Top 10 car picks from Consumer Reports
The best new cars of 2017 are outstanding all-around performers -- shown to be reliable, safe and satisfying. That means they have scored high in stringent track tests and extensive owner surveys conducted by Consumer Reports.
-- Sports Car: Mazda MX-5 Miata. The Mazda MX-5 Miata is the embodiment of driving pleasure. Its alchemical formula has been honed since 1990, with the core ingredients consistently being a pliant four-cylinder engine, rear-wheel drive, sharp handling and light weight. The Miata truly comes alive on winding roads, with immediate steering response. It also gets impressive fuel economy.
-- Large Sedan: Chevrolet Impala. The Impala continues to reign as the leading large sedan. Roomy, supportive seats put you in the perfect position to access the intuitive controls. Despite its prodigious size, the Impala's handling is responsive and secure.
-- Compact Hybrid: Toyota Prius. The car that pioneered the hybrid movement and has defined fuel-efficiency for four model generations still stands tall as an innovative green machine. Its fuel economy in Consumer Reports' tests was a staggering 52 mpg overall -- the highest testers ever recorded in a car that doesn't plug in. Prius also touts excellent reliability.
-- Compact Pickup: Honda Ridgeline. Innovation abounds in this suburbia-targeted pickup, proving that trucks can be both refined and versatile. The Ridgeline glides along, more akin to a sedan than its roughneck rivals. It also handles far better than any compact or full-sized pickup.
-- Luxury SUV: Audi Q7. The seven-passenger Q7 is the highest-rated SUV Consumer Reports has recently tested. Sumptuous and pampering, it feels more like a luxury sedan than an SUV. The quiet interior is decked out with premium trimmings and road-trip-friendly seats.
-- Midsized SUV: Toyota Highlander. In this competitive segment, expectations are high, with buyers looking for family friendly functionality, all-weather traction, three-row seating, generous cargo space and the capability of light towing. Throw in good performance, fuel economy and long-term reliability, and Highlander's appeal is clear.
-- Compact Car: Chevrolet Cruze. The formula is simple: Put the Malibu and Impala in a shrink ray, reducing scale but preserving the commendable driving manners and generous available features. The result is a hushed, smooth-riding sedan that's roomy enough to be a budget-friendly alternative to a midsized car.
-- Subcompact Car: Toyota Yaris iA. The Yaris iA proves that subcompact cars can delight. It feels refined for this entry-level class, with a smooth and willing four-cylinder engine, slick six-speed automatic transmission and relatively compliant ride.
-- Small SUV: Subaru Forester. The Subaru Forester sets the standard for small SUVs, combining relatively roomy packaging, fuel efficiency, solid reliability and easy access. And safety technology like forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking is available on all but the base trim level.
-- Midsized Sedan: Kia Optima. Move over Honda Accord and Toyota Camry: The Kia Optima rocks the midsized sedan segment as a smart alternative to the me-too mainstream. It checks all the right boxes for family-sedan buyers, with responsive handling, a steady ride and a roomy backseat.
To learn more, visit ConsumerReports.org
3 ways to save money on your printer ink
Consumer technology keeps improving, but one thing stays constant: consumer complaints about the high cost of printer ink.
There's a lot you can do to use less ink. Here are three options from Consumer Reports.
-- Epson EcoTank: Beyond the Cartridge
Epson EcoTank printers forgo traditional ink cartridges in favor of large, refillable ink tanks. The bottled ink included with the printers should last about two years, according to Epson. Once the bottles are empty, you can buy replacements for $13 apiece, or $52 for a set of all four colors -- cyan, yellow, magenta and black.
That's pretty cheap, but EcoTank printers cost a lot, with the least expensive models going for around $300. That's a hard sell when some inkjets cost as little as $50.
However, printer costs depend on the time scale you're considering. Consumer Reports looks at both the up-front price (what you pay for the machine) and the cost of ownership (which adds in your ink purchases). Rich Sulin, who leads Consumer Reports' printer testing program, says EcoTank printers are a good deal if you use them long enough.
-- HP Instant Ink: Subscription Service
If you have a compatible HP printer, you can sign up for HP Instant Ink, a monthly subscription service that provides ink refills whenever you need them.
The monthly fee is based on the number of pages you print, not how much ink you use. So whether you print one word per page or cover every sheet with dense illustrations, the cost is the same. The printer monitors your monthly page count and automatically contacts HP to order ink refills whenever you run low. So it does mean the printer is keeping tabs on you.
The plans start at $2.99 per month for printing 50 pages and goes up to $10 for 300 pages. If you go over your limit, you're charged an extra $1 for every additional 15 pages. The company provides prepaid envelopes to return used cartridges for recycling.
According to HP, consumers could save 50 percent on ink costs by using the plan.
Consumer Reports' Sulin says the subscription plan is a good deal if you print roughly the same number of pages each month.
-- Third-Party Ink: Shopping Around
Aftermarket or third-party inks are sold by companies other than the printer manufacturer. Typically, they use recycled cartridges that have been refilled and resold.
The savings can be significant. For instance, HP 28 tricolor cartridges cost $36 on HP's website; a compatible aftermarket cartridge from a company called Cartridge World costs $22.
Not everyone trusts these inks, and perhaps for good reason. In Consumer Reports' 2016 printer reliability survey, slightly more than one-third of subscribers who had purchased aftermarket inks thought they didn't offer the same quality as original-manufacturer inks. (If you take the positive view, that means almost two-thirds thought the quality was just as good.) If you're shopping for aftermarket inks, make sure there's a good return policy or satisfaction guarantee, Sulin advises.
To learn more, visit ConsumerReports.org