Every year, Consumer Reports created its Top Picks list for the year that includes the best of every vehicle they’ve rated. But this year, I got to hear the picks straight from the horse’s mouth. You want to know the best car for 2017? Read on.
Not only am I going to share them, but I’m going to tell you why they matter.
Does everyone get an award?
If you’re like me, you watch every single car commercial and listen to their accolades. Here’s just one example.
Who is J.D. Power and why does he give awards?
What does “Initial Quality” really mean?
Isn’t that the same award that Kia told they won?
Let me sum it up for you quickly.
J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services company that conducts surveys of customer satisfaction, product quality, and buyer behavior for multiple industries, including automotive.
Initial Quality refers to an assessment of owner-reported issues in first 90 days including: how things actually work and how easy things are to understand/execute.
The rankings are based on individual car models in multiple categories so it is possible for everyone (metaphorically speaking) to get a trophy.
While researching, I came across a great article that explains it all and suggests that automakers pay for the findings and pay again if they want to actually use the findings in any of their public accolades.
Wow. I really should have stuck with marketing and PR.
How Consumer Reports picks the best cars for 2017
On the other hand, a nonprofit organization like Consumer Reports uses consumer feedback as just one small part of how they not only rank and rate carmakers. They actually issue a report card for cars by category and then assess what they consider to be the Top Picks for 2017.
And I got to be in the room where it happened.
Jake Fisher, the Auto Test Director at Consumer Reports, presented their findings to the Washington Auto Press Association on Tuesday and definitely got the room talking.
First and foremost, Consumer Reports never accepts a vehicle from an automaker. They are committed to buying (yes, buying) all of their test vehicles the same way you or I would. And they don’t buy the top of the line. The buy the trim of a particular model that leads in sales volume.
In other words, if everyone buys a stripped down Honda Accord, that’s what they’ll test. And likewise, if most people get the fully equipped Toyota Highlander, that’s how they’ll test it.
With each vehicle, they look at a few key things:
- Crash-Test Results
- Owner Satisfaction
- Predicted Reliability
- Road-Test Results
- Front Crash Prevention features
And new this year, they’ve added in
- Electronic Shifter Safety (making sure it’s functional, safe, avoids confusion)
After they rate each vehicle in each category, it’s assigned an overall score. The score is what puts it on the top of the list or buries it all the way down at the bottom. (You can get the full breakdown of each vehicle in the April 2017 issue of Consumer Reports, dubbed the 2017 Annual Auto Issue).
The envelope please. (No, I mean the real envelope)
After the scores are tallied, Consumer Reports comes up with their list of Best Brands, based strictly on the overall quality of the car. Keep in mind that price is not a factor so you’ll typically find higher-end brands are able to consistently deliver (hence their higher price tag).
2017 Best Car Brands according to Consumer Reports
- Chrysler (primarily due to the new Pacifica)
- Land Rover
Top Picks for 2017 by Consumer Reports
Disappointed that your favorite brand didn’t crack the top 10? Don’t worry. Almost every brand has at least one standout model and that’s what the Top Picks are all about.
Compact SUV: Subaru Forester
Mid-size SUV: Toyota Highlander
Luxury SUV: Audi Q7
Compact Pickup: Honda Ridgeline
Midsize Sedan: Kia Optima
Large Sedan: Chevrolet Impala
Compact Car: Chevrolet Cruze
Subcompact Car: Toyota Yaris iA
Compact Hybrid: Toyota Prius
Sports Car: Mazda Miata MX-5
Are you scratching your head at some of these? Have specific questions? Ask me and I’ll elaborate as much as I can based on the discussion with Consumer Reports.
And if you’re wondering where things like Fullsize Pickup or Luxury Sedan is? Don’t worry. They’re all included in the Auto Issue but none of them made the standout list for Top Picks.