A few decades ago, even buying a new car was a crapshoot. In the days before Lemon Laws and strict quality control, there was no way of knowing whether that shiny new Chrysler Newport or Chevy Citation sitting in your driveway was a ticking time bomb, ready to grenade after just a few thousand miles.
Compared to those dark ages, we’re living in the golden era of auto reliability. Stricter laws and oversight have all but made factory-fresh lemons a thing of the past. Add to it the aggressive emphasis on safety and emissions – and the threat of massive fines for violations – and automakers are now focused on getting it right the first time, for fear of paying billions later. For proof, just ask Toyota, GM, and Volkswagen.
But while the average car now lasts 10 years and 200,000 miles, it doesn’t exactly mean they’re all created equal, either. Consumer Reports is known for its thorough new model tests and recommendations, but it doesn’t rest after the first test is published. Each year, the group conducts its Annual Auto Survey, analyzing feedback from owners who rely on these cars everyday, and sometimes, the reality of the daily grind doesn’t exactly live up to the group’s initial review. While there was a lot of good news in this year’s survey, there was a surprising amount of bad too.
Today, we’re going to focus on the bad. As CR describes it:
“The Consumer Reports 2015 Annual Auto Survey allowed car owners to tell us, in their own (often angry) words, about service problems they had experienced in the past year. With more than 740,000 vehicles included in the survey, owners had a lot to say.”
While 20 models experienced enough problems to warrant mention, CR went one further and highlighted the five most troublesome current models, and listed their most common issues. From bad to worst, here are Consumer Reports’ least reliable cars of 2015.
5. Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon
Gas is cheap and the economy is strengthening, which means full-size SUVs are great. So great, in fact, that GM needed to boost production of its Chevy Suburban and GMC Yukon this summer. Unfortunately, with things in high gear, it looks like the little things are falling through the cracks. Among customer complaints, a wonky navigation system, a selectable two wheel/four-wheel drive system that doesn’t select, and overall poor fit-and-finish landed the Suburban/Yukon twins on this list.
4. Nissan Pathfinder
Nissan’s Pathfinder has been the brand’s go-to midsize SUV for 30 years now, and it’s combination of luxury and value make it a strong contender in its highly-competitive segment. But Nissan’s continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) have been a sore spot for owners, and here it’s the Pathfinder’s achilles heel. It isn’t known to grenade like other slushboxes on the list (read on, if you dare…), but enough owners complained about the CVT’s shaking, hesitant shifting, and even the occasional “judder,” that Consumer Reports took notice.
3. Jeep Cherokee
Jeep isn’t just FCA’s best-selling brand, it’s one of the fastest-growing automakers in the world. And that’s due in no small part to the Cherokee, Jeep’s best-selling model. But the Cherokee has its problems, and they’re largely tied to FCA’s new nine-speed automatic transmission. Customers reported issues shifting gears, taking it to the dealership for software fixes, and even all-out failures. Chrysler’s UConnect (usually ranked as one of the better infotainment systems), and the SUV’s push-button start also proved to be troublesome.
2. Ford Fiesta
Ford’s subcompact Fiesta has been having a strong sales year, and in performance ST trim, it’s one of the best driver’s cars on the road, period. But for a number of owners, daily life with a Fiesta isn’t always easy. It seems the Mexican-built Ford has a number of build-quality quality issues ranging from self-destructing transmissions to weak fuel pumps, faulty seat belts, and ineffective weatherstripping.
Fiat’s compact minivan/crossover 500L got some big press last month when it served as the Pope’s ride of choice in America. But now, here’s a bit of bad news: it ranks as CR’s least reliable new car. In a throwback to the dark days of the ’70s, buyers of new 500Ls reported broken tie rods, slipping transmissions, a shoddy electrical system, and even engine failures. Maybe the Fiat is just cursed – after all, it’s built in the same Serbian factory that gave the world the Yugo.
Follow Derek on Twitter @CS_DerekS