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    Car reliability survey puts a US brand in top 10

    A Consumer Reports reliability survey ranked Audi among the top 10. Lexus, Toyota, and Acura took top spots.
    Audi/associated press
    A Consumer Reports reliability survey ranked Audi among the top 10. Lexus, Toyota, and Acura took top spots.

    DETROIT — Japan’s lock on Consumer Reports’ vehicle reliability rankings is starting to ease.

    Three Japanese brands — Lexus, Toyota, and Acura — took the top spots in this year’s survey, and seven of the top 10 brands are Japanese.

    But three non-Japanese brands — Audi, Volvo, and GMC — cracked the top 10. And the magazine announced Monday it is not recommending that consumers buy 2014 models of the Honda Accord V6 and Nissan Altima sedans, two of Japan’s top sellers, because of poor reliability scores. Two other Japanese mainstays, the Toyota Camry and Toyota RAV4, will not be recommended because they flunked a frontal crash test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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    That is a blow that could affect sales. Consumer Reports’ recommendations are frequently cited among the top reasons people buy particular cars and trucks.

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    Consumer Reports, based in Yonkers, N.Y., predicts the reliability of 2014 model year cars and trucks based on a survey of subscribers who own vehicles from current or prior model years. This year, the survey questioned the owners of 1.1 million vehicles.

    Problems with infotainment systems, from frozen touchscreens to poorly performing voice-operated navigation systems, were frequent complaints. Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing, said electronic problems may even be underreported, since some drivers find the systems so confusing they do not use them. German cars tended to have the best infotainment systems.

    The 2014 Subaru Forester got the top score for predicted reliability, but the magazine noted that the 2014 Forester had only been on sale for a few weeks in the spring when owners were surveyed, so there was not much time for errors to crop up. The Subaru Legacy was the top-performing midsize car.

    Electric cars and hybrids generally performed well, but the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid got the worst reliability scores. Ford and its luxury Lincoln brand were near the bottom of the rankings because of customer complaints about glitch-prone touchscreen dashboard systems and lower-than-expected fuel economy numbers.

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    The key to reliability is a conservative approach to vehicle redesigns. The brands that often do best, such as Toyota and Honda, use time-tested engines, transmissions, and other parts from prior models in their newer cars, Fisher said. Automakers with new engines or other untested features in their new cars — such as Ford or Cadillac — tend to do worse.

    ‘‘When you redesign cars from the ground up, you’re going to expect those issues,’’ Fisher said.

    Brands with many older models, such as GMC and Volvo, also tend to do better.

     Here are the top three models in each category of the Consumer Reports annual vehicle  reliability survey.

    Best in field

    Here are the top three models in each category of the Consumer Reports annual vehicle reliability survey.

    SUBCOMPACT CARSHonda FitHyundai AccentMazda2
    SMALL CARSScion xBDodge DartSubaru Impreza
    MIDSIZE CARSSubaru LegacyToyota CamryMazda6
    COUPESMercedes-Benz E-ClassInfiniti GAudi A5
    LARGE CARSLexus ESAcura TLToyota Avalon
    SPORTS CARSPorsche BoxsterBMW M3BMW 1 Series
    HYBRID/ELECTRIC CARSToyota PriusLexus ES 300hToyota Prius C
    LUXURY SMALL CARSInfiniti G37 (AWD)Infiniti G37 (RWD)Acura TSX (4-cylinder engine)
    LUXURY SEDANSAudi A6Lexus LSAudi A7
    WAGONSMazda5Toyota VenzaAudi Allroad
    MINIVANSToyota Sienna (FWD)Nissan QuestToyota Sienna (AWD)
    SMALL SUVsSubaru Forester (non-turbo)Mitsubishi Outlander SportToyota RAV4
    MIDSIZE SUVsToyota 4RunnerToyota Highlander (V6)Toyota Highlander (4-cylinder engine)
    LARGE SUVsToyota SequoiaChevrolet TahoeChevrolet Yukon
    LUXURY SMALL SUVsBMW X1 (4-cylinder engine)Infiniti EXAudi Q5 (V6)
    LUXURY SUVsLexus RXLexus RX hybridAudi Q7
    SMALL PICKUPSHonda RidgelineNissan FrontierToyota Tacoma (4-cylinder, FWD)
    LARGE PICKUPSToyota Tundra (V8, 2-wheel-drive)Toyota Tundra (V8, 4-wheel-drive)Ford F-150 (V6)

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     SOURCE: Consumer Reports