The 10 Most Reliable Automotive Brands

This year, Asian brands grabbed seven of the top 10 positions in Consumer Reports annual nameplate survey.
  • Higher-tech features don’t necessarily translate to better reliability. In fact, they can often have the opposite effect.

    That’s why the most reliable vehicles tend to be those that use a more measured approach to new technology. “We still don’t see small displacement turbo engines in the Toyota Camry,” Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports, recently told Design News. “That’s a technology that most of the competitors are using. And we’re still not seeing Apple CarPlay in their vehicles.”

    That philosophy is apparently working for Toyota, which finished first in Consumer Reports’ recent survey of automotive nameplate reliability. Not coincidently, the company’s luxury division, Lexus, finished second.

    Toyota-Lexus’ one-two finish reflected a larger trend that’s been visible across the auto industry for more than a decade. This year, the nameplate study was again dominated by Asian vehicles. Seven of the top 10 are Asian brands; two are European; and only one is American.

    Here, we offer a peek at the 10 most reliable nameplates, as judged by the owners of 640,000 vehicles responding to a Consumer Reports survey. Scroll through the slides above to see the best brands.

  • Toyota Motor Corp. led Consumer Reports nameplate reliability survey this year, thanks to a stable of vehicles that earn “much better than average” ratings. Those include the Camry (shown), Prius, and Tundra, all of which have received the survey’s highest overall rating in every model year from 2009 through 2016.

    All Toyota’s vehicles earned high marks in powertrain, largely due to a conservative corporate philosophy toward the introduction of new technology. “We’re finally starting to see eight-speed transmissions from Toyota,” noted Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports. “For years we saw six-speed transmissions from them, when all of the other manufacturers had already gone to eight or nine speeds.”

    (Image source: Toyota Motor Corp.)

  • Luxury-automaker Lexus finished second in the Consumer Reports survey, trailing only its sister division, Toyota.

    The Lexus CT 200h, GS, GX, IS, NX and RX all received “much better than average” ratings in most years. Best of all was the ES luxury sedan (shown), which featured the highest overall ratings in every model year from 2009 to 2016.

    “Again, it’s about a conservative approach to technology,” Fisher told us. “Even though Lexus is a luxury car division, they take a measured approach to the application of all of their new technology.”

    (Image source: Lexus)

  • Kia Motors has climbed steadily in the nameplate surveys, finishing fifth in 2016 and third this year.

    The Kia Sorento, Soul and Sportage have all posted stellar reliability ratings during those years. Consumer Reports cited the Niro hybrid subcompact crossover (shown) as the company’s most reliable vehicle, a surprise given the fact that it was just unveiled in 2016.

    (Image source: Kia Motors)

  • Audi AG did poorly in reliability ratings a decade ago, but has bounced back to become one of the most reliable nameplates.

    Audi finished fourth in this year’s ratings, thanks to strong performances from the Q5 and especially the Q3, which Consumer Reports named as the company’s most reliable model.

    Audi has also shown better reliability in in-car and infotainment electronics, based largely on its decade-long experience with that technology.

    (Image source: Audi AG)

  • BMW vehicles have long been known for their ride and handling characteristics, but in recent years the brand has posted strong reliability numbers, too.

    The best of the bunch are the 1 Series and 2 Series (shown), Consumer Reports said. Like Audi, BMW has also gained an edge in in-car electronics, thanks a wealth of experience dating back to the early 2000s.

    “BMW and Audi have been putting in complex infotainment systems for a decade or more,” Fisher told us. “The companies that are new to infotainment are the ones that are really struggling right now.”

    (Image source: BMW)

  • Subaru is another Asian automaker that has steadily moved up the reliability ladder in the last few years.

    This year, it climbed five places, finishing sixth overall, thanks to strong showings from the BRZ sports car (shown), Forester, and Impreza.

    The company’s vehicles have been particularly strong in the powertrain area, where it has received mostly “much better than average” grades.

    (Image source: Subaru)

  • The Infiniti luxury brand finished seventh in the nameplate study, based in large part on the performance of its Q70 mid-size sedan.

    The Q70 posted strong numbers in body hardware, brakes, electrical and powertrain, and received an overall “much better than average” ratings in 2011, '13 and '15.

    Infiniti finished three notches better than its sister division, Nissan.

    (Image source: Infiniti)

  • The only American automaker to finish in the top 10 of the nameplate study, Buick dropped five places this year.

    The Consumer Reports study named the Encore crossover (shown) as Buick’s most reliable vehicle, thanks to its high marks in powertrain and in-car electronics. Unfortunately, the company’s ranking dropped because of mediocre performances by the Enclave, LaCrosse, and Lucerne.

    (Image source: Buick)

  • Honda, once a perennial frontrunner in the reliability rankings, has fallen, but still holds a position in the top 10.

    The Accord and Ridgeline still do well, as does the CR-V crossover (shown), which is considered Honda’s best. Unfortunately, the Civic compact received an overall “much worse than average” rating in 2017 and the Ridgeline truck performed poorly, which pulled Honda down in the rankings.

    (Image source: Honda Motor Co. Ltd.)

  • South Korean automaker Hyundai finished 10th in the reliability ratings, in part based on strong showings by the Elantra compact car (shown) and the Azera sedan.

    Hyundai was one of seven Asian automakers that finished in the survey’s top 10, a fact that Consumer Reports attributes to a common corporate philosophy in that part of the world.

    “Corporate philosophy is not just about Toyota,” Fisher told Design News. “There are other manufacturers from Asia that have the same philosophies.”

    (Image source: Hyundai Motor Group)

 

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Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

 

 

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