Consumer Reports News
Latest Detroit Sedans Fail to Win Consumer Reports' Recommendations
Some of the latest new car models from Detroit automakers received mixed reviews from Consumer Reports and have failed to win a recommendation from the popular U.S. shopping guide.
The Dodge Dart, the 1st all-new model from the Fiat-Chrysler partnership, earned kudos for a solid feel, handling and ride, and upscale options, the magazine said today. But the compact sedan was dragged down by underpowered powertrains and didn’t score high enough by the magazine to be recommended.
The Dart, a replacement for the Dodge Caliber hatchback and Chrysler’s 1st legitimate small car since the Neon, is based on the same platform that underpins the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
Consumer Reports testers found that the Dodge Dart has a relatively quiet cabin, fairly nimble handling, and taut yet compliant ride.
“Where the Dart stalls out is its powertrains,” the magazine said, adding the standard 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine feels underpowered, while the optional 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder “is raspy and has drivability issues when mated with the optional dual-clutch automated manual transmission.”
The magazine said it tested a 2.0-liter Dart SXT priced at $20,680 and 1.4-liter Rallye model priced at $24,490.
“The Dart is the 1st decent compact car from Dodge in decades,” Jake Fisher, director of the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center, said in a statement. “It has some solid positives. But overall it can’t yet measure up to the best in class.”
Consumer Reports also failed to recommend the all-new Cadillac XTS and the Lincoln MKS sedans. The XTS scored much higher overall than the MKS in the matchup, but both cars underwhelmed the magazine’s testers in a segment dominated by German, Japanese, and Korean models.
The XTS is a replacement for the DTS and STS sedans in Cadillac’s lineup.
Consumer Reports said the Cadillac XTS was “wonderfully luxurious, with a very spacious and well-appointed cabin.”
Infotainment system 'frustrating'
But Cadillac’s new flagship is hampered by its CUE infotainment system, which testers found to be “convoluted and frustrating.”
The magazine applauded the Lincoln MKS’ plentiful features, quiet cabin and excellent fit and finish.
“But the car is hampered by its cramped driving position, ungainly handling, uncompromised ride, and limited visibility,” the magazine said. “With an overall road-test score of 60, the MKS is the lowest-rated luxury sedan in class, lagging far behind previously-tested standouts like the Audi A6 and Infiniti M37.”
The redesigned Lexus ES was also tested and received high marks for a comfortable, quiet interior, impressive hybrid and V6 drivetrains, and excellent fuel economy, particularly in hybrid form, the magazine said.
But the 2013 model took a step back in ride and interior refinement from the previous ES, Consumer Reports said.
“Although its handling didn’t impress and its controls were newly complicated, both tested trims -- the ES350, ($43,702) and the hybrid ES330h ($44,017) -- scored high enough overall to be recommended and rank among CR’s higher-Rated upscale sedans."
Spark scores low
The magazine also tested the Chevrolet Spark and said the 4-door subcompact produces excellent fuel economy of 34 mpg overall and 42 on the highway.
It has a surprisingly useable rear seat, a comprehensive assortment of features, and is affordably priced at $15,420, Consumer Reports said.
But sluggish acceleration, stiff and jittery ride and very noisy cabin dropped the Spark’s overall score to 34, the magazine said.
It is 1 of the lowest scoring cars tested by the magazine in recent years and is too low to recommend.
You can reach David Phillips at email@example.com.
no surprise here, im really not impressed by the dart
The Disappointing Dozen:
Cars that Fail Our Tests
The Consumer Reports Annual Autos Issue is a great resource for researching the best cars. Flip through the magazine or tour the website, and it is clear there are many great choices. However, just as there are many good cars available, there are also many that fail miserably. These vehicles fall way below our threshold to be recommended. Take a look at our dirty dozen—the cars Consumer Reports has recently tested with the lowest test scores.
In perusing these models, you'll find a wide range of car types, counting small cars, sedans, SUVs, and pickups. Likewise, there are several brands represented, with Jeep and Toyota each appearing 3 times. Our criticisms of these vehicles are often similar, with common shortcomings being poor ride, sloppy handling, tepid acceleration, too much engine noise, and an uncomfortable driving position. Sure, these models may be better than the old junker you're looking to trade in, but they do not hold up against the latest competition. Simply stated: There are many better vehicles available for comparable prices.
We understand that many people buy these vehicles, and others, even though they don't meet our criteria to be recommended. To reach that pinnacle, cars must do well in our tests, attain average-or-better predicted reliability, and must not have failed any government and/or insurance industry crash tests.
Below, we present this year's dirty dozen with accompanying highlights where they came up short.
To find the best vehicle for your needs, see our car Ratings. Plus, check out the special auto issue section with our Top Picks, best and worst lists, car brand report cards and more.
After results of Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability ratings were released on Monday, there appeared to be a crack in the dominance of Japanese brands over automotive reliability. 2 of America’s most popular cars, the V-6-equipped Honda Accord and the Nissan Altima, no longer have the consumer advocacy publication’s coveted “Recommended” rating, according to the report.
The 2014 Subaru Forester was the highest-scoring vehicle over all in predicted reliability. Worst-rated was the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. The Dodge Dart 2-liter was the top domestic model. After performing poorly in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s new, more stringent small overlap front crash test, the Audi A4, the Toyota Camry, the Toyota RAV4 and the Toyota Prius V were also absent from the list.
The results of Consumer Reports’ annual survey, which tries to highlight the most reliable 2014 vehicles by evaluating past years’ models, were released in Detroit during a news conference before members of the Automotive Press Association. The report is based on data from 1.1 million 2004-13 model-year vehicles leased or owned by Consumer Reports subscribers. Subscribers were asked whether, in the last year, they had a serious problem with their vehicle that required a visit to the dealer.
To determine predicted reliability, the publication’s staff averages the overall reliability scores for the most recent 3 model years, assuming that a given model has not changed during that period and was not redesigned for 2013. If it were, Consumer Reports may use 1 or 2 years of data to calculate a rating.
At first glance, the slipping reliability stances of Japanese vehicles do not seem significant. After all, 7 of the top 10 spots in the brand rankings are still held by Japanese brands, with Lexus in 1st place, followed by Toyota, Acura, Mazda, Infiniti, Honda and Subaru. That is only 1 less than last year.
But the slip in stature emerges upon closer inspection of the data. Along with the rankings of the Accord V-6 and Altima, the twin models shared by Scion and Subaru, the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, scored below average in predicted reliability and were responsible for Scion falling from 1st place last year to 11th this year, and for Subaru falling from 5th to 10th.
“On the whole, Japanese brands are still more reliable than Europeans or Americans,” said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, in a telephone interview. “But we are talking about an Accord, Altima, Pathfinder, FR-S and BRZ, all below average. That’s something that’s kind of new.”
Also, Nissan fell 9 places from last year to its current 22nd out of 28 brands.
“We aren’t used to seeing Japanese nameplates being that low on the list,” he said, adding that most European manufacturers had improved.
The prime example is Audi, which rose 4 places from last year to take 4th place. It was the top European manufacturer in the survey. The A6 sedan, the Q7 sport utility and the Allroad wagon all had “much better than average” reliability. Mr. Fisher said that it was rare to see a non-Japanese automaker among the top 5.
Volvo jumped 13 places this year to 7th. GMC, a brand with only trucks, moved up 3 places to finish 9th, making it the only domestic brand in the top 10.
These are some of the other conclusions from the survey:
In-car electronics, including audio, navigation, communication and connected systems, continue to be a problem. The category that includes in-car electronics generated “significantly” more complaints than any of the 17 categories of problem areas in the survey, Mr. Fisher said. Complaints include issues with screen freezes, touch-control lag, voice recognition malfunctions and compatibility problems with cellphones and MP3 devices.
Almost 2-thirds of the 34 Ford and Lincoln models in the survey scored much worse than “Average,” which is the lowest rating. In-car electronics is one reason those models occupy the bottom of the list (26th for Ford and 27th for Lincoln).The brands have fallen the last few years because of problems with the MyFord and MyLincoln Touch infotainment systems.
Ford continued to have problems with its 6-speed dual-clutch PowerShift transmissions as well, Mr. Fisher said.
In this year’s survey, several of Ford’s EcoBoost turbocharged V-6 models have poor predicted reliability ratings as well.
“In every example where there is a non-EcoBoost engine, the models with the EcoBoost engines tend to have worse reliability than the ones that don’t have those engines,” Mr. Fisher said, adding that it was too early to tell whether those issues are because of the EcoBoost engine or other factors. “That is true throughout their lineup.”
EcoBoost engines, which come in a variety of sizes, are crucial to Ford, which planned to have more than 90 percent of its North American lineup available with the fuel-efficient turbocharged engines by this year.
The Tesla Model S electric car did well enough in the survey to earn a Recommended rating for the 1st time based on data from more than 600 2012-13 models. Although owners of 2012 models reported very few problems, 2013 owners reported “quite a few” more, according to the Consumer Reports survey. Those problems included wind noise, squeaks and rattles, and problems with body hardware, like sunroofs, doors and locks.
General Motors fared better than other domestic brands over all.
Chrysler continued to perform poorly, with the exception of the Chrysler 300C, which scored above average in this year’s survey.
Hybrids and electric cars continued to do well, with the exception of the Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid and the Ford C-Max Hybrid.
BMW and Mercedes-Benz models were in the middle of the field, with most models receiving scores of average or better.
Just because a model is reliable, doesn't mean it is recommended by Consumer Reports. 5 out of the top 10 most reliable vehicles don't perform well enough in our tests for us to recommend them. The opposite happens as well; some vehicles that score well in our testing are not recommended because they have below average predicted reliability.
3 out of the 10 least reliable vehicles have high-enough test scores to be recommended, but their poor reliability prevents them from reaching that recommended status. So, it's important to look at performance in our tests and reliability, because a high scoring car isn't always a smart purchase choice if it isn't reliable.
Our 2013 Annual Auto Survey reveals the best and worst vehicles in new car reliability based on our subscribers' experiences with 1.1 million vehicles over the last 10 years (2004-2013). Our data provide the basis for our forecasting how the 2014 models are likely to hold up, and reveals the most dependable used cars as well.
The vehicles listed below are the 10 least reliable new cars in our reliability survey. Predicted reliability is typically based on the newest 3 model years if a model hasn't been redesigned in that period, Models with an asterisk (*) are based on data of 1 model year only. Click on the vehicles below to visit the model overview pages to see how they performed in our tests and also view a more-detailed look at reliability broken down by 17 potential trouble spots. (Model overview pages are available to online subscribers.)
Least reliable vehicles, listed in order of Ratings score starting with the worst score.
1. Ford C-MAX Energi (Plug-in Hybrid)*For more details on our 2013 Annual Auto Survey, including the full list of most and least reliable new cars by vehicle type, see our complete car reliability report. Also, check out our guide to car reliability for more details on new and used car reliability and owner satisfaction.
Japanese Stay Atop Consumer Reports Rankings as Detroit Struggles
Detroit has come clawing back from the brink with award-winning products, but Japanese and luxury brands still have the best lineups of cars and light trucks in the industry, the editors of the influential shopping guide Consumer Reports say.
Japanese automakers captured 7 of the top 10 ranked brands rated for overall reliability and road-test performance in tests conducted by the magazine; the top-ranked Detroit brands -- Buick and GMC -- tied to rank 12th, and 5 Detroit brands rounded out the bottom 5.
Consumer Reports' top-rated brand was again Lexus. Toyota Motor Corp.'s luxury brand received a score of 79 out of 100, the same as last year, for a car and SUV lineup the magazine deemed "quiet, plush, and very reliable" -- though less engaging to drive than those of some rivals.
Among the top 10 brands, Lexus was followed by Acura, Audi, Subaru and Toyota (tied for 4th place), Mazda, Honda, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz and BMW and Volvo (tied for 10th place).
The biggest gainer in the rankings, Audi, surged from 8th place in 2013 to 3rd place this year, thanks to a lineup that received the top score on road tests and showed signs of improved reliability. The German luxury brand's score of 74 fell behind only Lexus and Acura -- which scored a 75, a point better than last year.
"Audi has been making very impressive vehicles, but what's really impressive about them is: They're reliable too," said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports.
The magazine, which tests cars in Connecticut and has 8 million magazine subscribers, released the results of its 2014 "report card" at an event today in Washington.
Overall brand scores are a composite of the average road-test score for each model tested by the magazine, as well as each brand's average predicted-reliability score for models tested, based on the problems reported by subscribers in Consumer Reports' annual auto survey.
All Detroit 3 brands ranked from middling to subpar. The score given to Cadillac, last year's top-ranked Motor City marque, plunged from 63 last year to 54, largely due to electronic controls that Consumer Reports found confusing.
Buick, GMC and Chrysler, ranked 14th with a score of 62, rated best among the Detroit brands, ahead of mass-market rivals Kia, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Nissan, but shy of Subaru, Toyota, Mazda and Honda.
Dodge, the last-place brand in 2013, moved up in the rankings thanks to a redesigned Durango SUV that the magazine deemed "excellent," if unproven, and decent reliability scores for the Dodge Dart compact sedan.
Coming in last were Ford and Jeep, which both scored a 50.
Consumer Reports said Ford's struggles were due to lingering complaints about the MyFord Touch infotainment system, and Jeep's were attributed to a "crude and outdated" lineup. Though the Jeep Grand Cherokee did well on the track, the magazine dinged its weak reliability scores and said the new Cherokee "isn't that competitive."
Fisher said the Detroit 3 are "going the right way" with more recent products like the Chevrolet Impala, which the magazine says is the best large sedan on the market, based on road tests.
"If GM had a whole lineup of Impalas," Fisher said, "they'd be right on top, quite honestly."
But Fisher called Ford a "sad story."
"The Ford Fusion, not only does it look, but it drives like a good European sports car. It really does," Fisher said. "The problem is the reliability, and that's what's dragging down that brand."
Consumer Reports did not rank Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mini, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Ram, Scion, Smart and Tesla because it had too few recently tested models from those brands to assess.
But 2 of those brands -- Ram and Tesla -- received high marks for key models in what the magazine calls its top picks in 10 key segments.
Plaudits for Ram, Tesla
Chrysler Group's redesigned Ram 1500 was rated the best pickup on the market, with a quiet cabin and smooth ride that Consumer Reports says makes the truck "surprisingly refined and inviting."
The magazine rated the new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra slightly higher than the Ram on road tests, but said today it lacks enough data on the reliability of the 2 GM models to justify naming either of them the best in the segment.
It is the 1st time in 16 years that Chrysler Group has cracked the top picks list, which historically has been dominated by Japanese brands such as Toyota and Honda. Japanese brands have won more than 70% of the spots in the magazine's "top pick" rankings since 1997, including 7 of 10 segments last year.
They won 5 of 10 this year. Honda and Subaru were the only brands to win more than 1 segment, receiving 2 "top picks" honors apiece.
"There was a time when a handful of brands dominated our Top Picks list, but in recent years we've seen a more diverse group make the cut," Rik Paul, automotive editor at Consumer Reports, said in a statement.
Also included in that diverse group is Tesla, which had its Model S sedan rated best vehicle overall. Consumer Reports has praised the Model S since its launch in late 2012, giving it the magazine's best ever score: 99 out of 100.
The other newcomers to the list of Top Picks were the Hyundai Santa Fe, which replaced the Toyota Highlander atop the magazine's mid-sized SUV segment, and the Subaru Forester, which replaced the Honda CR-V atop the small SUV segment.
Overall score Average road-test score Recommended vehicles
Overall: Tesla Model S
Compact car: Subaru Impreza
Mid-sized sedan: Honda Accord (4-cylinder)
Small SUV: Subaru Forester
Mid-sized SUV: Hyundai Santa Fe
Pickup truck: Ram 1500
Minivan: Honda Odyssey
Green car: Toyota Prius
Luxury car: Audi A6
Sports sedan: BMW 328i
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