Consumer Reports best and worst cars of 2011
Consumer Reports has just published its best and worst cars list for 2011, and if you’re a domestic or European manufacturer, the news could be better. Out of 10 separate categories, Asian manufacturers took top honours in eight; the only domestic models that placed in the top 10 were the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Avalanche pickup. Every other category was dominated by Japanese and Korean manufacturers, with Toyota taking home the gold in three: small SUV, green car, and family hauler (for the RAV4, the Prius, and the Sienna, respectively). There were no European winners, period.
Here are the overall results of this year’s survey.
Small car: Hyundai Elantra Affordable, stylish, comfortable, refined, and drivable—what more could you ask for? Long-term reliability is still a small question mark, but this Korean sedan ticks all the boxes.
Budget car: Honda Fit This has been a success from day one for Honda. It returns one of the best nonhybrid fuel-economy ratings in the industry and has a high fun-to-drive factor.
Family sedan: Nissan Altima Bit of a surprise here. This category is usually taken by Honda or Toyota, but among the best fuel-economy ratings and proven reliability did the trick for the Altima this time around.
Small SUV: Toyota RAV4 This is the fourth time in five years that the RAV4 has taken top spot in this category. Bonus: it’s made in Woodstock, Ontario.
Green car: Toyota Prius Taxi drivers love it, so the Prius must be doing something right. Hmmmm, maybe it’s the top-of-the-heap fuel economy of 3.7 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 4.0 on the highway.
Family SUV: Kia Sorento Another surprise, as this category is usually dominated by Honda and Toyota. Now built in Georgia, the Sorento is a lot of ute for the money, even if it doesn’t boast the best fuel economy.
Sporty car: Ford Mustang Offered in a range of trim and performance levels—and as a convertible or hardtop—the Mustang has proven to be a good car in almost every respect. Who knew?
Sport sedan: Infiniti G37 Stylish, fast, and reliable, and available with all-wheel drive. For those who don’t care about performance, there’s also the G25, which is essentially the same, but slower.
Family hauler: Toyota Sienna This could have gone either way. Honda and Nissan both have redone minivans that are every bit as good as the Sienna. Still, it’s well priced and bound to be reliable.
Pickup truck: Chevrolet Avalanche This is a bit of a puzzler, as the Honda Ridgeline does just about everything this model does and has better reliability stats and superior fuel economy. Maybe it was a sympathy vote.
If you’re going to have a best-of survey, there has to be a worst-of group. Here it is.
Slowest car Smart ForTwo Passion
Worst fuel economy Cadillac Escalade (tied with four others)
Worst road manners Jeep Wrangler
Most boring small sedan to drive Toyota Yaris
Most expensive to operate Mercedes-Benz SL550
Worst peripheral visibility Mitsubishi Eclipse GT Convertible
Worst braking Jeep Liberty Sport and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara (tied)
Consumer Reports testers also have a few thoughts on who makes the best cars these days and the merits of modern technology. As far as they’re concerned, Honda and Subaru manufacture the best vehicles overall, with Honda/Acura fielding the most reliable models. Chrysler makes the worst, with CR noting, “Chrysler’s reliability needs to improve.” European cars, while projecting an air of sophistication and refinement, have become overly complicated, with confusing controls and inconsistent reliability. Best European brand these days? Volvo. Interestingly, both BMW and Mercedes have reliability issues, and Audi’s performance in this area is “spotty”, according to CR.
In terms of technology, Ford’s new MyFord Touch system gets a thumbs down for being too distracting and slow to respond. CR found that after-market navigation systems—such as those from Garmin, TomTom, and Magellan—are every bit as good as those installed by the manufacturers, some of which are expensive and hard to follow. “Oh, for the days of easy knobs and buttons,” they write.
The testers also had a few kind words for new models that, while they didn’t make the top-10 lists, still represent good value and are worth checking out. The new Chevrolet Cruze is in this group, as are the Ford Fiesta, the Mazda2, the Hyundai Sonata, and the Porsche Cayenne, among others. On the other hand, some redesigns got failing grades, including the new Volkswagen Jetta, the Honda Odyssey, and the BMW X5 3.0.
Consumer Reports purchases all of the cars it tests and sells them afterward. The cars make the rounds among CR staffers and are put through their paces on the track, as well as being driven on roads and highways. CR also polls private owners and consumers; they claim that every vehicle is put through 50 separate evaluations and tests.
Visit the Consumer Reports website for more details.