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Who makes the best cars?

Subaru replaces Honda atop the automaker report cards

Consumer Reports Magazine: April 2012

Subaru’s score of 75, two points higher than last year, reflects better test scores for such redesigned models as the Impreza, Legacy, and Outback over the last few years. The 2012 Impreza, which we just tested, now tops the small-sedan class and is our Top Pick in that category. Subaru’s average road-test score of 82 is the highest in our analysis. Moreover, all of Subaru’s models now have at least average reliability, thanks to fewer problems with the sporty Impreza WRX.

By contrast, Honda has been hurt by several redesigned models—including the Civic and Odyssey—that didn’t measure up to their predecessors. Honda’s overall score dropped by two points and its average road-test score dropped one point. Honda models, however, are still among the most reliable on the road overall.

Here are other highlights from this year’s analysis:

  • Mazda shows the most dramatic improvement among the 13 manufacturers. It climbed to second place from last year’s seventh and increased its overall score by nine points. It was helped by an improved Mazda3 and the shedding of two models that dragged down its score, the Tribute SUV and RX-8 sports car.

  • Buoyed by consistently above-average reliability and high test scores, Toyota is among the top three automakers for the fifth straight year. The redesigned 2012 Camry helped Toyota’s average road-test score climb to 76, from last year’s 74.

  • Although Chrysler remains in last place, its overall score jumped eight points, making it the second most improved automaker. Chrysler’s average road-test score also increased by eight points, the most of any automaker, and its overall reliability improved to average. The turnaround can be credited mostly to Chrysler’s extensively freshened and redesigned vehicles.

  • Ford falls the farthest, dropping from fifth place in last year’s report cards to 10th. The automaker’s road-test score improved by two points over last year’s, but subpar reliability of some new vehicles, due largely to the troublesome MyFord Touch infotainment system and Power-Shift automatic transmission, hurt its report-card grade.

  • In our testing, we continue to see improvement in General Motors’ redesigned models, but reliability of some new vehicles is below average.

  • Many top-rated automakers, including Subaru, Mazda, Volvo, and Hyundai, have narrower product lines that lack big SUVs and trucks, which tend to score lower in our tests. But we found that dated models had more effect on a manufacturer’s ranking than did product diversity.

  • Hyundai and Kia continue to introduce new models that do well in our testing. Each automaker’s overall score is based on an equally weighted composite of roadtest and predicted-reliability scores for all of its models that we’ve tested. The road tests comprise more than 50 individual evaluations, covering performance, safety, fuel economy, comfort, convenience, interior quality, and more. The predicted reliability scores come from our latest Annual Auto Survey, which drew 1.3 million responses from Consumer Reports subscribers.

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