These cars earn 2017 "Best Bet" ratings

Tesla (TSLA), General Motors (GM) and Hyundai are among the carmakers with models earning the top score of 10 for 2017 vehicles. Those are just some the results in the 37th annual “Best Bet” ratings released by consumer advocate Jack Gillis and the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety. 

Four Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) cars and two made by Nissan received the lowest ratings as did one from Volkswagen (VLKAY). Several SUVs also got the bottom rating.

7 head turners at the Detroit Auto Show
7 head turners at the Detroit Auto Show

Vehicles won Best Bet awards based on ratings of safety, fuel economy, repair and maintenance costs, warranties and consumer complaint history, among other things.

The Tesla Model S large sedan; GM’s Cadillac XTS large sedan, Buick Verano compact and Encore small SUV; and the Hyundai Sonata intermediate sedan received 10s.

Jeep’s Compass and Patriot small SUV models were rated a 1 as was the Fiat 500 subcompact, which is also made by Fiat Chrysler. Nissan’s (NSANY) Versa subcompact and its Leaf compact fared poorly, as did the company’s Juke small SUV. Volkswagen’s Tiguan small SUV, Nissan’s Rogue midsize SUV, Toyota’s (TM) 4Runner large SUV and Tacoma large truck rounded out the list of poor performers.

“The biggest surprise was the significant number of U.S. automakers that have come out as Best Bests,” said Gillis in an interview. “Chrysler hasn’t focused on safety as much as some of the other car companies. Nissan was a bit of a surprise, but the chips fell where they may.”

Tesla, Hyundai and Mitsubishi won kudos for offering the best warranties. Nissan, Mazda and Honda (HMC) were found to be lacking in this regard.

Hyundai’s Genesis G8O earned praise for offering advanced safety features such as imminent-crash braking and lane-keeping assistance, which is also available on the Acura MDX midsize SUV and Mercedes-Benz GLE Class SUV. Mercedes offered the most safety features in its GLE and S-Class sedans followed by the Volvo VC90 luxury crossover SUV. The Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Leaf Hybrid and Kia Rio subcompact had the fewest safety features.

The Audi Q7 SUV, Mercedes-Benz GLE and the Toyota Prius C received the fewest consumer complaints. Hyundai’s Tucson compact SUV got the most followed by the Tesla Model S. Consumer Reports had raised concerns about the electric car’s reliability, though it now recommends the vehicle purchase after Tesla made improvements.

Consumers, however, need to remember that vehicle repair costs can vary widely.  

Nine typical repairs will cost about $2,800 in a Kia Forte sedan, $3,900 in a Ford (F) Expedition large SUV, $5,300 in Mitsubishi Lancer sedan and almost $7,000 in a Toyota Highlander SUV.

BMW and Cadillac offer free maintenance for the first four or five years, which is a feature that owners of other brands would surely appreciate.

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    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.