A Guide to New-Car Ratings and Reviews

A Guide to New-Car Ratings and Reviews

How to interpret the information in our new-car profiles

Last updated: February 2016

Consumer Reports tests about 70 cars a year and puts each of them through 50 tests and checks to determine their performance and test score. Find out what each section of our Ratings mean below.

Throughout the Ratings and reviews, "NA" means data not available, and "New" means we have no data because the model is new or redesigned.

Overall Score

Every car we test will earn an overall score that encapsulates four factors:

1. Our road-test program looks at real-life performance by running 70-plus new cars and trucks each year through more than 50 tests at our 327-acre test facility in Colchester, Conn. Those tests include each vehicle’s emergency-handling and braking capabilities.

2. We gauge reliability through annual surveys of our subscribers. The 740,000 vehicles from our 2015 auto survey gave us insight into problem areas for 15 model years of cars on the road.

3. Those same surveys also provide the data for our third major assessment, owner satisfaction, which asks owners of 230,000 vehicles purchased in the past three years whether they would buy their current car again.

4. Our experts incorporate safety data from crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We give additional consideration to advanced safety systems—offered as standard equipment across all trim levels of a particular model—that can help you avoid an accident or lessen the impact of a crash.

By merging those criteria, we’ve leveraged our expertise and resources to create the most well-rounded portrait of what makes a good car for you.


Recommended red check mark  These are vehicles that meet Consumer Reports' stringent testing, reliability, and safety standards. To earn our recommendation, vehicles must perform well in our testing, have average or better reliability; and perform adequately if included in safety tests administered by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In addition, pickups and SUVs must not have tipped up in the government's rollover test.

Body Styles, Trim Lines, and Prices

Models often come in various body styles (sedan, coupe, wagon, etc.) and trim lines, which are levels that differ mainly in standard equipment, available options, and price. SUVs and wagons are listed by the number of doors. Pickups are listed by their available cab configurations. Price is the range of base prices for a model's various body styles and trim lines. The base price is the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) without options or destination charge. The destination charge usually ranges from about $700 to $1,000. An "E" indicates that the price is estimated.

Ownership Factors

Predicted reliability is our forecast of how well a model is likely to hold up, derived from our Annual Questionnaire. See the detailed Reliability History section below for more information on New Car Predictions. Over the 40-plus years we've assessed reliability by asking our subscribers about their cars, we've found that past experience is a good indicator of future reliability.

Owner satisfaction. In our Annual Questionnaire, we asked subscribers whether they would get their particular vehicle again. A top score (3) indicates that 80 percent or more of owners would definitely do so. The lowest score (3) indicates that fewer than 50 percent of owners said they would "definitely" buy that car again.

Owner cost is our projection of the five-year cost to own a vehicle which include depreciation, interest, sales tax, insurance, fuel, and maintenance and repair costs.

Key for predicted reliability, owner satisfaction, and owner cost
From "much better than average" to "much worse than average"
Five blobs ranging from better to worse

From the Test Track

When we have test results, we include those that apply to this model. (Learn how we test cars.) Tested model and tires tell you what we tested. Except for the 45- and 65-mph passing test, acceleration runs are made from a standstill with engine idling. Dry and wet braking figures are from 60 mph, with no wheels locked. Other findings include judgments of transmission characteristics and shift quality. Handling judgments reflect how agile the vehicle is both in routine driving and in emergency-handling—how the vehicle performed when pushed to its limits on the track and in our emergency-avoidance maneuver. The avoidance-maneuver speed indicates the maximum speed at which a vehicle successfully negotiated the course. Headlights are evaluated on moonless nights on our test track, which has no additional ambient lighting. Scores are based on a headlight's ability to illuminate flat black signs at varying distances and widths while the car is stationary; this is done for both low and high beams. Those that light more signs rate higher. Points are deducted for beam patterns that are not uniform, veiling glare (which can illuminate precipitation), a sharp cutoff, or objectionable levels of glare. A short night drive is done in addition to the static test and gives an opportunity to view the lights during driving. Turning circle is the bumper clearance needed to make a U-turn; a 35- to 40-foot diameter lets you turn around in a two-lane road.  

Fuel economy numbers come from our measurements using a precision flow meter and are rounded to the nearest mile per gallon (mpg). Gas prices are adjusted periodically to reflect the current national prices. Annual cost is rounded to the nearest $5. Cruising range is calculated based on CU's overall mileage in mixed driving.

Ride judgments assess ride comfort under a normal load. Convenience and comfort scores assess cabin noise under normal driving conditions, as well as the comfort of the driving position. They also judge ergonomic factors (such as controls and displays), access, and fit and finish. Cargo volume (for minivans, wagons, and SUVs) is the volume created when a pipe frame "box" is expanded until it just fits the cargo area through the rear opening. No volume is given for pickups because there is no height limit. Luggage capacity (for sedans, hatchbacks, coupes, and convertibles) indicates the number of large suitcases and smaller duffel bags that can fit in a car's trunk. Maximum load includes occupants and luggage, and is as specified by the manufacturer or calculated from the difference between the manufacturer's specified gross vehicle weight and our test vehicle weight.

We give seating judgments and measurements for all seats. Front leg room is the distance from the heel of the tester's accelerator foot to the seatback. Head room is the clearance above a 5-foot 9-inch tester's head. Rear fore-and-aft room is the horizontal distance between the rear and front seatback, with front leg room set at 40 inches.

Key for test judgments
From "excellent" to "poor"
Five blobs ranging from excellent to poor

Reliability History

These charts are based on about 740,000 vehicles covered by our 2015 Annual Auto Survey. Consumer Reports subscribers reported on any serious problems they had with their vehicles during the past 12 months that they considered serious because of cost, failure, safety, or downtime, in any of the trouble spots included in the table below.

The scores in the charts are based on the percentage of respondents who reported problems in each of the 17 trouble spots. Because high-mileage cars tend to encounter more problems than low-mileage cars, problem rates are standardized to minimize differences due to mileage.  

With older vehicles, a score worse than 3 always merits scrutiny, especially for critical areas such as engine and transmission. On newer models, such as those from 2015 or 2014, even a 3 or 4 warrants caution. Have those components carefully checked before you buy.

How to Read the Charts

To check on the reliability history of a particular year's model, start with the Used Car Verdict. This score shows whether the model had more or fewer problems overall than the average model of that year, calculated from the total number of problems reported by subscribers in all trouble spots. Because problems with the engine major, cooling system, transmission major, and drive system can be serious and expensive to repair, our calculations give extra weight to problems in those areas.

To see how the model that's currently on sale is likely to hold up, look at the New Car Prediction at the bottom of each chart. For this rating, we averaged a model's Used Car Verdict for the newest three years, provided the vehicle did not change significantly in that time and hasn't been redesigned for 2016. We have found that several model years' data are a better predictor than the single most recent model year. One or two years' data may be used if the model was redesigned in 2015 or 2014, or if there were insufficient data for more years. Sometimes we include a prediction for a model that is new or has been redesigned, provided its reliability history or the manufacturer's track record has been consistently above average.

To see a model's individual strengths and weaknesses, look at the individual scores for each of the 17 Trouble Spots. The "Average Problem Rates" chart below shows the average problem rates for all models in the survey in each trouble spot. Scores are based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported problems for that trouble spot, compared with the average model of that year.

Models that score a  are not necessarily unreliable, but have a higher rate of problems than the average model. Similarly, models that score  are not necessarily problem-free, but had relatively few problems compared with other models.

Because problem rates in some trouble spots are very low, we do not assign a  or a unless the model's problem rate exceeds 3 percent. If a problem rate is below 2 or 1 percent it will be assigned a  or a  respectively. In the charts, a model year in red identifies the year of a major redesign.

What the Trouble Spots Include

Engine, major: Engine rebuild or replacement, cylinder head, head gasket, turbo or supercharger, timing chain or belt.

Engine, minor: Oil leaks, accessory belts, engine mounts, engine knock or ping.

Engine, cooling: Radiator, cooling fan, water pump, thermostat, antifreeze leaks, overheating.

Transmission (and clutch)-major: Transmission rebuild or replacement, torque converter, clutch replacement.

Transmission (and clutch)-minor: Gear selector and linkage, leaks, transmission computer, transmission sensor or solenoid, clutch adjustment, rough shifting, slipping transmission.

Drive system: Driveshaft or axle, CV joint, differential, transfer case, four-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive components, driveline vibration, electrical failure, traction control, electronic stability control (ESC).

Fuel system/emissions: Check-engine light, sensors (O2 or oxygen sensor), emission-control devices (includes EGR), engine computer, fuel-injection system, fuel cap, fuel gauge/sender, fuel pump, fuel leaks, stalling or hesitation.

Engine electrical: Starter, alternator, hybrid battery and related system, regular battery, battery cables, engine harness, coil, ignition switch, electronic ignition, distributor or rotor failure, spark plugs and wires failure.

Climate system: A/C compressor, blower (fan) motor, condenser, evaporator, heater system, automatic climate system, electrical failure, refrigerant leakage.

Suspension/steering: Shocks or struts, ball joints, tie rods, wheel bearings, alignment, steering linkage (includes rack and pinion), power steering (pumps and hoses, leaks), wheel balance, springs or torsion bars, bushings, electronic or air suspension.

Brakes: Antilock system (ABS), parking brake, master cylinder, calipers, rotors, pulsation or vibration, squeaking, brake failure or wear.

Exhaust: Exhaust manifold, muffler, catalytic converter, pipes, leaks.

Paint/trim/rust: Paint (fading, chalking, peeling or cracking), loose interior and exterior trim or moldings, rust.

Noises/leaks: Squeaks, rattles, wind noises, loose or cracked  seals and/or weather stripping, air and water leaks.

Body hardware (power or manual): Windows, locks and latches, doors or sliding doors, tailgate, trunk or hatch, mirrors, seat controls (movement and temperature), seat belts, sunroof, convertible top.

Power equipment and accessories: Cruise control, clock, warning lights, body control module, keyless entry, wiper motor or washer, tire pressure monitor, interior or exterior lights, horn, gauges, 12V power plug, alarm or security system, remote engine start.

Audio system/in-car electronics (excluding aftermarket systems): radio, speakers, antenna, CD or DVD player; GPS, iPod & MP3 interface; communication system (e.g. ONSTAR, Bluetooth ), backup camera/sensors.

Key for reliability ratings
From "better to worse"
Five blobs ranging from better to worse
Trouble spots 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15
Engine: Major 3% 3% 2% 2% 1% 1% <1% <1% <1% <1%
Engine: Minor 6 5 4 2 2 1 1 <1 <1 <1
Engine cooling 4 4 3 2 1 1 1 <1 <1 <1
Trans: Major 2 2 1 1 1 1 <1 <1 <1 <1
Trans: Minor 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 <1 <1
Drive system 4 4 3 2 2 1 1 1 <1 <1
Fuel system 7 6 5 4 3 3 2 1 1 <1
Electrical system 6 5 5 4 3 3 2 1 1 <1
Climate system 6 5 4 3 3 2 1 1 1 <1
Suspension 9 8 6 4 3 2 2 1 <1 <1
Brakes 10 10 9 7 5 4 2 1 1 <1
Exhaust 2 2 1 1 1 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1
Paint/trim 6 5 4 3 2 2 2 1 1 1
Body integrity 6 6 6 5 4 4 3 3 1 1
Body hardware 9 7 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 <1
Power equip. 5 5 5 4 3 2 2 1 1 1
Audio system 4 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 2 2

Safety Information

Standard safety equipment on all vehicles includes dual front air bags, three-point lap-and-shoulder belts for all outboard seating positions, and top-tether child-seat anchors, and for vehicles built after September 2002, lower LATCH anchors for compatible child seats. This section lists the availability of additional safety equipment.

Antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, have been standard since 2011. Daytime running lights are noted if available. The center-rear belt is either a lap belt or, better, a 3-point belt. Pretensioners front and rear work instantly to take up slack in the seatbelt during a front crash. Most vehicles offer side airbags as well as head-protection bags (typically side-curtain airbags).

Crash-test scores are the latest applicable for models currently on sale. These scores come from crash tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) based on the ratings of frontal, side, and rollover tests. Starting with 2011 models, NHTSA introduced tougher tests and rigorous new 5-Star Safety Ratings that provide more information about vehicle safety and crash avoidance technologies. Because of the more stringent tests, ratings for 2011 and newer vehicles should not be compared to ratings for 1990-2010 models. Overall vehicle score and frontal-crash ratings should ONLY be compared to other vehicles of similar size and weight.

Government rollover test scores come from our analysis of the NHTSA Road Edge Recovery test, which puts vehicles through a handling test simulating a driver overcorrecting when avoiding an object in the road. This test measures a vehicle's propensity to roll over. Results are listed for vehicles as they are tested. Some vehicles will have scores for both two- and four- or all-wheel-drive models. Vehicles that lifted two wheels during the test have their scores marked with an asterisk (*).

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), funded by the auto-insurance industry, conducts several crash tests. The offset-crash test runs a vehicle's left front into a deformable barrier at 40 mph. Frontal crash-test results can ONLY be compared among vehicles of similar weight. The new small overlap frontal-crash test replicates a 40-mph crash in which 25 percent of the driver-side front of a car hits a rigid barrier, such as a tree or pole. The side-crash test simulates a vehicle being hit in the side by an SUV or pickup truck at 31 mph. Results are listed for vehicles as they are tested. The IIHS rates vehicles as Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor.

A well-designed vehicle structure can save your life. That’s why we include safety in our overall score. We factor the results of crash tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Any vehicle with a Marginal or Poor rating in any crash test will have points deducted from its overall score. Those that scored Poor cannot receive a recommendation from Consumer Reports. We also consider whether a vehicle has advanced crash prevention features as standard items.

At Consumer Reports, we believe safety is for everyone. If a vehicle offers forward-collision warning and/or automatic emergency braking as a standard feature across the model line, we give extra credit for that technology.

Key for government front- and side-crash test judgments

Five blobs ranging from better to worse


Drive wheels tells you if the model is available with front-, rear-, all-wheel drive (AWD), or four-wheel drive (4WD). It also shows the type of 4WD system. Seating gives the maximum number of passengers for the front, rear, and third-row (if any) seats. Some models are available with different seating configurations; this figure is for the version with the most passenger capacity. Engines available gives the engine displacement in liters, number of cylinders, and horsepower. Transmissions available notes the number of forward gears and type of transmission. "CVT" means "continuously variable transmission." Fuel information notes the grade the manufacturer recommends for all this model's engines, fuel capacity, and government estimates for city and highway mileage for the version tested or a typical model. Dimensions are as specified by the manufacturer. Curb weight is our measurement without people or cargo. Some data comes from manufacturers. Percent front/rear shows the vehicle's weight distribution. Typical towing ability is for our test vehicle or a commonly equipped version. Some models offer a towing package that increases this ability, while some cars aren't recommended for towing. ("NR" means towing is not recommended.)

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