2004 Top Picks

We spend $25,000 on average for a new car. That's a lot — so how can you be sure you're getting the most for your money? Consumer Reports spent nearly two million dollars of its own money on test vehicles this past year to find the best cars and trucks on the road. Hot off the presses, here's Consumer Reports much-anticipated 2004 Top Picks.

Auto engineers put vehicles through 40 different tests at Consumer Reports' Auto Testing Facility.

They assess handling and emergency avoidance capability.

Brakes are tested on dry pavement and on wet pavement.

The SUVs and trucks face a daunting rock hill while cars face the bumper basher.

And the testing doesn't stop there.

"Besides the track testing that we do, we really get to live with the cars like the normal consumer would. We take them home. We really get to use them as they would. We put our families in them, our grandparents, we go to the mall."

Testers racked up 1.8 million miles to find the best of 2004.

"The vehicles that do well in our tests have basically done well in everything. They've got great braking. They've got good safety equipment. They handle well. They're comfortable. They're quiet."

The Top Pick in the small SUV category is the Subaru Forester. This all-wheel-drive, car-based SUV has a nice ride and goes for about 21-thousand dollars.

For a third row of seats in an SUV, the Honda Pilot turned out to be the Top Pick.

The Acura TL zoomed to the top of the Upscale Sedan category. It'll give you a sporty performance and a beautiful interior for about
33-thousand dollars.

But if only a minivan will work for you, the 28-thousand dollar Toyota Sienna leads the class.

"The Sienna was redesigned for 2003. It performs every well, and it really put the best features of all the other minivans together."

The Top Pick in the Fun to Drive category offers big fun at a bargain price. The Ford SVT Focus blends superb cornering with excellent brakes — all for 19 thousand dollars.

The Honda Accord and the VW Passat shared the honors again as Consumer Reports Top Picks for Family Sedan. Both offer an excellent combination of comfort roominess and handling.

Consumer Reports Auto Issue, out now, has information on all of the Top Picks as well as the best and worst used cars on the road...and the best cars for under $25,000.

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