As the competition grows stronger with each passing year, it has been increasingly difficult for a single automaker to dominate Consumer Reports' annual Top Picks list.
This year, Toyota is the first brand to earn half of the top 10 spots in nearly a decade.
The redesigned Toyota Camry Hybrid and Highlander edged out the competition to become Top Picks in CR's Family Sedan and Family SUV categories, respectively. The Camry Hybrid delivers a surprising 38 mpg overall fuel economy -- the best in class and as good as some smaller and less versatile hybrids.
The two new Toyota additions join the incumbent Prius, RAV4 and Sienna as the best in their individual categories to secure the brand a starring role in this year's list.
CR's Top Picks are the best all-around models in their categories, chosen from more than 275 vehicles the organization has recently tested.
Top Pick models must meet CR's stringent criteria in three areas: road test, reliability and safety. They must rank at or near the top of their category on overall road test scores; they must have earned an average or better predicted-reliability rating based on problems CR's subscribers reported on 1.3 million vehicles in the latest survey; and they must perform well if included in crash or rollover tests by the government or the insurance industry.
The Toyota Prius was named CR's Top Pick Green Car for the 11th time and the ninth consecutive year -- both records claimed by no other model in the history of CR's Top Picks. The Prius, including the recently tested Prius V wagon version, continues to set the standard for its blend of fuel efficiency, practicality and affordability. The 44 overall mpg CR measured for the hatchback is still the highest of any five-passenger, non-plug-in vehicle CR has tested, and the 41 mpg for the new Prius V wagon easily tops its class.
Top 10 picks by category
Family sedan: Toyota Camry Hybrid ($29,052). In addition to its impressive 38 mpg overall fuel economy, other high points include a comfortable ride and fairly quick acceleration.
Sporty car: Ford Mustang ($28,880 to $43,880). There's more to the Mustang than power. Agile handling, a decent ride, comfortable front seats and good fit and finish make the current version an inviting package.
Small SUV: Toyota RAV4 ($24,405 to $30,328). With a four-cylinder engine, the RAV4 delivers some of the best gas mileage in its class (23 mpg).
Affordable family sedan: Hyundai Sonata ($21,800). CR chose the four-cylinder Sonata as a more affordable alternative to the Camry Hybrid. The Sonata provides nimble handling and thrifty 28 mpg overall for just a little bit more money than many small sedans.
Family hauler: Toyota Sienna V6 ($35,810). The Sienna fits the bill nicely for families looking for a comfortable, roomy interior, plenty of features and the ability to carry up to eight people. Among its high points are lively performance, decent fuel economy (20 mpg) and a comfortable ride.
Sports sedan: Infiniti G37 ($37,800). The G37's agile handling, blistering acceleration and comfortable, well-crafted interior make it one of CR's highest-scoring sedans.
Green car: Toyota Prius ($26,750 to $28,217). The Prius sets the standard for fuel efficiency, practicality and affordability with its overall 44 mpg.
Small car: Subaru Impreza ($21,345). Redesigned for 2012, the all-wheel-drive Impreza is a well-rounded roomy sedan with nimble handling and a compliant, absorbent ride that rivals some luxury sedans.
Pickup truck: Chevrolet Avalanche ($47,435). The Avalanche provides the best combination of utility and versatility of any pickup CR has tested. Its unified bed and cab help give it a steady, comfortable ride, and the cabin is quiet. Overall mpg is 15.
Family SUV: Toyota Highlander ($38,578 to $47,255). The refined, comfortable and quiet Highlander has consistently ranked near the top of its class in CR's road-test scores.
By the editors of Consumer Reports at www.consumerreports.org.