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Take a look at Top Picks in 10 vehicle categories

Performance, safety part of key criteria

Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 8:48 am

All-around winners.

That, in essence, is what Consumer Reports’ Top Picks are. Each is an exceptional, well-rounded vehicle, chosen from more than 260 it has recently tested.

They have excelled in the testing, are reliable and have performed well in independent crash tests. In other words, it’s hard to go wrong with any of them.

Top Picks must meet Consumer Reports’ criteria in three areas: test performance, ranking at or near the top of their class in overall test score; reliability, with an average or better reliability Rating based on the problems of subscribers; and safety, performing adequately if included in crash or rollover tests conducted by the government or insurance industry.

Best overall: Tesla Model S. Sure, you can talk about this electric luxury car’s blistering acceleration, razor-sharp handling, compliant ride and versatile cabin, which can fit a small third-row seat. But that just scratches the surface of this technological tour de force.

The Tesla is brimming with innovation. Its massive, easy-to-use 17-inch touch screen controls most functions. And with its totally keyless operation, full Internet access and ultra-quiet, zero-emission driving experience, the Tesla is a glimpse into a future where cars and computers coexist in seamless harmony. $89,650.

Midsized sedan: Honda Accord (four-cylinder). The four-cylinder Accord occupies a true sweet spot in today’s auto market. It’s a roomy, well-equipped and competitively priced sedan that gets a lot right.

The four-cylinder Accord squeezes out an impressive 30 mpg overall and 40 on the highway, which is as good as the tiny Honda Fit subcompact. $23,270.

Compact car: Subaru Impreza. The all-wheel-drive Impreza gives you a lot for its affordable price.

Both sedan and hatchback versions are well-founded packages, with nimble handling and an impressively compliant, absorbent ride that’s among the best in its class. Sedan: $21,345; hatchback: $22,345.

Green car: Toyota Prius. Today’s showrooms have no shortage of hybrids. But none can match the combination of affordability, practicality and fuel efficiency that the Prius delivers. That’s why it has captured Consumer Reports’ Green Car pick for the 11th year in a row. $26,750.

Luxury car: Audi A6. Simply put, the A6 is a joy to drive. Its potent, supercharged V-6 engine and very smooth eight-speed automatic transmission deliver invigorating power. Its agile handling is complemented by a comfortable ride. $56,295.

Sports sedan: BMW 328i. The 3 Series has long set the standard for sports sedans. And the current model delivers excellent handling and a high fun-to-drive factor. It’s also roomier, more luxurious and more fuel-efficient than past models. $43,195.

Small SUV: Subaru Forester. The Forester climbed to the top of its class after its 2014 redesign. With a space-efficient design and large windows and doors, this user-friendly SUV provides the easiest access and best visibility in its category.

It has an excellent driving position, simple controls and one of the roomiest rear seats in the category. $26,814.

Midsized SUV: Hyundai Santa Fe. Redesigned for 2013, the seven-passenger Santa Fe is one of the most pleasant and well-rounded SUVs.

This spacious vehicle provides a comfortable ride, a quiet interior, a limolike rear seat and generous cargo area. Yet the Santa Fe doesn’t feel too bulky to drive or park. $36,290.

Minivan: Honda Odyssey. The Odyssey is the most complete family vehicle you can buy. It can easily carry up to eight people, and the comfy second- and third-row seats can be configured in myriad ways to accommodate a wide range of cargo- and passenger-carrying needs.

Other highlights include easy access, excellent child-seat accommodations, a quiet interior and plenty of cabin storage. Decent fuel economy helps, too. $36,830.

Pickup: Ram 1500. With its 2013 freshening, the Ram is surprisingly refined and inviting.

A coil-spring rear suspension – unique for full-sized pickups – makes it the most comfortable-riding truck. And the whisper-quiet cabin makes it feel like a luxury vehicle. Still, the Ram is fully capable of getting its hands dirty when duty calls. $42,810.