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Consumer Reports automaker report cards: Honda and Subaru lead, Hyundai makes strides, Chrysler lags

Posted Sunday, March 21, 2010

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Yonkers, NY — Honda and Subaru have earned class leader status for building the best all-around vehicles for American drivers, according to the Automaker Report Cards published in Consumer Reports’ 2010 Annual Auto Issue. This is the fourth consecutive year that Honda has topped CR’s list. At the opposite end of the annual ranking is Chrysler, which fared even worse than last year. However, Chrysler had one recommended vehicle this year, the Ram pickup, compared to no recommended vehicles last year.

Tied with an overall score of 77 out of 100 points, Honda and Subaru were followed by Toyota (74) (Recommendations for eight recalled Toyota models were temporarily suspended), Hyundai (73) and Nissan and Volkswagen tied at (72) in overall score.

Although the best vehicles overall are being built by Honda and Subaru, South Korean carmaker Hyundai, and its subsidiary, Kia, has shown the most dramatic improvement, jumping to fourth place from ninth last year.

The full report, “Rating the carmakers” is in the Annual Auto Issue, which goes on sale March 2. It is also available to subscribers at www.ConsumerReports.org.

The overall score for each automaker is based on the average of its vehicles’ overall scores in Consumer Reports’ road tests and their average predicted-reliability ratings from Consumer Reports’ Annual Auto Survey. Manufacturers received a report card only if five or more of their vehicles were tested.

Honda continues to make many of the best all-around vehicles. Overall, its Honda and Acura models, are the most reliable vehicles in CR’s predicted-reliability ratings. The most recent models from Honda, however, have not shown the same dedication to interior quality and fuel economy that earlier models did. Despite its outstanding reliability, CR doesn’t recommend the new Insight because of subpar emergency handling and a compromised rear seat.

The redesigned 2010 Legacy sedan and Outback wagon raised Subaru’s overall test score from 78 points to 81. That helped contribute to its tie with Honda in CR’s rankings. However, Consumer Reports no longer recommends the Subaru Impreza WRX because its subscribers reported a relatively high number of problems, including transmission troubles, in the latest survey. Last year, CR recommended every Subaru model.

Hyundai/Kia showed a dramatic improvement in CR’s report-card rankings, led by newer models such as the Hyundai Genesis and Elantra sedans, Santa Fe SUV, and Kia Optima sedan. Their reliability continues to improve with only the Kia Sedona minivan below average.

Not all Asian models are reliable or good performers. Although many models from Honda, Toyota, and Mitsubishi are very reliable, several scored too low in CR’s tests to be Recommended. Toyota recently issued safety recalls and temporarily stopped sales of eight models because of rare occurrences of a sticking accelerator pedal. Consumer Reports has suspended its recommendations of those models, which caused Toyota’s percentage of recommended vehicles to drop off by almost half.

The past year was especially rough for American automakers but there is some good news: reliability of some Ford models now rivals their competitors from Honda and Toyota. But in CR’s testing, Ford vehicles were not always among the best performers. Although the Flex and Fusion scored highly, most models from Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln rate only midpack. Still, the freshened Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan are excellent overall packages that provide good performance and fuel economy. Consumer Reports recommends 75 percent of the Ford models that were tested, up from 70 percent last year.

New models from GM now rank among the best in CR’s testing, although overall reliability, even among some of the new models, still lags behind most of the competition. GM models that score well in CR’s tests include the Buick Enclave and LaCrosse, Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Corvette, Equinox, Malibu, and Traverse, and GMC Acadia.

Chrysler’s grades fell to the bottom of the class, and it is the only automaker to drop from last year in all measures. Most models from the manufacturer have noisy, inefficient, unrefined powertrains; subpar interiors; and poor visibility. The Ram 1500 pickup is the only Chrysler model on Consumer Reports’ Recommended list.

If all that consumers cared about were performance, comfort, and safety, Mercedes and Volkswagen (including Audi) models would go to the head of the class. They have the highest average test scores because they ride and handle especially well, have comfortable seats, and have relatively good fuel economy and acceleration. In recent years those vehicles have lagged in reliability. But that has begun to change, with several models from Mercedes and Volkswagen, as well as BMW, Saab, and Volvo, attaining average or better predicted reliability.

The best vehicles often set the standard for their competitors to follow or improve upon. In the end, it’s the consumer who ends up the ultimate winner.

With more than 7 million print and online subscribers, Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Web site; the magazine’s auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To become a subscriber, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645. Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor appearing on this newspaper's web site.

 
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