By on November 19, 2021

Compilations and lists purporting to tout the ‘best and worst’ of any consumer product – from cars to computers to toasters – are always given side glances in this office, if for no other reason than our own skeptical nature. Still, the crew at Consumer Reports have been releasing exactly this type of list for longer than some of us have been alive, so there’s reason to mention their findings.

In this year’s brand ranking on reliability, there were the usual suspects at the fore – and only one ‘domestic’ brand in the top ten.

To set expectations, Consumer Reports says their list is based on data collected from over a quarter-million surveys, with CR members detailing their experiences on everything from mechanical troubles to issues with infotainment hardware. Fit and finish apparently gets a nod as well since CR specifically points to misaligned tailgates and doors as a metric. Good job they didn’t measure the panel gaps on my father’s Dodge Dynasty 30 years ago.

CR’s reliability predictions are based on overall reliability for the past three model years, provided the vehicle has not been redesigned. Serious problem areas that can lead to expensive repairs are more heavily weighted.

Anyway, to the winners. Note that CR continues to use terms like foreign and domestic, drawing lines in the sand along traditional definitions. While there are plenty of Toyota models built right here, for example, its Asian HQ does not permit it to be labeled as domestic in the eyes of CR. Lexus, Mazda, and Toyota have taken the top three spots in this survey, respectively. These standings are predicated on an entire brand’s lineup of vehicles performing well in the surveys, making Toyota’s performance even more notable since they had 13 nameplates in the mix, the most of any brand according to CR.

Here’s their list of top overall brands, in order:

  • Lexus
  • Mazda
  • Toyota
  • Infiniti
  • Buick
  • Honda

Buick is said to be the most reliable ‘domestic’ brand, shown in fifth place overall. The Encore and redesigned Envision are both ranked well-above average with the Encore GX as above average. Its fourth model, the Enclave dropped to below average with reported transmission, drive system, and blank in-car electronics screen issues.

It’s the latter that skewed the results of this survey in past years since ease of use seemed to be a factor. CR’s explanation of the 17 areas of study now includes verbiage around those systems suffering a tech failure (freezing or rebooting, for example) though notes about phone pairing and voice control commands remain. Those are two areas in which user error could definitely play a role. Other notables? Ford is said to have ranked 18th, Kia 19th, VW 24th, and Jeep 26th. The full list is here.

One more thing: according to the study, the Lexus GX SUV is the most reliable new vehicle overall this year, with owners apparently reporting no problems for the three model years that CR analyzed in the brand rankings. That’s a large statement, one which gives your author pause.

You can read more about the CR ranking, and their methodology, on their site.

[Image: Lexus]

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54 Comments on “This, Not That: Consumer Reports Releases Its List...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    Not a ton of surprises but a few comments:

    0. It is interesting that Dodge, Mitsubishi, and Land Rover didn’t have enough respondents to get a ranking. I guess there isn’t much overlap between ownership of those brands and CR readers.

    1. The Lexus LS has apparently improved to above average reliability so some of you guys lost that talking point.

    2. I know many people like to say “Buick is only ranked good due to the oldsters!” but that age advantage didn’t seem to help brands like Lincoln and Mercedes. I tend to think the impact is overstated.

    3. The EV part of EVs are reliable but all the extra whiz-bang sh*t manufacturers add-on hurts them. See Tesla’s final 27/28 ranking. Those things must be built with all the care of an 80s Lancia to get that low of a score when they have minimal drivetrain-related black marks.

    4. Growth(?) is hurting Porsche, Kia, and Genesis who have all taken a hard fall over the last three years.

    5. Infiniti keeping their stuff unchanged for so long at least pays off here with a 4ht place finish.

    6. Chevrolet’s scale going from 100 (basically perfect) to 2 (worst thing scored) is an extremely GM situation.

    7. The Explorer and Aviator are still quality disasters.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “See Tesla’s final 27/28 ranking. Those things must be built with all the care of an 80s Lancia to get that low of a score when they have minimal drivetrain-related black marks.”

      Tesla’s mediocre assembly quality is well known. What I wonder, though, is how things like “this touchscreen controlling everything seemed really cool when I bought it, but it’s HORRIBLE to live with” plays out in CR’s ratings. I don’t think they make a distinction ratings-wise between “it broke” and “this sucks to use.” My guess is that the dissatisfied respondents just rate that stuff badly, and it translates into lack of reliability.

      I think they should start rating satisfaction and reliability separately.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “I don’t think they make a distinction ratings-wise between “it broke” and “this sucks to use.” ”

        It seemed from their article that they do try to minimize the chances of usability issues impacting the reliability results. That said, Tesla’s UI is aggressively sh*t on purpose so it might be hard for some owners to make the distinction.

        However, just as a counterweight, Lexus’s infotainment is still trash on many models and they got #1 scores. While Jeep’s is pretty decent and it scored down in the Tesla range.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          I’ve never used the Lexus touchpad system, so take this question for what little it’s worth. But is it the kind of thing that an owner gets used to and doesn’t complain about after some time? Or is it trash always?

          Journalists that have the car for a day or a week love to complain whenever anything is different from what they’re used to, but someone who’s owned the car 6 months and responds to a CR survey might feel differently. I remember a similar dynamic taking place back when the original iDrive was released. Reviewers hated it almost unanimously, owners were indifferent or liked it.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “But is it the kind of thing that an owner gets used to and doesn’t complain about after some time?”

            It’s possible, but Lexus did revise their system this year and I don’t think they’d do that solely on journo complaints, especially if owners were otherwise positive about it.

            Lexus’s JD Power scores (which does put some weight on owner’s opinion of UI) also did fall during the mouse and touchpad era, although they still stayed above average.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The touchpad system is trash, but I think a significant part of the LS issue was early teething issues with the 3.4TT engine, of the sort you don’t usually see from Toyota. Looks like that’s better now.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Classic example of that is the Honda pushbutton transmission. It’s a little weird at first, but you get used to it through daily use, despite the caterwauling of the autojournos. And you don’t realize how often you might take advantage of a party trick of an implementation, as happened this summer when I had a 2021 Accord 1.5T, sporting the CVT with a conventional shifter. I sometimes take advantage of the transmission’s auto-shift into Park, and tried the same thing in the loaner vehicle, wondering for a millisecond or two why the car was still creeping forward after I released the brake after I powered it off!

            The Range Rover non-response surprises me too, considering that seemingly, the reasonably well-off New England resident having a sociopolitical slant to the left side of things is at the intersection of the Venn diagram of both the typical or at least a target CR subscriber and Rangie owner.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          @ajla:
          Ok, looked up what CR surveys.

          “ For reliability, we ask members to note any problems with their vehicles that occurred in the previous 12 months. They are asked to identify problems that they considered serious (because of cost, failure, safety, or downtime).”

          So it appears they are looking for stuff that breaks. I suppose “the touchscreen is distracting” could be safety related.

          I think they should drill down a bit deeper with these surveys.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Agree. There has to be a “difficult to use” factor put into these ratings. I remember a while back Ford scored badly because the original MS Sync was a nightmare. Nothing was wrong or broken, it just wasn’t easy to setup and use, basic functions were hidden, moving between menus, locations of buttons, etc… people just hated it. The new Sync must be worlds better because my parents who struggle with even basic tech managed to sync their iPhones in a Ford Escape without my help.

        GM tends to suffer or shine due to parts sharing. If a common component, like their A8 transmission (RWD applications) for example is garbage. Multiple models use this tranny so a fine vehicle otherwise could be ruined by it. I know the Colorado mid-size and previous gen Corvette came with this unit, but both had a manual tranny option which completely avoids the A8 junk which would change their scores.

      • 0 avatar
        ravenuer

        FreedMike: CR does rate “Predicted reliability” and “Owner satisfaction” separately on all their tested vehicles. Almost all the EVs are rated excellent for owner satisfaction and very poor for reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        jrhurren

        This is a very good point, and I think you’re right. These respondents, given the chance, want to express their displeasure in some way even if it’s not actually relevant to the specific questions being asked. I say that as a new MachE owner who hates the interface.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      aja>

      Point 5 is so true.
      6th or is 7 is not so much.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I completed my Consumer Reports review as well as the follow up of my Dodge Challenger in the past year, so I guess I’m one of the few FCA buyers who took the time.
      I’ve been reading CU particularly their auto reviews since I was a kid as my parents were subscribers. I can still remember their review of 1972 mid sized wagons. They gave the AMC Matador the top nod over the Chevrolet Chevelle and Ford Torino because it easily fit a 4×8 sheet of plywood.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      “It is interesting that Dodge, Mitsubishi, and Land Rover didn’t have enough respondents to get a ranking. I guess there isn’t much overlap between ownership of those brands and CR readers.”

      If there was any overlap, those brands might not sell ANY cars.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    I read my first CR auto issue and reliability report when I was 12. The 1959 issue. They liked the Rambler American. In those days they counted up obvious assembly flaws and bad paint spots. Usually into the dozens which tallied with the result on the street. Detroit churned out crapmobiles compared to things these days and perhaps 25 years past.

    So anyway, I have a 2019 Mazda. Not a single fault yet unless you count the dealer but that’s one hell of a stinkeroo to bear.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I remember that at one point they noted a number of “sample defects” of a vehicle. Was that the number of flaws attributed to assembly and prep issues, or examples of a defect?

      At least they’ve toned down the ratings of subsets of a make/model, like “Accord V6” versus “Accord Four,” for example. (And why did they use “Four” instead of “4-Cyl.,?!)

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Yeah I’ve had a bunch of hassle with my ’21 Miata but it’s not the car’s fault, it’s the dealers. It took three dealers and six tries to get an alignment done properly after hitting a wheel bending chuck hole. The second dealer also overfilled the crank case at the 10k maintenance, but at least they are giving me a credit for a future free service. The third dealer, knowing my story, actually did the alignment job right and did it for free. I think dealer three has won of my loyalty.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Such reports serve two audiences: those seeking unbiased information, and those with confirmation bias.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      There is truth in that statement.

      One needs to look at multiple sources of information. I try to find at least 3 reputable sources. One also needs to review how the data is collected and weighed. A clunky infotainment system is less worrisome than a clunky gearbox.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    So, Korean- and Chinese-built Buicks good, and Michigan-built Buicks bad? Maybe GM should move North American Enclave production to China.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I find it hilarious that GM managed to produce sterling examples of reliability in the two most hateful cars in the lineup, while the sort of product it supposedly makes well (full-size pickups, BOF SUVs) sits at the bottom of the charts.

    The Gen V small block has been a complete disaster for GM.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      The irony is thick indeed. I’m sure all the future subprime buyers of the “reliable” product will appreciate it and the “unreliable” product buyers curse GM.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The Trailblazer is Korean/Chinese, and the Trax is built in lots of places(Korea/Mexico/China/Uzbekistan/Azerbaijan). Here in NA, does the Trax come from Korea, or Mexico? I would expect China builds for China, and Uzbekistan/Azerbaijan for Europe and the Middle East.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      At least GM’s HD trucks are apparently “above average”.

      I wouldn’t buy an Encore even if it ran on magic, but the Encore GX and Trailblazer are decent enough normie subcompacts.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Pretty bad when your high-strung, hot-running, particulate-filtered diesel is more reliable than your volume gas engine. (In fairness, the gas 6.6 also seems to have avoided some of the issues plaguing the smaller Gen Vs.)

        • 0 avatar

          I know a number of GM people with the small blocks and the thing that amazes me is that alot of the problems are similar to what they had on the previous gen as well, oil consumption lifter issues head problems. Since these have been known issues since like 2010 you would think they would have fixed it.

    • 0 avatar
      Varezhka

      Wow, a score of “2” for Tahoe and Yukon. That’s an achievement that even the Germans can’t match.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I knew that Kia would be asking for trouble by switching to CVTs for the majority of the Fortes. The older 5- and 6-speed automatics are pretty reliable.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    It’s cool that the CR author (Jon Linkov) is a car guy (read his bio at the end of the article). He knows all about Audis and repairs!

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      CR used to be a lot more car as appliance oriented. That was no problem. I’d just factor that in when reading their reviews and ratings. Sometimes their apparent ignorance of all things autos showed through. That has clearly changed in the last 10-20 years.
      For a good few years they used to print interior sound levels at 30 miles an hour on a smooth, and on a coarse road surface. Awesome, it really revealed what cars were prone to road noise or not.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Jeff Bartlett, a former “Motor Trend” scribe from back when it was at least halfway decent versus a bunch of know-nothings regurgitating press releases between WeatherTech and Tire Rack adverts, made his way to “CR,” but I don’t recall if he’s still there. Haven’t noticed his name on some of the content of the April auto issue.

      Not that it helped my view of CR as a credible auto testing establishment, as my assumption is that not one CR staffer will go over the speed limit if their life depended on it! (Along with consistently fellating VW products as the best thing since sliced tofu back in the MkIV era despite their reliability issues! They seem to be on the same track with Subaru of late.)

  • avatar
    ajla

    “Toyota, now ranked third, has only one model that scored below average: the Corolla Hatchback, due to members reporting needing a transmission replacement or rebuild.”

    Assuming that’s on the CVT which makes up 96% of the hatchback volume, it could be a bad sign for the Corolla Cross and Corolla sedan because the hatchback version came out before those two. Although maybe it was an early model year issue that has been corrected. Might want to wait a year and see though.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      That is some JD Power logic right there (on CR’s part, not you). “This car had great paint an panel alignment. The only problem we encountered was that occasionally the engine will explode like a SCUD missile and kill everyone in a 30 metre radius. Highly recommended. This car ran for 400,000 miles without a problem but we noticed a squeak when turning left. Not recommended.”

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “Honda ranks sixth among brands, with the Insight scoring well above average.”

    Only I saw 1 2nd gen all time. I guess, it is easy to be reliable if you don’t have many

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “Of the Asian automakers, the Koreans rank the lowest.”

    Someone here had a valid point…

  • avatar
    dal20402

    One thing that’s nice to see is Honda coming back to its usual self. Seems like it’s sorted out the issues with its turbo engines and now getting very strong results on the newest generation of product.

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    So picture of reliability is a Lexus GX 460 on this article. I am not surprised that such a old vehicle with so little change and so little choice can be reliable. Picture is the same for a lot of Toyotas and Hondas. If you want reliable get a Tundra and Lexus GX 460. Engines are gas hogs and not efficient. Only one engine. Very little new technology integration. Do they offer GM cruise like capability for supreme comfort all day driving on highways? Do they offer anything around new suspension? Answers: are no and no and no and … So if you are penny pinching and worried about reliability as opposed to fuel efficiency, supple suspension, brilliant roomy interior, performance, variety, go for Lexus and Toyota. You can’t go Wrong.

    In that same Consumer Reports article it is picking on Chevrolet for Tahoe and Corvette reliability. Everyone can agree Corvette is a revolution with mid-engine platform, dual clutch transmission, soon to be z06 engine, technology that lifts suspension and remembers, beautiful bespoke interior. Compare to Lexcus LC 500, front engine, old V8 ,no new suspension bits, old transmission. Customers choose Corvette by huge margins.

    Lets take the case of GM body on frame SUVs. Tahoe with lionheart 6.2 liter engine, different sizes (Tahoe and Suburban), brand new rear suspension, roomy, variety of engine offerings and diesels, relatively new transmission, even this year new digital dash. Customers overwhelmingly buy GM body on frame SUVs that last for 200,000-300,000 miles easy.

    A smart person understands change means some teething issues. It happens with every brand.

    Customer has spoken. They want Tahoes, not old Lexus GX 460 or Toyota Sequoia as large GM body on frame outsells the Toyota and Lexus(I mean Toyota has to stop sales of Land Cruisers because they don’t see) by a huge margin. Same For Corvette vs. Lexus LC500.

  • avatar
    V16

    CR states,”The Buick Envision is the most reliable luxury compact SUV this year.”
    It looks like the perception of ‘Made in China,” isn’t the reality.

    • 0 avatar
      here4aSammich

      I don’t know what you mean. Chinese quality isn’t an issue. When your government will imprison, re-educate, or even kill you for having a thought that goes against theirs, then yeah there’s an issue. In a lot of cases these days, it’s hard to avoid Chinese made products. However, when it comes to mid-sized SUVs, it is very easy. I don’t care if its a good car. It’s built by people who aren’t free. That’s what I care about.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    I feel like most people are overlooking the fact that the little guy from Japan, Mazda, is ranked #2 (only behind Lexus)! Mazda was actually #1 in the CR rankings in 2020. Pretty impressive, IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Yep, Mazda, the #2 ranked niche vehicle that few folks purchase. So if reliability isn’t their problem what is?

      • 0 avatar

        They have fairly poor dealer coverage (it’s fine here in New England but friends in other parts of the country complain about it). They also don’t tend to be the most economical pricing. If you really want the Mazda you buy it but you tend to get better deals on Nissan or H and K if price matters, even the local Honda dealer tends to have more aggressive lease offers. They also need something bigger in the 3 row class. the CX-9 is great but is much tighter inside then it’s competition.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    My 22-year-old Lexus is shockingly reliable. But, an under-stressed V8 in longitudinal alignment with a solid 5-speed auto just doesn’t give much cause for grief. I don’t think any of these 1.6-2.0L turbos stand a chance of lasting 20-plus years without a significant repair.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    An under-stressed engine with a solid transmission is always a better choice if you want a vehicle to keep in the long run. Gasoline even at escalating prices is much less expensive than expensive repairs with poor reliability. Many of those turbo 3s and 4s will be lucky to reach 100k.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure that’s as true anymore. Some unstressed engines seem to have more issues then the little turbos. At this point it comes down to how well it was engineered and built. I have started seeing some of the Ford Eco boosts rolling through auction with 300-350k miles on them, and I’m not a Ford fan but the 3.5 does seem to last well.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    So CR gives the Cadillac XT5 high marks for its bulletproof powertrain, but dumps all over the Buick Enclave for engine and drive issues, when it uses the exact same setup as the Caddy. Riiight.

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