Toyota Prius Tops Consumer Reports Ratings

The hybrid gas-electric Toyota Prius topped Consumer Reports annual list of Best and Worst New-Car Values for the first time, with the magazine saying the car's cost to operate is about one-half that of a conventional vehicle.

The Prius (at 26,$750 for the Four model) knocked the much cheaper $16,915 base-price Honda Fit out of first place, which that car held for the past four years. CR said the Fit's lower reliability rating was the reason for its fall from No. 1.

At 49 cents a mile to operate, the Prius costs about half as much to run than the average car, said the magazine. which looked at over 200 models for its annual buying guide.

CR looks at the five-year cost of ownership for each vehicle, road-test scores and predicted reliability.

After quality-control problems, including unintended acceleration in some models, Toyota is back on top, with global sales expected to be No.1 this year and in 2013. The firm sold a record 9.7 million cars this year, a 22 percent rise from a year earlier when the tsunami struck in Japan, interrupting production.

Toyota and its Lexus cars topped the best values in six of 10 Consumer Reports categories.

These are some of the Consumer Reports best and worst values in the most popular categories:

Consumer Reports Best and Worst Values:

Best Value Small Hatchbacks: Toyota Prius Four

Worst Value Small Hatchbacks: Ford Focus SE

Best Value Family Sedan: Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE

Worst Value Family Sedan: Chrysler 200 Limited (V6)

Best Value Large -Luxury SUV: Lexus RX 350

Worst Value Large -Luxury SUV: Nissan Armada Platinum

Best Value Minivan-Wagon: Toyota Prius V Three

Worst Value Minivan-Wagon: Chrysler Town & Country Touring-L

Best Value Small SUV: Honda CR-V EX

Worst Value Small SUV: Mini Cooper Countryman S

See or the February issue of Consumer Reports, now on newsstands, for the full car ratings.