Tired of seeing only foreign automakers’  products on the best used cars lists? If you’ve been paying attention, you’d see there are some really good American cars out there. We’ve even listed them. But they’re usually farther down the list, edged out by perennially reliable Toyotas and Hondas. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Consumer Reports and Edmunds are noting more and more American iron in their list of notables – tops in some categories, or good choices in others. And, some will be there in the near future as more reliability data comes in on the newer models.

This listing of the top 3 best used American cars is derived from scrutiny of Consumer Reports 2009 Best of the Best list, covering multiple years of reliability from 1999 to 2008. Also included are Consumer Reports mentions for American Top Picks 2008 and 2009 and Edmunds’ 2009 Used Car Best Bets. Edmunds choices are based on reliability, safety and availability. For Consumer Reports top pick, cars have to score high in the category, have electronic stability control readily available and have average or better reliability data in the magazine’s annual survey.

  • Pontiac VibeEdmunds highlights the 2003-2007 Pontiac Vibe in its small car category for its style, efficiency of space, 2009_Pontiac_Vibe--DCcompact dimensions and “smooth, powertrain courtesy of Toyota.” The Vibe wagon also appears in Consumer Reports 2009 Best of the Best list as “Other good choices.” In its Top 10 American All-Stars list, Edmunds says this of Vibe’s generous cargo capacity, roomy backseat and forgiving ride: “Vibe offers all this and more…one of the most practical hatches on the market.” Introduced in 2003, Vibe’s second generation model debuted in 2009. Edmunds says Vibe is a “smart choice for an affordable, practical and sporty compact wagon.” Pros include comfortable ride, peppy performance, roomy interior and cons include lackluster acceleration on base model (132-hp 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine) with automatic.
  • Ford Fusion/Mercury MilanConsumer Reports 2009 Best of the Best list highlights the corporate twins Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan as other good family car choices. Originally debuting in 2006, the two models were updated in 2009 to be the best yet. Edmunds says Fusion combines “the sporty platform found in the last-generation Mazda 6 with the traditional American values of a more spacious interior and brash styling elements.” Pros include roomy interior, nimble handling, smooth ride, available all-wheel drive, competitive price. Cons include electronic stability control still optional, engines “short on power,” and “antiquated stereo controls.” Of Mercury Milan, Edmunds says it’s a “well-rounded family sedan with distinctive styling to boot.”
  • Buick Lucerne – In the upscale sedan category of Consumer Reports American Top Picks for 2008, the front-wheel drive, standard 5-passenger Buick Lucerne (seating for 6 with split-front bench) edges out the top-scoring Cadillac CTS. Why? The magazine says that while CTS is a blast to drive, there’s not enough reliability data to give it the top pick. Lucerne (with V-8 power) also finds its way into the magazine’s 2009 Best of the Best list in “Other good choices.” Introduced in 2006, the 2009 version gets a new, standard 227-hp 3.9-liter V-6 engine and 292-hp 4.6-liter V-8 in the Super. According to Edmunds.com, pros include plush interior, quiet and comfortable ride. Cons include “old-tech, 4-speed automatic transmission” and “mediocre handling.”

In the upscale sedan category, Consumer Reports also lists the Lincoln MKZ in their 2009 Best of the Best list, while the Ford Mustang stands out in the sporty category. Interestingly, the magazine’s 2008 and 2009 American Top Picks for family sedan included the Chevrolet Malibu (top scoring 2008 and top scoring and top pick 2009). Ford Focus made the top pick and top scoring small car for 2009. For green car in 2009, the magazine chooses the Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner Hybrid.

Speaking of other American used-car iron worthy of consideration, Car and Driver lists the 2008 Cadillac CTS as one of its 10 Best Cars, saying the “second-gen CTS conclusively fulfills General Motors’ goal of turning Cadillac into a world-class luxury competitor,” and that it’s “exciting to drive and competitive with the best from Europe.”

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