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What Are The Best American Cars?

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Chevy Sonic (GM Photo)

Chevy Sonic (GM Photo)

jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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YONKERS, NY — (WWJ) Chevrolet had the most winners as Consumer Reports posts its list of “Top American Cars.” This comes after no domestic brand vehicle was singled out in the publications recent “best of the best” list.

“”While this year’s “official” Top Pick list includes no models from domestic brands, it does have several vehicles built in the United States,” read a statement from Consumer Reports. “But we recognize that many shoppers favor a model from the Detroit 3 automakers, regardless of where it is manufactured.”

In releasing that “top picks” list Consumer Reports said that quality of vehicles had improved to the point that there were a lot of close choices.
So, here’s their list of top American brand vehicles, with explanation:

  • Budget car: Easy pick here: the Chevrolet Sonic LT sedan with its base 1.8-liter engine scores well—beating the Ford Fiesta sedan we tested—and was reliable in its first year. But the Sonic’s goodness depends on how you option it. Although the Sonic LTZ hatchback we tested looks sporty, we were unimpressed by the 1.4-liter turbo/six-speed manual drivetrain and the hatch lacks the sedan’s huge trunk.
  • Compact car: The Ford Focus SE, with the SFE (“Super Fuel Economy”) package, scored really well in our tests, but first-year reliability has been lousy. That makes our pick the Chevrolet Cruze Eco, a well-finished car that’s a benchmark of quietness in this class. First-year Cruze reliability issues have been worked out. TheDodge Dart doesn’t score close, with its impressive ride and handling sabotaged by lackluster powertrains and uncomfortable front seats.
  • Midsized sedan: The Ford Fusion Hybrid is easily our top-scoring domestic midsized sedan. But we don’t know if the 2013 redesign will be reliable yet. (Hopefully it is, but other recent Ford new product launches have been troublesome. Plus, anecdotally, our three tested Fusions had build quality issues.) The Chevrolet Malibuis a decent car, assuming you skip the Eco light-hybrid version, but we don’t have reliability for that 2013 redesign, either. Chrysler just isn’t playing in this class with their uncompetitive Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger.
  • Green car: Our “official” Top Pick was the standard Toyota Prius, chosen over several plug-in alternatives because of its combination of fuel economy and affordability. The obvious domestic alternative is the very niceFord C-Max hybrid, but we don’t know how reliable it is. That leaves us with the considerably more expensive—and much lower scoring—Chevrolet Volt. On the plus side, the Volt has been very reliable, owners love them, and you can get cheap lease rates.
  • Small SUV: Once again, a newly-designed Ford tops our scores: the Ford Escape Titanium. But we don’t have reliability data yet. The Jeep Patriot and Compass aren’t competitive. General Motors doesn’t really sell a small SUV other than the just-introduced Buick Encore, which we have purchased but haven’t tested yet.
  • Midsized SUV: The Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia score well and have average reliability. True, they’re more “large” than midsized, but these GM twins vastly outscore other runner-ups, including the Chevrolet Equinox,Ford Edge and Flex, and GMC Terrain. If you want something smaller than the Traverse/Acadia, look at a Jeep Grand Cherokee V6 (which has average reliability). We’ll see how the updated-for-2014 Jeep Grand Cherokeescores soon.
  • Sports sedan: The Cadillac CTS scores well and reliability has been improving year-after-year. In fact, it’s the most reliable domestic car. For now, it’s free of Cadillac’s annoying CUE system—but that will likely change with the upcoming redesign. The CTS outscores the smaller Cadillac ATS, a fabulously fun-to-drive car whose other myriad shortcomings drag down its score.
  • Luxury car: We’re quite fond of the quiet-and-powerful Chrysler 300. This large sedan has a plush ride and roomy interior. The 300 V6 is more reliable than the V8-powered 300C and scores slightly higher. Both 300s outscore the Cadillac XTS.
  • Sports car: The outgoing Chevrolet Corvette Z06 scores very well, but reliability dropped to below average this year. Same with the Ford Mustang GT. But the Mustang V6 retains average reliability and is something of a performance bargain, especially if you go light on the abundant options.
  • Minivan: There’s only one domestic company still building minivans. (That said, the Traverse/Acadia are minivan surrogates for many.) While the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan twins performed much better after
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