Subaru tops Consumer Reports' new ranking of best automakers
Mazda rises to No. 2; Ford drops to 10th place
The Subaru Impreza, redesigned for 2012, is Consumer Reports' top pick among small cars, edging out the Hyundai Elantra.
Photo credit: SUBARU
Subaru edged Mazda, Toyota and Honda to earn the highest score in Consumer Reports' latest report card ranking 13 automakers based on road tests and reliability. But Toyota dominated the magazine's top picks in five of 10 product segments, becoming the first automaker to do so in nearly a decade.
The magazine said Subaru, with an overall score of 75, two points higher than last year, benefited from the redesigned Impreza, Legacy and Outback models over the past few years.
Subaru was followed by Mazda, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Volvo, Hyundai, BMW and Volkswagen.
The top four automakers were each separated by a point, with Subaru on top, Mazda second with an overall score of 74, Toyota third with 73 and Honda fourth with 72.
Chrysler placed last with an overall score of 51.
The magazine's annual report card ranks automakers based on the performance, comfort, utility and reliability of more than 275 vehicles recently tested.
The report -- part of a guide to manufacturers that produce the best all-around models -- will be published in the magazine's April issue.
Overall scores are based on the average road test scores and reliability ratings of models tested by the magazine.
"While Japanese automakers still hold the top five spots, their lead is shrinking. In some of Honda's and Toyota's recently redesigned models, cost-cutting has become more noticeable," David Champion, senior director of the magazine's automotive test center, said in a statement.
Ford's big drop
Ford dropped the most, from fifth to 10th place. Ford was followed by Mercedes-Benz, General Motors and Chrysler, the magazine said.
Subaru's average road-test score -- 82 -- is the highest in Consumer Reports' analysis. The magazine recommends all of the Subaru models it has tested.
Honda, the winner for the past four years, has been hurt by several redesigned vehicles -- including the Civic and Odyssey minivan -- that didn't measure up to previous models, the magazine said.
Honda, however, still produces some of the most reliable vehicles on the road overall, Consumer Reports said.
For the second time in three years, Honda failed to place a model among the magazine's top vehicles in its class. In 2003, the Honda Accord, Civic, Pilot and Odyssey were named best in their segments by the magazine.
Toyota -- among the top three automakers for the fifth straight year -- still produces many vehicles with above-average reliability and high test scores. Toyota benefited from the redesigned 2012 Camry sedan and led the magazine's top picks in five of 10 market segments: family sedan, small SUV, green car, family SUV and family hauler.
Mazda most improved
Mazda showed the biggest improvement, rising to second from seventh place. Its overall score increased nine points.
An improved Mazda3 and the discontinuation of two older models -- the Tribute SUV and RX-8 sports car -- helped Mazda.
Ford's road-test score improved two points from 2011, but subpar reliability on some new models hurt the automaker. The magazine cited "the troublesome MyFord Touch infotainment system and Power-Shift automatic transmission."
"GM and Chrysler are building nicer cars with each redesign. Still, their scores are dragged down by several older designs that score low in Consumer Reports testing or have reliability issues," Champion said.
"As more new products are introduced, their fortunes could change if they can improve their overall reliability."
Chrysler's overall score jumped eight points, making it the second-most-improved automaker. Chrysler's average road-test score also increased eight points, the most of any automaker, and its overall reliability improved to average, the magazine said.
The gains reflect Chrysler's extensively freshened and redesigned model lineup, though the magazine said it only recommends 26 percent of the Chrysler Group models tested.
Volvo posted the top score of any European automaker, reflecting the redesigned S60 sedan. But average reliability and subpar test scores kept Volvo from making further progress.
Redesigned versions of some of VW's best-selling models, notably the Jetta and the Passat, dropped in Consumer Reports' road-test scores.
"The Jetta once provided an upscale alternative to more common small cars, but its new interior is stingy and handling is lackluster, eroding that advantage," the magazine said. "The Passat has evolved from a sportier mid-sized sedan to a larger, more mundane, less sophisticated car. The change has brought mixed results."
The revamped Audi A6 and A8, however, posted big gains in the magazine's road tests.
BMW and Mercedes-Benz receive high scores in Consumer Reports road tests but were hurt by the reliability of some popular models. Mercedes' flagship S-class sedan joined the automaker's large GL SUV with subpar reliability, the magazine said.
The reliability of some turbocharged Mini Coopers and the redesigned 5-series sedan hurt BMW's grade, the magazine said.
The magazine said Jaguar, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Porsche and Suzuki were excluded from the report because of a lack of reliability data, which are compiled from subscribers.
The magazine, citing market changes and other factors, said it also did not select a top pick among minivans, luxury sedans or budget/subcompact vehicles this year. It also did not select a best overall vehicle.
You can reach David Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org.