Thursday

Who Builds the Best Cars?


The popular myth is that the Japanese do, but that's not what Consumer Reports is saying ... sort of.

In its annual car reliability survey, CR says that VW and Audi are tops at building the cars that perform the best "on average" overall. But when it comes to just reliability, Honda, Subaru and Toyota beat all the others. CR analyzed its road test and consumer reporting data covering 1,300,000 vehicles on 250 models.

The top 10? Here they are...

Most fun to drive? Mazda Miata MX-5. No surprise here. This has been a fun car at a reasonable price since the very first one rolled out. And we haven't had a lemon Miata case in years either.

The best small SUV? Toyota RAV4 wins out. Redesigned in '06, this one's bigger and better. Another model we haven't seen problems with for years.

A super small sedan? The Honda Civic, hands down. Honda's got a lot bigger from the tiny car we first saw in college in California. You know, the one you could literally pick up and move into a tight parking space by hand! Now they're roomy and reliable.

Best family sedan? Honda again. The Accord. CR calls it "an excellent balance of comfort, roominess, ride, and handling." Good fuel economy too.

The most for a minivan? Toyota Sienna gets the prize. A model that has won CR's praise for years.

Luxury sedan? The Infiniti M35 has luxury and performance. We can't recall ever having a lemon law claim for a M35. If they build it right, and so far they do, then we never will.

The mid size SUV winner? Toyota's Highlander Hybrid is comfortable and quiet.

Budget car? The Honda Fit just fits right. Fun, compact, impressive, that's CR's take on it.

The Greenest Car? The Toyota Prius, of course. 44 mpg for $23,000. Just why did GM kill the electric car, anyway?

And the best upscale sedan? Infiniti G35 takes it. Sporty luxury and another one that we just don't see build with citrus parts.

See the pattern? Not a single American-built car among 'em. Wake up, Detroit...this isn't looking too good.

CR's April auto issue gives all the details and rates cars on handling, braking, fuel economy, reliability and other factors. For Audi and VW, performance, comfort and safety made them tops but they had reliability problems that are common with what we've seen too.

Mercedes is another example of inconsistent results. CR scores them good on many aspects but doesn't recommend any Mercedes model because of Mercedes reliability problems. Mercedes costs more and are nicely furnished, but a lemon Mercedes sits broken down in a driveway just like a Kia does. Only difference is the size of that check you write each month to the finance company.

The Big 3 automakers' cars were all over the board on reliability. While Ford scored well in the reliability survey, about a fourth of the Ford vehicles had below-average reliability. GM did better with about a third that came in below average. Chrysler trailed the Detroit pack and actually came in next to the bottom of the list. Only Suzuki fared worse.

If you haven't checked out the Consumer Reports April Auto issue yet, go buy a copy. Otherwise, buy that new car at your own peril. And just remember, if you get a lemon, call us. Representing consumers against crooked car dealers and lemon manufacturers is what we do every day.