Personal Finance

Toyota Prius liftback tops Consumer Reports’ best-buy list

For the second consecutive year, the Toyota Prius liftback topped Consumer Reports’ annual list of vehicles giving buyers the best bang for their automotive buck. The hulking Nissan Armada SUV won the prize for the worst value.

Consumer Reports said the Prius had the best combination of reliability, resale value, fuel economy and driving performance of the cars measured by the magazine.

The five-year ownership cost of the hybrid amounts to 47 cents per mile. The Armada, by comparison, will set its owner back $1.20 a mile. It gets only 13 mpg overall and scored poorly in Consumer Reports’ annual reliability survey.

“The Prius’ 44 mpg overall is the best fuel economy of any non-plug-in car that Consumer Reports has tested,” said Consumer Reports Automotive Editor Rik Paul. “Though it’s not particularly cheap to buy, the Prius’ depreciation is so low that it costs less to own over the first five years” than its manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

Indeed, inexpensive cars didn’t always fare well in the Consumer Reports assessment.

“Just because a car is cheap to buy doesn’t mean it’s a good value. The Nissan Versa Sedan, for example, is one of the least expensive cars that Consumer Reports has tested,” Paul said. “For about $1,500 more, we’d go with a Honda Fit, which is fun to drive, cheaper to own, more reliable, and provides almost twice the value.”

The Fit scored second to the Prius in the magazine’s compact/subcompact car category. The Versa scored near the bottom of the pack. The Volkswagen Beetle with the 2.5-liter engine scored the lowest.

Top to bottom

Here are the best and worst values in each category, according to Consumer Reports. Analysts said the last two groupings were odd — “apples and bananas,” one critic said. The magazine conceded not all vehicles in its luxury/large SUV and pickup groups were comparable, but it wanted to condense categories.

Compact/subcompact: Toyota Prius; VW Beetle, 2.5-liter engine

Large cars: Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited; Ford Taurus Limited

Luxury cars: Lexus ES 300h hybrid; BMW 750Li

Sports cars: Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring; Chevrolet Camaro convertible 2SS, V-8 engine

Wagons’minivans: Mazda5 Grand Touring; Chrysler’s Town Country Touring-L

Small SUVs: Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium; Ford Escape SE, 1.6-liter, turbocharged

Midsized SUVs: Nissan’s Murano SL; Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara

Luxury/large SUV: BMW X1 xDrive28i; Nissan Armada Platinum

Pickups: Honda Ridgeline RTS; Ford F-250 Lariat with 6.7-liter V-8