Consumer Reports is a great resource, whether you’re buying used or new cars. Its list of used cars to avoid is especially helpful. However, while the cars listed there may have come with design flaws, their makers have been tweaking those designs since. As a result, some of Consumer Reports’ ‘never buys’ are now actually recommended vehicles.
How does Consumer Reports determine its recommendations?
Consumer Reports’ exact testing methods have evolved over the years. But it scores each car it tests based on several criteria.
The first is the car’s overall performance. Consumer Reports runs each car through acceleration, braking, handling, and fuel efficiency tests. It also looks at a car’s fit and finish, ergonomics, comfort, and safety features.
The next 2 categories are reliability and owner satisfaction. These are based on surveys sent out by Consumer Reports to its members. Using their feedback, Consumer Reports can identify which parts of a vehicle, such as the drive system or electronics, has issues.
After the data is gathered, Consumer Reports generates a single numerical score; the maximum possible is 100. There’s no specific minimum score that a car has to reach to be a ‘Recommended’ vehicle. Instead, Consumer Reports Recommended vehicles “are vehicles whose Overall Score are among the best in their class.” A cursory glance at its rankings, though, suggests a value in the low 70s at least.
2020 Mini Cooper
However, the latest Mini Cooper is a recommended choice in the “sports/sporty cars under $40,000” segment. And ever since 2018, the hatchback has consistently had excellent or above-average reliability scores.
The 2020 Mini Cooper can be pricey, Autotrader reports, but it is genuinely fun to drive. Especially in range-topping John Cooper Works GP trim, with its 301-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. But even the base 134-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder model is fun when the road gets twisty, Motor Trend reports. And now, it’s once again available with a manual, Car and Driver reports. There’s even an electric SE model available, too.
The Mini Cooper to get, though, is the 2-door S model, Car and Driver reports. The Classic trim starts at $26,900. For that, you get a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, rated at 189 hp and 207 lb-ft, and multiple driving modes. If you want ADAS features or Apple CarPlay, though, you’ll have to step up to the $30,900 Signature or $34,900 Iconic.
2020 Audi A4
Like the Mini Cooper, the Audi A4 has also struggled with reliability issues. The 2011 A4 is considered one of the worst years to buy. And although Consumer Reports especially recommends avoiding the 2009-2011 models, all pre-2017 A4s have poor-to-average reliability scores.
The 2020 Audi A4 has more to offer than just reliability, though. It has an updated infotainment system with a 10.1” touchscreen, Car and Driver reports, and standard LED headlights. Heated front seats, a sunroof, 3-zone automatic climate control, and ambient interior lighting are also standard, Car and Driver reports.
The 2020 Audi A4 sedan only has one engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, but it’s available in two forms. There’s the ‘40 TFSI’ 188-hp front-wheel-drive model, and the ’45 TFSI Quattro’ 248-hp AWD version. The latter is standard on the Allroad wagon model. Each gets the same 7-speed automatic transmission. However, for 2021, the Audi A4 will receive a mild-hybrid system, Car and Driver reports, more power, and standard AWD.
Besides the different powertrains, the 2020 Audi A4 is available in 3 trims: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige. The 40 TFSI Premium starts at $39,100; the 45 TFSI Quattro Prestige starts at $49,800. Car and Driver recommends the $45,100 45 TFSI Quattro Premium Plus. That adds adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, a wireless charging pad, rear cross-traffic alert, upgraded keyless entry, and heated auto-dimming side mirrors.
2020 Dodge Charger and Challenger
The Dodge Charger and Challenger have evolved in more ways than their output over the years. Although the 2015 and 2016 models are best avoided, the latest Charger and Challenger are recommended by Consumer Reports. They’ve both won multiple awards, and helped Dodge become Consumer Reports’ most reliable American brand, The Drive reports.
The Hellcat-powered 2020 Dodge Charger and Challenger are understandably popular. However, you don’t need 700+ hp to enjoy these old-school muscle cars. The Scat Pack Widebody, for example, ‘only’ has 485 hp. But with wider tires, larger Brembo brakes, a limited-slip differential, upgraded cooling, it’s arguably more fun. And in the Challenger, you can get it with a 6-speed manual.
Plus, if burnouts aren’t your style, there’s also the Dodge Charger and Challenger GT. Although they only have V6s, thanks to AWD, they’re controllable even in the snow.
They’re also some of the most affordable trims. The 2020 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack Widebody, for example, starts at $46,495. The GT, though, starts at $34,995.
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