If you trust Consumer Reports, and seven million readers do, then the car for you is probably the Toyota Prius Touring. The magazine’s 2009 annual auto issue claims it as the “best overall value” among the 300 vehicles it studied. The magazine's road-test video on the green Toyota can be found here.

The Prius has a relatively low owner cost of $26,250 over five years, and scored 80 out of 100 points on CR’s tough road test. “[I]ts excellent fuel economy of 42 mpg overall and solid resale value help give it a low owner cost,” CR said. Of course, this is the last year for the second-generation Prius, and the 2010 model offers substantial improvements (including an estimated 50 mpg overall).

I know, I know, CR’s prose doesn’t always sparkle. Unlike the car buff books, which don’t spend a lot of time measuring rear-seat headroom, it’s not going to write, “We flat-out love the Toyota Prius Touring! We’re fighting for the keys and popping wheelies in the parking lot!” But it gets the valuable information across.

The vehicles under contention all had above-average predicted reliability and not surprisingly, excellent fuel efficiency. The owner-cost estimates are based on depreciation, fuel economy, insurance, interest on financing, maintenance and repair (predicted) and sales tax.

The top five cars, followed by CR’s cost-per-point score (lowest is best) are listed below. It’s not surprising that many of them also place on “greenest car” lists:

  • Toyota Prius Touring ($325)
  • Mini Cooper ($330)
  • Volkswagen Rabbit ($330)
  • Honda Civic EX ($340)
  • Honda Fit ($350)
Also performing well with cost-per-point scores under 400 were the Mazda Miata, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Mazda3 hatchback, the four-cylinder version of the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Sonata and Honda Accord.

The five-year ownership scores vary incredibly, and it’s something more people should pay attention to when buying cars. The Fit had the lowest, at $24,000 for the period. But buy a Hummer H2, and it will cost you an incredible $82,250 over five years.

Significantly, no domestic automakers place on the top value car list, and are still “at the back of the class,” the magazine said. Honda was the top-performing automaker and Chrysler the lowest. But both Ford and GM’s scores improved over last year, and CR’s says some new GM model — including the lauded Chevy Malibu, Saturn Outlook, Cadillac CTS and even the Corvette — are “among the best in testing.”

Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

Top-rated cars: Consumer Reports is thinking small--and foreign
The Toyota Prius is the best value out there, followed by two Hondas, a VW and the Mini Cooper.