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Consumer Reports

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    How to Pick The Right White Paint

    When Benjamin Moore announced that Simply White is the color of the year, you couldn’t blame people for asking “Huh?” White is a color without color, after all. And yet the top-selling interior paint colors are white and off-whites. With dozens to choose from, zeroing in on one—the right white—can be tricky.

    Even the Paint Quality Institute is saying good-bye to gray, selecting whites and off-whites with cool undertones of blue or green as the hot colors of the year. "This creates a calming environment that consumers are looking for," says Debbie Zimmer, a PQI spokesperson. 

    Some retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe’s skip those tiny paint chips and offer much larger ones for their white paints. Home Depot even groups whites together by their undertones, pointing out which have blue, such as Bakery Box, or the purple in Bit of Sugar.

    When Consumer Reports tests interior paints we include white paint from each brand, because white is so popular and we need to find out how well it covers dark colors. We asked two color experts for advice on finding the white you want rather than the one you have to live with.

    Gather Paint Chips
    Are you drawn to cool or warm whites? White paints that add warmth have undertones of yellow, orange, or red, while cool white paints have blue or green undertones, says Susan Hable, a textile designer in New York City and Athens, Georgia. It helps to hold the paint chips side by side. If you're unsure of the paint's undertones, ask a sales associate what's in the mix.

    Consider the existing colors in the room, from floor to furnishings, and colors that can be seen from the room you’re painting. Think about using a different white paint for the ceiling to give depth and character to the room.

    Try Them Out
    “Stick the paint chips on the wall and look at them for a few days. Live with them, and then move them to another wall,” says Leslie Harrington, a color strategist in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. “Undertones will emerge. Eliminate ones that aren’t working.” She puts up five or six at a time, stacking them vertically near the trim of the door.

    Consider the Light
    It makes a big difference. Notice the room’s natural light as it changes throughout the day, and the light cast by bulbs. “People often look at the light in their room on Saturday at noon, but a very busy family that’s out of the house from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. should turn on their lights at 6 p.m. and look at paint colors then,” says Harrington.

    Narrow Your Choices
    Pick your favorite whte paints, brush large swatches on your walls, and observe them at different times of the day. Even color pros try and try again. Hable’s favorite standard white paint is Benjamin Moore’s White Dove, a soft white. She used it, with the formula cut in half, to hide much of the yellow in the pine that covers the walls of her studio.

    Harrington doesn’t have a favorite white paint but has shades she doesn’t like. “I prefer to stay away from white with a little magenta in them because they go pink very quickly,” she says. “Whites with yellow undertones have been popular for years but can look dated. They don’t work with modern settings, and are better for traditional.”

    Factor In the Finish
    The paint’s finish absorbs or reflects light. Flat paint absorbs light, giving a softer look, and glossy reflects light so the white paint looks brighter. In between there are eggshell and satin finishes. Many have become much better at standing up to scrubbing, so semi-gloss is no longer a must for trim.

    Top Interior Paint Picks from Our Tests

    Our interior paint Ratings also include paints from Benjamin Moore, Farrow & Ball, Glidden, HGTV, Olympic, Sherwin-Williams, True Value, and Walmart (Color Place). Note that because a brand's flat, eggshell, and semi-gloss formulations performed similarly overall in our tests, we combined the scores to make it easier for you to shop. Any questions? Email me at kjaneway@consumer.org.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Revised 2016 Toyota Avalon Smoothens the Ride

    With its 2013 redesign, the Toyota Avalon compromised its ride in an attempt to improve handling, sacrificing a coddling characteristic that defined this large, front-drive sedan. While trying to steer the Avalon toward a more youthful buyer, this decision alienated some traditional customers and jostled others. With the 2016 update, it is clear that Toyota learned its lesson the hard way and rectified the car with a significantly improved ride.

    Toyota engineers explain that returning customers were critical of this dynamic shift. This audience is vital to the manufacturer, as the Avalon enjoys an exceptionally high 40 percent model loyalty rate. Those dedicated drivers weren’t alone in their criticism.

    Consumer Reports states in our road test: “The redesigned 2013 Avalon has lost the supreme ride comfort and isolation that once set it apart from most other cars. Touring and Limited trims have a stiff, brittle ride that's completely out of character for an upscale car. Bumps and ruts strike through with pronounced impacts that can hit home hard.”

    To address its divergent goals, Toyota has introduced a second suspension setup, giving Avalon buyers a choice of Comfort and Touring. The Comfort configuration was developed to preserve some of last year’s handling response while providing a more accommodating ride. The Comfort set-up will be on 75 percent of Avalons including the hybrid version. Unfortunately, existing customers won’t be able to just bolt on those changes.

    To achieve the ride/handling balance on the Comfort suspension, engineers tweaked the stabilizer bars, shock valving, and springs. Driven in the real world, even with the 18-inch tires in the Avalon Limited we tried, the ride is now much more absorbent and body motions are slow and gentle, giving the car a much statelier feel. Handling remains responsive with a fairly prompt steering response and no excessive body lean.

    In addition to the suspension tweaks, a freshened face is the most obvious exterior change for the 2016 Toyota Avalon, highlighted by a new grille, turn signals, LED taillights, and rear chrome trim. More appreciated are tweaks to interior chrome to reduce distracting reflections, improved seat comfort, and enhanced brake feel.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Two Toro Leaf Blowers Pack a Punch

    What do you get for $25 more? That's the question we asked ourselves when we bought the Toro Ultra Plus 51621 corded-electric leaf blower, $100, to test. It costs $25 more than the similar Toro Ultra Blower Vac 51609, which offers the same metal impeller and variable-speed blowing. But you may want to think twice about the extras you get for the extra $25.

    Both of these Toro leaf blowers use metal rather than plastic for the impeller, which is better for vacuuming leaves with less risk of chipping from the inevitable sticks and other hard debris. The variable speed, adjusted with a dial on top, stays in place so you don't need to hold down a trigger. Both these models top our tests for corded-electric blowers, rivaling gas-powered handheld blowers at moving leaves along. But like gas models, these Toro leaf blowers warrant hearing protection when operated at their top speed. We liked other features, too, such as the quick switching between blowing and vacuuming.

    What You Get for $25 More

    • A removable oscillating nozzle that, Toro says, “saves time by providing wider clearing power on hardscapes.” The intention is for you to move your wrist less and thus clear leaves more quickly.
    • A serrated ring within the base of the vacuum tube, called the Shredz-All shred ring, is claimed to “pulverize vacuumed materials into a fine mulch, reducing the number of bags for disposal.”
    • There’s also a cord hook near the controls, a common feature with corded power tools, that keeps the extension cord secure during operation.

    Test Results of Toro Leaf Blowers

    Our sweeping and loosening tests of the newer Toro Ultra Plus 51621 found that we could move and dislodge leaves a bit better without the oscillating nozzle, which dispersed air over a wider angle than needed for quick leaf work.

    In our vacuum tests, the addition of the Shredz-All shred ring reduced leaves only slightly more than the metal impeller alone. With the Toro Ultra Blower Vac 51609 we were able to vacuum and shred leaves down at about a 2:1 ratio, roughly fitting a bagful of clippings into half a bag. With the Toro Ultra Plus 51621, it was closer to 3:1. Both are space-saving, but keep in mind that this is tedious work. Running over the leaves with your mower in bagging mode is the quickest method of all.

    And while cord hooks are convenient, wrapping the extension cord once around the handle of either blower with a loose overhand knot (like the first part of typing shoelaces) before plugging it in keeps the cord from unplugging. It’s also far quicker than pushing either a 12- or 14-gauge extension cord, the thick cords Toro specifies for the Toro Ultra Plus 51621, over the cord hook. 

    You won’t go wrong with either of these Toro leaf blowers if you want lots of power for blowing and vacuuming in a maintenance-free machine. If you are undecided about gas versus electric—or are considering a backpack model or a wheeled model—take a look at our leaf blower buying guide before checking our leaf blower Ratings.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Battery Tests Find No 'Chipgate' Problems in the iPhone 6s

    A number of websites recently created a stir with reports of a potential shortcoming of the iPhone 6s smartphones. According to those "chipgate" reports, the battery life on iPhone 6s models with an A9 central processing unit made by Samsung is worse than the battery life on models with a CPU made by TSMC. The phones with the Samsung chip also run hotter, the reports claim, than the phones with the chip made by TSMC.

    While Consumer Reports' tests had confirmed that the battery life on the 6s and 6s Plus is slightly shorter than that on the iPhone 6, they had not addressed the chipgate rumors. So, much like they did for last year's "bendgate," our engineers developed a special protocol to test this apparent issue. Those tests simulate real-world usage as opposed to relying on the benchmarks used by other organizations in their off-the-shelf tests.

    Our Chipgate Test

    Step 1: Identify the chip
    This was the easy part of our chipgate work. To confirm which A9 was in the eight iPhone 6s models Consumer Reports bought, we used the Lirum Info Lite app, a free download from the Apple App Store. Along with the total and available phone storage, the app displays a chip ID. If it reads Model N71mAP, the chip was made by TSMC. If it reads N71AP (no “m”), the phone has the Samsung version.

    Step 2: Equalize the settings and conditions
    To ensure accuracy and impartiality, we tested each phone on the same provider (T-Mobile) using the latest version of iOS (9.02). In years past, we've confirmed battery-life differences between same-model smartphones running on different carriers, so we wanted to avoid that issue.

    This next part is the killer. Prior to testing, we changed and verified dozens of settings on the two iPhones, including connections, display, notifications, and apps, to ensure the setups were identical. Tedious? Yes. Time-consuming? You bet. But it had to be done.

    Step 3: Start running
    We measured how well the phones’ batteries stood up to continuous activity on the cellular network. In one test, for instance, we made the phones transmit at a nominal +10 decibels per milliwatt (dBm) on the  same channel in the commonly used Frequency Band 5. We were able to maintain those precise conditions via the base station emulator to which the phones were coupled.

    Further adjustments included setting display brightness to about 150 NITS (approximately 50 percent) using a digital illumination level meter. We also switched off the auto brightness setting to make sure changes in the room's lighting didn’t influence the results.

    All of the tests, of course, were performed in the controlled environment of our Radio Frequency Isolation chamber, which blocks stray signals. The results: Both phones powered on for about five hours, with a negligible duration difference of less than 2 percent.

    Step 4: Crunch data
    Another test simulated the data-intensive activities smartphone users perform via Wi-Fi, including browsing the Web and playing music. Our custom app automatically loads a variety of popular Web pages in succession and keeps repeating the cycle until the phone shuts down. The more than 20 sites included Amazon, Apple, CNN, and Yahoo. At the same time, we gave the music player a workout, asking it to churn out a continuous loop of 10 songs from Taylor Swift, Katie Perry, and Florence and the Machine.

    At the end of testing, both phones quit at about the same time, after a little more than 11 hours and 600-plus webpage downloads. The differences here were even smaller than in the previous test: less than 1 percent.

    During this test, we also monitored the phone's temperature using tiny, adhesive-backed heat sensors called thermocouples. During 11 hours of testing, surface temperatures climbed as high as 84° F. Here again, the difference between the two phones was less than 1 percent.

    The Chipgate Verdict

    We found no appreciable differences in battery life or temperature between the iPhones 6s models with the varying chips.

    Bottom line: Smartphones are as complicated as the people who use them, so it’s impossible to say with certainty that the battery- and temperature-performance differences we measured in this chipgate testing will be consistent in every imaginable scenario. But if iPhone 6s users are ever disappointed with their phones, we’re confident it won’t be because they bought the model with the “wrong” chip.

    If you'd like more info on cell phones and services, check our Ratings and buying guide.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Humidifiers for Every Room in Your Home

    What is it about humidifiers that makes manufacturers think cute? New this week is the “stealthily quiet” R2-D2 humidifier from Hammacher Schlemmer. Sure the dome-headed Star Wars droid is adorable but it's got nothing on the charming Crane Owl that's a standout in Consumer Reports’ humidifier tests. We haven’t tested the R2-D2, but 16 humidifiers earned a recommended mark in our recent tests.

    Why you need a humidifier
    Because warm air holds more moisture than cold air, the humidity in your home drops when temperatures do. Ideally, indoor humidity should be 30 to 50 percent. But without humidification, that level can drop to 10 percent, leading to dry skin and chapped lips.

    3 Models to Consider

    In our tests, we group humidifiers by the size room they can humidify. Check out these humidifiers for every room in your home.

    Small rooms (up to 300 square feet)
    Perfect for a child’s room, the Crane Owl, $45, is one of 18 models inCrane’s Adorables Collection. Output is excellent, and the Crane Owl is quiet and easy to maintain. For grownups, consider the teardrop-shaped HoMedics UHE-CM25, $55, which scored equally well.

    Medium rooms (300 to 499 square feet)
    Scoring just as well as the small units but able to humidify more space is the Vicks V5100NS, $50. Also consider the SPT SU-9210, $80, though its output wasn’t quite as good.

    Large rooms (500 to 999 square feet)
    The SPT SU-4010, $75, is among the best in this category, earning high marks across the board. Next is the Air-O-Swiss 7135, $180, which has excellent output but is not as convenient to operate.

    Extra-large spaces (1,000 square feet or more)
    For areas this large you’ll want to consider a console, which sits on the floor instead of on a table. We recommend two, the Essick MA1201, $115, and the Kenmore 15412, $140, from Sears, but both were pretty noisy.

    A Caution About Cleaning

    Humidifiers can harbor bacteria, so routine cleaning is recommended. To keep germs at bay, many manufacturers recommend rinsing the tank and changing the water every day, plus disinfecting the tank each week according to the instructions in the owner’s manual. Some models are easier to clean than others, so give the humidifiers a good look before choosing one and then consult the owner's manual. In our humidifier Ratings, ease of cleaning is part of the convenience score.

    More humidfiers. For more advice and additional choices, check our humidifier buying guide and full humidifier Ratings and recommendations.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    2016 Honda Civic Proves More Upscale and Refined

    Honda representatives are the first to acknowledge that the outgoing ninth generation of the Honda Civic, was a frumpy-looking, mediocre-performing compact sedan. And it is clear from driving the new 2016 model that Honda has learned its Civics lesson.

    The 9th-gen Honda Civic was introduced for the 2012 model year. Due to excessive noise, jittery ride, klutzy handling, and cheap interior it pretty much bombed in Consumer Reports' tests. As a result, the Civic shockingly failed to earn a recommended status from Consumer Reports. An emergency rush job on Honda’s part brought some improvements merely 18 months after its debut, and the changes were just enough to make it into our recommended list.

    For 2016, Honda is rolling out a true redesign, based on a new platform and with two new engines. The next-gen Honda Civic is longer, lower, and wider yet lighter when compared trim line to trim line against the outgoing model. It uses a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 158 horsepower. The uplevel engine is a 174-hp, 1.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder—the first turbo car offered in a Honda in the US. Both engines are linked to a continuously variable transmission. A manual is only available with the base LX.

    Eventually, three body styles will be offered: sedan, coupe, and a five-door hatchback. First one out of the gate is the sedan; the coupe arrives this winter; and the hatch is a year away. Sporty Si and boy-racer Type R variants are also on the horizon. This time around, the Honda Civic was developed as a global car and was benchmarked against not only run-of-the-mill Toyota Corolla and the like but also premium compacts such as the Audi A3. It shows. 

    On the road, it’s evident Honda took this Civic seriously; it feels much more substantial, with style and sophistication. We drove the high-volume base LX and the new top-of-the-line Touring trim.

    The base engine is smooth and unobtrusive and generates sufficient oomph if you’re not too demanding. But the Civic immensely benefits from the uplevel turbo engine that powers EX-T, EX-L, and Touring versions. Its readily available torque eliminates the need to frequently foray into the upper reaches of the rev range where a CVT can become objectionable. Being a natural silencer, the turbo makes the CVT more palatable by masking the transmission’s quirks. With the Touring, power delivery feels effortless. According to the trip computer, we’ve been observing 35 mpg in mixed driving with the Touring. (That’s the combined EPA estimate for both engines.)

    The new Civic gets more sophisticated in the chassis department, as well. Handling is more agile and fluent now, with a reassuring feel. Body lean is kept at bay, and the steering is direct, providing a quick turn-in response that doesn’t wane even as you keep turning more into the corner. That said, it’s still not as much fun to drive as a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf.

    Ride comfort is significantly improved with a compliance that’s unusual for the compact sedan class, while refined body control keeps the car steady and composed. Road noise made previous Civics so loud; it is now much more muted. Combined with the comfortable ride, the newfound manners give the Civic a mature, substantial feel.

    The interior looks more modern and tidy now without the fussy two-tier instrument panel of the past two generations. LX versions get a simple audio system, but oddly, the radio presets aren’t shown on the screen. EX and higher versions get Honda’s annoying capacitive touchscreen—a flat surface with no physical knobs or buttons. We’ve complained about the slowness and the convoluted menu structure of the system before, including how many tasks require at least two taps. Of note, that infotainment system is now compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.  

    Feature content is generous, with every Civic getting a standard rearview camera, automatic climate control (dual zone with EX-T and up), and auto up/down front windows. EX trim and above get remote start. The addition of an electronic parking brake not only saves space and gives the car a more premium feel, but also reduces effort. This move freed up a ton of storage room between the two front seats. In fact, the configurable console can accommodate several iPads. Cupholders (including one that can take a Big Gulp-sized drink), cubbies, and trays are very well sorted out. But it's too bad the USB port is a bit low and hidden.

    A power driver seat is included with the EX-L, while heated seats come in EX-T and up. The Touring adds heated rear seats. Unfortunately, adjustable lumbar support is not available on any trim. That deficiency becomes acutely apparent after 15 minutes, whether you’re sitting on the standard cloth or the leather seats on high-end trims.

    As with any other Honda, EX and above versions get Lane Watch, a feature that displays on the radio screen a live video feed of what’s to your right side. We believe this is not a substitute for a full blind-spot monitoring system because it covers just one side of the car and only when the directional is on, not to mention that it can be a visual distraction. Other competitors, such as the Mazda3, make blind-spot monitoring more accessible. At least Honda Sensing is available as an option on all trim lines and standard on the Touring. But even then, the safety suite doesn't include full blind-spot monitoring. That bundle of electronic driver aids includes active cruise control, forward-collision warning, auto braking, and lane-departure warning with lane keep assist. We found the latter too sensitive, being eager to intervene even if you momentarily fail to exactly follow within the lane markings.

    Sedans that have the silhouette of a coupe usually sacrifice some visibility, but the Civic doesn’t suffer too much as a result. The previous Civic was already a low car and the redesign boasts a roofline that’s lower still by almost an inch. That poses some difficulty in entering the cabin and hoisting one’s self out. It might not be a problem for athletic millennials who might be buying the Civic as their first new car, but it can be a problem for empty nesters who are thinking of downsizing from their Accord or Odyssey. At least once inside, even rear passengers will find ample room.

    It’s quite clear the new Civic brings more civility, better road manners, and a higher feature content all wrapped in a stylish package that makes this popular model a much more appealing car than it has been.

    The Civic goes on sale in mid-November for $18,640 to $26,500. Stay tuned for a complete road test once we buy our own test car and see how it ranks against its peers.  

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    How Car Brands Compare for Reliability

    Ever wonder which company makes the most reliable cars? Thanks to the latest Consumer Reports’ 2015 Annual Auto Survey, there is a definitive answer. 

    Our 2015 auto survey, conducted last spring, gathered information from Consumer Reports subscribers who collectively owned or leased over 740,000 vehicles. From this data, we can predict how cars will hold up, and collectively, what the outlook is per brand.

    This table shows how the brands rank based on the average of their models’ predicted reliability scores. A measure of the brand’s consistency can be seen in the span of their scores, cross-referenced by how many different models they produce. The blue bars illustrate a brand’s consistency by showing the reliability range between its top and bottom model. The numerals indicate the number of models included. We excluded Jaguar, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Scion, Smart, and Tesla because we lack data on two or more of their models.

    More Exclusive Car Reliability News

    Visit our guide to car reliability for more information. And check out these related articles:

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Talking Cars Podcast Highlights Latest Car Reliability Trends

    Year after year, car buyers tell us that reliability is a key purchase consideration. That's why the results of our annual reliability survey, this year featuring more than 740,000 vehicles, are so important. The latest “Talking Cars With Consumer Reports” video podcast takes a look at our 2015 results, highlighting two trends that might make your new car less reliable.

    Technology can serve lots of different masters in the automobile. Highly advanced transmissions—automatics with as many as nine-speeds, dual-clutch automated manual technology, or continuously-variable transmissions (CVT) with no gears at all—can improve fuel economy. However, some companies, including Acura, Chrysler, and Nissan are having major problems with these high-tech gearboxes.

    Likewise, infotainment systems address consumer demands to stay connected, with cars that attempt to rival smartphones in cutting-edge technology. But car companies aren't electronics companies, reflected by troublesome systems from Honda, Acura, GM, and Chrysler. Our data show that electronic bugs tend to get worked out with time, although it often takes several model years.

    Persistence also pays off when it comes to brand reliability, evident from our rankings. Lexus and Toyota top the list again, while Audi comes in at third, reflecting a multi-year push that has seen the German brand climb in the ranking. Likewise, Ford improves to midpack as it works out growing pains from launching multiple innovative, ground-up redesigned models all at once. Finally, Chrysler continues to struggle, with no Ram, Fiat, or Jeep model predicted to be reliable in our survey.  

    More Exclusive Car Reliability News

    Visit our guide to car reliability for more information. And check out these related articles:

    Recent past episodes

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Car Reliability Is Hurt By Some New Technologies

    While problematic car infotainment systems continue to be among the top issues reported by new car owners, Consumer Reports has identified an emerging trend of increased troubles with new transmission systems developed to improve fuel economy.

    The recently launched Jeep Cherokee has had persistent problems with its nine-speed automatic transmission. Despite several rounds of software updates, complaints of rough shifting or getting stuck in one gear continue. The six-speed dual-clutch transmissions also created problems for the Dodge Dart and Fiat 500L.

    Nine-speed automatic and eight-speed dual-clutch transmissions are responsible for many of the problems reported in the new Acura TLX—key toward knocking the brand into below-average reliability.

    Even Nissan, which has been using continuously variable transmissions (CVT) for awhile, has been plagued by issues with the new CVT introduced on the redesigned Pathfinder and Altima

    More Exclusive Car Reliability News

    Visit our guide to car reliability for more information. And check out these related articles:

    Ford's’ PowerShift six-speed automatic proved to have a small fuel savings over traditional manual transmissions when introduced on the 2011 Fiesta and redesigned 2012 Focus. But they have brought reliability headaches since.

    “We’ve seen a number of brands struggle with new transmission technology, ” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing. “Whether it’s a complex system such as a dual-clutch gearbox, a continuously variable transmission, or one with eight or nine speeds. Many vehicles require repair and replacements because of rough shifting among the gears and slipping CVT belts.”

    Not that all new-generation transmissions are troublesome. Audi and BMW have shown solid reliability from their respective eight-speed automatics for awhile, as well as Audi and VW with their shared dual-clutch technology. And the CVTs in Honda and Toyota hybrids have been strong performers.

    Then there are manufacturers, such as Mazda, whose Skyactiv engines get great fuel economy while using a traditional, reliable six-speed automatic transmission.

    “It really depends on the diligence of the manufacturer,” Fisher said.  

    Infotainment Troubles Continue

    Meanwhile, the number of complaints associated with infotainment systems has increased. Common issues include unresponsive or crashing touch screens, or a reluctance to pair a phone. AcuraLink, Cadillac’s CUE, and Infiniti’s InTouch systems have been particularly problematic.

    A close look suggests that cars with in-car electronics issues usually have other troubles, too, such as build-quality issues, squeaks, and other noises.

    Some manufacturers are improving. Updates to Ford and Lincoln’s MyTouch systems have made them less troublesome year by year. Ford is replacing it with the Sync 3 system, so we’ll have to wait until next year to find out if that system turns out to be trouble-free.  

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Gas-Saving Vehicles with the Best Combination of Fuel Economy and Acceleration

    You don't always have to give up engine performance in return for good fuel economy. To prove this, Consumer Reports compiled this list of vehicles that provided the best combination of fuel economy and acceleration in our tests. Vehicles are ranked within each category based on the overall miles per gallon and 0-to-60-mph acceleration times they achieved in our tests. Both were weighted equally.

    For more on saving gas, see our guide to fuel economy.

    Best fuel economy and acceleration by category based on CR tests

    Make & model

    Fuel economy
    (overall mpg)

    Acceleration
    0-60 mph (sec.)

    FUEL-EFFICIENT HATCHBACKS Overall mpg = 38 or higher; 0-60 mph = 12.0 or less
    BMW i3 Giga 139* 7.5
    Ford Focus Electric 107* 10.2
    Nissan Leaf SL
    106*
    10.3
    Chevrolet Volt
    99* / 32**
    9.4
    Ford C-Max Energi
    94* / 37** 8.1
    Toyota Prius Four
    44 10.6
    Toyota Prius C Two 43 11.3
    Lexus CT 200h Premium
    40 11.0
    *=MPGe, **=MPG on gas only    
    SUBCOMPACT CARS Overall mpg = 31 or higher; 0-60 mph = 12.0 or less    
    Ford Fiesta SE (3-cyl., MT)
    35 9.0
    Scion iQ 34 10.6
    Honda Fit EX 33 10.0
    Ford Fiesta SE sedan 33 10.9
    Hyundai Accent SE (MT) 32 8.5
    Nissan Versa SV sedan 32 10.6
    Ford Fiesta SES hatchback (MT) 32 10.7
    Toyota Yaris LE 32 10.8
    Hyundai Accent GLS 31 10.3
    Nissan Versa Note SV 31 10.9
    COMPACT CARS Overall mpg = 29 or higher; 0-60 mph = 11.0 or less
    Honda Civic Hybrid
    40 10.9
    Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SE 37 8.1
    Mazda3 i Touring sedan 33 8.3
    Mazda3 i Grand Touring hatchback 32 8.2
    Toyota Corolla LE Plus 32 9.9
    Mini Cooper (3-cyl.) 31 8.3
    Volkswagen Jetta SE (1.8T) 30 8.5
    Honda Civic EX
    30 9.6
    Hyundai Elantra SE (1.8L) 29 9.5
    Nissan Sentra SV 29 9.7
    SPORTY CARS/ROADSTERS Overall mpg = 25 or higher; 0-60 mph = 7.5 or less (Manual unless otherwise noted)
    Mini Cooper S 30 7.0
    Scion FR-S 30 7.2
    Subaru BR-Z Premium 30 7.2
    Volkswagen GTI Autobahn 29 6.6
    Honda Civic Si 29 7.1
    Ford Fiesta ST
    29 7.3
    BMW Z4 sDrive28i 28 6.1
    Volkswagen GLI Autobahn 27 7.2
    Subaru Impreza WRX Premium 26 6.0
    Ford Mustang Premium (2.3L EcoBoost, auto)
    25 6.4
    Ford Focus ST 25 6.6
    BMW M235i 25 5.2
    MIDSIZED CARS Overall mpg = 24 or higher; 0-60 mph = 11.0 or less
    Ford Fusion SE Hybrid 39 8.3
    Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
    38 7.6
    Mazda6 Sport 32 7.5
    Nissan Altima 2.5 S (4-cyl.) 31 8.2
    Honda Accord LX (4-cyl.) 30 7.7
    Chrysler 200 Limited (4-cyl.)
    30 9.8
    Toyota Camry LE (4-cyl.) 28 8.6
    Volkswagen Passat SE (1.8T)
    28 8.6
    Hyundai Sonata SE (4-cyl.) 28 9.2
    Honda Accord EX-L (V6) 26 6.3
    Toyota Camry XLE (V6)
    26 6.4
    Chevrolet Malibu 1LT 26 8.1
    Chrysler 200 C (V6) 25 6.9
    Kia Optima LX 25 8.6
    Nissan Altima 3.5 SL (V6)
    24 6.3
    Kia Optima SX (turbo) 24 6.6
    Chevrolet Malibu 2LTZ 24 7.0
    Ford Fusion SE (1.5T) 24 9.2
    UPSCALE/LUXURY CARS Overall mpg = 23 or higher; 0-60 mph = 8.5 or less
    Tesla Model S P85D
    87* 3.5
    Tesla Model S (85 kWh) 84¹ 5.6
    Lexus ES 300h 36 8.2
    Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited 36 8.2
    BMW 328d xDrive
    35 8.5
    Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTec
    30 8.3
    BMW 328i 28 6.3
    Audi A7 3.0 TDI 28 6.6
    Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 28 6.6
    Acura ILX Premium 28 7.5
    Acura TLX 2.4L 27 7.4
    Audi A3 Premium 27 8.3
    Mercedes-Benz C300 (AWD) 26 6.8
    Volkswagen CC Sport
    26 7.5
    Infiniti Q70 (V6) 25 5.6
    Acura TLX SH-AWD 25 6.5
    Nissan Maxima Platinum 25 6.5
    Lexus ES 350 25 6.7
    Audi A4 Premium 25 7.2
    Volvo S60 T5 Drive-E
    25 7.9
    Toyota Avalon Limited 24 7.0
    Buick Regal Premium I (turbo)
    24 7.4
    Buick Verano Leather
    24 8.5
    BMW 535i 23 6.1
    Acura RLX Tech 23 6.5
    Cadillac ATS Luxury
    23 6.5
    Lincoln MKZ 2.0 Eco Boost 23 7.4
    SMALL SUVS Overall mpg = 21 or higher; 0-60 mph = 11.0 or less
    Honda HR-V LX 29 10.5
    Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid 28 10.1
    Mercedes-Benz GLA250
    26 6.9
    Mini Cooper Countryman S 26 8.3
    Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium 26 8.7
    Subaru XV Crosstrek Premium 26 9.7
    Mazda CX-5 Touring (2.5L) 25 8.0
    Chevrolet Trax LT 25 10.8
    Nissan Juke SV 24 7.9
    Toyota RAV4 XLE 24 9.0
    Nissan Rogue SV 24 9.5
    Jeep Renegade Latitude 24 9.9
    BMW X3 xDrive 28i 23 7.3
    BMW X1 xDrive28i 23 6.8
    Buick Encore Leather 23 11.0
    Honda CR-V EX 23 9.2
    Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE 23 9.6
    Acura RDX 22 6.6
    Ford Escape Titanium (2.0) 22 8.2
    Ford Escape SE (1.6) 22 9.9
    Jeep Compass Latitude 22 10.3
    Kia Sportage LX 22 10.3
    Jeep Cherokee Latitude (4-cyl.)
    22 10.9
    Mercedes-Benz GLK350 21 6.1
    Kia Sportage SX (turbo)
    21 7.1
    Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Pure 21 7.2
    Jeep Cherokee Limited (V6)
    21 7.7
    Audi Q5 Premium Plus 21 7.9
    Volkswagen Tiguan SEL 21 8.5
    Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE
    21 8.6
    Jeep Patriot Latitude 21 10.3
    MIDSIZED SUVS Overall mpg = 18 or higher; 0-60 mph = 9.5 or less
    Lexus RX 450h 26 7.7
    Toyota Highlander Hybrid Ltd.   25 8.3
    Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited (diesel)
    24 8.6
    Volkswagen Touareg TDI 24 8.4
    Acura MDX Tech 21 6.8
    Lexus RX 350 21 7.3
    BMW X5 xDrive 35i 21 7.4
    Kia Sorento EX (V6) 21 7.4
    Nissan Murano SL
    21 7.7
    Ford Edge SEL   21 8.8
    Honda Pilot EX-L
    20 7.5
    Toyota Highlander XLE 20 7.5
    Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 20 7.6
    Porsche Cayenne (base) 19 7.8
    Infiniti QX60 (3.5L) 19 8.3
    Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE
    18 6.5
    Mercedes-Benz ML350 18 6.8
    Infiniti QX70 18 6.8
    Cadillac SRX Luxury 18 7.1
    Chevrolet Equinox LTZ (V6) 18 7.1
    Nissan Pathfinder SL 18 7.7
    Toyota 4Runner SR5 (V6) 18 7.7
    Ford Explorer XLT 18 7.9
    Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited (V6) 18 8.0
    LARGE SUVS Overall mpg = 15 or higher; 0-60 mph = 10.0 or less
    Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec 20 8.2
    Dodge Durango Limited (V6)
    18 9.4
    Ford Flex SEL 18 8.5
    Cadillac Escalade Premium
    16 6.1
    Chevrolet Tahoe LT 16 7.7
    Chevrolet Suburban LTZ 16 7.9
    Chevrolet Traverse LT 16 8.8
    Infiniti QX80 15 6.9
    Lincoln Navigator Base
    15 7.0
    Toyota Sequoia Limited 15 7.1
    Buick Enclave CXL 15 7.9
    MINIVANS Overall mpg = 19 or higher; 0-60 mph = 9.0 or less
    Honda Odyssey EX-L 21 8.4
    Toyota Sienna XLE (FWD) 20 8.8
    Kia Sedona EX 20 8.0
    Nissan Quest SL 19 8.4
    Toyota Sienna XLE (AWD) 19 8.5
    PICKUP TRUCKS Overall mpg = 15 or higher; 0-60 mph = 10.0 or less
    Ram 1500 Big Horn (diesel)
    20 9.5
    Toyota Tacoma (base, V6) 17 7.6
    Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT 16 7.5
    Toyota Tundra SR5 (5.7, V8) 15 6.7
    Ram 1500 Big Horn (V8) 15 7.1
    Chevrolet Colorado LT (V6)
    18 7.5
    Ford F-150 XLT (3.5L EcoBoost)
    16 7.2
    WAGONS/HATCHBACKS Overall mpg = 23 or higher; 0-60 mph = 11.0 or less
    Toyota Prius V Three 41 10.7
    Ford C-MAX Hybrid SE 37 8.4
    Ford Focus SEL hatchback
    28 9.3
    Fiat 500L Easy
    27 9.5
    Hyundai Elantra GT 27 9.8
    Kia Soul Plus 26 8.8
    Subaru Impreza Sport Premium 26 9.4
    Subaru Outback 2.5i
    24 10.5
    Scion xB 23 9.4
    Mazda5 Grand Touring 23 9.6

     

    Best and worst new cars

    See our best and worst section to help filter down your purchase considerations including best new cars under $25K, best and worst new car values, and most fun to drive. Plus, check out our guide to fuel economy for gas saving tips.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Highest-Scoring American Vehicles

    There are many ways to view the Consumer Reports Ratings to find the highest-rated vehicle in a given category or price range. But we get many questions from journalists and our readers regarding the best current American-branded vehicles.

    To answer that popular query, we sorted vehicles into 14 key categories—with a notable tie for midsized SUVs. We found that Ford Motor Company has seven slots. General Motors captures four entries, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles has three, and Tesla Motors has one. Reviewing the scores, we find that most of these American models are quite competitive, scoring well in most cases. Unfortunately, some models are not recommended due to below average or unknown reliability. Check our Ratings (available to online subscribers) to see which ones are both top scoring and reliable.

    Category Model Overall test score
    Compact car Ford Focus SE sedan

    72

    Midsized car Ford Fusion SE (1.5T)

    85

    Large car Chevrolet Impala 2LTZ
    91
    Luxury compact car Buick Regal Premium I (turbo)
    83
    Luxury midsized car Lincoln MKZ 2.0 EcoBoost
    84
    Luxury large car Tesla Model S P85D

    100

    Sports car Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 3LT

    92

    Small SUV Ford Escape Titanium (2.0T)

    78

    Midsized SUV Ford Edge SEL (2.0L EcoBoost) 82
    Midsized SUV Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited (diesel)

    82

    Large SUV Dodge Durango Limited (V6)

    83

    Luxury SUV Buick Enclave CXL

    77

    Full-sized pickups
    Ram 1500 Big Horn (diesel)

    82

    Minivan Ford Transit Connect XLT (2.5L)

    76

    Wagon Ford C-Max Hybrid SE 77
    Best and worst new cars

    See our best and worst section to help filter down your purchase considerations including best new cars under $25K, best and worst new car values, most fuel-efficient, and most fun to drive.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Best MPG Cars for City & Highway Commutes

    Depending on how you drive and what your typical commute looks like, you may want to compare how a vehicle fares in city versus highway mileage. If you are consistently in stop-and-go traffic, you want to find a car that uses the least gas in those situations. If you drive mainly on the highway, you can get up to double the city miles as cars typically use the least gas when driving at highway speeds. 

    Check out our list of which vehicles have the best fuel economy in city or highway driving.

    Click through the model names for the complete road test and ratings (available to online subscribers).

    Best city mpg

    These cars use the least gasoline in stop-and-go driving.

    Make & model  MPG
    BMW i3 Giga 135*
    Ford Focus Electric 108*
    Mitsubishi i SE 104*
    Ford C-Max Energi 87* / 36**
    Nissan Leaf SL 86*
    Chevrolet Volt 76* / 23**
    Tesla Model S (85 kWh) 65*
    Tesla Model S P85D 64*
    Toyota Prius C Two 37
    Ford C-Max Hybrid SE 35
    Ford Fusion SE Hybrid 35
    Toyota Prius V Three 33
    Honda Accord Hybrid
    32
    Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE 32
    Toyota Prius Four 32
    Lexus CT 200h Premium 31
    Smart ForTwo Passion 30
    Lincoln MKZ Hybrid 29
    Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited 29
    Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SE 29
    Mitsubishi Mirage ES
    28
    Honda Civic Hybrid 28
    Lexus ES 300h 28
    Scion iQ 27
    Honda CR-Z EX (MT) 26
    Fiat 500 Pop (MT) 25
    Ford Fiesta SE (3-cyl., MT)
    25
    * = MPGe
    ** = MPG on gas only

     

    Best highway mpg

    If you drive mainly on the highway, these cars are the most fuel efficient.

    Make & model  MPG
    BMW i3 Giga 141*
    Nissan Leaf SL 118*
    Chevrolet Volt 118* / 41**
    Mitsubishi i-MiEV SE
    116*
    Ford Focus Electric 107*
    Tesla Model S (base, 85 kWh) 102*
    Tesla Model S P85D
    110*
    Ford C-Max Energi 98* / 38**
    Toyota Prius Four 55
    Honda Civic Hybrid 50
    BMW 328d xDrive 49
    Toyota Prius C Two 48
    Lexus CT 200h Premium 47
    Mitsubishi Mirage ES 47
    Toyota Prius V Three 47
    Ford Fiesta SE (3-cyl., MT)
    46
    Ford Fiesta sedan SE 45
    Honda CR-Z EX (MT) 45
    Hyundai Accent GLS 45
    Mazda3 i Touring sedan 45
    Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SE 45
    Lexus ES 300h 44
    Mazda6 Sport 44
    Nissan Altima 2.5 S (4-cyl.) 44
    Smart ForTwo Passion 44
    Ford Focus SE sedan 43
    Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited 43
    Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE 43
    Toyota Corolla LE Plus 43
    Fiat 500 Sport (MT) 42
    Fiat 500c Pop (MT) 42
    Ford Fiesta SES hatchback (MT) 42
    Honda Fit EX 42
    Audi A7 3.0 TDI 41
    Ford Fusion SE Hybrid 41
    Mazda3 i Grand Touring hatchback 41
    Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTec
    41
    Toyota Yaris LE 41
    * = MPGe
    ** = MPG on gas only
    Best and worst new cars

    See our best and worst section to help filter down your purchase considerations including best new cars under $25K, best and worst new car values, most fuel-efficient, and most fun to drive.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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  • 10/20/15--09:44: The Most Fuel-Efficient SUVs
  • The Most Fuel-Efficient SUVs

    SUVs are very versatile vehicles for transporting passengers and cargo, and now you don't have to sacrifice fuel economy to get the space you want. Many SUVs now have fuel economy on par with large sedans. There are a few hybrids and diesel SUVs, but regular gasoline engines can be gas sippers in SUVs, as well.

    Among Consumer Reports' more than 50 vehicle tests are fuel economy measurements. Our fuel economy numbers come from our measurements using a precision flow meter and are rounded to the nearest mile per gallon (mpg).

    Our overall mileage is calculated from equal portions of city and expressway driving.

    The chart that follows features the most fuel-efficient SUVs that Consumer Reports has tested. (See our list of the most fuel-efficient cars). Also see our Ratings comparison by category, which lists each vehicle's overall mileage. 

    Rank Make & model CR Overall MPG City MPG Highway MPG
    1 Lexus NX300h 29 23 34
    2 Honda HR-V LX 29 20 39
    3 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid
    28 21 35
    4 Lexus RX 450h 26 22 31
    5 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250
    26 19 35
    6 Subaru XV Crosstrek Premium 26 19 34
    7 Mini Countryman S 26 19 33
    8 Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium 26 18 35
    9 Mazda CX-5 Touring 2.5L 25 19 32
    10 Chevrolet Trax LT
    25 18 34
    11 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Ltd. 25 18 32
    12 Toyota RAV4 XLE 24 18 31
    13 Lexus NX 200t
    24 17 33
    14 Jeep Grand Cherokee LImited (diesel)
    24 17 32
    15 Volkswagen Touareg TDI 24 17 31
    16 Nissan Rogue 24 17 30
    17 Jeep Renegade Latitude 24 16 32
    18 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 23 17 30
    19
    BMW X1 xiDrive28i 23 16 32
    20 Buick Encore Leather 23 16 32
    21 Honda CR-V EX 23 16 32
    22 BMW X3 xDrive28i 23 16 30
    23 Kia Sportage LX (4-cyl.) 22 16 30
    24 Ford Escape SE
    22 15 31
    25 Jeep Cherokee Latitude (4-cyl.) 22 15 31
    26 Ford Escape Titanium
    22 15 29
    27 Jeep Compass Latitude 22 15 29
    28 Acura RDX 22 14 31
    29 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL 21 16 27
    30 Kia Sportage SX (turbo) 21 15 29
    31 Nissan Murano SL
    21 15 29
    32 Jeep Patriot Latitude 21 15 28
    33 Lexus RX350 21 15 27
    34 Honda Crosstour EX-L 21 14 32
    35 Acura MDX Tech
    21 14 31
    36 Ford Edge SEL (2.0L EcoBoost) 21 14 31
    37 Chevrolet Equinox 1LT (4-cyl.) 21 14 30
    38 Kia Sorento EX (V6)
    21 14 30
    39 Audi Q5 Premium Plus 21 14 29
    40 Jeep Cherokee Limited (V6)
    21 14 29
    41 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 21 14 29
    42 BMW X5 xDrive35i 21 14 28
    43 Land Rover Discovery Sport
    21 14 28

    In addition to research and reviews, Consumer Reports offers subscribers access to the Build & Buy Car Buying Service at no additional cost. Through this service, a nationwide network of about 10,000 participating dealers provide upfront pricing information, as well as a certificate to receive guaranteed savings off MSRP (in most states). The pricing information and guaranteed savings includes eligible incentives. Consumer Reports subscribers have saved an average of $2,919 off MSRP with the Build & Buy Car Buying Service.

    Best and worst new cars

    See our best and worst section to help filter down your purchase considerations including best new cars under $25K, best and worst new car values, and most fun to drive. Plus, check out our guide to fuel economy for gas saving tips.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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  • 10/20/15--09:44: Best & Worst Fuel Economy
  • Best & Worst Fuel Economy

    The lists below highlight the vehicles within each category that achieved the best or worst gas mileage in our tests. We have selected mpg cutoffs that are relative to each category. For example, a vehicle that gets 19 mpg would not be a standout among wagons, but it would be among the highest in the midsized SUV or minivan categories. 

    Click through to each model overview page to find out how the vehicles rate in our road tests, reliability, safety, and more.

    Best

    Rank Make & Model Overall mpg City mpg Highway mpg
    FUEL-EFFICIENT HATCHBACKS Overall mpg = 38 or higher 
    1 BMW i3 Giga
    139* 135* 141*
    2 Mitsubishi i-MiEV SE 111* 104* 116*
    3 Ford Focus Electric 107* 108* 107*
    4 Nissan Leaf SL 106 * 86 * 118 *
    5 Chevrolet Volt 99* / 32** 76* / 23** 118* / 41**
    6 Ford C-Max Energi 94* / 37** 87* / 36** 98* / 38**
    7 Toyota Prius Four 44 32 55
    8 Toyota Prius C Two 43 37 48
    9 Lexus CT 200h Premium 40 31 47
    10 Smart ForTwo Passion 39 30 44
    * = MPGe
    **
    = MPG on gas engine only
    SUBCOMPACT CARS Overall mpg = 31 or higher
    1 Mitsubishi Mirage ES
    37 28 47
    2 Ford Fiesta SE (3-cyl., MT)
    35 25 46
    3 Scion iQ 34 27 40
    4 Honda Fit EX 33 24 42
    5 Ford Fiesta SE sedan 33 22 45
    6 Hyundai Accent SE hatchback (MT) 32 24 40
    7 Ford Fiesta SES hatchback (MT) 32 23 42
    8 Toyota Yaris LE 32 23 41
    9 Nissan Versa SV sedan 32 23 40
    10 Nissan Versa Note SV 32 22 42
    11 Chevrolet Spark 1LT
    31 22 39
    12 Hyundai Accent GLS sedan 31 20 45
    COMPACT CARS Overall mpg = 29 or higher
    1 Honda Civic Hybrid 40 28 50
    2 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SE 37 29 45
    3 Mazda3 i Touring sedan 33 23 45
    4 Mazda3 i Grand Touring hatchback
    32 24 41
    5 Toyota Corolla LE Plus 32 23 43
    6 Mini Cooper (3-cyl)
    31 22 41
    7
    Honda Civic EX
    30 21 40
    8 Volkswagen Jetta SE (1.8T) 30 21 39
    9 Nissan Sentra SV
    29 21 38
    10 Hyundai Elantra SE (1.8L) 29 20 39
    SPORTY CARS/ROADSTERS Overall mpg = 28 or higher (tested with manual transmission)
    1 Honda CR-Z EX 35 26 45
    2 Fiat 500c Pop 34 25 42
    3 Fiat 500 Sport 33 24 42
    4 Mini Cooper S 30 23 38
    5 Hyundai Veloster 31 24 37
    6 Scion FR-S 30 23 37
    7 Subaru BR-Z Premium 30 23 37
    8 Ford Fiesta ST
    29 21 36
    9 Honda Civic Si 29 20 39
    10 Volkswagen GTI Autobahn
    29 20 39
    11 Fiat 500 Abarth 28 21 34
    12 BMW Z4 sDrive28i 28 19 38
    MIDSIZED CARS Overall mpg = 26 or higher
    1 Ford Fusion SE Hybrid 39 35 41
    2 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE 38 32 43
    3 Mazda6 Sport 32 22 44
    4 Nissan Altima 2.5 S (4-cyl.) 31 21 44
    5 Honda Accord LX (4-cyl.) 30 21 40
    6 Chrysler 200 Limited (4-cyl.)
    30 19 44
    7 Volkswagen Passat SE (1.8T)
    28 19 39
    8 Toyota Camry LE (4-cyl.) 28 19 38
    9 Hyundai Sonata SE (4.-cyl) 28 18 40
    10 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium 26 17 39
    11 Chevrolet Malibu 1LT 26 17 38
    12 Toyota Camry XLE (V6) 26 17 37
    13 Honda Accord EX-L (V6) 26 16 39
    UPSCALE/LUXURY CARS Overall mpg = 24 or higher
    1 Tesla Model S P85D 87* 64* 110*
    2 Tesla Model S (base, 85 kWh) 84* 65* 102*
    3 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited 36 29 43
    4 Lexus ES 300h
    36 28 44
    5 BMW 328d xDrive
    35 24 49
    6 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid 34 29 38
    7 Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTec
    30 21 41
    8 Audi A7 3.0 TDI 28 19 41
    9 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 28 19 39
    10 BMW 328i 28 19 39
    11 Acura ILX Premium 28 18 42
    12 Acura TLX 2.4L 27 18 41
    13 Audi A3 Premium
    27 18 40
    14 Buick LaCrosse Leather (4-cyl.) 26 18 39
    15 Mercedes-Benz C300 (AWD) 26 18 35
    16 Volkswagen CC Sport 26 18 35
    17 Nissan Maxima Platinum 25 17 36
    18 Audi A4 Premium 25 17 35
    19 Lexus ES 350 25 17 35
    20 Infiniti Q70 Hybrid 25 17 33
    21
    Acura TLX SH-AWD 25 16 36
    22 Toyota Avalon Limited 24 16 34
    23 Buick Verano Leather 24 16 33
    24 Buick Regal Premium I (turbo) 24 15 35
    WAGONS & HATCHBACKS Overall mpg = 26 or higher
    1 Toyota Prius V Three 41 33 47
    2 Ford C-MAX Hybrid SE 37 35 38
    3 Ford Focus SEL 28 19 39
    4 Fiat 500L Easy 27 18 37
    5 Hyundai Elantra GT 27 18 37
    6 Kia Soul Plus 26 19 33
    7 Subaru Impreza Sport Premium 26 19 33
    SMALL SUVS Overall mpg = 22 or higher
    1 Lexus NX 300h 29 23 34
    2 Honda HR-V LX 29 20 39
    3 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid 28 21 35
    4 Mercedes-Benz GLA
    26 19 35
    5 Subaru XV Crosstrek Premium 26 19 34
    6 Mini Countryman S 26 19 33
    7 Subaru Forester 26 18 35
    8 Mazda CX-5 Touring (2.5L) 25 19 32
    9 Chevrolet Trax LT 25 18 34
    10 Toyota RAV4 XLE 24 18 31
    11 Lexus NX 200t 24 17 33
    12 Nissan Rogue SV 24 17 30
    13 Jeep Renegade Latitude 24 16 32
    14 BMW X1 xDrive28i 23 16 32
    15 Buick Encore Leather 23 16 32
    16 Honda CR-V EX 23 16 32
    17 BMW X3 xDrive28i 23 16 29
    18 Kia Sportage LX (4-cyl.) 22 16 30
    19 Ford Escape SE (1.6)
    22 15 31
    20 Jeep Cherokee Latitude (4-cyl.)
    22 15 31
    21 Ford Escape Titanium (2.0) 22 15 29
    22 Jeep Compass Latitude
    22 15 29
    23 Acura RDX 22 14 31
    MIDSIZED/LARGE SUVS Overall mpg = 18 or higher
    1 Lexus RX 450h 26 22 31
    2 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Ltd.
    25 18 32
    3 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited (diesel)
    24 17 32
    4 Volkswagen Touareg TDI 24 17 31
    5 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 23 17 30
    6 Nissan Murano SL
    21 15 29
    7 Lexus RX 350 21 15 27
    8 Acura MDX Tech 21 14 31
    9 Ford Edge SEL (2.0L EcoBoost)
    21 14 31
    10 Chevrolet Equinox 1LT (4-cyl.) 21 14 30
    11 Kia Sorento EX (V6)
    20 13
    28
    12 BMW X5 xDrive 35i 21 14 28
    13 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 20 14 29
    14 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec
    20 14 28
    15 Toyota Highlander XLE 20 14 27
    16 Honda Pilot EX-L 20 13 28
    17 Porsche Cayenne (base) 19 14 26
    18 Infiniti QX60 (3.5L) 19 13 26
    19 Mercedes-Benz ML350 18 13 25
    20 Nissan Pathfinder SL 18 13 25
    21 Infiniti QX70 18 13 24
    22 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE 18 13 23
    23 Cadillac SRX Luxury 18 12 26
    24 Ford Explorer XLT
    18 12 26
    25
    Chevrolet Equinox LTZ (V6)
    18 12 25
    26 Dodge Durango Limited (V6)
    18 12 25
    27 Ford Flex SEL
    18 12 25
    28 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited (V6)
    18 12 24
    29 Toyota 4Runner SR5 (V6) 18 12 24
     MINIVANS Overall mpg = 19 or higher
    1 Ford Transit Connect XLT (2.5L)
    21 15 27
    2 Honda Odyssey 21 13 31
    3 Toyota Sienna XLE (FWD) 20 14 27
    4 Kia Sedona EX 20 13 28
    5 Toyota Sienna XLE (AWD) 19 13 24
    6 Nissan Quest SL 19 13 24
    PICKUPS Overall mpg = 16 or higher
    1 Ram 1500 Big Horn (diesel) 20 14 27
    2 Chevrolet Colorado LT (V6)
    18 13 26
    3 Toyota Tacoma (base, V6) 17 13 21
    4 Ford F-150 XLT (2.7 EcoBoost)
    17 12 22
    5 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT 16 11 23
    6 Ford F-150 XLT (3.5 EcoBoost) 16 11 22

     

    Worst

    Rank Make & Model Overall mpg City mpg Highway mpg
    SMALL CARS Overall mpg = 24 or less
    1 Scion xB 23 16 30
    ROADSTERS/SPORTY CARS Overall mpg = 17 or less
    1 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS convertible 17 11 25
    UPSCALE/LUXURY SEDANS Overall mpg = 18 or less
    1 Chevrolet SS 17 12 23
    2 BMW 750Li 18 12 25
    3 Mercedes-Benz S550 (AWD)
    18 12 28
    MIDSIZED/LARGE SUVS Overall mpg = 14 or less
    1 Nissan Armada Platinum 13 9 18
    2 Toyota Land Cruiser 14 10 20
    3 Ford Expedition EL 14 10 19
    MINIVANS Overall mpg = 17 or less
    1 Chrysler Town & Country Touring-L 17 11 27

     

    Best and worst new cars

    See our best and worst section to help filter down your purchase considerations including the most fuel-efficient SUVs, best new cars under $25K, best and worst new car values, and most fun to drive. Plus, check out our guide to fuel economy for gas saving tips.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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  • 10/20/15--09:44: The Most Fuel-Efficient Cars
  • The Most Fuel-Efficient Cars

    Fuel economy is an important factor to consider when buying a new car, even when gas prices are down—they won't stay that way forever. Many conventional cars today offer impressive fuel economy, especially in contrast to what you may be trading in. Further, alternative powertrains offer an increasing arrary of choices, with diesels, electrics, and hybrids each carry appeal for different drivers.  

    Measuring fuel economy is among our more than 50 tests we conduct on each car we purchase. Our fuel economy numbers are derived from a precision flow meter and are rounded to the nearest mile per gallon (mpg).

    CR's overall mileage is calculated from equal portions of city and highway driving.

    The chart that follows features the most fuel-efficient cars currently sold that Consumer Reports has tested (see our list of the most fuel-efficient SUVs). Also see our Ratings comparison by category (available to online subscribers), which lists each vehicle's overall mileage.

    Rank Make & model CR Overall MPG City MPG Highway MPG
    1 BMW i3 Giga 139* 135* 141*
    2 Mitsubishi i-MiEV SE 111* 104* 116*
    3 Ford Focus Electric 107* 108* 107*
    4 Nissan Leaf SL 106* 86* 118*
    5 Chevrolet Volt 99* / 32** 76* / 23** 118* / 41**
    6 Ford C-Max Energi 94* / 37** 87* / 36** 98* / 38**
    7 Tesla Model S P85D
    87* 64* 110*
    8 Tesla Model S (base, 85kWh) 84* 65* 102*
    9 Toyota Prius Four 44 32 55
    10 Toyota Prius C Two 43 37 48
    11 Toyota Prius V Three 41 33 47
    12 Lexus CT 200h Premium 40 31 47
    13 Honda Civic Hybrid 40 28 50
    14 Ford Fusion Hybrid SE 39 35 41
    15 Smart ForTwo Passion 39 30 44
    16 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE 38 32 43
    17 Ford C-MAX Hybrid SE 37 35 38
    18 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SE 37 29 45
    19 Mitsubishi Mirage ES
    37 28 47
    20 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited 36 29 43
    21 Lexus ES 300h 36 28 44
    22 Honda CR-Z EX (MT) 35 26 45
    23 Ford Fiesta SE (3-cyl., MT)
    35 25 46
    24 BMW 328d xDrive 35 24 49
    25 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid 34 29 38
    26 Scion iQ 34 27 40
    27 Fiat 500 Pop (MT) 34 25 42
    28 Fiat 500 Sport (MT) 33 24 42
    29 Honda Fit EX 33 24 42
    30 Mazda3 i Touring sedan 33 23 45
    31 Ford Fiesta SE sedan 33 22 45

    * = MPGe
    ** = MPG on gas only

    When buying a car, in addition to research and reviews, Consumer Reports offers subscribers access to the Build & Buy Car Buying Service at no additional cost. Through this service, a nationwide network of about 10,000 participating dealers provide upfront pricing information and a certificate to receive guaranteed savings off MSRP (in most states). The pricing information and guaranteed savings includes eligible incentives. Consumer Reports subscribers have saved an average of $2,919 off MSRP with the Build & Buy Car Buying Service.

    Best and worst new cars

    See our best and worst section to help filter down your purchase considerations including best new cars under $25K, best and worst new car values, and most fun to drive. Plus, check out our guide to fuel economy for gas saving tips.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Consumer Reports' Reliability History

    Consumer Reports published its first reliability chart in 1952, based on responses from 50,000 subscribers. The survey, conducted by a third-party organization, covered most major brands sold in the U.S. at the time, including Nash, Packard, and Rambler.

    The chart expanded from 35 different models in 1963 and to 44 cars in 1967.

    In 1972, we took the survey in-house, and have since consistently published automotive reliability surveys for our readers, making ours the oldest vehicle-reliability survey of its kind. The results contained reliability history charts showing which cars required more than average repairs in different problem areas. (In more recent surveys, we ask about problems, not repairs.) We received responses on 350,000 cars and 124 different models in the 1972 survey, including such obscure cars as the Renault 16, the Rover 2000, and the Simca 1200.

    Datsuns, Mercedes-Benz sedans, Toyota Coronas and Corollas, the ubiquitous Volkswagen Beetle, and the Dodge Dart proved to be among the most reliable. However, the Ford Thunderbird, Jeep wagons, International Travelall, Mercury Cougar, and Pontiac Tempest were among the least-reliable models in that survey.

    The trend of vehicles with Japanese nameplates being overall more reliable than domestic makes in our survey continues to this day.

    In the 1980s, some of the most reliable cars in our survey were made by Honda, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota. In 1984, our 294,000 responses allowed us to rate the reliability of 198 models. New problem areas included engine cooling and ignition systems. In 1991, our responses rose to more than 800,000. We had reliability data on 360 models. The most reliable models of that decade continued to be from imports such as Honda, Toyota, Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus. Most, but not all Nissans did well. Meanwhile, GM's new Saturn division entered the market as a reliable American brand.

    But the Hyundai Excel, Ford Tempo and the Pontiac Sunbird all had dubious reliability. SUVs such as the Ford Bronco and Chevrolet Blazer also did poorly. Ford's new small van, the Aerostar joined Jeeps among the worst in reliability.

    At the end of the '90s, Mercedes-Benz introduced the unreliable M-Class, beginning the brand's decline in our surveys. While it has become more reliable over the years, results from our 2014 survey shows that Mercedes-Benz has dropped once again, their new or redesigned models did not perform well.

    In 2004, we added a survey for our online subscribers. That year we received responses on almost 810,000 cars. In 2011, the results ballooned to cover over 1.3 million vehicles, allowing us to report on more than 300 models.

    Our latest survey—based on responses on more than 740,000 vehicles—shows that for new car reliability, German luxury brand Audi now ranks among the top three, with the prominent Japanese brands. Lexus, Toyota, Mazda, and Subaru remained the most reliable. Korean brand Kia ranked above Honda this year, and Hyundai is in the top 10. Mini, BMW, Volvo, Volkswagen, and Porsche rank in the top half. Some domestic brands continue to show improvement, with Buick becoming the most reliable domestic brand. Fiat-Chrysler brands have taken a dive to the bottom of the ranking.

    Guide to reliability

    See our special section on reliability including which cars owners will buy again, used car reliability, and motorcycle reliability.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Best Cars with Cargo Capacity and Fuel Economy

    With today's ever changing gas prices, many car buyers are opting to trade cargo space for fuel economy by purchasing a smaller vehicle than they might have otherwise. To help buyers who are looking for cargo capacity and fuel economy, our list below highlights vehicles we've tested that provide the best combination of the two.

    In order to get on our list, a vehicle must meet benchmarks that vary depending on vehicle category. The vehicle must have achieved a minimum overall miles-per-gallon (mpg) figure in our fuel economy tests and have a minimum number of cubic feet of cargo capacity, according to our measurements. (For more on saving gas, see our guide to fuel economy.)

    Within groups, vehicles are listed in order of fuel economy; those with identical economy figures are listed in order of cargo volume.

    Make & model

    Fuel economy
    (overall mpg)

    Cargo volume
    (cu. ft.)

    MINIVANS Overall mpg = 18 or higher; cargo = 60 cu. ft. or more
    Ford Transit Connect XLT (2.5L)
    21 61.0
    Honda Odyssey EX-L 21 61.5
    Toyota Sienna XLE (FWD) 20 70.5
    Toyota Sienna XLE (AWD) 19 70.5
    Nissan Quest SL 19 62.0
    SMALL SUVS Overall mpg = 21 or higher; cargo = 24 cu. ft. or more
    Honda HR-V LX
    29 32.0
    Lexus NX 300h
    29 28.5
    Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium 26 35.5
    Mazda CX-5
    25 33.0
    Chevrolet Trax LT
    25 26.0
    Toyota RAV4 XLE 24 37.0
    Nissan Rogue SV 24 31.5
    Lexus NX 200t
    24 28.5
    Jeep Renegade Latitude 24 30.5
    Honda CR-V EX 23 36.0
    BMW X3 xDrive28i 23 33.0
    BMW X1 xDrive 28i 23 26.0
    Buick Encore Leather 23 26.0
    Ford Escape SE (1.6) 22 35.0
    Ford Escape Titanium (2.0) 22 35.0
    Acura RDX 22 31.5
    Jeep Cherokee Latitude (4-cyl.)
    22 31.0
    Kia Sportage LX 22 28.0
    Jeep Compass Latitude 22 26.5
    Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE
    21 33.0
    Audi Q5 Premium Plus 21 32.0
    Mercedes-Benz GLK350 21 32.0
    Jeep Cherokee Limited (V6)
    21 31.0
    Volkswagen Tiguan SEL
    21 30.0
    Jeep Patriot Latitude 21 29.5
    Kia Sportage SX (turbo) 21 28.0
    MIDSIZED/LARGE SUVS Overall mpg = 18 or higher; cargo = 32 cu. ft. or more
    Lexus RX450h (Hybrid) 26 33.5
    Toyota Highlander Hybrid Ltd.   25 40.5
    Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited (diesel)
    24 36.5
    Volkswagen Touareg TDI 24 34.5
    Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 23 35.5
    Ford Edge SEL (2.0L EcoBoost) 21 39.0
    Kia Sorento EX (V6)
    21 37.5
    BMW X5 xDrive35i 21 34.5
    Acura MDX Tech
    21 34.0
    Chevrolet Equinox 1LT (4-cyl.) 21 33.5
    Lexus RX350 21 33.5
    Nissan Murano SL
    21 33.5
    Honda Pilot EX-L
    20 48.0
    Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec 20 47.0
    Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 20 40.5
    Toyota Highlander XLE 20 40.5
    Infiniti QX60 (3.5L) 19 39.0
    Porsche Cayenne (base) 19 33.0
    Ford Flex SEL 18 47.5
    Toyota 4Runner SR5 (V6) 18 44.5
    Dodge Durango Limited (V6)
    18 44.0
    Ford Explorer XLT 18 42.0
    Nissan Pathfinder SL 18 39.5
    Mercedes-Benz ML350 18 37.5
    Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited (V6) 18 36.5
    Chevrolet Equinox LTZ (V6) 18 33.5
    WAGONS/HATCHBACKS Overall mpg = 20 or higher; cargo = 24 cu. ft. or more
    Toyota Prius V Three 41 32.0
    Ford C-MAX Hybrid SE 37 28.0
    Ford Focus SEL 28 24.5
    Kia Soul Plus 26 24.5
    Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium 24 34.0
    Mazda5 Touring 23 39.0
    Scion xB 23 34.0
    Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen SE 23 31.5
    Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
    22 34.0
    Audi Allroad Premium
    22 28.5
    Best and worst new cars

    See our best and worst section to help filter down your purchase considerations including best new cars under $25K, best and worst new car values, and most fun to drive. Plus, check out our guide to fuel economy for gas saving tips.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Consumer Reports’ 2015 Annual Auto Reliability Survey: New Transmission Technology Problems Emerge

    Lexus, Toyota, Audi, Mazda, and Subaru Most Reliable Brands

    YONKERS, NY—While problematic infotainment systems continue to be among the top issues reported by new car owners, Consumer Reports has identified an emerging trend of increased troubles with new transmission systems developed to improve fuel-economy, based on an analysis of its 2015 Annual Auto Reliability Survey.

    The findings, released today before the Automotive Press Association in Detroit, are collected annually from Consumer Reports’ subscribers. CR’s 2015 Annual Auto Reliability Survey takes into account data from more than 740,000 vehicles.

    This year, Acura becomes the latest brand to see its overall predicted-reliability ranking drop sharply (down 7 places from last year) due to problems with in-car electronics and transmissions for its newest RLX and TLX sedans.  CR has already seen these trouble areas drag down overall scores for Ford, Nissan, Fiat-Chrysler and others.

    “We’ve seen a number of brands struggle with new transmission technology,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ Director of Automotive Testing. “Whether it’s a complex system such as a dual-clutch gearbox, a continuously variable transmission, or one with eight or nine speeds. Many vehicles require repair and replacements because of rough shifting among the gears and slipping CVT belts.”

    Not all new-generation transmissions are troublesome. Audi and BMW have created reliable dual-clutch transmissions, while the CVTs in Honda and Toyota hybrids have been strong performers.

    Among the Japanese brands, Lexus pulled off a rare feat, garnering top reliability marks for all seven vehicle lines scored in Consumer Reports survey. But it was the only strong Japanese luxury brand. Nissan’s Infiniti brand has continued its downward trajectory because of problems with its InTouch infotainment system. Although none of Honda’s vehicles rated below average, the brand has dropped a few places largely due to glitches with its infotainment system in redesigned and freshened models. Toyota, Mazda and Subaru were all in the top five.

    Audi, once synonymous with service problems, continued its recent upward trend leading all European brands and finishing third, just behind Lexus and Toyota. Mini, BMW, Volvo, and Volkswagen all finished in the top 15. Porsche dropped from ninth to 14th place because of a declining score for the Cayman and a below-average debut for the Macan.

    Korean automakers, Kia and Hyundai, are considerably stronger and continue to rise in Consumer Reports rankings.  The sister brands finished sixth and ninth, respectively. For the first time, Kia beat the stalwart Japanese brand Honda, and by a significant margin.

    The complete reliability results for all 2016 are available at www.ConsumerReports.org, today, and in the December Issue of Consumer Reports, on newsstands November 1.

    For the second year, Buick was the only domestic brand in the top 10 coming in seventh place. Cadillac dropped seven places to near the bottom, still plagued by its CUE infotainment system.  Other General Motors brands, Chevrolet and GMC finished in the bottom third of the overall rankings.

    Ford remains in the lower half of the rankings as well, but showed significant gains with most of its cars scoring average or better. The redesigned F-150 and Expedition SUV were bright spots, scoring above average in its first year. But the first-year Mustang had issues with its body hardware, drive shaft, and stability/traction control systems. Nine of the 13 Fords Consumer Reports scored had average or better reliability.

    Tesla’s Model S sedan got high marks in Consumer Reports’ 50-plus performance tests, but its predicted reliability is another matter. CR received about 1,400 survey responses from Model S owners who chronicled an array of detailed and complicated maladies. From that data, the Tesla Model S earns a worse-than-average predicted reliability score. The main problem areas are the drivetrain, power equipment, charging equipment, center console, and body and sunroof squeaks, rattles, and leaks.

    While the long-running Chrysler and Dodge minivans scraped up an average reliability score for the first time in many years, all of Fiat-Chrysler brands (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, and Fiat) finished at or near the bottom again.

    For live coverage of CR’s breaking news, connect on Twitter @ConsumerReports and @CRCars, #reliability, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ConsumerReports.

    About Consumer Reports
    Consumer Reports is the world’s largest and most trusted nonprofit, consumer organization working to improve the lives of consumers by driving marketplace change. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has achieved substantial gains for consumers on health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other issues. The organization has advanced important policies to cut hospital-acquired infections, prohibit predatory lending practices and combat dangerous toxins in food. Consumer Reports tests and rates thousands of products and services in its 50-plus labs, state-of-the-art auto test center and consumer research center. Consumers Union, a division of Consumer Reports, works for pro-consumer laws and regulations in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace. With more than eight million subscribers to its flagship magazine, website and other publications, Consumer Reports accepts no advertising, payment or other support from the companies whose products it evaluates.

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    Should You Buy Refurbished Electronics?

    Refurbished laptops, smartphones, and other electronics are products that have been returned to the retailer or manufacturer, and then repaired and put back on sale at a discount. So, if you’re interested in saving a few bucks, does it make sense to buy refurbished electronics? What should you watch out for? And what happens if something goes wrong?

    Surprisingly, only 5 percent of returned electronics are defective, according to a 2011 survey by technology consulting firm Accenture. Some refurbished laptops and other products haven’t even been touched by the person who purchased them—they've been returned because a clerk or delivery guy nicked the box during shipping. In other cases, there is a true defect. In that situation, retailers such as Best Buy send the item to an authorized repair center or the manufacturer for inspection, repair, and repackaging.

    For a consumer, the savings can be dramatic. For instance, a new 64GB iPad Air 2 retails for $600, but through the Certified Refurbished section of Apple's website, you can snag the same model for $509. On some high-ticket items, such as televisions, the price cut can approach 50 percent. 

    Kyle Wiens, CEO of tech repair site iFixit, thinks that buying refurbished can be smart, even if you don't care about getting a deal. “Every computer I've ever bought has been a refurb,” Wiens says. Refurbished electronics get a once-over from a technician, which doesn't happen with most new products, and they're also environmentally friendly—it costs vastly less in terms of energy and raw materials to refurbish a product than to manufacture a new one. “People have this fixation with new, and I don’t understand it,” Wiens says. “You save money; it’s a good buy. It’s better for everybody.”

    Consumer Reports tests only new products that consumers like you can buy at retail. But if you’re looking for refurbished laptops, phones, or other items, we do have some advice. 

    5 Tips for Buying Refurbished

    • Keep an eye on return policies. Apple offers a 14-day return policy for both new and refurbished products. But printer manufacturer Epson follows a final-sale policy on refurbished models, giving you no form of recourse in case something goes wrong. We think it's best to avoid purchasing products as is, since they may not have been through a refurbishment process.
    • Understand credit card protection—or lack of it. Some cards offer purchase protection for items such as laptops or cameras, but not if the products have been used. Check the fine print to see whether your card excludes refurbished goods.
    • Look for a long warranty period. Buying a refurbished product with a solid warranty is easy, if you know where to look. Retailers usually offer a paltry 30-day or a decent 90-day warranty, but Apple provides a year-long warranty. Some outlets, including Amazon, don’t offer a warranty at all, but instead charge for an optional extended warranty on certain products.
    • Buy from brands you trust. Purchasing a refurbished laptop from Best Buy, which sends all refurbished products to authorized repair technicians, is most likely safer than purchasing the same laptop from your local repair shop. If you’re buying from a source that isn’t as well known, do your research before handing over your cash.

    Where to Shop

    Here's a rundown on warranties and what's offered at some of the major sellers of refurbished electronics.

    • AmazonThe huge online retailer sells refurbished, used, and open-box products under Amazon Warehouse. Be careful, though: The company doesn't include warranties on these items; instead it sells optional extended warranties on certain items.
    • AppleAll of Apple’s refurbished products come with a year-long warranty, which is reassuring if you’re worried about the lifespan of your gadgets. The discounts aren’t steep, but $100 off an iPad Air 2 ain’t nothing to sneeze at.
    • Best BuyThe company’s Best Buy Outlet store sells open-box, pre-owned, and refurbished products, all under one online roof. Warranties range from 90 days to 1 year, depending on the product.
    • GameStopThe video game store offers used games, tablets, and consoles. Pre-owned games and electronics are tested and repaired, but come with a slim seven-day return window. If you’re looking to save a few bucks or get a deal on an older game or console, you can’t go wrong with this retailer.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Is a prepaid card right for you?

    Prepaid cards have come a long way. Once considered a pretty niche product, the cards were mostly marketed to low-income people with few or no banking relationships. The cards were expensive, carried many fees, and, because they offered few protections, were risky. Prepaid cards were last resort for consumers who really didn’t have a choice.

    But some prepaid cards have changed for the better, as our report, "Prepaid Cards: How They Rate 2014" (PDF) and Ratings showed. Fees on some prepaid cards are very low, cheaper even than checking accounts. What’s more, today’s prepaid cards more often offer the kinds of features that can help with good money management. 

    These improvements for the better have not been lost on consumers. Prepaid cards are the fastest-growing segment of the payments market. About one in four American households use them, not necessarily as a bank-account substitute but as an adjunct. Who might use them?

    • A parent of a college student might give his son a prepaid card as a way to keep a check on spending, for instance.
    • A mom might load a younger child’s allowance on a card every week to teach her about money management.
    • Young working adults can manage cash flow by having their paycheck loaded onto their card.
    • People who worry that a credit card could make it too easy to overspend can still enjoy the convenience of shopping online and paying bills electronically.

    Check our tips for using a prepaid card, and stay on top of the personal finance news.

    Problems persist

    Concerns remain for prepaid cards. Prepaid cards lack the federal consumer protections that come with debit cards linked to bank accounts. If your card is lost or stolen, you’re out of luck (although all of the cards we reviewed voluntarily offer protection against loss and fraud). Fees can be tough to pin down, and some costs, such as when using an out-of-network ATM, can be hard to figure out ahead of time.

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is expected to close some of these gaps when it issues proposed prepaid card rules, though any federal rules are not expected to be final for some time.

    Must-have prepaid card features

    Different cards offer different features, so be sure the prepaid card you choose does what you want it to do, including: paying bills and having a paper check sent, managing your account by mobile phone and even depositing checks digitally, and linking your prepaid card to your savings account and possibly earning interest on balances. Our top-rated cards have all or most of the features you could want.

    Due to a problem that consumers are having when trying to access their money using the Prepaid Visa RushCard, RushUnlimited Plan and the Prepaid Visa RushCard, Pay As You Go Plan, Consumer Reports is suspending its recommendation of these cards until the problem has been remedied.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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