Consumer Reports Highest Rated Car - New vehicle prices topped $40,000 in late 2020, but that doesn't mean you have to pay top dollar to get a new ride.
Look no further than Consumer Reports' Top Picks for 2021, a concise annual list that includes recommendations on the best selling vehicles based on reliability data, customer satisfaction, testing and durability.
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Case in point: Mazda was ranked as the top brand of the year, beating out much more expensive brands like Tesla, BMW and Jaguar.
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Mazda has continued to focus on mainstream customers with vehicles like the Mazda CX-30, which starts at about $22,000 and was named one of Consumer Reports' top picks.
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"Mazda is proof that you can make cars that are attractive, fun, and still have cars that are reliable," said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports.
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Several other top brands also ranked in the top 10 on the magazine's Brand Report Card, a separate list of the top 32 automotive brands: Subaru, Honda, Toyota, Chrysler, and Buick. (See full list below.)
Bottom line: Advances in reliability, safety and interior technologies have allowed mainstream vehicles to close the gap with luxury cars.
"When it comes to luxury vehicles, not only do you get nothing, you sometimes get things you don't want," Fisher said. "You get confused, you get more of these gizmos and gadgets and all these things that don't really add to your driving experience."
Get the power: This man used his 2021 Ford F-150 to heat his home during a blackout Texas winter storm.
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Four of Consumer Reports' top 10 picks for 2021 were Toyota vehicles, reiterating the brand's emphasis on quality and satisfaction.
"You do a lot of things right," Fisher said. "They are the best when it comes to long-term reliability. And they are very generous when it comes to standard safety.
Consumer Reports also announced a new designation for 2021: Green Choice, a label for vehicles that rank in the top 20% of vehicles with the lowest CO2 emissions.
"We're hearing more and more from consumers that this is really important to them," Fisher said.
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Four of the top picks have also earned the Green Choice designation: Toyota Prius, Toyota Corolla Hybrid, Toyota Camry and Tesla Model 3. The Prius has been on the list for 18 years, a record.
Toyota Corolla: The compact car was characterized by low fuel consumption, standard safety equipment and high reliability values.
Mazda CX-30: This subcompact SUV is reliable, has strong safety features and boasts what Consumer Reports calls "responsible handling and safe driving."
Subaru Forester: This small SUV made the list eight years in a row. Forester has been a top pick eight years in a row. The Forester is praised for its spacious interior, good fuel economy and popular all-wheel drive.
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Toyota Prius: While hybrid sales have struggled for years with low gas prices, the Prius stands out for buyers who care most about fuel economy and reliability.
Toyota Camry: America's best-selling passenger car is "a solid choice" with excellent safety features, fuel economy and reliability, says Consumer Reports.
All 2021 Camry models start with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, the latest version of the automaker's suite of driver assistance technologies.
Subaru Outback: This vehicle, which is either a hatchback or an SUV depending on your perspective, has a "comfortable interior with ample passenger space and rear cargo area," according to Consumer Reports.
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Kia Telluride: This recently introduced three-row midsize SUV was a hit from day one. According to Consumer Reports, it "dominates this popular segment" with a road test and overall results.
Honda Ridgeline: According to Consumer Reports, this midsize pickup truck has a "smooth, powerful engine" and is the most gas-efficient pickup on the road.
Lexus RX: This vehicle "continues to set the standard for the mid-size luxury SUV segment" with its outstanding "combination of comfort, performance, safety and reliability."
Tesla Model 3: America's best-selling electric car offers an "otherworldly driving experience" with "sharp handling and precise steering" as well as a "futuristic" design and a large touchscreen. Lincoln finished at the bottom of Consumer Reports' brand reliability rankings. In general, automakers with multiple new models suffer from reliability issues, as Lincoln did.
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Japanese import brands dominate the top 10 brand reliability rankings in Consumer Reports' annual car reliability survey. Six of the top 10 brands in 2021 are Toyota, Nissan and Honda, along with their luxury divisions Lexus, Infiniti and Acura.
Mazda and Subaru are also among the top 10 brands. The only domestic brand in the top 10 is General Motors' Buick, and the only European brand is BMW Mini.
Click here to view Consumer Reports' 2022 Brand Report Card. Along with reliability, it also rates cars on performance, comfort, efficiency and safety. The top brands in 2022 were Subaru, Mazda, BMW, Honda and Lexus.
(For the record, Consumer Reports refers to itself as CR and refers to its more than 6 million online and magazine subscribers as members.)
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Brand rankings are compiled based on detailed survey responses on individual models over the past three years, said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' senior director of auto testing, in a telephone interview.
Midsize luxury SUVs stand out according to Consumer Reports' 2021 Auto Reliability Report: The Lexus GX is the best and the Mercedes-Benz GLE is the worst vehicle. Most top priced cars either offer electric power (hybrid, plug-in or EV) or the current generation has been around for years. The current generation of the Lexus GX has been around since 2010.
The idea of the survey is to predict the reliability of 2022 model year cars and trucks based on their recent history for the benefit of today's new vehicle buyers, Fisher said. Consumer Reports also rates used cars separately.
This is in contrast to another well-known similar survey, J.D. Vehicle Power Reliability Study. But it's not quite the same. Instead of collecting responses for vehicles that are three model years old or less, Power's survey only asks owners of three-year-old vehicles that they purchased recently.
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Consumer Reports 2021 Auto Reliability Report is based on data collected from subscribers about their experiences with more than 300,000 vehicles. The annual survey is a large questionnaire that asks respondents to rate a long list of home purchases, not just cars.
Individual models that were introduced for the first time or recently received an entirely new design are the exception to the rule, said Fisher. If the current 2022 model is on a design less than three years old, the values are based on survey results for one or two previous model years, depending on the situation. The goal is to keep the results relevant to today's new car buyers, rather than reviewing the "old" model, he said.
While there are exceptions, one takeaway from the survey is that new or redesigned models, on average, have more than enough problems that it might be wise to delay buying a new model until the manufacturer fixes the initial problems.
"We don't tell people what to buy. But if reliability is important to you, it's good advice," said Fisher. On the other hand, many consumers are willing to overlook a problem here and there to get the latest technology, he said.
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"It's important to know what you're getting yourself into. Tesla is a great example of that," Fisher said. "People love shopping. Do they expect it to be the most hassle-free? Maybe not."
In J.D. polls Tesla's power earlier this year was not officially ranked due to its small size. However, its unofficial score in the 2021 Initial Quality Survey was very low based on the number of "things that went wrong" in the first 90 days of ownership. Still, Tesla's unofficial score was #1 in the 2021 Automotive Performance Appreciation Survey (APEAL), which measures how much people like their latest purchase.
In the Consumer Reports Car Reliability Survey, the 10 most reliable models are: Lexus GX (most reliable), Kia Niro EV, Toyota Prius Prime, Toyota Prius, Cadillac XT5, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Honda Insight, Toyota Highlander, Subaru. Cross Trek, Mazda CX-9.
According to Consumer Reports, the 10 least reliable models are: Subaru Ascent, Chrysler Pacifica, Tesla Model Y, Volkswagen Tiguan, Volvo XC90, Chevrolet Corvette, Chevrolet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500, Ford Mustang, Ford-B MercedesLE, least I'm sure).
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Mini dropped 13 points to finish in the top 10 of CR's 2021 Auto Dependability Report, while Ram dropped 12 points to 23. Four of the bottom six brands are luxury vehicles this year. Consumer Reports says that brands are among the five most trusted brands, as defined by them
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