The typical built-in refrigerator towers over 80 inches and can be up to 48 inches wide, and will take a massive bite out of your budget—sometimes $10,000 or more. Until recently, homeowners with limited space and a tight budget were out of luck if they wanted a true built-in refrigerator.

But now a few manufacturers of upscale kitchen appliances are featuring slim-downed refrigerators that fit snugly into smaller kitchens. “These refrigerators give consumers the look, fit, and feel of a built-in without spending $8,000 or more,” says Mark Allwood, who covers the refrigerator market for Consumer Reports. “It’s good for smaller families too, and it’s easier to open the doors in a small kitchen because they’re not so wide.”

Consumer Reports recently tested 80-inch models from DCS and Fisher & Paykel, makers of high-end appliances that are popular with kitchen designers. These DCS and Fisher & Paykel refrigerators also come in an 84-inch height—like the majority of built-ins in our ratings—and a 72-inch size, about the same height as a typical freestanding fridge. These models are 24 inches deep, which makes it easy to integrate the fridge into cabinetry, and 36 inches wide.

These refrigerators are clad in stainless steel, though you can add panels to match your cabinets.

On the inside, bright LED lights illuminate every corner of the fridge so that there’s no chance you’ll overlook that bottle of fish sauce you bought for a special recipe. Even the freezer is brightly lit, so when you’re rummaging through the bottom drawer you can easily find what you want.


For more information on built-in and freestanding refrigerators, see our refrigerator buying guide and ratings of more than 300 models.
 

Our Test Results

But at Consumer Reports, we’re not swayed by a refrigerator's good looks, even if it turns heads when it’s set up in the testing chamber. What we care about is how a refrigerator does its primary job of keeping your food cold and fresh.

The French-door models we tested, the DCS RS36A80UC1, $5,500 (shown above in a taller height), and the Fisher & Paykel Active Smart RS36A80U1, $5,400, get top marks for reaching and keeping a constant temperature, even in a room with wide temperature swings like those we simulate in our tests.

Two single-door bottom-freezer models, the DCS RS36W80JC, $6,050, and the Fisher & Paykel RS36W80J, $5,300, weren’t quite as stellar in our temperature tests, ranking a notch below the French-door models but still very good. The bottom-freezer fridges also fell a bit short in energy efficiency, which means they’ll cost more to run than the French-door models.

DCS and Fisher & Paykel aren’t the only appliance makers thinking big about smaller refrigerators. Miele also has a new entry on the market that just arrived in our labs for testing.