In fact, the Consumer Reports folks are focused on something a lot more important -- value -- and they've come up with an ingenious way to measure it for car buyers. They figure five-year operating costs per mile (depreciation and fuel are the two biggest expenses), add in a road-test score from their own drives, and calculate predicted reliability based on a readers survey. Then they come up with a value score that compares a given model to the average car.
The calculation provides a clear ranking of the best and worst values in 10 categories that is unavailable anywhere else. You can find "best car" lists everywhere. "Worst car" lists, on the other hand, are rare, because nobody wants to offend potential advertisers. But Consumer Reports doesn't accept advertising, so it doesn't run that risk.
In the Consumer Reports universe, small Asian cars score highly because of their better quality and gas mileage, while luxury and near-luxury sedans and SUVs rank much further down. More expensive autos are done in by deep depreciation, skimpy fuel economy, and -- shockingly -- poor predicted reliability. The bottom line is that a status brand and a high price aren't good indicators of value. Consumer Reports' ratings make a convincing case for caveat emptor.
They may not be super-sexy, but for value, reliability, and fun, these cars quietly blow the doors off the competition.
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