Sleek shapes and trendy colors such as sienna, taupe and goldenrod are turning some of the latest vacuums into fashion statements. Consumer Reports' tough tests of more than 100 models show that when it comes to cleaning, beauty can be more than skin-deep.
Impressive pick-up on bare floors and carpets, including pet hair, at a relatively low price helped make the Kenmore Progressive 31069, $180, a new CR Best Buy among bagged uprights. You'll also appreciate its work-saving features long after the thrill of its crimson finish wears off.
Style and substance can also coexist in bagless uprights. LG's new Kompressor LuV350P, $400, now tops this category and joins three other Kompressors in Consumer Reports' winner's circle. The "plum purple" machine includes a swiveling head for easier steering and a rotating blade that helps pack more debris into its bin.
Want a canister vac? Two of Consumer Reports' top picks, at $250, cost hundreds less than most. But reports of subpar reliability in the magazine's survey knocked one big brand off that list. The organization's tests -- using more than 16 miles of carpet and floors -- also show that some pricey vacs deliver less than their price tags suggest, and some of the lightest models are light on performance or features. The details:
Hoover canisters lose Consumer Reports' nod. Hoover now joins Electrolux as the most repair-prone canister brands in the organization's latest survey of more than 100,000 subscribers.
Pricey brands sell so-so models. Dyson's DC28 Animal, $650, is a top performer among bagless uprights. But its DC41 Animal and DC40 Multi Floor proved to be mediocre or worse at carpet cleaning and pet-hair pick-up, despite their high prices. Similar slip-ups kept Dyson's DC39 Animal bagless canister out of Consumer Reports' recommendations. And while impressive cleaning and quietness make the $990 Miele S 5281 Callisto a winner among bagged canister vacuums, the S 6270 Topaz and S 6290 Jasper fell far behind.
Two lightweights leave Consumer Reports cold. The Shark Navigator Light NV100 weighs 12 pounds and costs just $150. But it was so-so on carpets and clogged in the organization's airflow test. And although Oreck's 9-pound Magnesium cleaned capably, its $400 price doesn't include tools.
Start by matching the type to your cleaning. Uprights, especially with a bag, do best overall on carpets. Canisters are easier to maneuver, particularly on stairs. Here's what else to consider before you buy:
Check the features. A brush on/off switch helps protect bare floors and avoid scattered debris. A motorized brush cleans carpets better than only suction. Also helpful: manual pile-height adjustment, which can be matched to carpets better than with automatic, and suction control for cleaning delicate fabrics with tools.
Consider bagless carefully. Bagless vacuums save on the cost of bags but still require filters. And the dust and mess of emptying their bins is a concern if you have asthma or allergies.