When you go shopping for a car, you want to avoid surprises. In the past, we’ve highlighted ways salesmen might bend the truth or downright lie to close a deal on a vehicle. Instead of being blindsided when you enter a dealership, simple things like knowing your credit score can help you stay in control.
Still, some surprises don’t turn up until years after new owners drive a vehicle off the lot. While an auto reviewer might be wowed by horsepower or flashy styling, they won’t be able to tell you if the car will start every morning year after year (after a week or so, journalists have to hand back the keys). To find out how a car holds up long-term, you’ll need to check the feedback of people who actually drove the car on a daily basis.
The annual J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study does this job for you. Every year, tens of thousands of vehicle owners offer feedback on 177 problem areas new cars had over the previous three years. The 2017 study dug into models from 2014, and showed many popular vehicles lagging behind the competition. What took place in the SUV segments especially caught our attention. Here are 15 SUVs that ranked among the worst for dependability.
1. Jeep Cherokee
If you ever read reliability surveys from Consumer Reports or JD Power, you’re going to see Fiat-Chrysler vehicles near the bottom of the list. The Jeep brand in particular had a number of problems in the time of this survey (2014-16). In the compact SUV category, Jeep Cherokee ranked worst among the 11 vehicles considered. It got the lowest possible rating for powertrain dependability and also scored low on feature and accessory quality.
2. Acura MDX
Based on the surveys of the 2014 Acura MDX, used SUV consumers will want to avoid this model year, which was the first of a redesign. Powertrain and cabin controls both ranked low for dependability, while interior fit and finish scored only slightly better. This data matched up closely with Consumer Reports reliability ratings for the ’14 MDX. The 2016 edition (also a redesign) fared much better in owner surveys.
3. Chevrolet Suburban
A Chevy Suburban will fit everyone in the family and tow your trailer, but multiple studies have shown this vehicle is not the most reliable. Readers responding to the 2017 J.D. Power study gave Suburban the lowest possible score for its powertrain, interior finish, and accessories. These ratings were right in line with the terrible reliability ratings Consumer Reports gave the big SUV from 2014 through 2016.
4. Jeep Patriot
Even Fiat-Chrysler press flacks admit the period around 2014-15 was a troubled time for the automaker. Recalls were common, quality complaints were rampant, and testing agencies torched brands like Jeep and Fiat on a regular basis. With that in mind, we weren’t surprised to see Patriot at the bottom of the compact SUV rankings. To its credit, features dependability scored four points out of five. Patriot’s engine rating got the worst marks of any category. Fiat-Chrysler discontinued this model after the 2017 model year.
5. Nissan Rogue
According to the owner survey, Nissan Rogue’s engine, transmission, and brake system were quite reliable. However, other elements of the vehicle dragged its dependability score down to the bottom of the pack. Exterior issues (paint and finish, etc.), wind noise, squeaks, and problems with the controls all plagued Rogue as a daily driver. Only Jeep Cherokee turned up worse feedback in the compact SUV category.
6. Dodge Durango
In powertrain and body integrity, Dodge Durango landed near or below the middle of the pack. However, when it came to operating interior controls, navigation, entertainment systems, and other functions, this model was among the worst. Considering the midsize SUV field in the dependability includes 20 vehicles, don’t underestimate how poorly Durango rated as a daily driver. Over the life of a vehicle, the malfunctions might drive you crazy.
7. Audi Q7
The Audi Q7, redesigned for the 2017 model year, got solid reviews with strong predicted reliability. However, the previous models fared much worse in road tests and owner feedback. Powertrain issues (specifically, surrounding the brake system) combined with subpar body integrity and some issues with interior controls to give Q7 low marks for ’14 models. It wasn’t until after 2015 that these scores rose for the luxury SUV.
8. Mazda CX-9
While there are several overachievers in the Mazda lineup, the CX-9 SUV was one of the weaker spots in recent years. The automaker’s reputation for superior powertrains largely held, but CX-9 flopped when it came to body integrity, interior controls, and general noise throughout the cabin. All told, the scores left Mazda’s largest SUV in the company of a Jeep — a place no vehicle wants to be on dependability lists.
9. Jeep Wrangler
Anyone who buys a Jeep Wrangler should know what they’re getting into. Sure, it delivers a timeless look and ability to charge off-road in most conditions. But it scores poorly on reliability in just about every survey. You’ll deal with excessive wind noise, rattles, squeaks, and other irritations, especially during highway travel. In the J.D. Power dependability study for 2017, owners called out these and other ride issues.
10. Nissan Pathfinder
No one would accuse Nissan Pathfinder of being a reliable car. After the 2013 model prompted nine recalls, the 2014 edition landed in Consumer Reports’ 10 worst for reliability. Therefore, it should come as no surprise the same model scored poorly in powertrain dependability and integrity of the body and interior. Transmission replacement is just one costly repair owners referenced for this particular Pathfinder.
11. Infiniti QX60
While the Infiniti QX60 scored high marks on interior tech and controls, its powertrain and finish issues overwhelmed those positives. Owners of the 2014 model complained about paint and trim quality, cabin noises, and other basic functions. This feedback matched up with the Consumer Reports data that led to QX60 ranking worst in reliability among midsize premium SUVs that year. If you want dependability, look elsewhere on the used market.
12. Jeep Grand Cherokee
Larger than the regular Cherokee but just as unreliable, the 2014 Grand Cherokee is yet another Jeep you should avoid on the used market. Consumer Reports ratings named it one of that year’s worst models, and three years later J.D. Power members confirmed those predictions. You name a problem — check-engine lights, broken door handles, malfunctioning heaters — and you stand a good chance of encountering it in this vehicle.
13. Fiat 500L
If you want to see a trouble-prone car brand, look to Fiat. The automaker’s vehicles produced problems at a rate of almost three times that of Lexus, the best brand of 2017. Driving a 500L, you’ll find yourself in the repair shop more often than you like. It as one of the few vehicles that landed the worst possible scores in powertrain, body integrity, and interior functions. There was simply no area where owners recommended it.
14. Audi Q5
With premium compact SUVs, consumers expect quality and usually get it. There was one exception in the J.D. Power dependability study for 2017: Audi Q5. Owners pointed out flaws in Q5’s powertrain (engine, transmission, and brakes) along with problems with interior functions. BMW, Acura., Volvo, and Mercedes-Benz (the winner in this segment) all scored higher than Audi’s small SUV.
15. Jeep Compass
You’ve been warned again and again about Jeeps from this period, so don’t feign surprise if you buy a 2014 Compass and find trouble. The fifth Jeep of the 15 SUVs scoring worst in dependability had many of the usual problems. Powertrain reliability and interior quality were this vehicle’s biggest issues, but interior controls only ranked slightly higher. A full redesign emerged for the 2017 model year, so be on the lookout for previous generation models selling alongside them.
Source: J.D. Power
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