Some people buy cars and only need them to perform specific tasks, but for a lot of people, cars need to be good all-around vehicles. We can nitpick its opinions on specific models, but it’s hard to argue that Consumer Reports doesn’t provide the best information on how well-rounded cars are. Since it buys the cars it tests outright, its opinions are about as unbiased as car reviews come. For most shoppers, that kind of information is an important part of the car-buying process.
Each year, Consumer Reports compiles the road test scores and reliability ratings from each car in a brand’s lineup and gives that brand an overall score. It then ranks automakers to see which brands do the best and which do the worst. Some brands do exceptionally well in road tests but fall flat on reliability, but often, reliable cars perform poorly in road tests.
Which brands got the balance right, and which ones need some improvement? Here are the five best- and five worst-rated car brands in the U.S., according to Consumer Reports.
Subaru has a great reputation in the outdoor adventure community, and its vehicles are popular choices in areas with harsh winters, but all-wheel-drive isn’t the only thing Subaru is known for. Its predicted reliability score was very good, while its average road test score was a strong 80, giving it a 73 overall.
Like Subaru, Audi is also known for its all-wheel-drive technology. In recent years, it’s also received praise for its attractive designs and high-quality interiors. Its reliability has come up drastically in recent years, as well. When paired with a score of 81 on the road test, Audi just barely edges out Subaru with a score of 73 as well.
Toyota is known for reliability, but its cars have also been getting better to drive. That makes it a popular choice with both buyers and Consumer Reports. Its road test score is only a 72, but its well above-average reliability leads it to an overall score of 74.
Mazda might not be the most popular brand in the U.S., but anyone who is shopping for a car and doesn’t at least test drive a Mazda is missing out. Car enthusiasts love Mazdas, regular car buyers love Mazdas, and Consumer Reports loves Mazdas, too. It gets a road test score of 76, and with excellent reliability, it receives an overall score of 75.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lexus is at the top of this list. Not only did it receive the highest score for reliability, but its cars performed admirably in the road test, scoring a 76. Lexus has always made reliable cars, but in recent years, it’s focused on making cars that handle and perform better as well. That effort is paying off, giving Lexus a total score of 78.
Following the financial crisis, Ford did an amazing job of reinventing itself. It has launched new vehicles that look better, drive better, use less gasoline, and offer innovative technology. As a result, Ford has a strong road test score of 72. Unfortunately, reliability struggles are what hold Ford back, giving it an overall score of 53.
Dodge has focused on design and styling lately, and it’s certainly paid off for the brand. Cars like the Challenger and the Charger are about as cool as it gets, and Dodges drive pretty well, too. Consumer Reports gives the brand a respectable road test score of 71. Reliability is where Dodge falls short, though, and that drags its overall score down to a 52.
Minis, especially the two-door hardtop, are practical in the city, quirky, and incredibly fun to drive. Consumer Reports gives the lineup a 72 on the road test, but unfortunately, Mini reliability still scores very low. Owners sure love their Minis, but with reliability low enough to drag its total score down to a 46, owning one can be expensive.
Jeep is known for prioritizing rugged design and off-road ability over on-road refinement, and it’s a strategy that continues to pay off for the brand. Considering its bias toward making sure its vehicles are capable off-road instead of refined and quiet, it should come as no surprise that Jeep scored only a 59 in the road test. Like the rest of the FCA lineup though, reliability is Jeep’s biggest struggle, and its overall score only comes out to a 39.
For readers who are familiar with Consumer Reports’ ratings, it should come as no surprise that Fiat is at the bottom of the overall rankings. Despite how fun Fiats are to drive, they tend to be unrefined, and they don’t do well in Consumer Reports’ testing. Reliability is a huge concern, dragging a score of 55 on the road test down to a 32 overall.