10 top picks of 2020: Best cars of the year
We see plenty of great cars at Consumer Reports’ test track. Our Top Picks represent the best of the best. We selected these standouts from hundreds of current models rated by CR and backed by survey data from hundreds of thousands of our members. These cars have some of the highest Overall Scores in their categories, factoring in road tests, predicted reliability, owner satisfaction, and safety.
When selecting Top Picks, we only consider CR-recommended models that come standard with forward collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection. This is the first year we’ve required standard pedestrian detection to be eligible. This feature works with AEB to sense when people are in a car’s pathway and automatically brake, if needed. We believe all of these features have the potential to save lives and shouldn’t cost extra as part of an options package.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that there were 6,283 pedestrian deaths from traffic crashes in 2018, the most since 1990, according to Consumer Reports.
“Studies and our own testing have shown pedestrian detection systems can help curb this tragic trend,” says Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports. “We added this requirement to help make this feature commonplace.”
CR gives extra points to the Overall Score for models that have FCW, AEB, pedestrian detection, and blind spot warning (BSW) as standard equipment on all the trims.
The Top Picks are listed by price range. After you check out our Top Picks, take the poll below to tell us which car you’d be most likely to buy.
Small Car: Toyota Corolla
The Corolla is—hands down—the most new car for your money in the small-car segment. It’s roomy for a compact sedan, efficient (33 mpg overall in our testing), and comes with standard advanced safety tech. Each Corolla has FCW, AEB with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning (LDW), lane keeping assistance (LKA), adaptive cruise control (ACC), and automatic high beams, impressive for the price. And the new Corolla has improved its driving dynamics, tackling corners more skillfully than its predecessor, thanks to well-weighted steering and limited body lean. That doesn’t come at the expense of ride quality; the Corolla soaks up bumps with the best in the class. The car is available in a range of flavors, with basic versions, sporty iterations with an extra 30 hp, a hatchback, and a 48-mpg hybrid.
Small SUV: Subaru Forester
The Subaru Forester tops the white-hot small SUV category for its combination of practical design, high owner satisfaction, and impressive fuel economy. It’s one of the better-riding SUVs in the category, impressively absorbing road imperfections. Its handling is responsive, with less body roll and quicker steering around corners than the previous-generation Forester. The boxy design sticks out in a world of sleek SUVs, but the Forester’s shape delivers benefits, such as easy access, hip-height seats, and big windows that provide great visibility. Plus, fuel economy is impressive at 28 mpg overall, tying the Honda CR-V for the best mileage of any small SUV that isn’t a diesel or hybrid.
Hybrid: Toyota Prius
The Prius has been one of our Top Picks 17 times—more than any other model. The vehicle delivered 52 mpg overall in our tests, making it a standard-bearer for hybrid efficiency. It returned 43 mpg in our city driving test and 59 mpg on the highway route. The Prius Prime plug-in version provides even better mileage for drivers who can charge often to make use of its 22.5-mile range on electric-only power. Even so, the Prime gets 50 mpg when operating as a regular hybrid and has a class-leading 590-mile total range. Despite their complex powertrains, these Prius models have an enviable track record for reliability. The cabin has some design quirks, such as the odd center-dash placement of the gauges. But they help the Prius feel like something truly different when you’re sitting inside. Ultimately, its sheer sensibility and proven reliability make the Prius a top seller each and every year, and one of CR’s perennial favorites.
Midsized Sedan: Subaru Legacy
As our highest-scoring midsized sedan, the redesigned Legacy sets the benchmark for its class. It’s at the top or near the top in most CR ratings categories, distinguishing itself with a strikingly smooth ride and standard all-wheel drive. Although the base engine delivers modest acceleration, Subaru offers an invigorating turbo engine that provides extra power. The Legacy feels like a solid, substantial car. With front seats that offer a wide range of adjustments, and an interior with plenty of headroom, the Legacy accommodates drivers and front- and rear-seat passengers of many body types. The cabin has cushy armrests and a well-designed center console with a padded cutout for the driver’s right knee. The wide trunk opening makes loading and unloading quite easy; there are few better sedans in that respect. The closely related Outback wraps the Legacy’s virtues in a more versatile, outdoorsy package that’s equally desirable.
Large Sedan: Toyota Avalon
The Avalon is by far the highest-scoring vehicle in CR’s large sedan category, delivering a rare combination of roominess, sophistication, and efficiency. It stacks up well against cars from prestige brands costing $20,000 more. The model achieved a near-perfect score for ride comfort in CR’s testing and has the best predicted reliability in the category. The Avalon has a spacious, richly furnished cabin with wide, supportive front seats and rear seats with generous legroom. The sedan’s V6 engine, paired with a slick-shifting eight-speed transmission, provides lush power. Even more attractive, however, is the hybrid version, with fuel efficiency that you’d typically find in a much smaller car; CR measured 42 mpg overall, with 52 mpg on the highway. Like most Toyotas, the Avalon comes standard with a host of advanced safety systems, including pedestrian detection, FCW, BSW, and AEB (highway speed). We consider these to be essential safety systems that should come standard on all models.
Midsized, Three-Row SUV: Kia Telluride
An undeniable class leader, the Telluride came into the midsized SUV segment like a wrecking ball, outscoring competitors and long-running leaders in the popular three-row SUV category by a significant margin. In fact, its road-test score is among the highest of any vehicle CR has recently tested. And yet this is an aggressively priced model that offers a compelling blend of comfort, features, space, and capability for the money. What makes the Telluride so impressive is how it manages to do both the big and small things well, from its nicely matched V6 engine and automatic transmission to its elegantly simple controls. The front seats are wide and welcoming for a range of body types. And the second-row passenger space is generous, with seats that slide and tilt to open up more access to an inviting third row. This new entry, with its charm and functionality, is a certified hit.
Compact Pickup Truck: Honda Ridgeline
The innovative Ridgeline reimagines what a modern pickup truck can be, combining a unique carlike driving experience with clever, useful features. It has a ride that rivals a great sedan’s, handling that outshines that of other trucks, and a quiet, coddling cabin. The V6 engine delivers strong, smooth acceleration and gives the Ridgeline better fuel economy than most trucks. The fold-or-swing tailgate makes bed access a cinch, and a large, lockable underbed storage bin adds unique versatility for weekend adventures. Numerous updates for 2020 heighten the Ridgeline’s appeal, including a suite of advanced safety systems now standard on every trim. Other trucks may be bolder, even tougher, but none are more sensible, as refined, or easier to live with.
The Lexus RX pioneered the midsized luxury crossover in the late 1990s, and it continues to set the standard in this popular segment. The winning formula remains the same: a Goldilocks size, smooth power delivery, plentiful amenities, and proven reliability. Starting at about $45,000, the RX rates high in our testing for ride comfort and noise, besting some more expensive rivals. The tranquil driving experience complements the wide, supportive front seats. We do wish that the infotainment controls were less frustrating. Even so, the Lexus is a top performer and a tremendous value for luxury seekers. The RX comes in different versions, including an extremely efficient 450h hybrid and a three-row RX L. Whichever flavor appeals to your budget and needs, the RX promises a premium, worry-free ownership experience.
Sports Car: Toyota Supra
The legendary Supra made a triumphant return this year after a two-decade absence, distinguishing itself as an entertaining thrill ride. This new two-seat sports coupe—co-produced by BMW—excels by providing a balanced but exhilarating performance. The acceleration from its turbocharged six-cylinder engine beats some V8-powered muscle cars, yet the Supra’s overall fuel economy is closer to a mild-mannered sedan’s. The Supra’s sharp steering and responsive handling make the car a treat to drive on our test track. The finessed suspension tuning is a high point that distinguishes the Supra from its rivals, including the BMW Z4. Like many great sports cars, the Supra has compromised outward visibility and a stiff ride. But the overall driving experience is so rich that performance enthusiasts might overlook those issues.
Electric Car: Tesla Model 3
The Model 3 proves that EVs can challenge conventional upscale sedans by offering invigorating performance with a high-tech vibe. It boasts rapid acceleration that’s delivered in near silence, with instant passing power available at any speed and enough thrust to push the driver back into the seat. The car’s superb handling and quick, precise steering help it feel like a sports car. The Model 3 has excellent visibility and a stark interior dominated by a floating 15-inch touch screen that governs many controls. Its impressive road performance is diminished only by the stiff ride and notable wind noise. But its long range of 250 to 330 miles (depending on the version) and green credentials offset those drawbacks.