Consumer Reports Top Pick May Be Wrong, According to Car Sales Numbers

Consumer Reports and Car and Driver are both known for their vehicle rankings. Often, their lists more or less coincide, but occasionally, there can be some pretty significant discrepancies between them. For example, Consumer Reports’ choice of best-rated SUV landed at the bottom of a Car and Driver list of bestselling vehicles concerning car sales. It makes you wonder whether the Consumer Reports may have made the wrong choice. 

Consumer Reports pick for SUV ranked last on Car and Driver car sales list

A white 2022 Subaru Crosstrek in a green field with a barn behind it and is a part of the car sales industry.
2022 Subaru Crosstrek | Subaru of America, Inc.

As it does every year, Consumer Reports ranked the 2022 SUVs currently on the market in different categories. In the category of subcompact SUVs, one vehicle came out on top: the Subaru Crosstrek.

The Crosstrek garnered a relatively high overall score. This put the SUV far ahead of other competition, including the Nissan Rogue Sport, earning a slightly less overall score and the Chevy Trailblazer directly below that. At the very bottom of the list was the Fiat 500X earning an extremely low score. 

Given Crosstrek’s apparent success in its category, it’s somewhat surprising that it comes in at the absolute bottom of another list: Car and Driver’s 25 bestselling cars, trucks, and SUVs. It seems that consumers didn’t necessarily exhibit the same enthusiasm for the Crosstrek that Consumer Reports did. 

So what SUV did rate highest on Car and Driver’s list? That would be the Toyota RAV4. While its sales were down 11% overall, it still beat the competition hands down when it came to sales.

Comparing the Subaru Crosstrek and Toyota RAV4

What aspects of the Subaru Crosstrek brought it to the top of Consumer Reports’ rankings? For starters, it scored high marks in fuel economy, braking, and easy-to-use controls. 

The Crosstrek’s fuel economy averages 29 mpg combined or 20 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. Its standard 152-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine can reach 60 mph in 10.2 seconds. It also has a towing capacity of 1,500 lbs. The Crosstrek’s base MSRP is $22,645. 

Car and Driver also provide us a rundown on the RAV4, which has a significantly higher base MSRP of $34,445. It boasts a 203 hp, 2.5 L engine, and 8-speed transmission. Drivers of the RAV4 can expect to get around 28 mpg overall, or 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. 

How do Consumer Reports come up with its ratings?

Given the discrepancy in where the Crosstrek landed in Consumer Reports’ rankings and its sales numbers as reported by Car and Driver, some have wondered whether Consumer Reports might have made a mistake in selecting the Subaru as the top subcompact SUV. The question is also reasonable based on the differences in specs between the two vehicles.

This leads some people to ask, just how do Consumer Reports come up with its rankings and recommendations? As the magazine itself explains it, Consumer Reports rankings are based mainly on four categories: road-test performance, reliability, owner satisfaction, and safety. While some of this information is gained from test driving the vehicles, other portions come from consumer satisfaction surveys. 

The information gleaned from the test drives and surveys are combined to create one overall score. As Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing for Consumer Reports, explained, “Our Overall Score is the only way to see the full picture of how a car stacks up. Having one score makes it easy to see which cars are the best and the worst. On top of that, we’ve seen the industry make their cars better based on our test findings and our ratings, and all consumers are the beneficiaries of that work.”

Should Consumer Reports differ widely from consumers when it comes to top vehicle choices, they may want to consider reevaluating their ranking system. 

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