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Consumer Reports names Tesla Model S its top pick in 2014 auto survey

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DETROIT - The Tesla Model S electric sedan is Consumer Reports' top pick in this year's automotive rankings.

The magazine cited the Model S's sporty performance and technological innovations, including its 225-mile range. But it acknowledged that the car is expensive. Consumer Reports paid $89,650 for the Model S it tested.

For less than a third of that price, the Toyota Prius hybrid got the nod as Consumer Reports' top green car. The magazine also cited strong fuel economy in naming the Honda Accord as the top midsize car and the BMW328i as the best sports sedan.

The rankings, now in their 18th year, pick Consumer Reports' favourites among the 260 vehicles its team has recently tested. The rankings are closely watched in the auto industry, since shoppers consistently cite Consumer Reports as a main source of car-buying advice.

Consumer Reports buys vehicles anonymously and performs more than 50 tests on them, including evaluations of braking, handling and comfort. The magazine's testing team drives each vehicle for roughly 6,000 miles.

Winners must earn high marks on government and insurance industry crash tests and get at least average reliability ratings from Consumer Reports' subscribers, who are surveyed each year about problems they're having with their vehicles.

The Model S, which went on sale in 2012, got the highest score ever recorded in Consumer Reports' automotive testing last spring. But at the time, the magazine didn't have enough data from subscribers to rank its reliability.

Spokesman Doug Love said Tuesday that the magazine now has enough data to give the Model S a "good" reliability rating. More than 600 Model S owners submitted responses in the magazine's latest reliability survey.

Subaru was the top pick for both the small car category, with the Impreza, and the small SUV category, with the redesigned Forester. The Hyundai Santa Fe was the top large SUV, while the Audi A6 was the top luxury sedan. The Honda Odyssey was the top minivan.

For the first time in 16 years, Chrysler earned a spot in the magazine's top ten picks. Its Ram 1500 was named best pickup truck.

Lexus, Acura and Audi were the top brands in this year's survey. Jeep and Ford got the lowest scores. Consumer Reports said Jeep vehicles did poorly on road tests, while Ford's MyFord Touch touchscreen dashboard system has had reliability problems.

Consumer Reports said Japanese brands have historically dominated its top picks, but their hold is slipping. This year, Japanese vehicles were top picks in five of the 10 categories, the fewest ever.

"The competition in the marketplace has grown fierce. There was a time when a handful of brands dominated our top picks list, but in recent years we've seen a more diverse group make the cut," Rik Paul, Consumer Reports' automotive editor, said in a statement.

The magazine's annual automotive issue goes on sale next month.

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