Honda, a perennial top pick, Subaru, the all-wheel driver pioneer, and embattled Toyota claimed the top-three spots in the annual survey by Consumer Reports to determine the manufacturers with the overall best cars.
Honda, whose Fit earned high marks with the Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Avalanche, led the Japanese company’s consistent ratings throughout its line en route to the industry’s highest total in the magazine’s detail assessment.
Ford posted the largest quality gains among the major automakers with improved road tests and reliability scores.
Honda Motor Co., including its Acura division, had the highest overall score, 74, and the best reliability record of any manufacturer, the magazine said. Subaru finished second with 73 points, while Toyota was third with 71 points.
Toyota’s third place was surprising considered in multiple massive recalls. But Consumer Reports commented, that Toyota and Lexus “remain solid choices overall,” although some of the newer vehicles “have slipped in interior fit and finish.”
Here are scoring totals and comments for the Consumer Reports’ 2011 annual car guide:
Honda (includes Acura)
Overall score: 74
Overview: Most are reliable and well-rounded performers. Hondas usually handle well but suffer from road noise
Average test score: 75, Reliability: Very good; Tested vehicles recommended: 76%. Highs: Ride, handling, powertrains, controls, crash-test results; Lows: Road noise.
Overall score: 73
Overview: Most are dependable all-wheel-drive vehicles that have simple controls. Fuel economy is not a typical strength.
Average test score: 81; Reliability: Very good; Tested vehicles recommended: 82; Highs: Ride, handling, controls, crash-test results; Lows: Engine noise, fuel economy.
Toyota (includes Lexus, Scion)
Overall score: 71
Overview: Reliability remains top notch. Most are comfortable and quiet but usually not so sporty. Toyota leads in hybrid technology.
Average test score: 74; Reliability:Very good; Tested vehicles recommended: 74%; Highs: Quietness, fuel economy, ride, powertrains, acceleration; Lows: Lack of agility, rear visibility in some, fit and finish in newer models.
Overall score: 68
Volvos are solid and safe but often have harsh rides. Refinement and comfort have improved.
Average test score:73; Reliability:Very good; Tested vehicles recommended: 67%
Highs: Safety features, crash-test results, fit and finish, seat comfort; Lows: Ride, noise, visibility.
Ford (includes Lincoln)
Overall score: 67
Overview: Most handle well and are well-rounded and reliable.The Fusion, Mustang, and the Flex SUV, with the EcoBoost V6, lead the pack.
Average test score:70; Reliability:Very good; Tested vehicles recommended: 71 %; Highs: Crash-test results, interior room, ride, acceleration; Lows: Braking, fuel economy, engine noise.
Hyundai (includes Kia)
Overall score: 66
Overview: Hyundais and Kias have been rapidly improving. Reliability and refinement are better.
Average test score: 75; Reliability: Good; Tested vehicles recommended: 70%; Highs: Controls, quietness, long warranty, fit and finish, drivetrains, value; Lows: Middling ride and handling.
Overall score: 65
Overview: Most Mazdas are fun to drive but a little noisy. Recent models have fared well in our road tests.
Average test score: 75; Reliability:Good; Tested vehicles recommended: 67%; Highs: Handling, steering, acceleration; Lows: Road noise.
Nissan (includes Infiniti)
Overall score: 65
Overview: Nissan builds some of the highest-rated cars. Interior quality is improved. Some older models push the overall score down.
Average test score:74; Reliability:Good; Tested vehicles recommended: 63%; Highs: Handling, acceleration, fuel economy, controls; Lows: Ride, noise, visibility.
Volkswagen (includes Audi)
Overall score: 63
Overview: VWs and Audis usually do very well in our tests and have well-finished interiors, but consistent reliability is not a strong suit.
Average test score:79; Reliability:Good; Tested vehicles recommended: 53%; Highs: Handling, fit and finish, crash-test results, transmissions; Lows: Spotty reliability, controls in Audi models.
Overall score: 57
Overview: Most have excellent ride and handling and plush interiors but frustrating controls. Mercedes SUVs have hurt the reliability score.
Average test score: 73; Reliability:Fair; Tested vehicles recommended: 36%; Highs: Handling, ride, acceleration, fit and finish, seat comfort; Lows: Controls, reliability.
Overall score: 57
Overview: BMWs are sporty and well finished and have great seats, but controls are frustrating and reliability mostly subpar.
Average test score: 77; Reliability:Fair; Tested vehicles recommended: 31%; Highs: Handling, ride, acceleration, transmissions, fit and finish, seats; Lows: Controls, reliability.
General Motors (includes Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, Cadillac)
Overall score: 56
Overview: Most newer models do well in our tests, but others pull down GM’s overall score.
Average test score: 67; Reliability:Good; Tested vehicles recommended: 46%; Highs: Ride, controls, quietness, acceleration; Lows: Fuel economy, turning circles, braking, visibility.
Chrysler (includes Dodge, Jeep)
Overall score: 43
Overview: Newer models are promising, and Chrysler’s score may improve as its lineup rebuilds.
Average test score: 50; Reliability:Fair; Tested vehicles recommended: 9%; Highs: Interior room and features, controls, acceleration; Lows: Reliability, fuel economy, ride, braking, fit and finish, agility.
Article Last Updated: February 28, 2011.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.