Thirty-eight vehicles received Best Buy ratings from Consumers Digest magazine out of 265 total for the 2005 model year. The ratings, published in the magazine´s November/December issue, span eight categories: Small Cars, Family Cars, Luxury Cars, Sporty Cars, Trucks, Vans, Compact/Midsize SUVs and Luxury/Full-Size SUVs.
The Best Buys -- based on behind-the-wheel testing, safety ratings, ownership costs, warranty, purchase price, comfort, ergonomics, styling and amenities -- reflect the magazine´s assessment of which 2005 vehicles offer the most value for the money.
Six "Small Cars" received Best Buys: Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Mazda3, Pontiac Vibe, Scion xB and Toyota Matrix.
Five "Family Car" Best Buys are: Chevrolet Malibu/Maxx, Honda Accord, Mazda6, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry/Solara.
Four "Luxury Cars" received Best Buy ratings: Audi A4, Buick LeSabre, Lexus LS430 and Toyota Avalon.
Among five "Sporty Cars" receiving Best Buys was Infiniti G35, Mazda RX-8, MINI Cooper, Volkswagen GTI and Volvo S60R/V70R.
Three "Trucks" and four "Vans" earned Best Buys. Chevrolet Avalanche, Ford F-150 and Nissan Titan are the top pickups, and Chrysler´s Town & Country, Dodge´s Caravan, Honda´s Odyssey and Nissan´s Quest are recognized as the best van values.
Consumers Digest divides SUVs into compact/midsize and luxury/full-size models. Of the former, six Best Buys include: Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda Pilot, Mazda Tribute, Mercury Mariner and Toyota Highlander. Luxury/full-size SUV Best Buys include Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, GMC Yukon XL and Volkswagen Touareg.
Design factors, Weber says, include ergonomics, seating, accessories and cargo space. Performance characteristics evaluated comprise starting and acceleration, shifting, steering and handling, braking, ride quality and fuel economy.
Insurance-industry ratings, crash-test results and government findings contribute to the magazine´s assessment of vehicle safety. For example, for SUVs, CD reviewed new NHTSA rollover tests. "We recommend shoppers consider SUVs with four-wheel drive and stability control systems to best address occupants´ safety," Weber says.