Consumer Reports Picks Toyota Prius as Best Value

Consumer Reports magazine said the 2009 Toyota Prius Touring edition offers the best value for a new car.

The magazine's April edition, which goes on sale Tuesday, released results Thursday of its best cars of 2009.

Typically, the magazine offers a list of "top picks" in various car and light truck category, but given sagging consumer confidence during a recession, it added a "best car value" rating.

The ranking takes into account the total cost of ownership over five years, and weighs fuel costs, maintenance and repairs, insurance costs, depreciation, financing rates and taxes against the price and reliability of the vehicle.

"We're in a time where people are not buying the latest gizmo, they're looking for a more practical car," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' auto test division. "Buyers are much more savvy. They're forgoing what they want for what they need."

Foreign automakers filled out all five best value categories — small car, family car, hatchbacks and wagons, small SUVs and midsize SUVs.

Champion said some Detroit automakers, such as Ford Motor Co. are making gains toward greater reliability, but are weighed down by older truck models.

"GM has done a lot on making some excellent vehicles, but unfortunately their reliability is very inconsistent, and that makes them much less desirable," he said. "Chrysler is in very sad shape, it missed the mark with a number of its new vehicles in terms of how they perform."

Consumer Reports still listed their "top picks" for 2009, which focus on reliability and road and crash test results. The Chevrolet Avalanche, the only domestic vehicle to make that list, was named the top pickup truck. The Hyundai Elantra SE, was the best small sedan, and the Honda Accord, the best family sedan.

The issue will also focus on used cars and offer maintenance tips as consumers opt to put off a new car purchase.

Reliability rankings are based on a survey of Consumer Reports subscribers who are asked if they have had serious problems with their vehicles in the past 12 months. Subscribers rated their experience on a total of 1.4 million vehicles.

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