Of the top 10 cars in Consumer Reports April annual cars issue (online and shipping to subscribers now, on newsstands March 8), we agree on one: the Hyundai Elantra, which also made our pcmag.com Gearlog Digital Drive Top 10 Cars list. The discrepancy is simple: Consumer Reports’ testers love cars, just as much as the car guys at any other magazine or website. But Consumer Reports gets hung up on reliability scores where we believe most every car is reliable enough. So to us, a deciding factor often is technology, particularly standard or universally available iPod adapters and Bluetooth, and affordable in-dash navigation. AdChoices广告Here are Consumer Reports 10 Top Picks for 2011 below, along with their best and worst value cars in eight categories. (There is some overlap.) To be a Top Pick, CR says, cars must be “best all-around models in their categories … meet stringent road test, reliability, and safety requirements … score at or near the top of its category … [have] average or better predicted reliability … have performed adequately in overall safety if tested by the government or insurance industry safety tests … [and] offer electronic stability control (ESC), a proven lifesaving safety feature, as standard equipment.”Our Digital Drive Ten Best, published in late 2010, comprised: Chevrolet Volt (Car of the Year), Audi A8, BMW 5 Series & BMW 7 Series, Buick LaCrosse, Ford Edge, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Elantra (photo above), Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen Golf. Honorable Mention: Acura TL, Acura MDX, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Ford Taurus, and Volkswagen Tourag. Consumer Reports 2011 Top Picks These are Consumer Reports Top Picks for 2011 in 10 categories. Not the 10 best cars overall, but the best in each of 10 categories. The text is from CR’s press release. Budget Car: Honda Fit. “ESC [stability control] is now a standard feature in the 2011 Fit [photo above] ($16,020 to $16,730) which helps solidify this versatile subcompact hatchback as the best in its class and a great value. The Fit provides an amazing amount of interior space for its size, aided by a flexible rear-seat design in which seatbacks can fold down or the lower cushion can flip up to open an area stretching from floor to ceiling. Agile handling makes the Fit enjoyable to drive. And it pays back with excellent fuel economy: 30 mpg overall with an automatic transmission, 33 mpg with a manual.” Gearlog mobile comment: The Fit is getting on in years but it still is the car to beat, a point driven home when we autocrossed the aging Fit back to back with the new Ford Fiesta. The Fiesta had a quicker time; the Fit still felt better to drive. Also, finally Honda finally made the second most important safety feature (after seat belts) standard on all Fits: stability control. Small Car: Hyundai Elantra. “Redesigned for 2011 the Elantra ($18,445) delivers a lot for the money. With its makeover, this well-rounded sedan is now more stylish and engaging to drive. The Elantra provides fairly nimble handling; a decent ride, a smooth, responsive powertrain; a well-finished interior; and a relatively roomy rear seat. It’s also miserly on gas, achieving 29 mpg overall in CR’s tests and 39 mpg on the highway. Reliability for the redesigned model is expected to be as good as the previous one.” Comment: Nothing else comes close. If Hyundai offered the Elantra with a serious sport package, the competition might as well go home. In our review, we dinged Hyundai for not offering Bluetooth standard along with the USB jack. We renew our cry: Hyundai now says buyers are taking options packages that bring the Bluetooth take-rate to 97%. Family Sedan: Nissan Altima. “This is the second year in a row that the Altima ($23,970 to $30,335) has been the Consumer Reports Top Pick for Family Sedan. The Altima provides an impressive balance of comfort and performance while delivering some of the best fuel economy in its class: 26 mpg overall for four-cylinder models and 24 mpg with a V6. The Hybrid version gets 32 mpg. Its comfortable ride, secure handling and spirited acceleration make the Altima enjoyable to drive. And it has a roomy, well-finished, and very quiet interior. The four-cylinder models earned an above-average reliability Rating, and the V6 model was average.” Comment: Lots of good choices here. Nothing wrong with the Altima. We like the Hyundai Sonata. Tomato, tomahto. Small SUV: Toyota RAV4. “The RAV4 ($25,405 to $31,435) returns to the Top Picks list for the fourth time in the past five years. Its winning formula includes a roomy interior, agile handling, and very good fuel economy for its class. The four-cylinder version provides 23 mpg overall, one of the best gas mileage of any automatic, nonhybrid SUV CR has tested. The spirited V6 version accelerates about as quickly as the Cadillac CTS and Volkswagen GTI and gets only 1 mpg less than the four-cylinder model. A small third-row seat is optional.” Comment: Fine choice. Green Car: Toyota Prius. “Holding the title for Top Pick for Green Car for the eighth year in a row, the Prius ($26,750) is a pleasant car to drive, with a roomy interior, a comfortable ride, hatchback versatility, and excellent crash-test results. Software problems in the antilock brake system affected the first-year reliability of this redesigned model, but those problems have been fixed.” Comment: We picked the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt as car of the year even if, as CR notes, “it doesn’t really make sense [to buy],” the electric Nissan Leaf as a pure technology play, and the Ford Fusion Hybrid (HM) for being just as good as the Prius (except for the this-has-to-be-a-hybrid silhouette), plus offering Ford Sync. Family SUV: Kia Sorento. “The Sorento ($26,590 to $32,390) was redesigned for 2011 and is now a more well-rounded SUV. The roomy, nicely finished interior includes comfortable seats and easy-to-use controls. An optional third-row seat, although tight, allows the Sorento to carry up to seven passengers. The smooth V6 engine provides good performance and fuel economy–20 mpg overall–that’s as efficient as the base four-cylinder engine. The Sorento is also stocked with an inviting list of features for its price, making it one of the bargains of this class.” Comment: Good choice, as is the similar Hyundai Santa Fe, and with Hyundai you don’t have to remember if there’s one R or two in the name. Sporty Car: Ford Mustang. “One of the high points of the Mustang ($28,880 to $43,880) is the strong rumbling V8 engine that propels CR’s coupe and convertible test cars. It delivers scorching acceleration, a great exhaust sound, and good fuel economy for the class. For 2011, the Mustang received a refined, punchy V6, which provides strong acceleration and a decent 24 mpg overall with a manual transmission.” Comment: We’ll check back in 2014 when it gets an independent rear suspension. Our tastes run to sporty four-passenger (in comfort) cars with trunk room such an Acura TL or Volkswagen GTI. Family Hauler: Toyota Sienna. The Sienna ($35,810 to $38,201) has earned a place in the Top Picks list three out of the past five years. Redesigned for 2011, the current model is still a very comfortable versatile minivan with excellent reliability. The spacious cabin can seat up to eight people. The engine delivers lively performance and decent fuel economy. And the Sienna is still the only minivan available with all-wheel drive. Comment: The new Sienna is much better, and the new Honda Odyssey is even better. Honda makes a good argument that front-drive creates tradeoffs the make the minivan less desirable for the majority of driving. You can’t go wrong with either one. Sports Sedan: Infiniti G37. The G37’s ($37,225) inviting combination of agile handling, blistering acceleration, and a luxurious interior makes it one of our highest-scoring sedans and earned it a spot on the Top Picks list for the fifth straight year. It’s fun to drive on a twisty road but is still a fairly comfortable cruiser on the highway. A snug cabin and small trunk are the only notable weaknesses. Rear-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive optional. Comment: Fine car. For technology, the BMW 3 Series is better because it offers more dazzling driver aids and because BMW’s inline six is, has been, and will be the world’s best six. Pickup Truck: Chevrolet Avalanche. The Avalanche ($47,435) is a versatile crew-cab model with a unified bed and cab that helps give it a steady, comfortable, quiet ride. And the innovative partition between the cab and the bed can be folded to extend the cargo area into the back of the cab. That allows the truck to carry longer cargo. A three-piece bed cover provides a weather-tight and lockable cargo area. CR recommends getting the optional backup camera to reduce the truck’s large blind zone. Comment: Pickups are the last to get good cockpit technology other than the Ford F-150, which would be our choice for Ford Sync and for the small business / contractor / communications tools Ford offers. Consumer Reports 2011 Best and Worst Values Best Value Small Car: Honda Fit. Worst Value: Chevrolet Aveo5 1LT.Best Value Family Car: Toyota Prius IV. Worst Value: Chevrolet Impala LT (3.5).Best Value Upscale Sedan: Acura TSX (4-cyl.). Worst Value: Buick Lucerne (V8).Best Value Luxury Sedan: Hyundai Genesis 4:6. Worst Value: BMW 750Li.Best Value Sporty Car: Mini Cooper (base). Worst Value: Porsche 911 Carrera S.Best Value Wagons/Minivans: Mazda5 Grand Touring. Worst Value: Kia Sedona EX.Best Value Small SUVs: Toyota RAV4 (base, 4-cyl.). Worst Value: Jeep Liberty Sport.Best Value Midsized SUVs: Hyundai Santa Fe GLS (4-cyl.). Worst Value: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara. Our comments: The Hyundai Genesis is an amazing car, nearly equivalent to a big Audi, BMW, Lexus or Mercedes for half to two-thirds the cost. People who buy the BMW 7 Series (along with the similar but smaller BMW 5 Series) or Porsche 911 are not concerning themselves much with “value” but with great performance and useful technology; they understand you may need a couple hours training to feel comfortable. A car shouldn’t be downgraded because of all aspects of an infotainment system – Ford Sync and MyFord Touch come to mind since no Ford is a Top Pick or Best Value. Best Reliability: Honda, Suburu, ToyotaConsumer Reports said Honda (Odyssey above), Subaru, and Toyota continue to make the most reliable cars and rank 1-2-3 for the past three years. It said Ford has the most improved lineup. German automakers continue to trouble CR. “If front-seat comfort, fit and finish, and driving dynamics were all that counted, European cars would rule the roost. European cars generally perform well in Consumer Reports road tests,” CR noted, “but many have confusing controls and inconsistent reliability. Volvo is the only European make with an above-average reliability score.” It singled out Mercedes-Benz as “the only manufacturer with the dubious distinction of having year over year drops in both its average road-test (77 to 73 [out of a possible 100]) and reliability ratings (from average to below average).” What Consumer Reports doesn’t say is that the lowest-scoring scores aren’t all that bad compared to 20 years ago, just as a below-average student at Stanford is still pretty bright. Thus, buyers aren’t acting irrationally if they choose an Audi (“spotty reliability”) over a Lexus because they like how it handles. You don’t see many cars of any brand littering the highway these days. Every automaker says publicly, privately, or both that the most important road test to win is the one in Consumer Reports, because of the perception that the magazine is unbiased and can’t be bought off. When you’re reading, and comparing, just bear in mind how reliable cars were compared to 1991. (Actually, you can’t.) That’s the year Lexus arrived on the market, and set what motorists regarded as a high-water mark for reliability. Do you really want to drive the world’s most reliable car if it doesn’t have Bluetooth and an iPod adapter?