the most vehicles that met all these Top Pick criteria: Chevy Sonic LT sedan, Volt plug-in hybrid, Cruze Eco, Traverse and Cadillac CTS were all recognized.

Ford dominated the other side of that table, as it had four products that scored the highest in CR’s tests among its Detroit competition, but the Ford Escape, C-Max and Fusion Hybrid did not yet have reliability info available because they are so new, while the Focus SFE was deemed to have “lousy” reliability in its first year.

All the Top Picks can be found on the public section of CR’s website at consumerreports.org, as well as a brief explanation of why, although you’ll have to pony up to find out how each vehicle scored.

World Car of The Year finalists

The finalists for the World Car of The Year awards were announced at the Geneva motor show, and it’s clear that there’s a lot of love for all versions of the Toyobaru two-door (Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S in North America) as well as the Porsche Boxster and Cayman, which are also entered as one vehicle in multiple categories.

Those vehicles were named finalists not only for the overall World Car of The Year, but also for the World Performance Car award, their other rival in the latter category being the pricier Ferrari F12 Berlinetta.

The WCOTY awards rules caps the price of eligible entries for the overall winner, but not for the Performance Car award, which is how a 30-grand car is up against a 300-grand-plus car.

There are usually three finalists in each category, but this year there are four for the overall award: the rear-wheel-drive Toyota/Subaru coupes, the Porsche Boxster/Cayman mid-engine two-seaters, the Volkswagen Golf and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

For World Green Car, the finalists are Renault Zoe, Tesla Model S and Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid.

Winners in all categories will be announced in late March, just before the public opening of the New York auto show.

A panel of 66 automotive journalists from 22 countries that vote on these vehicles – of which I am one – have driven most or all of these vehicles at media preview events, or from press fleets in their own country. One doesn’t vote for vehicles one hasn’t driven.

There’s no requirement to have driven the World Car Design finalists, however, so every jury member will vote for the Aston Martin Vanquish, Jaguar F-Type or Mazda6 sedan.

Hybrid JX coming by summer

A hybrid version of the current Infiniti JX35 seven-seater will be available in Canada by this summer, and it will be christened the QX60 Hybrid when it’s introduced at the New York auto show this month, Infiniti confirms.

The company predicts the three-row luxury crossover will average 9.05 litres/100 km in combined city and highway driving (most would say 9.1), 24 per cent less than the official numbers of the non-hybrid version.

That QX60 Hybrid will become one of three 2014 hybrids to be available from Nissan’s upscale brand this year: the Q50 Hybrid is a gas-electric version of the upcoming G37 replacement, while the current M Hybrid will become the Q70 Hybrid in Infiniti’s new naming system.

Big BEV discounts from Nissan and Mitsubishi

Both the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV pure battery-electric vehicles have not met sales expectations, but with revised 2013 versions waiting in the wings, both are offering heavy discounts of at least $5,000 on remaining units.

Mitsubishi announced that it will offer $5,000 discounts on its 2012 models until the end of March, as its 2013 models are arriving in dealers now, a Mitsu Canada spokesperson said.

Nissan has been offering at least $5,000 rebates on the Leaf since November, with that amount increased to a $6,000 dealer discount in January, with unofficial word in Leaf web forums that this has increased lately to closer to $7,000. Combine those amounts with any of the big provincial rebate programs, and buyers may be looking at discounts of more than 15 grand, depending on province and vehicle.

Consumers in British Columbia may want to plan their plug-in purchases sooner rather than later, as that province’s $5,000 plug-in rebate expires at the end of March. There has been talk that it might be extended, but as of early this week, that hasn’t been confirmed.

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