New Prius remains most fuel-efficient

By the Editors of
Consumer Reports
The redesigned Toyota Prius remains the most fuel-efficient car consumers can buy at 44 mpg overall, according to Consumer Reports’ latest tests. The Prius has been CR’s Top Pick for Green Car in the Annual Auto Issue for the past six years, and the redesigned model recently received a Very Good Road Test score of 80.
Long the standard-bearer for hybrid cars, the new third-generation Prius has several small improvements. A firm, steady ride, a better driving position and improved rear seating are pluses. Highway fuel economy has improved to 55 mpg from 50 mpg in CR’s own fuel economy tests, but city mileage has dropped to 32 mpg from the 35 mpg of its predecessor.
While CR usually tests groups of competing vehicles, it recently tested several new and redesigned vehicles that are hot off the magazine’s test track. In addition to the Prius, CR also tested the redesign of the Chevrolet Equinox small SUV; the small, boxy Nissan Cube wagon; the redesigned Subaru Outback wagon; and the Chrysler-based Volkswagen Routan minivan.
The redesigned Chevrolet Equinox, which received a Very Good road test score of 69, is much improved over the previous version. It is now competitive in its category, although it’s not on par with the category leaders, the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester. It offers a spacious SUV for the money.
The Subaru Outback’s redesign brings a quieter cabin and more rear seat and seat cargo space. It received a Very Good road test score of 79. The Nissan Cube received a Good road test score of 64 and is a space-efficient runabout, but overall it’s not up to par with the similar Scion xB and Kia Soul boxy wagons. The Volkswagen Routan is essentially a rebadged Chrysler minivan with some modifications and received a Good road test score of 65.
Prices ranged from $36,215 for the Routan to $16,790 for the Cube. Above average reliability is predicted for the Prius and Outback. Both the Equinox and Cube are too new to have reliability data for CR to Recommend them. Although the Routan is also too new to have reliability data, the Chrysler Town & Country, on which it is based, had below average reliability and CR expects the Routan to be the same. CR only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Car Reliability Survey of its more than 7 million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.
CR’s findings include:
— Toyota Prius. Handling on the Prius is sound but unexceptional, and the ride is well controlled overall. The continuously variable transmission is very smooth and the interior is well assembled.
— Subaru Outback. The redesigned Outback has a steady ride and a commendable fuel economy at a very good 24 mpg overall for an all-wheel drive wagon. The Outback’s handling is good in routine driving but gets clumsy when pushed to the limits.
— Chevrolet Equinox. CR tested both the 4-cylinder and V6 versions of the Equinox. The ride is supple and controlled, and handling is responsive and secure. It gets 18 mpg overall. The interior is much improved, with nice details and good materials.
— Nissan Cube. The Nissan Cube is a funky-looking small wagon similar in theme and price to the Scion xB and the Kia Soul. Its virtues include a low price, good fuel economy at 28 mpg overall, and exceptional practicality. But with lackluster handling and acceleration, the Cube trails the xB and Soul overall in CR’s ratings.
— Volkswagen Routan. The Routan is not a German import but a rebadged Chrysler Town & Country with a few tweaks. The ride is pleasant and the cabin is quiet, but handling is clumsy and the engines lack refinement and it only gets 16 mpg overall. Aside from the nicely finished soft-touch upper dash, the interior looks and feels cheap.

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