Automakers have stayed clear of explicitly castigating Toyota for its problems, although they have implicitly been aiming at the Japanese giant with trade-in offers. Not so fast. The Torrance, Calif. automaker has actually come out near the top in the highly regarded Consumer Reports annual study of vehicle reliability and overall value.
Unfortunately for one automaker that has been trying to lure Toyota owners, its rankings have tanked this year. Consumer Reports says Chrysler -- which has the lowest grades in the study -- is the only automaker to drop from last year in all measures. The firm says the Ram 1500 pickup is the only Chrysler model on its "recommended" list, while "Most models from the manufacturer have noisy, inefficient, unrefined powertrains; subpar interiors; and poor visibility."
The organization also gave Honda and Subaru "class leader" status for building the best all-around vehicles for American drivers, with Toyota in second, even with recommendations on eight of its vehicles suspended by the magazine. Honda's win is the fourth year in a row. Chrysler's standing in the all-around ranking was last, and per the magazine, worse than last year. Chrysler had one "recommended" vehicle this year -- the Ram pickup -- compared to no recommended vehicles last year.
Consumer Reports says Kia and Hyundai are the two automakers that have made the best improvement this year versus last, jumping to fourth place from ninth last year.
The magazine says the Honda Fit and the Toyota Prius topped the best-value vehicle list, beating out more than 280 cars in eight categories. The two cars each earned a value score of 2.08 on a scale where average is arbitrarily given a "1.00" score, meaning that 2.00 is twice the value of the average model.
Consumer Reports also said both the Prius and Fit have "excellent reliability." The Yonkers, N.Y.-based organization ranks vehicle value by looking at performance, utility, and reliability for the money, which includes total owner costs over the first five years.
In small cars, the organization said the best value was Honda Fit, and the worst was Chevy Aveo; in family cars, Prius was paired with Dodge Avenger R/T, which was given the worst value scores in the segment.
Hyundai Elantra touring was the best minivan or wagon value, and Dodge Grand Caravan was the worst; in small SUVs, Subaru Forester fared best, while Dodge nitro was worst.
Hyundai Santa Fe limited was the best mid-size SUV, and Jeep's Wrangler Unlimited Sahara was the worst value; in upscale sedans Acura TSX was judged the best value with Dodge Charger R/T judged the worst.
Among luxury vehicles, the Infiniti M35 got top value nod and Mercedes-Benz S 550 was the worst. Finally, in sporty cars, Mini Cooper got top marks, while Chrysler Sebring was the worst.
While Consumer Reports deemed Honda and Acura models the most reliable, the organization says the most recent models from Honda don't have as good interior quality and fuel economy that earlier models did.
The redesigned 2010 Legacy sedan and Outback wagon raised Subaru's overall test score, helping it tie with Honda in the rankings.
How about Ford? The magazine says that some Ford models now rival competitors from Honda and Toyota. However, while Ford Flex, Fusion, and Mercury Milan got high scores, the firm said most models from Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln were just middling in reliability. Consumer Reports recommends 75% of the Ford models that were tested, up from 70% last year.
General Motors models that scored well include the Buick Enclave and LaCrosse, Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Corvette, Equinox, Malibu, and Traverse, and GMC Acadia.