Four new models made our Top Picks list this year. The redesigned Honda Civic is our choice among sedans priced below $20,000. The outstanding Infiniti M35 dethroned the Lexus LS430 in the luxury-sedan class ($40,000 or more). The Toyota Highlander Hybrid scored highest among SUVs priced above $30,000. Among pickup trucks, our choice is the new Honda Ridgeline. The addition of the Highlander Hybrid means that our Top Picks now include two hybrid models, but for very different reasons. The Toyota Prius is our Top Pick in the “green”-car category because of its excellent 44-mpg overall fuel economy, the best we’ve measured in any five-passenger vehicle. The high rating of the Highlander Hybrid is based on its excellent overall package, which includes all the inviting attributes of the conventional Highlander as well as better acceleration and moderately better fuel economy. For an in-depth look at the ownership costs of hybrids, see our April 2006 report on the high cost of hybrid vehicles, available to subscribers.Of the more than 200 vehicles that Consumer Reports has recently tested, our Top Picks are worth special consideration. All are recommended models and all-around high performers that: • Scored at or near the top among competing vehicles in our testing.
• We predict will have average or better reliability, based on our latest Annual Car Reliability Survey. • Performed adequately in overall crash protection if tested by the government or insurance industry.Each vehicle’s “report card” shows how it fared in testing, reliability, and crash protection, if available. “NA” means that we can’t provide an overall crash-protection rating because information wasn’t available. Multiple ratings refer to different versions. Prices are rounded to the nearest thousand dollars. These Top Picks are the result of the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Web site. Here are some of the ways in which CR’s testing differs from that of other auto reviewers:• We anonymously buy all the cars we test from dealerships, rather than borrowing them from automakers, so we get the same quality as you would.• We use a dedicated, 327-acre auto-test center, staffed by a team of experienced auto engineers.• Every vehicle that CR tests is evaluated for months and driven for 6,000 miles or more.• More than 50 individual tests are performed on every vehicle, including some tests that were developed exclusively by CR’s auto engineers and adopted by the auto industry.
CONSUMER REPORTS ANNUAL CARS SURVEY RANKS LEXUS FIRST IN PREDICTED RELIABILITY FOR 2006 MODELS
Mercury, Mazda, break into top-10 rank; Infiniti, Chevrolet plunge in standings
YONKERS, NY – Consumer Reports’ largest Annual Car Reliability Survey ranks Lexus in first place for predicted reliability of its 2006 models among 36 nameplates from domestic, European, and Asian automakers. Lexus was in second place last year behind Scion in CR’s survey. Honda moved into second place, from fifth, and Toyota remained unchanged in third place. Mitsubishi ranked fourth, up from seventh overall, and Subaru ranked in fifth place, down one in the standings from last year. Predicted reliability for both Mercury and Mazda models moved sharply higher. Mercury is now ranked in eighth place, up from 16th last year; it’s the only domestic manufacturer to break into the top-10 in the standings. Mazda was up eight places as well and finished in ninth, behind Mercury. Infiniti, which has traditionally been known for making vehicles with outstanding reliability, plunged 20 places in the standings, dropping to 28th from eighth. Its QX56 was the most unreliable vehicle among new cars. Scion dropped from first place last year to seventh this year. Volvo moved up 10 places to 12th overall, and Mini moved up eighteen places, to 11th overall.Among domestic manufacturers, Chevrolet dropped to 24th, down from 13th last year. Chrysler moved up to 15th place from 20th in 2005, and Jeep dropped five places to 19th. Ford dropped to 16th place from 15th, and Dodge moved up three places to 18th overall. Porsche placed dead last in the rankings, at 36th overall, down from 26th last year based solely on the problematic Cayenne SUV.Predicted reliability findings and a five-year reliability trend story are published in Consumer Reports’ Annual April Auto Issue, which goes on sale beginning Tuesday, March 7. The Auto Issue will be available wherever magazines are sold and may also be ordered online at http://www.consumerreports.org/. Free highlights from the April Auto Issue are available at www.ConsumerReports.org/autos2006.Survey Milestone: Data on More than One Million VehiclesFindings are based on Consumer Reports’ Annual Car Reliability Survey, which was conducted in 2005 and included subscribers to CR and its web site, http://www.consumerreports.org/. This year, the survey reached a milestone as CR gathered reliability information on just over one million survey was conducted in the spring of 2005 and covered 1998 to 2005 models. The total number of vehicles included is up from 810,000 in 2004 and 675,000 in 2003. (Consumer Reports has a total of roughly six million paid subscribers to its magazine and web site.) Early survey findings were released in one of Consumer Reports’ special automotive publications, New Car Preview 2006, last October. In the 2005 reliability survey, subscribers were asked to report any serious problems (because of cost, failure, safety, or downtime) they have experienced with their cars, vans, SUVs, or trucks during the previous 12 months. The survey covers 17 different trouble areas, ranging from the engine and transmission to body hardware and electrical systems for vehicles up to eight years old. The responses allow CR to present detailed reliability ratings for 1998 through 2005 models and to predict reliability for 2006 models. CR also uses the predicted reliability rating in determining which vehicles to recommend to its subscribers. Five-year Reliability Trend Analysis: Hitting a Plateau?The shifts in nameplate rankings for predicted reliability came during a period in which industry-wide progress in lowering new-car problem rates appears to have stalled. Consumer Reports’ analysis of its 2001 to 2005 Annual Car Reliability Surveys for the past five years shows that overall problem rates have reached a plateau for newer cars—especially for the Asian manufacturers (those from Japan and Korea). CR’s latest subscriber survey shows that Japanese and Korean manufacturers still have the fewest problems on average: 12 problems per 100 vehicles. This number, however, has held steady for the newest models since 2002, when they improved from 15 problems per 100 in the previous year. On average, Asian vehicles are still by far the most reliable, but their rate of improvement has slowed. U.S. makes had been edging closer to the Asians in reliability, but they, too, have stalled. In the most recent survey, domestic makes had an average problem rate of 18 problems per 100 vehicles, not that different from last year’s rate of 17 per 100. The rate has been about the same since 2003. European makes, which have recently been the most unreliable overall, remained steady at 21 problems per 100 vehicles. They have had either 20 or 21 problems per 100 vehicles in each of the past four years. Using the data from the past five surveys, Consumer Reports’ team of statisticians and analysts also compared how the vehicle lines from six major manufacturers—Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen—fared over time. CR combined manufacturers’ problem rates for one-year-old vehicles from each survey year and did the same for two-year-old vehicles, three-year-old vehicles, and so on. CR found that Toyota and Honda models have significantly fewer problems than cars from other manufacturers. Overall, eight-year-old Toyotas are about as reliable as three-year-old Fords and Chryslers and two-year-old Volkswagens. Toyotas have about half the problems of Volkswagens when new and only a quarter of the problems when five years old. On average, five-year-old Asian vehicles had 44 problems per 100 vehicles; American, 89 per 100; and European, 97 per 100. Among the U.S. automakers, Ford consistently showed lower problem rates than Chrysler and GM for older vehicles.Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. CR has the most comprehensive auto-test program and reliability survey data of any U.S. magazine or web site. Our team of automotive experts brings decades of experience to the unbiased, independent Ratings, Recommendations and advice in the Annual April Auto Issue: Engineers test the cars we feature in our magazine; the Consumer Reports National Research Center's statisticians and researchers design and analyze the surveys that tell us about our subscribers' experiences with their cars; and our editors investigate and report on important automotive issues, making all the information easily understandable for consumers. Click here for 2006 auto images and the following charts:Consumer Reports' Annual April Auto Issue Top Picks 1997-2006 How the makes compare How the vehicle lines from the major manufacturers fared as they age Most and least problematic models 1998-2005 News media can reprint the auto images with the following credit line: Reprinted with permission of Consumer Reports and http://www.consumerreports.org/, April 2006.