Small cars, family sedans deliver most bang for the buck

FROM THE EDITORS OF CONSUMER REPORTS Published: January 23, 2012
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Despite the influx of new vehicles into the small- and budget-car marketplace, the Honda Fit remains on top in Consumer Reports' list of best value small cars. The Fit also reemerged as the best overall value among some 200 different vehicles that were analyzed.

Scores were calculated based on the five-year owner cost for each vehicle along with CR's road-test score and the organization's own predicted reliability. The five-year owner cost estimates factor in depreciation, fuel costs, insurance premiums, financing interest, maintenance, repairs and sales tax.

Depreciation is by far the largest owner-cost factor. In short, the better a car performs in CR's road tests and reliability ratings, and the less it costs to own over time, the better its value.

Overwhelmingly, the best values come from Japanese automakers, including most of the top models in each category. Of the 48 best values in CR's lists, 34 are from Japanese brands.

Six models come from European brands (mostly Volkswagen), five come from American ones (mostly Ford), and three are from South Korean automakers.

Overall, the report finds that small cars and family sedans provide the best value. In addition to the Honda Fit, the Toyota Prius hybrid, diesel-powered Volkswagen Golf TDI (with manual transmission), Scion xD and Toyota Corolla also made CR's list of best values in the small car category.

Even the lowest-scoring small car, the Chevrolet Cruze, is close to average in overall value.

-- BEST VALUE SMALL CAR: HONDA FIT

-- WORST VALUE SMALL CAR: CHEVROLET CRUZE 1LT

The family-sedans category is led by the four-cylinder Nissan Altima, which scored 75 percent higher than average. That's followed by the four-cylinder Kia Optima, the Subaru Legacy, the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the four-cylinder Honda Accord.

Larger and luxury vehicles are among the worst values overall, usually scoring at only about 70 percent of the average.

-- BEST VALUE UPSCALE AND LUXURY SEDAN: LEXUS ES 350

-- WORST VALUE UPSCALE AND LUXURY SEDAN: JAGUAR XJL

The analysis also revealed that wagons and small SUVs tend to provide better value than larger SUVs or minivans.



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