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Product Reviews

Consumer Reports’ most reliable cars

Japanese auto brands continue to dominate car rankings

Subaru’s Forrester scored high marks.

Subaru’s Forrester scored high marks.

Planning to go car shopping during the Presidents’ Day sales next weekend? A key factor in selecting a vehicle is always reliability.

Consumer Reports’ Annual Auto Survey shows that the Japanese dominance in reliability is showing cracks. In the past decade, brands from Japan typically locked in the top slots in Consumer Reports’ predicted-reliability rankings, rarely letting another carmaker slip in higher than seventh or eighth place. In the latest survey, however, Audi, Volvo, and GMC secured places in the top 10.

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Audi, which has shown steady improvement in recent years, moved up four places from last year, to fourth overall. Volvo jumped 13 places, to seventh. And GMC emerged as the top domestic brand, finishing ninth, three places higher than last year. Moreover, every model from Audi, GMC, and Volvo scored average or better.

But Japanese cars still fare better overall. Lexus, Toyota, and Acura captured the top three spots, with all Lexus and Acura models scoring above average. And all Japanese makes rank among the first 11 except for Nissan, which sank to 22d among 28 brands in the rankings. All Infiniti, Mazda, and Toyota models scored average or better.

At the other extreme, new and redesigned models from Ford and its upscale Lincoln brand continue to show teething pains, putting those nameplates near the bottom of the list, higher than only the niche brand Mini.

Consumer Reports’ 2013 Annual Auto Survey was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. The results are based on subscribers’ experiences with 1.1 million vehicles. That pool of data was used to compile reliability histories and predict how well new cars that are currently on sale will hold up.

Consumer Reports’ other findings include:

  The top predicted-reliability score went to the redesigned 2014 Subaru Forester SUV, which hadn’t been on the market for very long when the survey was conducted. The Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid got the worst score, and the regular C-Max Hybrid wasn’t much better.

  Hybrids and electric cars continue to do well. The Toyota Prius, Lexus ES 300h, Toyota Prius C, and Honda CR-Z hybrids, as well as the Nissan Leaf electric car, were among the top models. Ford’s C-Max and Fusion hybrids were the only exceptions.

  Mazda slipped from fourth to fifth; still very good. The redesigned Mazda6 debuted with above-average reliability. Subaru and Scion, which also typically rank well in reliability, were torpedoed by their twin sports cars, the Subaru BRZ and the Scion FR-S, which scored below average. This dropped Subaru to 10th place, from last year’s fifth.

  The redesigned 2013 Honda Accord V-6 scored below average, which means that Consumer Reports can no longer recommend it. The four-cylinder Accord, which earned an average score, is still recommended.

  The redesigned 2013 Nissan Altima also had a lousy debut, with the four-cylinder and V-6 models finishing well below average and last in their category. The Altima's problems stem mostly from the transmission, wind noise, squeaks, and rattles. Nissan's troubles also include the Armada and Pathfinder SUVs, and the Titan pickup truck, which scored well below average.

Consumer Reports writes columns, reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. Previous stories can be found at consumerreports.org.
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