DETROIT - Consumer Reports traditionally is the harshest judge of cars and trucks from domestic brands. While GM, Ford and belatedly Chrysler have made great strides in closing the quality and reliability gap with foreign competitors, CR is still stingy when it comes to bestowing its coveted "Top Pick" designation on vehicles from American companies.
In 10 vehicle segments, CR gives Top Pick to only two vehicles, the Ford Mustang (Best Sporty Car) and the Chevrolet Avalanche (Best Pickup Truck).
But now the leading Consumer magazine is giving guidance to readers who want to "buy American."
7 other vehicles have earned CR's "American Top Pick" designation.
Family Sedan: Ford Fusion Hybrid
It gets 4 mpg less than the Toyota Camry Hybrid, but will leap-frog the Camry in 2013 according to Ford.
Affordable Family Sedan: Ford Fusion (4-cyl.)
Reliability is better than average and scores highest among the domestics on CR tests. The new Chevy Malibu and Fusion may challenge Hyundai's Sonata for overall top pick in 2013.
Sports Sedan: Cadillac CTS
CR: "..this well-finished sedan delivers responsive steereing, agile handling, and quick acceleration."
Small SUV: Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain
Watch for this category to get even more competitive with Ford's new Escape debuting later this year.
Family SUV: Jeep Grand Cherokee
CR has used Chrysler as a whipping boy for nearly a decade. This is an overdue acknowledgment the Auburn Hills automaker is finally slaying some of its quality dragons. The new Grand Cherokee has improved mileage, getting even better when an 8-speed transmission and diesel options arrive at showrooms later this year.
Family Hauler: Chevrolet Traverse
Traverse wins by default because Chrysler's minivan and Ford's Flex score poorly on CR's reliability tests.
Green Car: Chevrolet Volt
CR says Toyota's Prius is more affordable and practical but acknowledges for consumers commuting within Volt's electric-only range, its less expensive to operate. Kudos for excellent reliability and customer satisfaction.
Small Car: NOBODY
This is the only black eye. None of the improved domestics (Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta) qualify. CR found reliability lacking. Pending tests on the new Dodge Dart and Chevrolet Sonic may yield a winner next year.
Consumer Reports editors are softening their longstanding criticism of domestics. Watch for more American-mades to overcome foreign competition in key segments next year.
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