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    The Best Cloud Storage Services

    If you're hoping to find a new computer, tablet, or even smartphone in your pile of holiday gifts, now's a good time to take a look at setting up a cloud storage service for those gadgets (and for your old ones too). Cloud storage goes beyond a way to just automatically save your photos from your iPhone—it can help you with a variety of tasks, often for free. 

    Cloud storage services can store files, let you work on projects over the Internet without ever downloading them, share documents with friends, and collaborate with coworkers. Most services provide a certain amount of space where you can store and sync your files for free. If you go over that amount, you can pay for more storage. And that means that if you're willing to pay, cloud storage can be an easy way to back up your most important documents, or even your entire hard drive.

    Here’s a look at what five popular services have to offer.

    Apple iCloud. When you use iCloud, you can automatically back up your Apple photo library, app data, and other items you specify. You can also share photos, calendars, and more over iCloud. And of course you can access the files from any of your Apple devices. If you want to use Apple’s Find My Phone app, you’ll need an iCloud account to do so. You get 5GB of space free, but purchases like movies, music, and books don’t count against that total. You can get 50GB of storage for 99 cents a month, 200GB for $2.99, and 1TB for $9.99. iCloud is geared toward Apple devices, but non-Apple users can also set up an iCloud account from which they can create and share documents using Pages, Numbers, and Apple’s other productivity programs. You get 1GB of free storage with that type of account. Apple has had its share of security hacks, including the infamous celebrity photo hack that relied on phishing and guessed login credentials. So the company advises that you use a strong password and two-factor authentication, and provides instructions on how to do so here. Apple also uses various levels of encryption depending on whether an item is being transmitted or stored, as well as on what type of file it is.

    DropBox. What started as a popular way to share music files has grown into a more complex cloud service. As with other services, you can sync and store across devices and platforms. But you can also share files with people who aren’t DropBox members by sending a link that they can use to download the file. There’s a 30-day version history, so if you want to go back to an older file you no longer have anywhere else, you’ll be able to retrieve it on DropBox. There’s a presentation program for collaborating with other users on slides. The Basic plan starts you with 2GB of storage; with the $9.99 a month Pro, you get 1TB of space and the ability to remotely wipe files from lost or stolen devices. The Business version gives you unlimited storage for $15 a month. Data stored in DropBox is protected with 256-bit encryption, and transported through a 128-bit SSL tunnel. You’ll find more security settings here.

    Google Drive. When you sign up for Google Drive, you get a generous 15GB of storage free to get you started. A variety of plans let you add more, from $1.99 a month for 100GB to $299.99 a month for 30TB. Google Drive is one of the services that lets you work collaboratively by sharing documents and giving different users various levels of access, such as edit and comment. You can work on documents wherever you are using the Google Docs and the other office tools. It also works well with Gmail accounts, letting you easily save attachments by hovering over them until you see the Drive logo, or searching for terms in documents or even objects in photos (such as “Empire State Building” in pictures of New York City). Google encrypts your data while it's in transit using SSL, the same level of encryption it uses in Gmail. It also offers these tips to help you keep your data secure.

    Microsoft OneDrive. Even if you don’t have Microsoft Office, you can access, share, and collaborate on documents using a pared-down version of the suite when you’re online with OneDrive. You can use OneDrive from any platform, be it Windows, iOS, or Android. If you’re looking for lots of storage space, you might consider adding Windows 365 to your account. It’s a version of Office that you can share with up to five users (“Home” version, $99.99 a year) or use just for yourself (“Personal” version, $69.99 a year), but either provides you with 1TB of storage instead of the default free 15GB. If you’re a single user who’s not looking for mega-amounts of cloud storage, however, it’s much less costly to stick with the $150 version of Office Home & Student, which is not subscription-based. Here’s how Microsoft says it protects your files in OneDrive, along with some hints on what you can do to keep your data safe.

    SugarSync. Unlike most other cloud services, SugarSync lets you back up and sync entire file folders. But also unlike others, there’s no free option. You can elect the 100GB plan for $7.49 a month or 1TB for $9.98 a month. You can generate private or public links to share your files, and remotely wipe items if one of your devices is lost or stolen. Data is stored using 256-bit encryption.

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

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    The Right Snow Blower for Your Driveway

    Part of the calculation after every snowstorm is deciding which tools in your arsenal best suit the conditions. While homeowners might have an array of shovels and other tools, most of us own just one snow blower.

    Here are the types of snow blowers the pros at Ariens and Consumer Reports recommend for the kind of snow you typically get and the surfaces you need to clear.

    Average Driveway

    A single-stage snow blower should suffice for snow up to about 9 inches, though the wetter the snow the more trouble these smaller models have with snow that deep. Consider a compact two-stage model for anything up to about a foot, wet or dry. Follow up with a steel-bristled broom and ice melt.

    Tip: With dryer snow, blow in the direction of the wind and angle the chute lower if you see the snow is drifting toward where you’ve already cleared. 

    Larger Driveway

    Unless you never get more than a few inches of snow at a time, skip a single-stage snow blower and go for a two-stage machine from 24 to 30 inches wide. The better models also have beefier engines, easier steering, and other convenient features. Because these models don’t clean right down to the pavement, as a single-stage does, follow up with a steel-tipped shovel and ice melt.

    Tip: If you’re committed to getting a two-stage snow blower but aren’t sure what size, consider where it will fit in your garage or shed.

    Deck, Patio, or Short Walkway

    This is where a single-stage snow blower is preferred, since it can get into smaller spaces. They're good for decks too because they typically have a rubber auger that’s safe for the finish. For snowfalls that generally don’t exceed four inches, even an electric model will do. Finish up with a plastic-bristled broom.

    Tip: Try your leaf blower for clearing up to about 3 inches of dry, dusty snow.

    Steep or Unpaved Surfaces

    Consider a track-driven, two-stage snow blower, which passes smoothly over gravel, grass, or other uneven surfaces. These start at about 24-inch clearing widths. You won’t clear down to the surface, but what’s left will melt more easily.

    Tip: If you have a standard two-stage model, adjust the skid shoes (bolted to the sides of the auger box) to raise the auger box’s scraper edge slightly off the ground. Otherwise, the scraper will continuously catch on the surface.

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

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  • 12/23/15--08:37: 5 Best TVs of 2015
  • 5 Best TVs of 2015

    LG 65EF9500

    The 65-inch LG 65EF9500 is our top-rated TV for 2015. Unlike some other models, this set has a flat, rather than curved, screen. The TV has excellent high-definition picture quality, with benchmark-setting black levels. It also has excellent UHD performance—with support for high dynamic range (HDR)—and very good 3D. Like all OLED TVs it has a virtually unlimited viewing angle, and it comes with LG's webOS 2.0 smart TV platform. Yes, at $5,000 the TV is comparatively pricey—but no longer outrageously so. We also recommend the 55-inch version of this set, which costs about $3,000.

    Samsung UN65JS9500

    The Samsung UN65JS9500, a pricey 65-inch flagship LED LCD UHD TV in Samsung's SUHD lineup, deserves kudos for giving LG's 65EF9500 a run for its money. It's the best LCD TV we tested this year, with excellent high-definition picture quality, excellent UHD performance, and even excellent sound. It also has very good 3D, a plus if you care for that feature. The TV, which uses quantum dots for extended colors, sports a curved screen, a full-array LED backlight with local dimming, and Samsung's Tizen smart TV platform. It is also able to display high dynamic range (HDR) content.

    LG 55EG9100

    Looking for a slightly smaller, less expensive OLED TV with a curved screen? Then the LG 55EG9100 may be the ticket. The only set on this list with 1080p, rather than 4K, resolution, it's nonetheless among the best TVs we tested this year, with excellent high-definition picture quality and a virtually unlimited viewing angle—and a price around $2000. Like all the OLED TVs we've tested, it has benchmark-setting black levels, and it comes with LG's webOS 2.0 smart TV platform.

    Sony Bravia XBR-65X930C

    A quick look at the 65-inch Sony Bravia XBR-65X930C set and you'll know you probably don't need a sound bar speaker. The oversized speakers flanking the panel have a decidedly love-it-or-leave it-look, but they deliver the best out-of-the-box sound we heard from a TV this year. (You can even add an external subwoofer if you need more sonic oomph.) Situated just below the company's flagship X940C series, this HDR-capable TV also delivers excellent high-definition picture quality and excellent UHD performance. And this year, Sony's step-up TVs embraced Google's Android TV smart TV platform.

    LG 55EG9600

    The 55-inch LG 55EG9600 OLED UHD, which has a curved screen, has excellent high-definition picture quality, very good UHD performance, and the benchmark-setting black levels we've come to expect from OLED TVs. Like the other LG OLEDs, it comes with LG's webOS 2.0 smart TV platform. We should note that the first set we bought had some of the most noticeable OLED issues mentioned above, but they were less obvious on the second TV we purchased. Even with these shortcomings, it was among the top TVs we tested in 2015.

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

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    Cars That Don't Make Great Holiday Gifts and Ones That Do

    Perhaps you’ve exhausted all the gift possibilities for that special someone in your life, and decided a car with a big, red bow will make their holiday season complete. If you’ve got the serious cash to spend on a gift like a new vehicle, we have two lists for you to consider. Think of them as nice and naughty: Cars we feel would make cool holiday gifts to bring happiness for that special someone (you?) in 2016 and others that would be as warmly received as a lump coal in a stocking. In making our list and checking it twice, we evaluated models for road-test performance, as well as their placement in our reliability and owner-satisfaction surveys. The nice vehicles are all recommended, meaning they did well in testing, have average or better reliability, and performed well if subjected to crash tests.

    Nice: BMW X3

    Base price range: $38,600-$46,350

    The X3 is one of the best upscale SUVs on the market. It seamlessly melds luxury car attributes and driving fun with SUV utility. Handling is very agile and the ride is composed, although the body tends to rock side-to-side on uneven pavement. The 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder returned a very good 23-mpg overall in our tests, and the eight-speed automatic shifts seamlessly. But this engine is a bit short on refinement, with a diesel-like clatter. The interior is beautifully finished, with firm and supportive seats that keep the driver and front passenger comfortable all day. The rear seat is roomy, though the cushion is a bit low. Some controls take time to master, and despite the X3’s lofty price, the must-have rearview camera is only optional. A 2.0-liter diesel and a rear-wheel-drive version are available.

    See our complete BMW X3 road test.


    Nice: Mazda CX-5

    Base price range: $21,795-$29,470

    The small CX-5 SUV is rewarding to drive, thanks to its taut, agile handling and quick, well-weighted steering. Another high point is its good fuel economy. We tested both the 2.0- and 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines. Go with the more-powerful 2.5-liter, which got 25 mpg in our tests and isn’t any thirstier than the 2.0-liter. The interior is roomy and versatile. For 2016 Mazda has made improvements to noise isolation and ride comfort. The interior received a new center stack, which gives it a far more upscale look and feel and houses a new infotainment system. It features a rotary dial that controls the center screen, where all audio, phone, and navigation functions are controlled. Both reliability and owner satisfaction are above average.

    See our complete Mazda CX-5 road test.


    Nice: Mazda3

    Base price range: $17,845-$26,495

    Whether as a sedan or hatchback, the Mazda3 is fun to drive, thanks to its great handling. At 33-mpg, the Mazda3 is the most fuel-efficient compact that isn’t a hybrid or a diesel. It also offers a host of luxury features rarely matched by any other small car, including a multimedia system with a large center screen and active safety features like a blind-spot monitoring system. On the downside, the car tends to be loud on the highway, and ride comfort isn’t stellar. The multimedia controls can be daunting at first and take a while to master, and other compact sedans have roomier rear seats.

    See our complete Mazda3 road test.


    Nice: Mazda6

    Base price range: $21,495-$30,195

    The Mazda6 delivers equal doses sportiness and frugality. Its 2.5-liter four-cylinder is sparing with fuel, delivering 32-mpg overall in our tests, the best fuel economy among conventional midsize sedans. The six-speed automatic is very smooth and delivers quick shifts. When the road turns twisty, the 6 is agile and capable in the corners. The ride is taut and steady, but a bit on the firm side. On top of that, the cabin is rather loud for the class, with considerable wind noise on the highway. None of that has bothered owners, who have praised the Mazda in our owner satisfaction survey. On top of that, reliability is above average. A 2016 freshening includes a new dash and a digital display screen, which is operated via a central knob on the console.

    See our complete Mazda6 road test.


    Nice: Mercedes-Benz E250

    Base price range: $52,650-$104,300

    Long a benchmark midsized luxury sedan, the E-Class combines a feeling of substance and class with enjoyable and agile handling. Luxury-trim versions have a smooth and cushy ride, while the Sport trim has a considerably firmer ride. We were impressed with the four-cylinder diesel, which got an excellent 30-mpg overall in our tests. It delivers a driving range of more than 800-miles, so plan your bathroom breaks accordingly. No matter which version you buy, the interior is plush, with excellent seats and fit and finish. Owners have loved the E-Class, rating it highly in our owner satisfaction survey. 2016 models get an upgraded infotainment system.

    See our complete Mercedes-Benz E-Class road test.


    Nice: Subaru Outback

    Base price range: $24,995-$33,395

    Sometimes overshadowed by the less-expensive Forester, the Outback wagon is a more refined option. It rides very comfortably, with secure handling. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder returns 24-mpg overall, and the unobtrusive CVT operates a lot like a conventional automatic. Opting for the 3.6-liter six-cylinder makes the car quicker and quieter but gives up 2 mpg. Rear seat room and noise isolation were improved with this generation. New safety features include a standard rearview camera and an available system with blind-spot, cross-traffic, and lane-change warnings. The infotainment system has been updated and includes a 6.2-inch touch screen. Owners have been very happy with their Outbacks and reliability has been above average.

    See our complete Subaru Outback road test.


    Naughty: Fiat 500L

    Base price range: $19,195-$24,395

    The 500L looks good on paper, but it is let down by a stiff ride, flat seats, and odd driving position. Versions with the dual-clutch transmission feel sluggish and hesitant around town. Choosing the new conventional automatic eliminates that problem. This quasi-wagon responds eagerly in turns and handles securely at its limits. But the driving position is odd, with a bus like steering-wheel rake and windshield pillars that hamper the view. We like the 500L’s easy access, commodious interior, and spacious backseat. A tiny 5-inch screen is used for the UConnect system. On top of all that, the 500L scored a Poor in the IIHS small-overlap crash test. If that wasn’t enough, reliability has been well below average and 500L owners haven’t been happy with their cars.

    See our complete Fiat 500L road test.


    Naughty: Jeep Compass/Patriot

    Base price range: Compass - $19,395-$25,595, Patriot - $17,295-$21,195

    Both of these SUVs have a low price, simple controls, and a composed ride. Unfortunately, those are their only attractive attributes. The Compass and Patriot are seriously outdated and outclassed by the majority of small SUVs. Handling lacks agility and is unimpressive, although it’s ultimately secure at their relatively low limits. The sluggish 2.4-liter four-cylinder returned a paltry 22-mpg overall in the Compass and 21-mpg in the Patriot. That places them both at the bottom of the small SUV category. The upright front seats are narrow and are not particularly comfortable, and the cabin is cramped. Controls are straightforward, but the very basic interior is austere. The high rear window makes the cabin feel claustrophobic and the styling restricts visibility to the rear. Both have a Poor owner satisfaction score, and reliability is below average for the Patriot. There are far better SUVs on the market, no matter how much of a discount you can get on either Jeep.

    See our complete Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot road tests.


    Naughty: Maserati Ghibli

    Base price range: $69,800-$77,900

    The Ghibli is a combination of Italian power and style on a German chassis. It’s based on a Chrysler 300 platform, itself a derivative of an older Mercedes-Benz platform. The base engine is a Ferrari-developed 345-hp turbo V6 mated to an eight-speed automatic. The SQ-4 all-wheel-drive version we tested has a 404-hp turbo V6. Handling is sporty and agile, the brakes are strong, and the engine emits a thrilling bark. But the stiff ride can grow fatiguing, and the rear seat is cramped. Climbing into or out of this low-slung sports sedan can be a challenge. The interior is festooned with high-quality leather and suede, and most controls are easy to use, including Chrysler’s UConnect touch screen. But it’s hard not to notice some cheap-looking switches, sourced from the Chrysler parts bins. At this price point there is no reason you should settle for the Ghibli, as there are more well-rounded ultra-luxury cars on the market.

    See our complete Maserati Ghibli road test.


    Naughty: Mercedes-Benz CLA

    Base price range: $31,500-$48,500

    Don’t be fooled. While the E250 in the nice list is a real Mercedes-Benz through and through, the sleek CLA250 feels every bit the entry-level car that it is. Yes, the interior has high-quality materials, and fuel economy of 28-mpg is respectable. But the driving experience falls well short of a typical Mercedes. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder and seven-speed automatic lack refinement. It’s quick, but power delivery is uneven. While fairly agile in the corners, the car rides very stiffly. The cabin is noisy and cramped, especially in the rear; the view out is seriously impaired; and cabin access is difficult. Owners haven’t spoken kindly of the CLA once the honeymoon period has worn off, giving it a worse-than-average Rating, and reliability has been well below average. It also scores too low in our testing to be recommended.

    See our complete Mercedes-Benz CLA road test.


    Naughty: Infiniti QX60/Nissan Pathfinder

    Base price range: Infiniti QX60 - $41,550-$46,400, Nissan Pathfinder - $29,630-$43,100

    These two SUVs share the same basic platform and, for good and bad, share similar attributes. Both are have plenty of room for seven passengers and are quiet inside, with the QX60 sporting a particularly well-finished interior. They have a comfortable ride, but handling lacks agility in both versions, and the Infiniti feels rather mushy. In our tests the 265-hp, 3.5-liter V6 and CVT delivered smooth—but just adequate—acceleration. The Infiniti returned 19-mpg overall on premium fuel, while the Nissan got 18-mpg overall using regular. The QX60 has a low 3,500-pound towing limit; the Pathfinder can tow a competitive 5,000 pounds. A family-friendly feature allows access to the third row even with a child seat installed in the second row. But that also resulted in an overly-low second-row seating cushion. Reliability for both has been well below average. Owners haven’t been happy either, giving each SUV a below-average rating.

    See our complete Infiniti QX60 and Nissan Pathfinder road tests.

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

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    Everything you need to know about the Takata airbag recall

    More than 30 million vehicles in the United States, made by 10 different automakers, have been recalled to replace frontal airbags on the driver’s side or passenger’s side, or both. The airbags, made by major parts supplier Takata, were mostly installed in cars from model year 2002 through 2008, although it has been expanded through 2014 in some cases. Some of those airbags could deploy explosively, injuring or even killing car occupants. (Look for details below on waits for replacement airbags.)

    At the heart of the problem is the airbag’s inflator, a metal cartridge loaded with propellant wafers, which in some cases has ignited with explosive force. If the inflator housing ruptures in a crash, metal shards from the airbag can be sprayed throughout the passenger cabin—a potentially disastrous outcome from a supposedly life-saving device.

    Nailing down the root cause and determining which of Takata’s several inflator designs is implicated has been tough for Takata, the automakers, and independent investigators to establish. It now appears there are multiple causes, as well as several contributing factors, including poor quality control in manufacture, several years of exposure in high heat and humidity regions, and even the design of the car itself. If the propellant wafers break down, due to high humidity or another cause, the result is that the propellant burns too rapidly, creating excessive pressure in the inflator body.

    Visit our guide to car safety.

    Recent timeline

    December 23, 2015: NHTSA announces an eighth U.S. fatality due to the questionable Takata airbag inflator, underscoring the need for consumer to have their cars repaired as soon as possible. Further, there have been changes to the official list of affected vehicles, which are reflected in this omnibus story.

    November 3, 2015: NHTSA imposes a record civil penalty of up to $200 million against Takata. (Of that, $70 is a cash penalty, with an additional $130 million charge if Takata fails to meet its commitments.) Plus, the government agency requires Takata to phase out the manufacturer and sale of inflators that use the risky propellant and recall all Takata ammonium nitrate inflators currently on the road—unless the company can prove they are safe or can show it has determined why its inflators are prone to rupture.

    October 9, 2015: Honda releases an update on the Takata airbag recall, stating its progress in reaching out to consumers and its recall repair completion rate.

    June 19, 2015: NHTSA and Honda confirm that an 8th fatality was attributable to a Takata airbag rupture, which took place in Los Angeles in September of 2014. The car was identified as a rented 2001 Honda Civic. Honda said the car had been under recall since 2009 but that various owners, including the small rental company in Los Angeles, had failed to have the repairs made.  

    June 17, 2015: NHTSA VIN look-up tool is updated to include all affected models. Often, there can be a slight delay between announcements and when data is available. 

    June 16, 2015: Toyota expands years for recall on previously announced models, adding 1,365,000 additional vehicles.

    June 15, 2015: Honda expands national recall on Honda Accord.

    June 15, 2015: NHTSA and Honda confirm that Takata airbag rupture was implicated in a seventh death. The driver of a 2005 Honda Civic was fatally injured following a crash on April 5, in Louisiana.

    June 4, 2015: Reuters reports that at least 400,000 replaced airbag inflators will need to be recalled and replaced again. 

    May 29, 2015: Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and General Motors added the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) of the impacted vehicles to their recall websites.

    May 28, 2015: NHTSA and vehicle manufacturers revealed the additional models included in previous recall announcements.

    May 19, 2015: DOT released a statement saying that Takata acknowledges airbag inflators it produced for certain vehicles were faulty. It expanded certain regional recalls to national ones, and included inflators fitted in certain Daimler Trucks in the recalled vehicles. In all, the recall was expanded to a staggering 33.8 million vehicles. That number includes the roughtly 17 million vehicles previously recalled by affected automakers.

    February 20, 2015: NHTSA fined Takata $14,000 per day for not cooperating fully with the agency's investigation into the airbag problems.

    January 18, 2015: The driver of a 2002 Honda Accord became the fifth person in the United States thought to have been killed by an exploding airbag inflator.

    December 18, 2014: Ford issued a statement adding an additional 447,310 vehicles to the recall.

    December 9, 2014: Honda issued a statement saying it will comply with NHTSA and expand its recall to a national level. This brings the number of affected Honda/Acura vehicles to 5.4 million.

    November 18, 2014: NHTSA called for the recalls to be expanded to a national level.

    November 7, 2014: New York Times published a report claiming Takata was aware of dangerous defects with its airbags years before the company filed paperwork with federal regulators.

    Putting the dangers in perspective

    Seven fatalities and more than 100 injuries have been linked to the Takata airbags, and in some cases the incidents were horrific, with metal shards penetrating a driver’s face and neck. As awful as they are, such incidents are very rare. In June of 2015, Takata stated that it was aware of 88 ruptures in total: 67 on the driver’s side and 21 on the passenger’s side out of what it calculated was just over 1.2 million airbag deployments spread over 15 years. Despite these figures, airbags in general are not a danger. The Department of Transportation estimates that between 1987 and 2012, frontal airbags have saved 37,000 lives.

    Based on information provided by Takata and acting under a special campaign by NHTSA, the involved automakers are responding to this safety risk by recalling all vehicles that have these specific airbags. While the automakers are prioritizing resources by focusing on high-humidity areas, they shouldn’t stop there. We encourage a national approach to the risks, as vehicles tend to travel across state borders, especially in the used-car market.

    For a historical perspective, has compiled a list of airbag recalls over time.  

    Takata airbag Q&A

    How do I know whether my car is affected by the recall?

    There are several ways to check whether your specific car is affected. You’ll need your vehicle identification number, VIN, found in the lower driver-side corner of the windshield (observable from outside the vehicle), as well as on your registration and insurance documents. Punch that number into NHTSA’s online VIN-lookup tool. If your vehicle is affected, the site will tell you so. NHTSA also has a list of vehicles available for a quick review, and the manufacturers have ownership sections on their websites for such information. Or you can call any franchised dealer for your car brand.

    Acura Lexus
    BMW Mazda
    Chrysler Mitsubishi (Registration req'd)
    Dodge Nissan
    Ford Subaru
    General Motors (includes Pontiac, Saab) Toyota
    Infiniti NHTSA VIN lookup tool

    What is taking so long for my airbag to arrive?

    Many affected owners are learning that it may take weeks or months for their replacement airbags to arrive. Takata has ramped up and added to its assembly lines, and expects to be cranking out a million replacement kits per month by September, 2015. But with the recalled airbags now numbering more than 34 million, replacing them all could take years, even as other suppliers race to support this initiative.

    Can other suppliers step in to fill the gaps?

    As recently as the fall of 2014 it looked unlikely that other airbag suppliers could pick up the slack. There was little spare assembly capacity anywhere, and rival systems used different designs. That picture is changing, and other major suppliers are now involved, including AutoLiv, TRW, and Daicel. Takata has said that it is now using competitors’ products in half the inflator-replacement kits it is churning out, and expects that number to reach more than 70 percent. Those rival suppliers also use a propellant that hasn’t been implicated in the problems Takata has experienced.

    How important is that I respond to the recall?

    All recalls, by definition, are concerned with safety and should be treated seriously. As with all recalls, we recommend having the work performed as soon as parts are available and the service can be scheduled. Since age has been established as a key factor in most of the Takata airbag ruptures to date, it’s especially important for owners of older recalled cars to get this work done.

    Does it matter where I live?

    According to NHTSA, yes. The Takata inflators seem to be vulnerable to persistent high humidity and high temperature conditions, such as in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, the Gulf Coast states, Hawaii, and island territories. However, since a number of confirmed deaths have occured in places outside the priority recall area, this recall should not be ignored.

    How are repairs being prioritized?

    Automakers are getting the replacement parts as fast as they can, and most are sending them to the high-humidity areas first. Northern and less-humid areas might need to wait longer for parts availability, depending on the brand. Contact your dealership to learn how soon the work can be performed.

    What if I spend only a certain part of the year in a humid climate?  

    People who travel to the higher-risk areas in times of low humidity (such as snowbirds) are not at the same level of risk as those who live in those areas year-round, according to NHTSA.

    Are the airbags in my car definitely defective?

    No. Since 2002 only a very small number of some 30 million cars have been involved in these incidents. Between November, 2014 and May, 2015, Takata reported to NHTSA that the company had conducted more than 30,000 ballistic tests on airbag inflators returned pursuant to the recalls. In those tests, 265 ruptured. That is an unacceptably high number, and, at 0.8 percent, a far higher frequency than what has been seen so far in vehicles on the road. According to defect reports filed with the government, Takata said that as of May 2015 it was aware of 84 ruptures that had occurred in the field since 2002.  

    I’m worried about driving, what should I do until the fix is made?

    If the recall on your car involves only the front passenger-side airbag, then don’t let anyone sit in that seat. But if you use the VIN-lookup tool and it says that the problem involves the driver’s side, you should do what you can to minimize your risk. If possible, consider:

    • Minimizing your driving.
    • Carpooling with someone whose vehicle is not affected by the recall.
    • Utilizing public transportation.
    • Renting a car.

    Renting a car until yours is repaired can prove expensive and ultimately might not be the ideal solution. Asking your dealer whether they will provide one, or a loaner vehicle might be worth a try if it accomplishes nothing else than putting some pressure on the manufacturer. If you do get a rental car, as with any new vehicle or rental, take some time to familiarize yourself with its operation before driving.

    What about shutting off airbags until the replacement parts arrive?

    Right now only Toyota is recommending this course of action. Consumer Reports has concerns about the recommendation from a safety standpoint.

    Should I expect to pay any money to get the recall fix?

    Repairs conducted under the recall are free, but unrelated problems discovered during the service may not be.


    Affected owners in Florida, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico have been prioritized in this recall and will receive parts first. If you live in these regions, make sure to contact your local BMW dealer immediately to schedule an appointment to have your front driver and/or passenger airbag replaced. BMW recommends that no one sit in the front passenger seat until that airbag is replaced.

    Recalled cars:

    2000 328i
    2001-2006 M3
    2002-2003 M5
    2000 323i
    2002-2006 325Ci
    2002-2006 330Ci
    2002-2003 325iT
    2002-2003 325XiT
    2001-2006 325i
    2001-2005 325Xi
    2001-2006 330i
    2001-2005 330Xi
    2002-2003 525i
    2002-2003 530i
    2002-2003 540i
    2003 X5 3.0i
    2003 X5 4.4i


    Chrysler is going to replace the airbag in cars based in Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is currently working on accumulating a supply of replacement parts, and is contacting customers as they become available.

    Chrysler stresses that its vehicles are equipped with inflators that differ from other vehicles. The American automaker is saying that these inflators are not faulty.

    Recalled cars:

    2007-2008 Chrysler Aspen
    2005-2010 Chrysler 300
    2005-2010 Chrysler 300C
    2005-2010 Chrysler SRT8

    2008-2010 Dodge Challenger
    2006-2010 Dodge Charger
    2005-2011 Dodge Dakota
    2004-2008 Dodge Durango
    2005-2008 Dodge Magnum
    2003-2009 Dodge Ram 1500
    2003-2009 Dodge Ram 2500
    2003-2009 Dodge Ram 3500
    2008-2010 Dodge Ram 4500
    2008-2010 Dodge Ram 5500


    Contact your local Ford dealer to schedule an appointment to have the airbag replaced in affected vehicles. Ford states that it has not seen any issues in its vehicles, but under advisement from NHTSA, and with information from Takata, the company is recalling specific vehicles, including the 2004 Ford Ranger and 2005-2014 Mustang.

    Recalled cars:

    2004-2006 Ranger - Driver’s and/or passenger side airbag

    2005-2006 GT - Driver’s and/or passenger side airbag

    2005-2014 Mustang - Driver’s side airbag

    General Motors

    Double check that your vehicle is actually involved. It was first announced that many Buicks, Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles were affected by the recall. It turns out that was an error in reporting by NHTSA. Most of those vehicles were part of an unrelated recall years ago.

    Interestingly, the two remaining vehicles were actually produced by other automakers and rebranded under former GM makes: the 2003-2005 Pontiac Vibe (built alongside the Toyota Matrix) and the 2005 Saab 9-2x (a Subaru-built vehicle rebranded as a Saab). Both vehicles should be taken to a current GM dealership for repairs.

    Recalled cars:

    2003-2007 Pontiac Vibe - Passenger side

    2005 Saab 9-2x - Passenger side

    2007-2008 Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500 - Passenger side

    2007-2008 GMC Sierra 2500/3500 - Passenger side


    Honda has the most affected vehicles, with more than five million cars being recalled. If you haven’t already, go to Honda’s recall site and enter your VIN. If your vehicle is included in this recall, the site will provide a description of the problem and instructions on how to proceed.

    If you have a vehicle that was first sold in, or is registered in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands—take immediate action. If you haven’t already received notice in the mail, print out the results of your VIN search and contact your nearest Honda dealer. They have allocated the replacement parts to these high humidity areas and will replace the part once you’ve made an appointment. Honda will be sending notices to other areas on a rolling basis as the parts become available.

    Honda will comply with NHTSA and expand its recall to a national level. This brings the number of affected Honda/Acura vehicles to 5.75 million.

    On January 18, 2015, the driver of a 2002 Honda Accord became the fifth person in the United States thought to have been killed by an exploding airbag inflator in a minor two-car collision in Spring, Texas. Although that Accord had been recalled to replace its driver-side airbag inflator in 2011, the recall work was never done, Honda has acknowledged. The driver who was killed had bought the car used less than a year ago and may never have received the recall notice. Consumer Reports urges all car owners to respond right away to safety-defect recalls.

    Recalled cars:



    2003-2006 Acura MDX - Driver’s side airbag

    2002-2003 Acura TL - Driver’s side airbag

    2003 Acura CL - Driver’s side airbag

    2005 Acura RL - Passenger side airbag


    2001-2007 Honda Accord - Driver’s side airbag

    2003-2007 Honda Accord - Passenger side airbag

    2001-2005 Honda Civic - Driver’s & passenger side airbag

    2002-2006 Honda CR-V - Driver’s side airbag

    2003-2011 Honda Element - Driver’s side airbag

    2002-2004 Honda Odyssey - Driver’s side airbag

    2003-2008 Honda Pilot - Driver’s side airbag

    2006 Honda Ridgeline - Driver’s side airbag


    Mazda has focused its recall on vehicles sold or registered in Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. The automaker will replace the front and/or passenger airbag inflators.

    Recalled cars:

    2003-2008 Mazda6 - Driver and/or passenger side airbag

    2005-2007 MazdaSpeed6 - Driver and/or passenger side airbag

    2004-2008 Mazda RX-8 - Driver and/or passenger side airbag

    2004-2005 MPV - Driver and/or passenger side airbag

    2004-2006 B-Series Truck - Driver and/or passenger side airbag


    If you see that your car as part of this recall, Mitsubishi advises owners to act immediately in scheduling an appointment to replace it. If the dealer does not have the part yet, they will provide instructions on how best to proceed until the part is available.

    Recalled cars:

    2004-2006 Lancer
    2004-2006 Lancer Evolution
    2004 Lancer Sportback
    2006-2009 Mitsubishi Raider


    Nissan has notified owners of affected vehicles to bring their vehicle in for inspection and potential parts replacement. Extra attention is being paid to “some areas” of Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Nissan says they have a sufficient supply of airbags to keep up with demand.

    Recalled cars:


    2003-2005 Infiniti FX - Passenger side

    2006 Infiniti M35/M45 - Passenger side 

    2001-2004 Infiniti I30/I35 - Passenger side  

    2002-2003 Infiniti QX4 - Passenger side  


    2001-2003 Nissan Maxima - Passenger side 

    2002-2004 Nissan Pathfinder - Passenger side 

    2002-2006 Nissan Sentra - Passenger side  


    Call your local Subaru dealer and schedule an appointment to have the airbag replaced. There is no wait for parts to arrive and no special emphasis on localized climates or regions. Because second owners may not know where the previous owner of their vehicle lived/drove, Subaru does not want to focus on any particular region.

    Recalled cars:

    2003-2005 Baja - Passenger side

    2003-2008 Legacy - Passenger side

    2003-2008 Outback - Passenger side

    2004-2005 Impreza (include WRX/STi) - Passenger side


    Immediate action is recommended if your vehicle registered in the coastal areas around the Gulf of Mexico, including Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Or if the car is in Florida, Puerto Rico, Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Hawaii.

    Toyota will replace the front passenger airbag. If the part is not available, the dealership can disable the front passenger airbag until a replacement part is available, and then recommends that the front passenger seat not be occupied.

    Toyota also says that if you do not follow the instructions in the owner letter to have the work performed, then you should not drive your vehicle.

    If you must use the seat after airbag deactivation, we advise that extra care should be taken to ensure passengers wear a seatbelt.

    When the parts become available, owners will be notified by mail to bring their vehicle in for the proper fix.

    Finally, if you are uncomfortable driving your vehicle to the dealership to have the work performed, contact your local Toyota dealer, and they will arrange to have the vehicle picked up.


    Recalled cars:


    2002-2007 Lexus SC - Passenger side  


    2003-2007 Toyota Corolla - Passenger side

    2003-2007 Toyota Matrix - Passenger side

    2004-2005 RAV4

    2002-2007 Toyota Sequoia - Passenger side

    2003-2006 Toyota Tundra - Passenger side


    Car safety

    • Check for recalls on your car

    • The truth about recalls

    Guide to car safety

    Guide to models offering advanced safety features




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

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  • 12/23/15--11:14: 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.


    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 Ford C-Max Energi 94* / 37** 87* / 36** 98* / 38**
    6 Toyota Prius Four 44 32 55
    7 Toyota Prius C Two 43 37 48
    8 Lexus CT 200h Premium 40 31 47
    * = 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 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SE 37 29 45
    2 Mazda3 i Touring sedan 33 23 45
    3 Mazda3 i Grand Touring hatchback
    32 24 41
    4 Toyota Corolla LE Plus 32 23 43
    5 Mini Cooper (3-cyl)
    31 22 41
    6 Volkswagen Jetta SE (1.8T) 30 21 39
    7 Nissan Sentra SV
    29 21 38
    8 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 Volkswagen GTI Autobahn
    29 20 39
    10 Fiat 500 Abarth 28 21 34
    11 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
    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 Mazda CX-3 Touring 28 20 36
    5 Mercedes-Benz GLA
    26 19 35
    6 Subaru XV Crosstrek Premium 26 19 34
    7 Mini Countryman S 26 19 33
    8 Subaru Forester 26 18 35
    9 Hyundai Tucson Sport (1.6T) 26 18 35
    10 Mazda CX-5 Touring (2.5L) 25 19 32
    11 Chevrolet Trax LT 25 18 34
    12 Toyota RAV4 XLE 24 18 31
    13 Lexus NX 200t 24 17 33
    14 Hyundai Tucson SE (2.0L) 24 17 32
    15 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL (4.-cyl.)
    24 17 30
    16 Nissan Rogue SV 24 17 30
    17 Jeep Renegade Latitude 24 16 32
    18 Buick Encore Leather 23 16 32
    19 Honda CR-V EX 23 16 32
    20 Fiat 500X Easy
    23 16 31
    21 BMW X3 xDrive28i 23 16 29
    22 Kia Sportage LX (4-cyl.) 22 16 30
    23 Ford Escape SE (1.6)
    22 15 31
    24 Jeep Cherokee Latitude (4-cyl.)
    22 15 31
    25 Ford Escape Titanium (2.0) 22 15 29
    26 Jeep Compass Latitude
    22 15 29
    27 Acura RDX 22 14 31
    MIDSIZED/LARGE SUVS Overall mpg = 18 or higher
    Toyota Highlander Hybrid Ltd.
    25 18 32
    2 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited (diesel)
    24 17 32
    3 Volkswagen Touareg TDI 24 17 31
    4 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 23 17 30
    5 Nissan Murano SL
    21 15 29
    6 Acura MDX Tech 21 14 31
    7 Ford Edge SEL (2.0L EcoBoost)
    21 14 31
    8 Chevrolet Equinox 1LT (4-cyl.) 21 14 30
    9 Kia Sorento EX (V6)
    20 13
    10 BMW X5 xDrive 35i 21 14 28
    11 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 20 14 29
    12 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec
    20 14 28
    13 Volvo XC90 T6 Momentum 20 14 28
    14 Toyota Highlander XLE 20 14 27
    15 Honda Pilot EX-L 20 13 28
    16 Porsche Cayenne (base) 19 14 26
    17 Infiniti QX60 (3.5L) 19 13 26
    Mercedes-Benz ML350 18 13 25
    19 Nissan Pathfinder SL 18 13 25
    20 Infiniti QX70 18 13 24
    21 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE 18 13 23
    22 Cadillac SRX Luxury 18 12 26
    23 Ford Explorer XLT
    18 12 26
    Chevrolet Equinox LTZ (V6)
    18 12 25
    25 Dodge Durango Limited (V6)
    18 12 25
    26 Ford Flex SEL
    18 12 25
    27 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited (V6)
    18 12 24
    28 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 Ford F-150 XLT (2.7 EcoBoost)
    17 12 22
    4 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT 16 11 23
    5 Ford F-150 XLT (3.5 EcoBoost) 16 11 22



    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 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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    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)

    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
      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
      Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SE 37 8.1
      Mazda3 i Touring sedan 33 8.3
      Mazda3 i Grand Touring hatchback 32 8.2
      Volkswagen Jetta SE (1.4T)
    32 9.1
      Toyota Corolla LE Plus 32 9.9
      Mini Cooper (3-cyl.) 31 8.3
      Scion iM 31 10.0
      Volkswagen Jetta SE (1.8T) 30 8.5
      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
      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
      Nissan Altima 3.5 SL (V6)
    24 6.3
      Ford Fusion SE (1.5T)d 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
      Mazda CX-3 Touring 28 9.6
      Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid 28 10.1
      Mercedes-Benz GLA250
    26 6.9
      Mini Cooper Countryman S 26 8.3
      Hyundai Tucson Sport (1.6T) 26 8.4
      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
      Toyota RAV4 XLE 24 9.0
      Nissan Rogue SV 24 9.5
      Jeep Renegade Latitude 24 9.9
      Mitsubishi Outlander SEL (4-cyl.)
    24 10.0
      Hyundai Tucson SE (2.0L) 24 11.0
      BMW X3 xDrive 28i 23 7.3
      Buick Encore Leather 23 11.0
      Honda CR-V EX 23 9.2
      Fiat 500X Easy    
      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
      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
      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
      Chevrolet Colorado LT (V6) 18 7.5
      Ford F-150 XLT (2.7 EcoBoost)
    17 7.0
      Ford F-150 XLT (3.5L EcoBoost)
    16 7.2
      Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT 16 7.5
      Toyota Tundra SR5 (5.7, V8) 15 6.7
      Ram 1500 Big Horn (V8) 15 7.1
      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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    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
    Hyundai Tucson Sport (1.6T) 26 29.5
    Mazda CX-5
    25 33.0
    Chevrolet Trax LT
    25 26.0
    Toyota RAV4 XLE 24 37.0
    Mitsubishi Outlander SEL (4-cyl.)
    24 32.5
    Nissan Rogue SV 24 31.5
    Lexus NX 200t
    24 28.5
    Jeep Renegade Latitude 24 30.5
    Hyundai Tucson SE (2.0L) 24 29.5
    Honda CR-V EX 23 36.0
    BMW X3 xDrive28i 23 33.0
    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
    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
    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
    Volvo XC90 T6 Momentum 20 35.0
    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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  • 12/23/15--11:44: Top Cars in our Tests
  • Top Cars in our Tests

    Each vehicle is put through a battery of tests at our track to determine its performance and some models stand out while others do not. Our list highlights the overall top-scoring vehicles in our Ratings and those at the bottom of the pack.

    You can create your own custom lists based on the factors you find most interesting by using our interactive Car Selector tool (available to online subscribers).

    Overall test scores are based on more than 50 individual Consumer Reports tests and evaluations, and they are presented on a 100-point scale.

    Top scoring cars in our tests

    Make & model Overall test score
    Tesla Model S P85D 100
    Tesla Model S (85 kWh) 99
    BMW M235i
    Mercedes-Benz S550 (AWD)
    Porsche 911 Carrera S
    Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTec 93
    Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 3LT
    Audi A8 L 91
    Chevrolet Impala 2LTZ 91
    Audi A6 (3.0T) 90
    Infiniti Q70 90
    Audi A7 3.0 TDI 90

    The lowest scorers

    Make & model Overall test score
    Jeep Wrangler Limited
    Mitsubishi Mirage ES
    Mitsubishi i-MiEV 35
    Scion iQ 36
    Best & 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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    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


    Midsized car Ford Fusion SE (1.5T)


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


    Sports car Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 3LT


    Small SUV Ford Escape Titanium (2.0T)


    Midsized SUV Ford Edge SEL (2.0L EcoBoost) 84
    Large SUV Dodge Durango Limited (V6)


    Luxury SUV Buick Enclave CXL


    Full-sized pickups
    Ram 1500 Big Horn (diesel)


    Minivan Ford Transit Connect XLT (2.5L)


    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 & Worst Car Acceleration

    How fast a vehicle will accelerate is not something that should be of concern only to driving enthusiasts. Being able to merge safely with fast-moving traffic is important regardless of how or what you drive.

    Here are the quickest and the most, well, leisurely vehicles we've tested. Of course, you'll find a much different list when you look at the best and worst in fuel economy.

    Quickest vehicles

    Make & model Seconds to 60 mph
    Tesla Model S P85D 3.5
    Porsche 911 Carrera S
    Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 3LT
    Ford Mustang GT Premium
    Chevrolet Camaro SS


    Chevrolet SS
    Mercedes-Benz S550 (AWD)
    BMW M235i


    Nissan 370Z Touring


    Maserati Ghibli S Q4


    Audi A8 L


    Dodge Challenger R/T Plus
    Jaguar XJL


    Porsche Panamera S 5.5

    Slowest vehicles

    Make & model Seconds to 60 mph
    Mitsubishi i-MiEV SE 14.7
    Chevrolet Spark 1LT 12.8
    Mitsubishi Mirage ES
    Honda Insight EX


    Fiat 500 Sport


    Toyota Prius C Two
    Buick Encore Leather
    Fiat 500 Pop
    Lexus CT 200h Premium
    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*
    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
    Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE 32
    Toyota Prius Four 32
    Lexus CT 200h Premium 31
    Lincoln MKZ Hybrid 29
    Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited 29
    Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SE 29
    Mitsubishi Mirage ES
    Lexus ES 300h 28
    Scion iQ 27
    Honda CR-Z EX (MT) 26
    Fiat 500 Pop (MT) 25
    Ford Fiesta SE (3-cyl., MT)
    * = 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*
    Mitsubishi i-MiEV SE
    Ford Focus Electric 107*
    Tesla Model S (base, 85 kWh) 102*
    Tesla Model S P85D
    Ford C-Max Energi 98* / 38**
    Toyota Prius Four 55
    BMW 328d xDrive 49
    Toyota Prius C Two 48
    Lexus CT 200h Premium 47
    Mitsubishi Mirage ES 47
    Toyota Prius V Three 47
    Volkswagen Jetta (1.4T) 47
    Ford Fiesta SE (3-cyl., MT)
    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
    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
    Scion iM 42
    Audi A7 3.0 TDI 41
    Ford Fusion SE Hybrid 41
    Mazda3 i Grand Touring hatchback 41
    Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTec
    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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  • 12/23/15--12:58: Best Mobile Games for Kids
  • Best Mobile Games for Kids

    It's the holidays, and you need to get one more little gift for your youngster. But what do you get a child who's got everything from an Apple TV to a Nintendo 3DS? More video games, obviously.

    When a gift card won't do, these mobile games are great for those with short attention spans, imaginative brains, or all the patience in the world. The games challenge players to capture cute spirits, fight drooling monsters with magical powers, or just go for a pretty hectic snowboard ride, all from under a Christmas tree.

    If you don't want to give your teenagers games that are a little more mature, the ones on this list are perfect for any age. They're also portable, perfect if your progeny has a phone or tablet—or just commandeers yours.

    Yo-Kai Watch (shown above)

    Remember Pokémon? Pikachu, Pokéballs, Game Boys, etc.? The video game franchise that’s become synonymous with games for kids now has a spiritual successor—Yo-Kai Watch—and instead of collecting monsters, you’ll be befriending spirits based on Japanese folklore.

    In Yo-Kai Watch, you play as either Nate or Katie, a child who finds a friendly Yo-Kai that helps or battles other spirit-based creatures. And if your little ones ever get tired of playing this quirky and simple RPG, there’s always the tie-in anime to watch.

    Genre: RPG
    Price: $29.99
    Platform: Nintendo 3DS



    Tearaway puts players in a papery world where sheets, reams, and folds of paper create a colorful and interactive setting. You play the adventure game as both a paper messenger and as yourself; the plot revolves around you delivering a message to . . . yourself. It’s a little weird.

    Sony’s touch-sensitive consoles let you use the rear touchpad on the PS Vita to stick your fingers through the paper-thin floor to help your messenger out, or the PS4’s touchpad to draw objects. You can even use the optional PlayStation Camera to import your own designs and textures, personalizing your world with your favorite T-shirt or picture.

    Genre: Adventure
    Price: $19.99
    Platform: Sony PS4, PS Vita


    Steven Universe: Attack the Light

    Steven Universe: Attack the Light is a more traditional RPG featuring the cast of the Steven Universe animated TV show. The game has you traversing various environments in the Universe family’s mountain temple home, fighting monsters and uncovering treasures that give you power-ups, boosted stats, and cool moves.

    True to the Steven Universe show, characters display their signature quirky behaviors, and your interactions with them can help or hurt their progress, depending on how you answer their questions.

    Genre: RPG
    Price: $0.99
    Platform: Android, iOS


    Alto’s Adventure

    Alto’s Adventure is an endless runner game, meaning the game stops when you lose. You play as one of six snowboarding characters, each with unique strengths and weaknesses, while you glide through a snowy landscape filled with towns, forests, mountains, and cliffs you have to traverse in order to continue.

    Do some sick backflips, outrun llamas and angry town residents, and hit high scores in this beautiful game, available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.

    Genre: Racing
    Price: $0.99
    Platform: iOS

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

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    Last-Minute Gifts: Instant Cameras and Printers

    The digital photography revolution has dramatically improved the art of picture taking. It's allowed us to shoot scores of images, see the results without delay, and edit, crop, or manipulate our work on a computer. But the tech has a downside, too.

    It has all but destroyed the old-school pleasure of sifting through a stack of photos. For many of us, that's not part of the equation anymore. Prints don't even end up in that shoebox in the attic. They're simply consigned to cyberspace.

    Maybe that explains why we're witnessing a renewed interest in the instant camera—a sudden longing for the days of the Polaroid picture. The new cameras, which include a Polaroid, do not use the same analog technology to produce prints, but the effect is the same: You snap (or scan) a photo and then have the device spit out a print.

    To see what all the fuss is about, we bought three instant cameras (ranging in price from $80 to $160) and a $160 instant scanner/printer.

    The Bottom Line: Although we didn't formally test the models in our labs, it's clear they don't deliver very high picture quality (see the side-by-side image at the end of the article), performance, or versatility. But they are fun to use. And they do  gratify your snapshot cravings. 

    Polaroid Snap (Instant Print Essential Bundle), $100

    Before you begin, you'll need to charge it (via a USB cable to a computer). You'll also need to load the Polaroid Zink (Zero Ink technology) paper, which will record your image. Set up is pretty straight-forward. Just make sure the paper is loaded correctly.

    To turn the camera on, you flip up the viewfinder (a basic optical viewfinder like those on the two cameras below). On top of the camera, you have several controls: one that lets you switch between black-and-white, color, and sepia prints; another that lets you decide if you want a border; a self-timer button; and a shutter button.

    Of the four cameras I looked at, this one produced the most disappointing images. All were grainy. The colors were not very vibrant and the tones could have used more contrast.

    The camera runs on rechargeable, non-removable batteries. It comes with 10 sheets of Zink paper and six brightly-colored rubber cubes, which function as stands for displaying your photos.

    Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Film Camera (Orange), $80

    The first thing that struck me about this camera was the cool design. I like the bold colors (orange, pink, and red), and the funky look. The all plastic body was a little disconcerting, though. I worried about what would happen if I dropped it. (Sturdiness seems to be an issue with the other cameras, too.)

    Setup was so easy I was up-and-running pretty quickly. And yet, despite its basic functionality, the camera does offer five exposure settings (depending on the brightness of the scene), including sunny to "Hi Key." Overall, it performed better in bright light than in dim situations.

    The camera uses 2 AA batteries and shoots with Fujifilm Instax Instant Film. 

    Impossible Instant Lab, $160

    This one is actually a scanner that allows you to print images directly from your smartphone. And, of all the devices I tried, it produced the best result, perhaps because it relies on the decent camera found in your phone.

    Here's how it works: To get started, you need to download an app on your phone. Next, open the app and follow the instructions, which includes choosing the photo you'd like to print. Then extend the lab's tower to its full, upright position, and lay your phone, face down, on top of the unit. And, finally, follow the instructions to produce the image.

    I loved the audio guide, which walked you through the steps. The voice-over actor spoke with an artsy, German accent, which makes it feel a little like you're creating an Andy Warhol Polaroid! I also thought the images looked pretty decent, although they were slightly washed out and could have used more vibrant color.

    The Impossible Instant Lab is powered by a USB cord, which you can connect to a computer. You need the Impossible Project App to properly orient your images on your mobile device. The prints appear on 3 1/2" x 4 1/4" Polaroid paper. (There are a number of color or black-and-white films to choose from.)

    Lomography Lomo'Instant Camera (Sanremo), $160

    Lomo film cameras (and lomography) have been around since the early 1990s. (There's actually an international Lomographic Society dedicated to experimental snapshot photography.) In fact, the company's logo is "The Future is Analog."

    Its offerings include an array of low-end/low-tech cameras that shoot on film. So, it's no surprise that an instant model has been added to the mix.

    Overall, I liked the variety of features available on this camera. It even comes with three additional lenses for close-ups, portraits, and fisheye images. But they're all made of plastic, so you need to be careful not to strip the threads when installing them.

    The camera also has three shooting modes (two with the on-board flash and one without) and an exposure compensation mode with five settings. There are options for night shooting, long exposures, and even multiple exposures. And if you're into shooting selfies, there's a self-portrait mirror on the front of the device.

    The camera requires 4 AAA batteries, and, like the Fujifilm camera, it uses Fujifilm Instax Instant Film. 

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

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    Tech Moms Pick Their Favorite Tech Toys

    Yes, toys should be fun, but they make great teaching tools, too—especially when you're concerned about strengthening your child's STEM skills. To help you with holiday gift ideas, we went straight to the experts: moms who work in the tech industry. Here are a few of their favorite things:

    Goldie Blox, $10 and up (age 4+)

    Recommended by Leah Busque, CEO and founder of TaskRabbit

    An engineer by training, Busque hopes to use GoldieBlox’s kits to introduce her 2-year-old daughter to the joys of building things, thereby inspiring a lifelong passion for STEM skills.

    Instead of an instruction manual, each kit comes with a storybook featuring a young heroine (and, yes, occasionally a hero, too) who solves problems by constructing machines with wheels, hinges, levers, pulleys, and gears. By story’s end, your child learns how to make things like a cable car, a parachute, or a carnival ride.

    The toymaker’s goal? To convince more girls to embrace science, technology, engineering and math beyond the age of 8, when they often lose interest in those boy-centric subjects.

    “We believe there are a million girls out there who are engineers,” the GoldieBlox website proudly proclaims. “They just might not know it yet.”

    Zoomer, $160 (age 5+)

    Recommended by Julia Hartz, president and co-founder of Eventbrite

    When it comes to gifts, it’s hard to beat a puppy—unless, of course, you’re allergic to dogs or the chores associated with caring for one. (Does a 6 a.m. walk on a rain-drenched Saturday sound familiar?) This interactive toy solves that problem.

    Aside from a periodic recharge via USB cable, it requires no maintenance. But it does respond to voice commands—even those in French or Spanish. With a little training, it will sit, speak, roll over, and play dead. It also wags its tail and responds when you scratch the sensors on its chest.

    While it may not teach your child about responsibility like a real pet, it will definitely lead him or her to a newfound appreciation for the marvels of robotics.

    Monster High MonsterMaker, $55 (Age 8+)

    Recommended by Danielle Applestone, CEO and co-founder of Other Machine Co.

    Applestone is a pioneer in the field of computer-controlled machinery. With backing from the Department of Defense, she and a team of engineers created a low-cost desktop mill in 2013 that lets aspiring inventors carve precise 3D shapes from wood, metal, and plastic using design software on a computer.

    The MonsterMaker operates in much the same way, only your child’s ghoulish designs get transferred onto plastic toy parts from a desktop or app using computer-controlled markers.

    “It’s a CNC machine for making custom Monster High dolls,” says Applestone. “The software used to do the designs and control the MonsterMaker is very much like a videogame. You can’t beat the tagline either: ‘You’ve created a monster!’”

    Veho Digital Microscope, $80

    Recommended by Sandy Rubinstein, CEO of DXagency

    As the mother of twin 13-year-old boys, Rubinstein has a keen eye for toys that truly engage children. In fact, she often advises educators on tech-related decisions. And so, she speaks with authority about the wonders of drones, Sphero robots, the Apple Watch and the GoPro camera that introduced her sons to the magic of moviemaking. But when we asked her for a gift idea, Rubinstein surprised us with an old standby: the microscope.

    To be fair, though, she isn’t peddling your grandfather’s microscope. She prefers the “awesome” new digital microscopes offered by Veho and Zoomy.

    “With the traditional microscope, you had to put your eye in the viewfinder, look inside and try to magnify the object as much as you could,” she says. “With the new ones, the thing is projected onto your computer screen and you can really magnify it and start to identify all the bits and pieces.” Indeed, they come with LED lights that illuminate your subject and software programs that let you measure objects and record your finds via photo or video. How cool is that?

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

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    Green Ways to Recycle Your Christmas Tree

    Your Christmas tree can take on many different shades of green once it's done adorning your home. Instead of kicking it to the curb to get picked up by your local sanitation crew, put it in your yard to shelter wildlife. Some municipalities run recycling programs that grind them into mulch. And in certain parts of the country, discarded holiday trees are put on the shoreline to prevent erosion or sunk into lakes to improve fish habitat.

    The National Christmas Tree Association estimates that 30 million natural trees are sold each year. In a recent survey, 93 percent of respondents told the association that they participate in a tree recycling program. Here are a few uses for old trees.
    Use it in your yard: If you have enough land, discard the tree on your own property, where it will provide shelter for birds and small animals from predators and severe weather. You can also cut off branches and place them over bare patches in your yard to retard soil erosion and to protect plants over the winter (just remember that pine needles are acidic and should be reserved for acid-loving plants like rhododendrons or blueberries).
    Leave it on the curb: Many municipalities have specific dates for curbside collection, after which the trees are ground into mulch for use in parks and other outdoor spaces. Some places let you pick-up some mulch later in the year for your own use. Check your local government's main, sanitation or parks and recreation department websites to learn more.
    Get it back as mulch: Other local governments have collection events—such as New York City's Mulchfests held in early January--where you can bring your tree and get a bag of mulch to take home for your own garden or, if you're an apartment dweller, to maintain a street tree you adopt.

    Habitat protection: The NCTA details programs that use old trees including to stabilize an Alabama beach and a Louisiana marsh after hurricane damage. They've also been used to provide safe breeding havens for herons and egrets in Illinois and to protect fish in waterways.
    Practice planting a live tree next year: If you buy a live tree and and replant it in your yard, you won't need any resources to recycle it. You can practice with a potted or ball-and-burlap tree this spring and repeat the process next year—in a hole you've pre-dug and protected—with your real Christmas tree.

    Aaron Bailey

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

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    Computer Setup for Your New Laptop or Desktop

    You’ve just surprised a loved one with the holiday gift of a new laptop or desktop. Use these computer setup tips to get your new machine up and running.

    1. Add Security
    Start by loading some security software onto your computer as soon as you’re online. Skip the programs that are often pre-loaded (and will cost you around $80 a year once the free trial ends) and grab one of the free options instead. We recommend Avira Free Antivirus 2015. In our tests, it did a very good job of protecting against most malware threats.

    2. Transfer Files and Applications
    Move your old files onto your new system by using either Apple Migration Assistant or Microsoft Windows Easy Transfer. (Both of these free tools are most likely already built into the operating system of your computer.) Each will also help you switch operating systems, if you’re moving from Mac to Windows or vice versa. For moving your iTunes library, you’ll want to take a look at Apple's detailed instructions for help.

    For transferring applications, Apple Migration Assistant will do the work for you during computer setup. If you’re a Windows user, you’ll need to put in a little more effort. Easy Transfer will give you a list of applications that will work on the latest version of the operating system. You’ll have to reload the software yourself. Remember that if you have the programs on CD, you might need an external CD-ROM drive since most new computers aren't equipped with one. You should be able to find an external CD-ROM drive for around $20.

    3. Back It Up
    Once you’ve got all your files on the new computer, you’re going to want to back everything up. For that important computer setup step, you might want an external hard drive. You can pick up a Western Digital drive with 2TB of storage for around $75. Our guide to no-brainer computer backups will help you from there.

    Don’t forget to pick up any necessary cords for connecting external drives—they're essential for a successful computer setup. If what you need isn’t included with the drive, just pick up the least expensive cords you can find—no need to buy the “fastest,” “latest,” or “coolest,” which is where salespeople generally direct you. If you have an older Mac and want to connect it to a new Mac to transfer files, you’ll need an adapter.

    4. Upgrade Software
    Depending on what software you’ve been using on your old computer, you might want to add an office suite or upgrade the one you’ve been using. Microsoft recently changed the pricing scheme for Office. If you have just one computer that requires Office, you’re best off sticking to Office Home & Student for $150. (Alternatively, you can subscribe to Office 365, which allows you to install the suite on more than one computer but will require an annual fee.) If you bought a Mac, you might want to consider programs like Pages and Numbers, which are free when you buy a new Mac computer.

    5. Connect to the Cloud
    This might also be a good time to set up a cloud service and use free productivity apps from Google, for example, which lets you store your documents online, work on them online, and access them from other devices. It’s a good option if you’re doing light word processing and similar work. Read about the best cloud storage services.

    6. Improve Sound
    Great sound is a low priority on most computers, and particularly on laptops. That’s a shame, because if you’re planning on accessing your music library from the computer, or streaming video, or even playing games, you’re going to want better speakers. Fortunately, there are lots of easy fixes to this problem—namely, wireless speakers. We like the Sonos Play:1 speaker, which costs about $200. It’s easy to set up and use, and it sounds great. You can add other speakers (they come in various sizes) and control them independently if you wish. They also offer direct access to services like Pandora, Spotify, and TuneIn Radio.

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

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  • 12/26/15--03:00: Guide to Returning Gifts
  • Guide to Returning Gifts

    Let’s face it: Shopping for other people is difficult. And sometimes even the best-intentioned gift giver gets it wrong. That’s why it pays to pay attention to return policies when you’re shopping, just in case things don’t work out.

    According to a new Consumer Reports nationally representative survey of 1,000 adults, a gift has to be a real doozy before it goes back; almost nine in 10 Americans rarely or never return a present. But 43 percent said they would seek a refund or exchange if they were on the receiving end of a truly cruddy gift.

    To help minimize the problems, our resident shopping experts took a good look at customer-service policies for several major retailers. Read on to find out which retailers offer no-questions-asked satisfaction guarantees and which ones have rules that are far more restrictive when it comes to returning gifts.

    Why the differences? Some companies are big enough to absorb losses from customers who may take advantage of ultra-generous policies by bringing back merchandise that has languished in their closets. The businesses are confident that the goodwill generated by lenient policies will outweigh the occasional bad behavior and increase the company’s market share, says Jack Abelson of Abelson & Associates, retail consultants in Leawood, Kan. “They’re not doing it to be nice or altruistic,” he says. “That guarantee is built into the price of the product as just another cost of doing business.”

    Best in the Business

    The following retailers have the best return policies we’ve seen, pledging unconditional satisfaction when you shop in their walk-in stores or online. Quotations describing how they stand behind what they sell are taken from their websites.

    Costco. “100% satisfaction guaranteed. We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. We will refund your membership fee ($55) in full at any time if you are dissatisfied.” There’s no time limit for returning most items; for electronics, there’s a very liberal 90-day limit from the purchase date.

    Eddie Bauer. “Every item we sell will give you complete satisfaction or you may return it for a full refund.” That means anytime.

    Harry & David. “You and those who receive your gifts must be delighted, or we’ll make it right with either an appropriate replacement or refund. Always. Everything’s guaranteed. No cutting corners. No fudging on quality. No excuses.”

    Lands’ End. If you’re dissatisfied with any item, from sheets to slacks, return it anytime for a refund or exchange. The policy states: “We mean every word of it. Whatever. Whenever. Always. But to make sure this is perfectly clear, we’ve decided to simplify it further: Guaranteed. Period.”

    Kohl’s. Its “no questions asked, hassle-free” return policy for all purchases has no time limit. No receipt? No problem. Just go to a customer-service counter with the item for an exchange or store credit equal to the lowest price the item sold for in the past 13 weeks. That is, unless you paid with your Kohl’s charge card. Associates can look up any order within 12 months and credit your account. Items bought with other credit cards or returned after the 12-month time frame earn you store credit.

    L.L.Bean. “Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise.”

    Orvis. “We will refund your money on any purchase that isn’t 100% satisfactory. Anytime, for any reason. It’s that simple.”

    Zappos. Free shipping on all domestic orders and free prepaid returns for up to a year, as long as the items are in their original condition.

    Tough Customers

    These merchants have different rules and timetables for different products, and they refuse to take back some items.

    Abe’s of Maine. Its stingy 14-day return policy is loaded with exceptions: No returns on TVs larger than 24 inches, fitness equipment, large appliances, microwaves, wine coolers, humidifiers, marine and camping equipment, watches, sunglasses, laptops, bicycles, and more. It’s also up to you to check for damage upon delivery; if you don’t, and a TV or appliance is broken, you’ll have to settle for servicing rather than replacement. In addition, if you cancel an order—even before it ships—Abe’s may stick you with a processing fee of as much as 3.5 percent of the item’s purchase price.

    American Apparel. Items can be returned within 45 days (we criticized American Apparel for limiting returns of store purchases to 30 days several years ago), but the chain refuses to take back sale merchandise. Also not returnable: swimwear, intimate apparel, cosmetics and grooming products, and any item that’s been laundered. So if the colors run, you’re out of luck.

    Forever 21. The apparel merchant has a significantly different policy for online and in-store returns. If you return an item to a retail location, you’re limited to an exchange or credit. If you mail it back, you can get an actual refund, but you’re also required to pay for return shipping.

    GameStop. You have 30 days from purchase or the date on the packing slip, only with a receipt. The video-gaming giant reserves the right to limit returns to unopened or defective products.

    Sears and Kmart. Those sister chains state, flat-out, that “refunds and exchanges will not be given without receipt.” With a receipt, there’s a 30-day return deadline for most products. At Sears, electronics, heaters, grills, and furniture are subject to a 15 percent restocking fee.


    4 Tips for Returning Gifts

    Don’t open the box. If you try to take back an item and the original packaging isn’t intact, merchants may impose a restocking fee (often 15 percent of the purchase price). That’s especially common for electronics. Other products, such as computer software, CDs, and DVDs, generally aren’t returnable once their packaging has been opened, unless they’re defective. And if products are missing tags, you may be stuck with them.

    Keep those gift receipts. Make sure you don’t toss them out with the wrapping paper, because merchants often turn you away if you don’t have one. If you didn’t get a gift receipt (and you don’t want to ask the giver for the original), you may be eligible for store credit, though it may be in the amount of the lowest price the item sold for recently.

    Check return policies and note any time limits. You can do that most easily online, or you can ask at a store’s customer-service counter. Big merchants usually allow up to 90 days for most items to be returned, but they may have far shorter periods for certain goods. During the holidays, however, some retailers will extend their deadlines, often until late January. For items purchased online, note whether the merchant also has walk-in store locations and allows in-person returns. That way, you can avoid repacking the item and going to the post office, as well as paying return shipping costs.

    Bring ID. Some chains, including Best Buy and Victoria’s Secret, use computerized return-authorization systems to detect abuse. So you may be asked to show your driver’s license or other government-issued ID when you return an item in person. Merchants scan and store data from your ID to track your history, noting such factors as the frequency of your returns, their dollar value, how often you return items without a receipt, and the time between returns.

    Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the December 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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

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    How to Exchange Gift Cards and Get the Most Cash

    Your cousin no doubt meant well when he gave you a $50 gift card to Outback Steakhouse—he just didn’t remember that you had become a vegan. But you can convert the card to cash. (For next year, find out why cash is always a good gift.)

    Numerous card-exchange websites have emerged in recent years, offering to pay as much as 92 percent of a card’s face value from merchants of all stripes: gas stations, hotels, department stores, restaurants, supermarkets, movie theaters, and specialty chains.

    Although we have warned consumers about buying cards from those retailers, companies say they verify the cards as legitimate and confirm their value. Once they do that, they send you a check, then try to resell the cards at a profit, though still at less than face value.

    We checked out four sites that you can use to exchange gift cards—,,, and—eyeballing their policies and using their online calculators to determine how much we would get for 13 cards, each with a $100 face value. Here are the key lessons we learned in our experiment:

    Not all cards are equally valuable. The purchase price depends on a merchant’s popularity. Resellers were generally willing to pay more for Walmart and Whole Foods cards than for those from Brooks Brothers and Bass Pro Shops. (Follow these tips for giving gift cards.)

    Prices vary from site to site., for example, paid generously for Bed Bath & Beyond cards, but other sites paid a lot more for Coach cards. So it pays to comparison shop.

    Personalized cards can be a problem. If your name is etched into it, you might not be able to sell it.

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

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  • 12/28/15--03:00: 2016 Scion iM Review
  • 2016 Scion iM Review

    When Toyota created its Scion brand 15 years ago as a way to reach out to millennials, it sold two urban-minded small hatchbacks. Both vehicles played off the brand’s value of reliable but basic transportation, wrapped in minimalist exteriors that could be personalized to the buyer’s whim. But fun to drive, they were not. After almost a decade without updating its core hatchbacks, Scion is trying a ­different recipe. For those who crave Euro-styled economy-car practicality with a whiff of nimble handling, the iM is calling you. (Read the complete Scion iM road test.)

    The youth-targeted 2016 Scion iM hatchback looks cool, swallows a fair amount of bulky cargo, and is zippy on corners. But this derivative of the utilitarian Toyota Corolla is also saddled with an underwhelming four-cylinder engine that delivers lackluster acceleration. Its 0-to-60-mph time of 10 seconds is 1.5 ticks slower than the ­Mazda3’s. It left us wishing for the 20 or 30 more horsepower offered by competitors.

    The driving experience isn’t helped by a continuously variable transmission—which uses belts and pulleys rather than gears—that attempts to mimic a regular automatic with artificial “shift” points. When asking for more power, you get more engine noise than forward thrust. One would expect great fuel economy as a trade-off. However, its 31 mpg overall is merely respectable and hardly a standout in this class.

    But don’t write off the 2016 Scion iM just yet.

    Handling is a strong point. Though the American-­market Corolla has a solid-axle rear suspension—it won’t win any slalom contests—the iM boasts an independent double-wishbone setup normally seen in race cars. When done right, that more elegant system can provide a crisp response to steering inputs and can result in a settled ride, especially over bumpy curves.

    In the iM’s case, the car turns in with alacrity and stays unflappable. But ride comfort isn’t stellar, with road jolts that intrude noticeably. The car is unsettled on uneven pavement.

    And though hatchback versatility gives you the ability to haul bulky stuff through a wide opening and a folding rear seat, the suspension’s architecture and mounting points intrude on the cargo area. And because the iM’s wheelbase is 4 inches shorter than the Corolla’s, don’t expect as much rear-seat room for passengers as in the Toyota. 

    The 2016 Scion iM's cabin exhibits a youthful ambience, with patterned black-and-white seat fabric and stitches in visible spots. But the rest of the décor is rather basic. Bolstered front seats lack a lumbar-support adjustment. Getting in and out of the low-slung seats can be an effort for some. The steering wheel has limited telescoping range, which compromises an ideal driving position.

    For its relatively affordable price, the 2016 Scion iM comes nicely equipped with standard automatic climate control, connectivity features such as Bluetooth and voice commands, and a rearview camera. But options are limited. For instance, a sunroof is not available, nor are any advanced electronic safety features such as blind-spot warning or rear cross-traffic alert.

    As for infotainment, the touch-screen interface lacks a tuning knob for audio, and it suffers from small buttons. Certain phones had Bluetooth connection difficulties, and streaming audio often error-coded back to the phone’s first song. That’s great if you like Aaliyah, but you can get sick of resetting the system.

    Ultimately, the 2016 Scion iM makes for a stylish and versatile first car or urban runabout. Being a Toyota, it’s likely to be reliable and keep owners headache-free. Though it might be a fun corner-carver, don’t expect straight-line thrills when you step on the gas.

    Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the February 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.


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

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