`Consumer Reports’ Annual Auto Issue Names the Best, the Worst

March 19, 2011/Steve Tackett

MOTOR MATTERS DOWN THE ROAD BY CHERYL JENSEN

Consumers are heading back to car dealerships in large numbers to buy both new and used cars, according to a number of market research firms. And this past Presidents’ Day weekend was particularly big.
“Consumers hit the showrooms during the Presidents’ Day weekend at a rate that well out-performed February of 2010,” according to Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates.
But did they buy a vehicle that is on Consumer Reports “Best of the Best” list or “Worst of the Worst” list? CR’s annual April auto issue is just released. It gives consumers a macro view of the automakers that make the best vehicles overall with its Automakers’ Report Card. It also looks at the micro level at individual cars and trucks that are Top Picks, used cars that are the most and least reliable and new cars that are the best and worst value. Really, wouldn’t you rather get a vehicle that’s on the Best of the Best list instead of the Worst of the Worst?
The Automakers’ Report Card shows that Honda (including Acura), Subaru and Toyota (including Lexus and Scion) still make the best vehicles overall. They are the top three for the third year in a row. Chrysler is again at the bottom for the third consecutive year.
Ford had the largest gain and improved both its road-test and reliability scores in the past year. General Motors improved also. Volvo is the only European make with an above-average reliability score.
Every year the magazine list Top Picks, which are the best all-around models in 10 categories. The top 10 come from six manufacturers and eight brands.

No one automaker dominates; a number of automakers are making high-quality, reliable cars that score well in the CR tests, according to the magazine.
Six new models made the list this year. They are the Honda Fit, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sorento, Ford Mustang, Toyota Sienna and Chevrolet Avalanche. The Sorento is the first Kia model ever to be named a Top Pick. The Mustang is the Top Pick for Sporty Car in a category that has been dominated by foreign models for the past five years.
Even though more hybrids are entering the market, the Toyota Prius is the Top Pick for Green Car for the eighth straight year. The other Top Picks are the Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Altima and Infiniti G37.
When it comes to the most and least reliable used cars, the magazine found that some used cars have fewer problems than new models. But it cautions that five-year-old vehicles can be good bets for used-car buyers, although on average vehicles that are three or four years old have fewer problems. The Best of the Best are the Honda Fit, Toyota Prius, Lexus ES, Acura RL, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Toyota Sienna, Honda CR-V, Toyota Highlander and Honda Ridgeline.
Back in 2009, the magazine started naming the best and worst new-car values. There is a list of 8 categories and the best and worst value in each category: The Honda Fit is the small car with the best overall value, for example, and was the best overall value among 200 vehicles ranging from small cars to luxury cars. The Jeep Wrangler has the overall worst value.
All results are based on information from the more than 270 vehicles Consumer Reports has recently evaluated at its Auto Test Center. — Cheryl Jensen, Motor Matters

Copyright, AutoWriters Associates Inc., 2011

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