Here are the highlights of the annual rankings (the full version is available in the December issue and on the Consumer Reports web site, if you're a subscriber):
- Toyota regained its high rankings. Consumer Reports restored its recommended label on eight Toyota models that it had suspended early this year after the company's huge recalls. The company has since made fixes to the affected models (see Toyota Recall: Safe Stops and Crash Tests). In the reliability rating by brand, Toyota's youth-oriented Scion was No. 1 among 27 brands ranked, the Toyota brand was No. 6, and Lexus No. 9. In addition, models from those three brands topped reliability ratings in five categories.
- Ford was the top-ranked American company, tenth overall. And two of its models -- the Fusion hybrid mid-size sedan and the Flex large SUV -- topped their respective categories for reliability.
- General Motors made progress from last year. Based on a survey of 1.3 million car owners, Consumer Reports awarded reliability ratings of average or better to 69 percent of GM's 2011 models across its four brands -- Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC -- compared with just 43 percent a year ago.
A reliability rating above average is one of three components necessary for a model to get the influential "recommended" rating from Consumer Reports. The other components are strong results in crash tests and in the magazine's own driving tests. The reliability prediction for 2011 models comprises data from the last three model years, when the cars are still mechanically similar.
I looked for models with excellent reliability ratings that are also good deals right now. The choices below are all on the list of most reliable vehicles for their class and have recommended ratings. For prices, I looked at the best local prices recorded by TrueCar.com. Prices vary by region, but after sampling different areas, the four models I cite below are all selling at double-digit percentage discounts from list price. With the 2011 model year having just started, about half of current sales are still 2010 models. Three of these best deals are 2010s that have the same reliability profile as the new models.
Volkswagen Golf This 2010 sporty, small-car hatchback gets praise from reviewers for its strong five-cylinder engine (rated at 22 mpg in city driving, 30 highway), stylish interior, and standard electronic stability control safety equipment. It's also rated a "top safety pick" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The base model Golf lists for $18,370, including the destination fee. The TrueCar best local prices range up to 15 percent discounts, or around $15,600.
Ford Fusion Ford's strong-selling mid-size sedan, first introduced in 2006, has shown consistently strong reliability. Reviewers like its upscale interior and sporty handling. In the 2010 base model, the four-cylinder, 175 horsepower engine (rated at 22 mpg city, 31 highway) has a list price of $20,420. Best price discounts from MSRP range from 15 percent to 19 percent -- or as low as $16,590.
Honda CR-V The CR-V has regularly been one of the best-rated and most popular small SUVs. The 2010 model was named Best Compact Crossover for the Money by U.S. News for its combination of safety, utility, and affordability. The 2011 model, pictured here, tops its class in the reliability ratings. In the 2010, the mileage ratings of 21 mpg city, 28 highway are among the best. Discounts on the CR-V base model range from 10 percent to 12 percent, taking the price down as low as $19,550.
Toyota Sienna The 2011 Sienna, which has been on sale for several months, sports a stylish redesign that has found favor with reviewers. The base-model Sienna has a four-cylinder engine EPA-rated to 19 mpg in the city, 24 on the highway. As for safety, a major issue for minivan buyers, the Sienna comes with standard stability and traction control and seven airbags, including side and head protection. It is a top safety pick by the IIHS. With a sticker price of $25,270, the new Sienna is selling at best price discounts of up to 11 percent, to around $22,375.
Photos courtesy of the manufacturers
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