Thanks to the Manhattan approach of building up instead of out, small cars keep getting more and more spacious.
The smallest car currently available in the U. Or consider the Nissan Cube : Despite being nearly three feet shorter than the Honda Pilot and weighing almost a ton less, it has more head- and legroom in the front seat, more headroom in the back seat, and only three inches less legroom in the rear. All-wheel drive is seen as a safety feature in wintry climes, but the only difference the average driver will notice with all-wheel drive is the added traction when accelerating.
Heavy cars and trucks do plow through deep snow better and behave more predictably, but hit a patch of ice, and that weight is just extra momentum to try to control. Again, bigger is not necessarily better. In our road tests, we always cite 0-tomph times, but the fact is that very few people ever actually use full throttle. Around Ann Arbor, we see more drivers who fear full throttle than those who ever use it. The buying practice of getting the bigger engine but never using more than half-throttle is like building a four-story house but leaving the top two floors vacant.
All else being equal, larger engines use more fuel. What about Hybrids and Diesels?
Top car buying advice to make sure you pick the best motor to suit your needs
The type of driving you do determines whether or not a hybrid or a diesel makes sense for you. Hybrids tend to use less fuel around town, when low speeds and frequent braking keep them running on battery power longer. Diesel drivers will see their greatest benefits on the highway, although diesel vehicles are more efficient than gasoline cars at low speeds, too.
As this is written, diesel is outpacing gasoline in the U. So right now, the topercent benefit most drivers will realize in fuel economy is worth it.
But that can change quickly as fuel prices fluctuate. For our top choices in every segment—the cars we would buy if we were in the market today—see our Editors Choice page. But in the end, as fun and practical as stick shifts may be, they can be a chore in stop-and-go traffic. In addition, today's six-, seven-, and eight-speed automatics can help cars return fuel economy as good as—and often better than—the same car with a manual. What's Your Driving Style? Are you a workaholic commuter or a harried parent with daily carpool duty?
Perhaps you need practicality but crave a modicum of fun for the commute home or on weekends. Taking a hard look at your driving style and needs is key in choosing a vehicle. If you're a real driving enthusiast who wants to savor every aspect of the driving experience, you'll want to focus on cars that emphasize quickness and handling prowess.
But lots of cars these days serve up agile handling without sacrificing ride, comfort, and cargo space the way many sporty cars do. If you're really into comfort more than driving at the edge, you'll probably want to consider a sedan. Many models fit the comfy-cruising mode, from midsized and large sedans to midsized and larger SUVs. Power or Fuel Economy.
Car Chooser | Honest John
Most vehicles are available with a variety of engine and transmission combinations. Usually one is a small, economical choice and the other delivers more power but at the sacrifice of fuel economy. Often a manufacturer will make the small engine available only on base models or lower-level trims, saving the stronger engine s for more expensive uplevel versions.
Smaller cars and SUVs primarily use four-cylinder engines. These often deliver the best fuel economy but lack the power and smoothness of a V6. But for most people, four-cylinders provide the best mix of fuel economy and performance. Turbocharging is becoming much more prevalent because it can boost power without hurting fuel economy much. Ford even uses small turbo V6s, which deliver V8-like performance, in the F pickup truck. Other fuel-savers include hybrids and diesels. Hybrids usually return excellent fuel economy in city or stop-and-go traffic, and diesels excel at delivering highway fuel economy.
In addition to driving style, engine size, and vehicle type, you still need to consider other factors, including some that aren't so clear when you're standing in a dealership. That's why Consumer Reports has always rated each vehicle through a variety of assessments. To make it as easy as possible for you to know which vehicle to buy, we give every vehicle we test an Overall Score that encapsulates four factors:. These tests include each vehicle's emergency-handling and braking capabilities. We then compile the data and publish our vehicle ratings, where models are ranked against their peers.
Subscribers to ConsumerReports. Part of the testing process includes our fuel-economy evaluations. Unlike the tests done by the Environmental Protection Agency, which use a dynamometer, we drive the cars on real roads.
For a or early model, the new-car reliability prediction is calculated by averaging reliability scores for the most recent three years of production, provided the model didn't change significantly during that time. We won't recommend any tested vehicle with below-average reliability. Apply for Financing. College Graduate Program. First Time Car Buyer. Financing Process. Things to Consider. Car Payment Calculators. Find a Location. Vehicle Transfer. Special Offers. First Time Buyer. Sign Up for Email Offers. Featured Vehicles. Sirius XM Equipped Vehicles.
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