Is your car on the best value list?

null Just because one car is cheaper than other, that doesn't mean that vehicle is more of a bargain. As we found out when we teamed up with Consumer Reports, you have to look at the costs for operating that vehicle once you drive out of the showroom.

At Consumer Reports auto test track, every car goes through some 50 different tests, including handling, braking, fuel economy and comfort. And each earns a total score between 0 and 100.

Along with testing well, you want a car that doesn't cost a lot over time. So in its annual auto issue, Consumer Reports has come up with the best new-car values.

The top cars on the list aren't necessarily the cheapest, but will provide the best bang for the buck over five years.

"They've also got proven reliability and have done well in our tests," said David Champion, Consumer Reports.

At the top of the list ­­- the touring version of the Toyota Prius.

"The Toyota Prius holds its value extremely well. It also gets great gas mileage and excellent reliability," said Champion.

Right behind the Prius is the Mini Cooper, followed by the Volkswagen Rabbit hatchback. Rounding out the top five best deals are: the Honda Civic EX and the smaller Honda Fit.

To come up with its list, Consumer Reports takes the cost of owning a vehicle for five years and divides it by the road test score. When the math was done, other good value cars proved to be the Hyundai Santa Fe midsized SUV and the Toyota RAV4 small SUV.

And if you're wondering what's the absolute worst value Consumer Reports found -- no surprise. It's the Hummer H-2.

Consumer Reports says the Honda Odyssey tops the list for the best value in a mini-van.

Web Extra Information: 2009 Top Picks

SMALL SEDAN: Hyundai Elantra SE

The Elantra SE ($18,695) is a comfortable, roomy small car that provides good fuel economy, a quiet and nicely finished interior, and plenty of features for the money. Only the SE version comes with standard electronic stability control, which is absent on many other small cars.

MIDSIZED SUV: Toyota Highlander

The Highlander ($26,000 to $41,000) is a very refined and versatile vehicle. It provides a comfortable and quiet ride, a nicely finished interior, three rows of seats, and decent fuel economy for its class. The Highlander Hybrid's fuel economy, 24 mpg overall, is among the best of any SUV in Consumer Report's Ratings. First-year reliability has been excellent.

PICKUP TRUCK: Chevrolet Avalanche

The Chevrolet Avalanche full-sized crew cab ($36,000 to $47,000) is one of the most versatile and comfortable pickups that Consumer Reports has tested. Its unified bed and cab helps give it a solid feel and a comfortable, quiet ride. Its innovative partition, between the cab and the bed, can be folded to allow longer cargo to extend into the back of the cab.

BEST OVERALL VEHICLE: Lexus LS 460

With a road test score of 99 out of 100, the Lexus LS 460 ($64,000 to $77,000) is Consumer Reports' highest-scoring vehicle. It provides a luxurious, uncompromising driving environment, with a supremely comfortable ride and a roomy, well-finished, and exceptionally quiet interior. The LS is brimming with electronic amenities, yet the controls are easy to use. Its 380-hp, 4.6-liter V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission deliver smooth, quick acceleration and relatively good fuel economy.

FAMILY SEDAN: Honda Accord

The Honda Accord ($21,000 to $31,000) is a roomy, wellrounded sedan that's easy to live with and enjoyable to drive. It offers a comfortable ride, agile handling, and efficient, refined four- and six-cylinder powertrains. Electronic stability control is standard, and crash-test results are impressive.

UPSCALE SEDAN: Infiniti G37

One of the highest-rated sedans tested, the G37 (33,000 to $36,000, formerly G35) combines sportiness and luxury in a very appealing package. It has a very lively powertrain, agile handling, a comfortable ride, and a nicely appointed interior. For 2009, it also has a larger, 328-hp, 3.7-liter engine and a seven-speed automatic transmission, which improves fuel economy.

FUN TO DRIVE: Mazda MX-5 Miata

The Miata ($22,000 to $29,000) is a true sports car at a reasonable price. With quick, precise steering, a crisp-shifting manual transmission, and balanced handling, it virtually tied the Porsche Boxster in test scoring, but it costs about half the price.

SMALL SUV: Toyota RAV4

Thanks to a larger and more powerful four-cylinder engine and other upgrades for 2009, the RAV4 ($23,000 to $30,000) narrowly outscored the Subaru Forester to remain our Top Pick for the third straight year. It provides agile handling, a roomy and quiet interior, a comfortable ride, and an optional third-row seat. The four-cylinder version gets the best fuel economy of any automatic, nonhybrid SUV CR has tested.

MINIVAN: Toyota Sienna

The Sienna ($26,000 to $38,000) offers a spacious, versatile, and comfortable way to carry up to eight people. Consumer Reports found that the quiet, well-finished interior rivals that of some luxury sedans. Electronic stability control is standard. This is the only minivan available with all-wheel drive.

GREEN CAR: Toyota Prius

Despite the arrival of more gas/electric hybrids, the Prius ($22,000 to $24,000) leads this category for the sixth straight year. The base model's 44 overall mpg is the best Consumer Reports has measured in any five-passenger car. The interior is roomy and versatile, and reliability remains excellent. A redesigned Prius will arrive in early summer. Consumer Reports' Annual Auto Issue is on sale March 3 to May 4 wherever magazines are sold.


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