The 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in. Image courtesy of Toyota.

Toyota Prius named Best New Car Value by Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports has named the Toyota Prius Best New Car Value, but the distinction is made somewhat dubious by the fact it has been held for four years by the gas burning Honda Fit, that is more or less indistinguishable from other small commuters.

Nevertheless, Consumer Reports is concerned with cost of ownership, and it’s remarkable a vehicle costing twice as much or more can outdo the Honda that has a base price around $17K, in a cost comparison across five years.

The Toyota Prius, according to the consumer watchdog, costs 49¢ to drive per mile over a five-year period. The only way to beat that would be all electric and it might take years, not to mention battery replacement, to make mobility that cheap.

“The Prius may not be the most exciting vehicle to drive, nor the cheapest to purchase, but it’s extremely reliable, roomy, rides well, gets great fuel economy, and is inexpensive to operate, ” says Rik Paul, automotive editor at Consumer Reports.

Out of the Top 10 vehicles analyzed, Toyota and Lexus models took first place in six of the categories. This comes along pursuant to the magazine totally panning the Prius C model last June.

Now they state Toyota’s hybrid cars provide excellent value, combining excellent fuel economy with remarkable reliability and low depreciation to boot. Toyota hybrids took first in three of the categories and placed second, following the non-hybrid variant of the same model, in another category.

Chances are the Toyota Prius C wasn’t one of those, but we’ll wager a good many folks would prefer the Prius C to a Honda Fit when it came time to pay the monthly gas bill.

To arrive at its annual Best and Worst New-Car-Value list, the magazine calculates a rating for performance, reliability and cost of ownership to produce a score for 200 different vehicles, including commuters like the Prius and ranging up to luxury sedans on to the level of the BMW 750Li (a beautiful car with a high cost of ownership!).

Stated concisely, the better performance a vehicle shows in road tests and reliability, along with lower costs to operate it over time, is what creates value. Depreciation, fuel, insurance premiums, interest on financing, maintenance and repairs, and sales tax over a five-year period were factored into the final score.

Depreciation is the largest owner-cost factor, which is one place hybrids are holding up well.

“Some consumers seem to mistake size for value, buying their cars by the pound. But our data shows that rarely pays off. Price and fuel economy are the most important cost factors and that’s where small cars have a big advantage,” Paul added.

The 10 categories the magazine divides vehicles into for the analysis include Small Hatchbacks, Small Sedans, Family Sedans, Upscale Sedans, Luxury Sedans, Sporty Cars/Convertibles, Wagons/Minivans, Small SUVs, Midsized SUVs, and Large/Luxury SUVs.

Among the categories Toyota vehicles topped included Best Value Small Hatchbacks: (Toyota Prius Four), Best Value Family Sedan (Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE), Best Value Minivan/Wagon (Toyota Prius V Three) and Best Value Large/Luxury SUV (Lexus RX 350).

The magazine found value even in more costly to own vehicles, like the Lexus RX 350, that costs nearly $50,000 and takes 93¢ a mile to operate, but is highly reliable and provides a lot for the money via features and performance, making it a standout in the category.

Commuters needing space and good economy should look at wagons, minivans, or small SUVs for superior value. The best is the fuel-efficient Toyota Prius V, delivering nearly twice the value of an average car, with lots of room, excellent reliability and low owner costs at just 51¢ per mile.

However, the small Mazda5 minivan isn’t far behind.

In conclusion, we think Consumer Reports is an excellent source whenever they confine themselves to bean counting. When they venture into offering opinions or telling us what’s good for us – well let’s just say everybody has an opinion and most of us have moms to tell us what’s good for us.

We don’t always listen to them either.

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Comments

As a Prius owner, I can say that Consumer Reports is dead-on on how low-cost the Prius is to own. I've put 60,000 miles on my 2007 Prius so far, and over the past 5 years I've owned the car, I've spent $360 on oil changes (every 5000 miles), $400 on a new set of tires at 40,000 miles, and $100 on a transaxle fluid change (proactive preventive maintenance). Just $860 of maintenance costs over 5 years is the lowest I've paid on any of the cars I've ever owned. I could drive that cost down even further if I change the oil myself, but for the sake of convenience I just go to a local mechanic for that. My Prius won't need to have its brake pads changed until well past 150,000 miles. I vacuum-clean the air filters to re-use them. The next preventive transaxle fluid change will be at 120,000 miles, and the radiator coolant doesn't need changing until 2015. The next probable item I will replace is most likely the small 12-volt lead-acid car battery.which should cost around $120 or so. (The OEM car battery usually lasts about 5 years or so). And before any uneducated person pipes up about the costs of replacing the big hybrid system battery, it is a Non-Issue. That battery is warranties for 150,000 miles / 10 years, so if it fails before then, it will cost me exactly ZERO dollars to replace it. And if it fails past warranty, I can buy a salvaged low-mileage battery for around $600 or so. The HV battery is actually a part of the Prius transmission, and just like a normal car, you don't buy a brand-new $2000 transmission to put into a 10-year-old car-- you buy a rebuilt unit. After experiencing how low-maintenance my Prius is, I'm never going back to a normal car.
Thanks for telling us of your experience. I have only known one Prius owner personally but they absolutely loved it. Secondly, as a lawyer, they had a tendency to very analytical decisions. Keep greening the streets!