A Guide to New-Car Ratings and Reviews

How to interpret the information in our new-car profiles

Last updated: February 2019

Consumer Reports tests about 50 cars a year, and we put each of them through 50 tests and evaluations. Find out what each section of our Ratings mean below. In the Ratings and Road Tests, "N/A" means data not available, the model is newly introduced, or it has been redesigned.

Learn more about how CR tests cars.

Overall Score

Every car we test gets an overall score that includes data from four factors:

1. Our road-test program looks at how a car will perform in the real world by putting them through more than 50 tests at our 327-acre test facility in Colchester, Conn. Those tests include each vehicle’s fuel economy, emergency-handling and braking capabilities.

2. We gauge Reliability by analyzing the responses of CR members to our exclusive Auto Survey. The data from that survey give us insight into 17 problem areas for models since 2000.

3. In addition, we ask CR members about how satisfied they are with their car. We ask owners whether they would, given the chance all over again, still buy the same car.

4. Our experts incorporate safety data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), if crash tests were performed (some cars aren’t tested because they don’t sell in high volumes). We give additional consideration to cars that offer standard advanced safety systems—forward collision warning (FCW), automatic emergency braking (AEB), Pedestrian Detection, and blind spot warning—across all trim levels of a particular model. Those systems are proven to help drivers avoid an accident or reduce the severity of a crash.

For models with monostable gear selectors, we deduct points if it lacks failsafes to prevent a rollaway situation.

Learn more about confusing shifters.

Recommended

CR Recommended: These are vehicles whose Overall Score are among the best in their class.

Body Styles, Trim Lines, and Prices

Models often come in different body styles (sedan, coupe, wagon, etc.) and trims. Trims differ mainly in standard equipment, available options, and price. Pickups are listed by their available cab configurations. Price is the range of base prices for a model's body styles and trim lines. The base price is the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) without any options or its destination charge. Destination charges usually range from $700 to $1,000.

Ownership Factors

The Predicted Reliability is our forecast of how well a model is likely to hold up, derived from our Auto Survey. (See the detailed Reliability History section below for more information on New Car Predictions.)

We've found that past experience is a good indicator of future reliability over the 40-plus years we've assessed Reliability by asking our members about their cars.

We rate Owner Satisfaction by asking members in our Auto Survey whether they would buy their particular vehicle again. A top score () indicates that 80 percent or more of owners would definitely do so. The lowest score () indicates that fewer than 50 percent of owners said they would "definitely" buy that car again.

Road Test Results

When we have test results, we include those that apply to this model. (Learn how we test cars.) Tested Trim tells you what we tested. Tires as Tested indicates the make, model, and size of the tires that were on the tested vehicle.

Acceleration tests are measured with the car starting from a standstill with engine idling. To judge dry and wet braking distances, vehicles are driven to 60 mph, and fully braked until they stop, with no wheels locked.

Our testers evaluate transmission characteristics and shift quality. The Handling scores 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 avoidance maneuver (it simulates an emergency swerve around an object). 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. The scores are based on a headlight's ability to illuminate flat black signs at different distances and widths while the car is stationary; this is done for both low and high beams. Those that light more signs get a higher rating. Points are deducted for beam patterns that are not uniform, veiling glare (stray light that illuminates upward and can illuminate rain or snow, reducing visibility), a sharp cutoff—when the transition between light and darkness at the top of the low beam’s light pattern is clearly defined, or objectionable levels of glare. A short night drive is conducted to view the lights during driving.

A car’s turning circle is the bumper clearance needed to make a U-turn; a 35- to 40-foot diameter lets drivers turn around easily on a two-lane road.  

Our fuel-economy numbers come from 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. The cruising range is calculated based on CU's overall mileage in mixed driving.

Our ride judgments assess comfort under a normal load. The convenience and comfort scores assess cabin noise under normal driving conditions, as well as the comfort of the driving position. They also judge cabin usability 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.

The maximum load includes occupants and luggage, and is as specified by the manufacturer.

We give seating judgments and measurements for all rows of 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.

Reliability History

These charts are based on more the vehicles covered by our latest Auto Survey. Consumer Reports subscribers report on serious problems they have had with their vehicles during the past 12 months that they considered to be 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 those differences.

(Key for reliability ratings from "better" to "worse")

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 vehicle of that same model year, calculated from the total number of problems reported by subscribers for 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 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 2019. 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 2018 or 2017, or if there were insufficient data for more years. Sometimes we include a prediction for a model that has been newly introduced or 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 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 timing belt.

ENGINE—minor: Accessory belts and pulleys, engine computer, engine mounts, engine knock or ping, oil leaks.

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

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

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

DRIVE SYSTEM: Driveshaft or axle, CV joint, differential, transfer case, 4WD/AWD components, driveline vibration, traction control, electronic stability control (ESC), electrical failure.

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

ELECTRICAL SYSTEM: Alternator, starter, hybrid battery and related systems, regular battery, battery cables, engine harness, coil, ignition switch, electronic ignition, distributor or rotor failure, spark plugs and wires failure.

CLIMATE SYSTEM: Blower (fan) motor, A/C compressor, condenser, evaporator, heater system, automatic climate control, refrigerant leakage, electrical failure.

SUSPENSION: 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: Muffler, pipes, catalytic converter, exhaust manifold, leaks.

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

BODY INTEGRITY (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, tailgate, hatch or trunk, doors or sliding doors, mirrors, seat controls, safety 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, remote engine start, alarm or security system

AUDIO SYSTEM (in-car electronics): CD or DVD players, radio, speakers, GPS, communication system (e.g., OnStar), display screen freezes or goes blank, phone pairing (e.g. Bluetooth), voice control commands, steering wheel controls, portable music device interface (e.g., iPod/MP3 player), backup or other camera/sensors.

(Key for reliability ratings from "better" to "worse")

Average problem rates

The chart below shows the average problem rates for all models in the survey in each trouble spot. For example, on average, the 2007 models have 2% problems for Engine Major, 6% for Brakes, 5% for Climate System, etc.

Trouble Spots 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Engine Major 2% 1% 1% 1% <1% <1% <1% <1%
Engine Minor 3 2 1 1 1 1 <1 <1
Engine Cooling 1 1 1 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1
Trans. Major 1 1 1 1 1 <1 <1 <1
Trans. Minor 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 <1
Drive System 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 <1
Fuel System 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 <1
Electrical System 2 1 1 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1
Climate System 4 3 2 2 2 1 1 <1
Suspension 4 3 2 2 1 1 1 <1
Brakes 4 3 2 2 1 1 1 <1
Exhaust 1 1 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1 <1
Paint/Trim 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 <1
Body Integrity 3 2 2 2 2 2 1 1
Body Hardware 1 1 1 1 1 1 <1 <1
Power Equip. 4 4 3 3 2 2 1 1
In-car Electronics 2 2 3 3 3 3 2 1

Safety Information

Standard safety equipment on all vehicles includes dual front airbags, three-point lap-and-shoulder belts for all outboard seating positions, and top-tether child-seat anchors, and for vehicles built after Sep. 2002, lower LATCH anchors for compatible child seats. Most vehicles offer side airbags as well as head-protection bags (typically side-curtain airbags). This section lists the availability of additional safety equipment.

Antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, have been required by federal law since 2012. Rearview cameras are mandated in all new cars for those built in May 2018 or later.

Other safety systems noted include: frontal collision warning, automatic emergency braking (both city and highway speed), blind spot warning, and lane departure warning. Daytime running lights are noted if available.

We give bonus points for vehicles that have pedestrian detection in addition to their automatic emergency braking. We take away points for vehicles with an inferior rating in any crash test, or it has a gear selector that does not have failsafes to avoid a rollaway.

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 (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Crash-test scores reflect the latest for models currently on sale if they have been tested by NHTSA and IIHS.

The NHTSA scores are 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.

The government rollover test scores come from the NHTSA Road Edge Recovery test, which puts vehicles through a handling test simulating drivers overcorrecting their steering when avoiding an object in the road. This test measures a vehicle's propensity to roll over. Some vehicles will have scores for both two- and four- or all-wheel-drive models.

The IIHS is funded by the auto-insurance industry and conducts several of its own 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 driver’s side 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 passenger-side small-overlap crash test is designed to mimic what happens when the front passenger-side corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or with an obstacle such as a tree or utility 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 vehicle performance as Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor.

Key for government front- and side-crash test judgments

Specifications

Drive wheels tells you if the model offers front, rear, AWD (all-wheel drive) , or 4WD (four-wheel drive).

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 maximum passenger capacity.

Engines Available notes displacement in liters, number of cylinders, and horsepower. Transmissions Available notes the number of forward-motion gears and type of transmission: manual, automatic, automated manual, continuously variable transmission (CVT), or 1-speed direct drive (for electric vehicles).

Fuel information notes whether the vehicle uses gas, diesel or electric for propulsion. If it runs on gasoline, it notes the grade that the manufacturer recommends for all of a model's engines. It will also note the fuel capacity.

Vehicle dimensions are as specified by the manufacturer.

Curb weight is our measurement without people or cargo. (Some weight data comes from manufacturers.)

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. ("--" means towing is not recommended.)


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