Neither Chevy nor GMC Makes the Best New GM Cars According to Consumer Reports

Buick is best known as GM’s mid-luxury division. It produces vehicles a step above Chevrolet and a step below GM’s luxury flagship, Cadillac. GMC is sort of in a league of its own, more or less a premium alternative to Chevy’s mainstream lineup.

It’s been this way for generations — for so long that most people probably don’t know that without Buick, GM might not exist. Maybe that’s why the best new GM vehicles come from Buick.

Buick sits on this Consumer Reports top 10 list

In a February report from Consumer Reports, Buick’s overall score shot up 10 points to ninth place, making CR’s top 10 list of 32 brands making the best vehicles. According to CR’s “brand report card,” Buick made the list due to “incremental improvements” to its product line and “downward movement by rivals.” Though none of Buick’s models boasts CR’s new Green Choice designation for low tailpipe emissions, Consumer Reports recommends two of the three models it tested. Chevrolet ranks 24th on the list with a one-point improvement, while GM ranks 26th with neutral gains. In other words, Buick makes the best new GM cars, according to Consumer Reports.

The rankings or scores are based on three fundamental factors: predicted reliability, owner satisfaction, and a road-test score. CR allegedly purchases and tests the vehicles it rates. Being that CR couldn’t feasibly purchase every model of vehicle sold by a brand, nor drive them in the same manner as actual owners, its methodology is likely flawed. For example, CR only tested three Buick models and six GMC models. Concerning Chevrolet, CR tested 13 separate models.

How Consumer Reports ranks vehicle brands

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CR bases its overall score for individual vehicles on four primary factors: predicted reliability, owner satisfaction, a road test, and safety. The predicted reliability scores are based on common issues in 17 trouble areas. CR collects the data from owners who participate in auto surveys. According to CR’s report, owner satisfaction scores “are based on whether CR members say in our surveys that they’d buy the same vehicle again if given the chance.”

As for the road test score, CR anonymously buys the vehicles it tests and puts them through more than 50 tests and evaluations. This includes driving them about 500,000 miles yearly (CR doesn’t specify whether the mileage is on a single vehicle or multiple). Reviewers conduct the road tests on a track and surrounding public roads. Consumer Reports states that some tests are “objective, instrumented track tests using state-of-the-art electronic gear that yield empirical findings. Some are subjective evaluations: jury tests done by the experienced engineering staff.”

A car’s safety rating is based on crash test performance. Vehicles that offer “proven safety features standard on all trims” earn extra points.

Last, CR shows the number of vehicles from a certain manufacturer earning the Green Choice designation. Typically, this distinction goes to the “cleanest, lowest-emitting passenger vehicles.”

CR has tested only 3 Buick models, so can you trust the data?

At first glance, Consumer Reports’ vehicle ratings might seem off-kilter because the number of vehicles per brand tested isn’t the same. For example, CR tested 19 Toyota vehicles (the highest number). But it tested only two vehicles from brands such as Chrysler, Genesis, Mini, and Alfa Romeo. That’s because those brands make only a couple of models, or they produce several versions of the same model.

CR claims it spends around $2 million yearly to purchase test vehicles. The nonprofit consumer organization also says it staffs more than 30 full-time engineers, technicians, statisticians, photographers, videographers, and support staff. And unlike most vehicle review sites, CR’s reviewers drive test cars for no less than 2,000 miles before they begin making assessments. If you drove a rental car longer than a week, you likely could decide whether you’d buy the same model. In other words, CR’s car reliability reports are as trustworthy as any other.