Top 10 Most Reliable Car Models for 2018

Nine of the ten vehicles receiving “much better than average” overall scores in every available year of Consumer Reports survey were either from Toyota or Lexus.
  • Conservative design principles may be the key to building a more reliable automobile, say engineers from Consumer Reports who studied vehicle reliability for their 2018 auto issue.

    The study’s reliability list, revealed in the magazine’s April issue, was dominated by cars built by Toyota and Lexus, as it has been for many years. Not coincidently, both brands are known for their conservative adoption of new technology. “Toyota and Lexus, when it comes to reliability, are absolute standouts,” Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports, told Design News. “And they continue to be standouts year over year.”

    Nine of the ten vehicles receiving “much better than average” overall scores in every available year of the survey were either from Toyota or Lexus.  The only exception was the Acura TSX mid-sized sedan, which received a perfect score in every model year from 2010 to 2014. 

    Consumer Reports’ ratings of vehicle reliability are based on survey responses from more than half a million vehicle owners. The surveys ask questions about 17 different potential trouble spots, ranging from engines and transmissions to fuel systems, electrical, suspension, brakes, body hardware, and in-car electronics, among others.

    Fisher said that conservative adoption of new high-tech features -- such as nine- and ten-speed transmissions, small-displacement turbocharged engines, and Apple CarPlay -- was again the key to getting higher scores from consumers. Toyota was slow in adopting all those technologies, in contrast to many competitors who have aggressively designed them into new models. “Every manufacturer seems to be jumping ahead, trying to put all the latest gadgets in their cars,” he told us.

    Toyota and Lexus eventually do adopt new technology, he added, but only by dipping a toe in the water first. An example of that is Toyota’s use of Apple CarPlay in the Avalon full-sized sedan. “Nearly all the other manufacturers are using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for multiple years,” he said. “But Toyota has been very slow to adapt. And that’s right out of their playbook. They could have launched it on the Camry, but that would have been far riskier. Instead, they launched it on a lower-volume product.”

    In the ratings, the Camry received “much better than average” ratings (the magazine’s highest score) for in-car electronics in four of the last eight model years on the Consumer Reports survey. It also received perfect scores in all eight years for three engine categories and two transmission categories.

    Toyota’s conservative approach does have a downside, however, Fisher added. The company’s vehicles are often dinged by automotive writers for being “dowdy,” or just plain lacking in excitement, he said. “Other manufacturers are willing to take risks for the sake of a performance increase, or for fuel economy boost, or for excitement and drive-ability,” he said. “And those manufacturers continue to get accolades from their peers. However, I would argue that none of those accolades consider reliability.”

    Here, we offer a look at the ten vehicles that received top scores in every model year when they were surveyed by Consumer Reports. To see them and learn about their strengths and weaknesses, flip through the following slides.

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  • From 2010 to 2017, trouble spots on the Toyota Camry sedan were few and far between. The sedan’s overall owner reliability rating was “much better than average” in all of those model years. The only exceptions were the brakes in the 2010 and 2011, which were rated “average,” and the in-car electronics, also rated “average” in 2015. Those slip-ups have subsequently been fixed, however, earning the vehicle top scores in 2017. (Source: Toyota Motor Corp.)

  • The Toyota 4Runner mid-sized SUV is another Toyota vehicle that ran the table – earning Consumer Reports’ highest overall owner reliability rating in every year from 2010 thru 2017. The 4Runner had few hiccups in those years, the only notable exception being its in-car electronics, which received a “much worse than average” score in 2014. That problem has since been fixed, however, earning the 4Runner a “much better than average” score in 2017. (Source: Toyota Motor Corp.)

  • The Lexus ES mid-sized luxury sedan also earned a top overall reliability score in every year for eight straight years from 2010 to 2017. The ES’s reliability performance was exceptional in virtually all of the 17 sub-system categories, the only minor exception being in-car electronics. It received an “average” there in 2015 and ’17. (Source: Lexus)

  • The Prius, long the darling of the eco set, also deserves credit for its stellar reliability. The Prius was another Toyota vehicle earning top ratings for eight straight years. Despite having a relatively complicated powertrain, it earned near-perfect scores for engine, transmission, drive system, fuel system, and electrical reliability in all eight of those years. It exhibited only two tiny problems during that time – an average score for power equipment in 2011 and another average score for in-car electronics in 2010. (Source: Toyota Motor Corp.)

  • Toyota’s compact crossover RAV was yet another vehicle that ran the table for eight consecutive years. It exhibited a few minor problems with its brakes, suspension and in-car electronics, as well as with noise and leaks. But like most of the Toyota vehicles, its received top scores for its engine and transmission reliability in all eight years. (Source: Toyota Motor Corp.)

  • The Lexus IS compact luxury sedan received ratings for seven straight years from 2010 through 2016, earning top overall scores in each of them. The only issue with the IS was in noise and leaks in 2010 and ’11, where it received “worse than average” ratings. It also exhibited minor troubles with in-car electronics in three of those years. The IS’s engine scores were perfect in all seven of those years, however. (Source: Lexus)

  • The Prius v, a miniaturized van version of the standard Prius, has only six years worth of ratings, but it earned top scores in all of them. It exhibited some troubles with in-car electronics, especially in 2015, but seems to be bouncing back from those. And like the standard Prius, it has shown no issues with the dual powertrain. Engine and transmission scores have been perfect in every model year. (Source: Toyota Motor Corp.)

  • Toyota’s subcompact hatchback hybrid, known as the Prius c, has only five years worth of ratings (2012-2016), but earned a top overall owner score in each. During those years, the c has been perfect in all three engine categories and both transmission categories, as well as in drive system, fuel system, electrical, climate, suspension, brakes and exhaust. Its only hiccup: An “average” rating for in-car electronics in 2013. (Source: Toyota Motor Corp.)

  • The Lexus GS luxury performance sedan started with some difficulties in 2010 and ’11 but has since cleaned up its problems. During those years, survey respondents complained about brakes, exhaust, paint, trim, noise, and leaks. Still, it earned overall scores of “much better than average,” even in those years. Moreover, its engine, transmission, drive system, fuel system, and electrical system have earned perfect scores every year between 2010 and ’16. (Source: Lexus)

  • Acura’s mid-sized, entry-level luxury sedan, the TSX, is the only non-Toyota product to earn top overall scores in every year that Consumer Reports gave it a rating. Although it has since been discontinued, the TSX had overall reliability ratings of “much better than average” in every model year from 2010 to 2014. It did exhibit problems with brakes (“much worse than average”), paint, trim, noise, and leaks. But its engine, transmission, drive system, fuel system, and electrical were virtually perfect in all five years. (Source: Acura)

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Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.


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