10 Japanese-branded cars that don’t make the grade

Disappointing cars and SUVs that earn a failing road test score

Published: August 28, 2013 10:00 AM

Most Japanese car brands have a hard-earned reputation for offering dependable, fuel-efficient cars. Look no further than our annual brand report cards, where you’ll find the top seven brands are all Japanese based on average road-test score and reliability. But that’s not to say that Japanese cars are all veritable road scholars. In fact, there are quite a few that haven’t scored high enough to be eligible for a Consumer Reports recommendation.

As students return to school, we thought it would be interesting to look at those models that effectively earned an F, scoring below 60. For our “recommended” status, Consumer Reports holds vehicles to an even higher standard, requiring a 65-point score for most car types to achieve a passing grade. Some classes are even more demanding, such as luxury cars.

Common among many of these disappointing models are trade-offs in ride, handling, fit and finish, and noise. Small cars, from all nations, tend to be vulnerable to such criticisms. Looking beyond class, the recurring theme is that these are vehicles that were not engineered to their potential and are not considered competitive.

Below we present the bottom 10 Japanese cars in our Ratings, with a tie for the 10th spot, along with the highs and lows for each.

Overall road-test score Make and model Lows
29 Scion iQ Ride, noise, acceleration, steering, driving position, fit and finish, radio controls, blind spots, tiny rear seat.
31 Mitsubishi i-MiEV SE Short range, long charge time, weak heat, acceleration, ride, agility, driving postion, spartan interior, complicated radio.
36 Toyota FJ Cruiser  Visibility, ride, handling, noise, fit and finish, access.
41 Toyota Yaris LE Noise, ride, agility, driving position, front seat comfort, fit and finish, radio controls, rear visibility.
50 Toyota Tacoma (V6) Ride, handling, driving position, high step-in, low rear seat.
53 Toyota Prius C Two Acceleration, ride, noise, driving position, rear visibility, fit and finish.
53 Nissan Versa SV Handling, engine noise, front-seat comfort, fit and finish, reliability.
54 Honda Insight EX Acceleration, handling, ride, noise, rear seat.
55 Toyota 4Runner SR5 (V6) Handling, ride, driving position, fit and finish, access, turning circle.
57 Honda CR-Z EX Only two seats, noise, ride, visibility, access, AC shut-off at stop.
57 Mitsubishi Outlander SE (4-cyl.) Noise, ride, agility, acceleration, front-seat comfort, fit and finish

Consumer Reports is sometimes accused in enthusiast forums of favoring Japanese cars and being biased against American cars. The truth is, we report without fear or favor. (Learn how we test cars.) And our lists of best and worst cars tell quite a different story. In fact, two of the top three ranked cars overall in our tests are American. None are Japanese.

So, are we biased? Yes, toward good performing, safe, and reliable cars.

Jeff Bartlett

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