On another bad day for Toyota, the carmaker got a little good news Tuesday as the prestigious Consumer Reports magazine named the Prius a top value despite the brake recall and named Toyota's Lexus LS the best vehicle, period.
But the consumer magazine is recommending fewer Toyotas in its annual auto issue, released Tuesday, because of last month's temporary sales suspension of eight models being recalled for sticky accelerators - not including the Prius and LS.
As Toyota executives were being grilled at hearings about recalls of 8 million vehicles and investigations of others, Consumer Reports editors named the Prius and the Honda Fit "new-car best values," among more than 280 cars evaluated, based on "performance, utility and reliability for the money."
Other cars named as best values were the Hyundai Elantra wagon and Santa Fe, Subaru Forester, Honda's Acura TSX, Nissan's Infiniti M35 and BMW's Mini Cooper. A separate list of "top picks" also included the Chevrolet Traverse and Silverado, Mazda5, Nissan Altima, Volkswagen GTI and Infiniti G37.
Auto editor Rik Paul said the Prius was included based on the magazine's own testing, low ownership costs and positive feedback from Prius owners who are among the 1.4 million drivers who respond to the magazine's annual survey of reader experiences with their cars. "The recommended designation isn't affected by just a plain recall," he said. Toyota recalled 437,000 Priuses worldwide.
The magazine, published by Yonkers-based Consumers Union, sells 4 million copies of its print edition, so its recommendations are closely watched by carmakers and consumers.
Paul said one factor in the Chryslers' poor scores was low resale values indirectly related to Chrysler's financial troubles.
"Depreciation in value is the biggest factor in owner costs," he said. He noted that Chrysler vehicles also have tended to score below average in reliability in the reader survey and to do poorly in the magazine's own tests. The company's 2010 Dodge Ram pickup truck is, however, a Consumer Reports "recommended" model.
In a statement, Chrysler called the reliability ratings outdated and said its internal audits found most of its cars at or better than average and improving.
Paul said the Mercedes lost points for high fuel consumption and depreciation, while the Aveo scored poorly in reliability and in the magazine's testing.
Consumer Reports' choices
for best and worst 2010 cars
Family Cars. Toyota Prius IV
Hyundai Elantra Touring
Subaru Forester 2.5x
Midsized SUVs. Hyundai Santa Fe Limited
Upscale Sedans. Acura TSX (4-cylinder)
Luxury Sedans. Infiniti M35 (RWD)
Sporty Cars. Mini Cooper
Small Car. Chevrolet Aveo5 1LT
Family Cars. Dodge Avenger R/T (3.5, V6)
Wagons/Minivans. Dodge Grand Caravan SXT (3.8)
Small SUVs. Dodge Nitro SLT (3.7)
Upscale Sedans. Dodge Charger R/T (V8)
Luxury Sedans. Mercedes-Benz S550
Sporty Cars. Chrysler Sebring Convertible Ltd.