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Consumer Reports Rates 10 Best Vehicles for 2020

2 high-tech safety systems are standard in all of the top picks


spinner image dark green 2020 Subaru Forester
Subaru's Forester has made Consumer Reports' Top Picks 13 times since it was first produced in 1997.
SUBARU

If you're planning to buy a new car, take advantage of all the high-tech safety features you can afford.

That's the message from Consumer Reports, which released its 10 favorite cars, SUVs and trucks Thursday from among 240 vehicles that its researchers tested and rated for the 2020 model year. The Yonkers, New York-based nonprofit and magazine has been testing automobiles since its founding in 1936 and has been anointing its Top Picks since 1997.

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Many manufacturers, such as Subaru and Toyota, already are equipping their more affordable vehicles with safety systems such as forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, says Jonathan Linkov, Consumer Reports deputy auto editor. Some luxury models still don't incorporate those features.

"These are really great features to avoid an accident,” he says. “The car can react faster than you can."

Technology can stop fender benders

Cameras and other sensors keep an eye on traffic around you, warning you of a vehicle in your blind spot or a car approaching faster than you anticipated. But most important: The systems can brake for you if necessary, keeping you, your car and someone who might have run in front of you intact in a way that wasn't widely available five years ago.

"The system will help identify something before you can pull out,” Linkov says. Vehicle models received extra points for including four specific safety systems at all trim levels, and each of the Top Picks had to have forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection as standard equipment.

Toyota has four models among the Top Picks: the Avalon large sedan, Corolla small car, Prius hybrid and Supra sports car. Its luxury division, Lexus, has its RX as the midsize luxury SUV Top Pick.

Subaru's Forester small SUV and its Legacy midsize sedan also made the list. Honda's Ridgeline compact pickup, Kia's Telluride midsize three-row SUV and Tesla's Model 3 electric car round out the top 10.

In the past five years, the average price of a new vehicle bought in January has increased by more than 14 percent, according to Kelley Blue Book, a for-profit automotive research company based in Irvine, California. That compares with an increase in same timeframe of about 10 percent in the price of consumer goods generally.

The average price of a 2020 vehicle has risen to more than $37,500, according to Consumer Reports. But more than half of the magazine's Top Picks retail for less than $35,000 at their most basic. One, the Toyota Corolla, is less than $25,000 for most trim levels.

"We believe basic safety is a right for all of us, not a luxury reserved for those who can afford it,” Marta Tellado, the nonprofit's president and chief executive, wrote in a column accompanying the list.

Day-to-day testing continues

Consumer Reports spends about $2 million a year buying as many as 70 vehicles at regular retail prices when models are redesigned, Linkov says. The nonprofit's extensive testing sets it apart from other publications that test drive vehicles, but the researchers’ work is not finished when the automotive issue comes out.

"What we do is hold on to them for a certain amount of time, six months to a year, and live with it,” Linkov says of the vehicles. “We live with them as if it's our own car so we can get that experience."

Testers go grocery shopping or to the home improvement store. They haul the kids and grandkids if they aren't planning anything with too much dirt. They also take care of the vehicles, maintaining them perhaps better than some family cars.

Then Consumer Reports sells the vehicles, either outright or at an auto auction, sometimes trading them in as employees buy new cars to start testing for the next model year.

Here are Consumer Reports’ choices for 2020:

Compact pickup

spinner image 2018 Honda Ridgeline
Honda

Honda Ridgeline

Consumer Reports’ take: "It has a ride that rivals a great sedan's, handling that outshines that of other trucks and a quiet, coddling cabin."

Crash rating, overall, from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: 5 stars, the top rating. The 2019 model was an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) top safety pick.

Miles per gallon, combined city/highway, from Environmental Protection Agency testing: 21 to 22, depending on trim level

Yearly fuel cost, from EPA: $1,650 to $1,750

Years on Consumer Reports Top Picks list, which began in 1997: 3; the first model year for the Ridgeline was 2006

Price range: $33,900 to $43,520

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Electric car

spinner image Tesla Model S dual motor all electric sedan on display at Brussels Expo on JANUARY 09, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium.
Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

Tesla Model 3

Consumer Reports’ take: "The Model 3 proves that EVs [electric vehicles] can challenge conventional upscale sedans by offering invigorating performance with a high-tech vibe."

Crash rating: 5 stars, the top rating; also 2020 IIHS top safety pick plus, the highest rating

MPG equivalent: 113 to 141, depending on trim level

Yearly fuel cost: $450 to $550

Years on Consumer Reports list: 1; the Model 3 was introduced in 2017

Price range: $39,990 to $56,999

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Hybrid

spinner image white 2020 Toyota Prius
Toyota

Toyota Prius

Consumer Reports’ take: “Despite their complex powertrains, these Prius models have an enviable track record for reliability."

Crash rating: 4 to the top 5 stars, depending on trim level; Prius Prime plug-in not yet rated; also 2019 IIHS top safety pick

MPG: 46 to 56, depending on trim level

Yearly fuel cost: $650 to $800

Years on Consumer Reports list: 17; the Prius was introduced in 1997

Price range: $24,325 to $32,500

Sports car

spinner image dark blue 2020 Toyota Supra
Toyota

Toyota Supra

Consumer Reports’ take: “The legendary Supra made a triumphant return this year after a two-decade absence, distinguishing itself as an entertaining thrill ride."

Crash rating: Not yet rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or IIHS

MPG: 26

Yearly fuel cost: $1,800

Years on Consumer Reports list: 1; the most recent Supra incarnation came out in 2019 after a 17-year lag

Price range: $49,990 to $55,250

Small car

spinner image blue 2020 Toyota Corolla
Toyota

Toyota Corolla

Consumer Reports’ take: “The Corolla is — hands down — the most new car for your money in the small-car segment.… And the new Corolla has improved its driving dynamics, tackling corners more skillfully than its predecessor."

Crash rating: 5 stars, the top rating; also 2020 IIHS top safety pick

MPG: 31 to 35, depending on trim level; 52 for hybrid

Yearly fuel cost: $1,050 to $1,150; $700 for hybrid

Years on Consumer Reports list: 2; the Corolla was introduced in 1966

Price range: $19,600 to $25,550

Midsize sedan

spinner image silver 2020 Subaru Legacy
Subaru

Subaru Legacy

Consumer Reports’ take: "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."  

Crash rating: 5 stars, the top rating; also 2020 IIHS top safety pick plus, the highest rating  

MPG: 27 to 30, depending on trim level  

Yearly fuel cost: $1,200 to $1,350  

Years on Consumer Reports list: 2; the Legacy was introduced in 1989  

Price range: $22,745 to $35,895

Large sedan

spinner image gray Toyota Avalon
Jonathan Miller

Toyota Avalon

Consumer Reports’ take: "The Avalon … stacks up well against cars from prestige brands costing $20,000 more."

Crash rating: 5 stars, the top rating; also 2020 IIHS top safety pick plus, the highest rating

MPG: 25 to 26, depending on trim level; 43 to 44 for hybrid

Yearly fuel cost: $1,400 to $1,450; $800 to $850 for hybrid

Years on Consumer Reports list: 2; the Avalon was introduced in 1994

Price range: $35,875 to $43,300

Small SUV

spinner image dark green 2020 Subaru Forester
Subaru

Subaru Forester

Consumer Reports’ take: “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."

Crash rating: 5 stars, the top rating; also 2020 IIHS top safety pick plus, the highest rating

MPG: 29

Yearly fuel cost: $1,250

Years on Consumer Reports list: 13; the Forester was first produced in 1997

Price range: $24,495 to $34,595

Midsize 3-row SUV

spinner image dark green 2020 Kia Telluride
Kia

Kia Telluride

Consumer Reports’ take: “This is an aggressively priced model that offers a compelling blend of comfort, features, space and capability for the money."

Crash rating: 5 stars, the top rating; also 2020 IIHS top safety pick

MPG: 21 to 23, depending on trim level

Yearly fuel cost: $1,600 to $1,750

Years on Consumer Reports list: 1; the first model year for the Telluride is 2020

Price range: $31,890 to $43,790

Midsize luxury SUV

spinner image black 2020 Lexus RX
Lexus

Lexus RX

Consumer Reports’ take: "The Lexus RX pioneered the midsized luxury crossover in the late 1990s, and it continues to set the standard in this popular segment."

Crash rating: 4 to the top 5 stars, depending on trim level; also 2020 IIHS top safety pick

MPG: 21 to 30, depending on trim level

Yearly fuel cost: $1,550 to $1,750

Years on Consumer Reports list: 1; the RX was introduced in 1998

Price range: $44,150 to $56,460

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close up of a gold car parked near the water during sunset

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Shop for a car with safety features you want. Buyers can get a free AARP Smart Driver course.

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