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Most Reliable and Most Unreliable Cars

Updated on July 12, 2011

When you drive a new car home, you are not worrying about stuck window switches, or engine breakdowns. Some cars are a lot more likely to develop problems than others. According to Consumer Reports 2009 survey, which received 1.4 million responses, people across the country were asked about problems they had experienced with their cars in the past 12 months. It is probably no surprise that models from major Japanese companies Honda and Toyota tend to have fewer problems. Although among American automakers, Ford continued to gain ground. The front-wheel drive Fusion and brandmate Mercury Milan scored higher than the V6 Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, which are known for their reliability.

Small Cars

Best in class - HONDA FIT

Price, typically equipped - $16,730

Why we like it - For a small car, the Fit has an amazing amount of interior room. It also offers great fuel economy; 30 mpg overall with an automatic transmission, 33 mpg with a stick shift. The fit is agile and fun to drive, and it did well in crash tests. It is easy to get in and out of, there is plenty of cargo space, and it provides a nice panoramic view, so it is easy to see what is around you on the road.

Bummers The ride is a little chopy, the car is noisy on the highway, and the interior quality is not up to Honda's usual high standard.

Hybrids

Best in class - TOYOTA PRIUS

Price, typically equipped - $22,750

Why we like it - The Prius hybrid was redesigned for 2010, and although it is a bit wider and heavier, it remains the most fuel-efficient car you can buy, averaging 44 mpg overall in Consumer Reports tests. It's interior is roomy, and the hatchback makes it versatile. The Honda Insight hybrid scored highest in reliability, but their testers gave it a thumbs-down because among other things, it is noisy, and the engine is not very perky.

Bummers It is not very agile, and the divider across the rear window limits visibility.

Family Sedans

Best in class - FORD FUSION/MERCURY MILAN (FOUR-CYLINDER)

Price, typically equipped $22,145

Why we like them The Fusion and Milan twins are the most reliable American cars.  With a four-cylinder engine, the cars get a respectable 24 mpg overall and have adequate power.  The interiors are fairly roomy and well finished.  Also, the cars are comfortable to ride in and have responsive handling, making them fun to drive.

Bummers The engines are a little noisy when pushed hard, and some controls are a bit inconvenient to reach.


Upscale and Luxuary Cars

Best in class - INFINITI M35

Price, typically equipped $47,650

Why we like it The M35 is a comfortable and well-crafted luxury car that handles well. The strong V6 provides effortless acceleration. Also, the plush well-appointed interior surrounds you with a lot of high-tech features, like a lane-departure sensor. The slightly smaller Infiniti G is even nimbler and nearly as reliable, and costs about $10,000 less.

Bummers The cabin is pretty quiet, but some road noise does go through.


Sports Cars and Convertibles

Best in class - LEXUS SC

Price, typically equipped $67,084

Why we like it The Lexus SC is like a finely tailored suit, accented with a nicely finished interior.  The engine runs smoothly.  The strong V8 is almost silent, and the convertible hardtap retracts at the touch of a button.  The Mazda Miata is another reliable sports car that is a lot less expensive at $27,000.  Also, the Miata is a blast to drive.

Bummers The Lexus SC is pricey and cramped, and the ride is stiff.  Also it is not terribly sporty to drive.

Minivans

Best in class TOYOTA SIENNA

Price, typically equipped $36,989

Why we like it The versatile, flexible Sienna is quiet and comfortable to drive.  Handy interior features are plenty of cup and bottle holders, and array of storage spots, and a fold-in-the-floor third-row seat.  It's strong, smooth V6 engine is responsive.  The Sienna also comes in an all-wheel-drive version.  The Honda Odyssey is another good choice.

Bummer Option packages are confusing, so it is easy to run up the price.

Small SUV's

Best in class HONDA CR-V

Price, typically equipped $24,645

Why we like it The well-rounded CR-V has a four-cylinder engine that is more energetic and refined than some competitors V6's. Handling is agile and secure, and the ride is firm yet supple. Inside the front seats are well shaped and supportive, the rear seat is roomy, and the rear seatbacks fold down in 3 sections. The Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester are other top choices.

Bummer The coupe-like styling compromises cargo space and rear visibility.

Midsized SUV's

Best in class TOYOTA HIGHLANDER (V6)

Price, typically equipped $38,578

Why we like it The Highlander is quiet and has a comfortable ride.  It also has roomy second-row seating and is easy to get in and out of.  The V6 delivers a reasonably good 18 mpg overall.  Controls are easy to use, and the interior quality is first-rate.  It has an optional third-row.  The Highlander can carry 7 people, it also comes in a hybrid model that gets 24 mpg.

Bummers Handling isn't very agile.  Also the third row is tight, and it's one-piece seatback limits versatility.

Luxury SUV's

Best in class MERCEDES-BENZ GLK

Price, typically equipped $41,760

Why we like it The GLK is a well-equipped comfortable vehicle that is smaller than most other Luxury SUV's.  It is quick, quiet, and agile to drive, it also has comfy seats and a plush, well-finished interior.  High, upright seating and a generous glass area makes it easy to see around you on the road.  The Lexus RX350 is another top choice, with an excellent reliability record.

Bummers The GLK's ride is a little unsettled at low speeds, and the rear seat is a tight squeeze for passengers.

Pickup Trucks

Best in class HONDA RIDGELINE

Price, typically equipped $30,825

Why we like it Unlike any other pickup, the Ridgeline integrates the cargo bed and cabin into a single unit, and it is the only pickup truck with consistently outstanding reliability.  It also has agile handling and a supple, steady ride.  Four doors and 5 seats make it a reasonable substitute for a family car.  The bed floor has a weather-tight well, concealing a good-sized trunk, and the tailgate can open vertically or horizontally.

Bummer Too much road noise enters the cabin, so be sure to bring along some good music for long rides.

Rankings From The Least Reliable Based On Consumer Reports Survey

1. Scion

2. Honda

3. Toyota

4. Infiniti

5. Acura

6. Mitsubishi

7. Lexus

8. Hyundai

9. Porsche

10. Mercury

11. Saab

12. Subaru

13. Suzuki

14. Kia

15. Mazda

16. Ford

17. Nissan

18. Volvo

19. Buick

20. Lincoln

21. Volkswagen

22. Pontiac

23. Mercedes-Benz

24. Audi

25. Chevrolet

26. BMW

27. Mini

28. GMC

29. Saturn

30. Jeep

31. Dodge

32. Cadillac

33. Chrysler

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    • theherbivorehippi profile image

      theherbivorehippi 

      8 years ago from Holly, MI

      Great information here! Thanks!

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