Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Best and Worst

We want to keep our SophistiKats up to date on everything. Around this time of the year most people begin to look and shop around for the best deal on New or Used cars.

Savvy car buyers know that the best way to get the most vehicle for their money is to buy a used car. With the average new car losing 47 percent of its value in the first three years, buying used is an affordable way to get the safety and comfort features you want at a far better price.

The Best of the best list guides you to the 2001 to 2010 models that scored well in our road tests when new and have been consistently reliable over time. Each has achieved multiple years of above-average used-car verdicts (available to subscribers), indicating that owners have had relatively few problems.

Models built by Toyota and Honda dominate the list once again, and many of the best used vehicles are from Asian manufacturers. But high-quality vehicles are available from domestic and European automakers as well.

The Worst of the worst list shows models that have had multiple years of below-average reliability in our survey. It is dominated by vehicles from domestic and European manufacturers, primarily General Motors, which had 16 of the 29 models listed.

Reliability data is derived from the Annual Auto Survey.

Also listed are reliable cars by price range (available to subscribers), so that you can easily see what's available for your budget.

This list highlights specific models and the years that they had below-average reliability.

Best of the Best
Here we highlight the most reliable and well-rounded vehicle in each category. We also list other contenders in order of their overall reliability scores for model years 2001 to 2010. Each model has at least three years of reliability data.

Small cars
Honda Fit

The Fit has been an economical, reliable, and versatile hatchback ever since it went on sale in the U.S. in 2007. It packs a huge amount of usable space into a small package and has standard antilock braking and curtain air bags. But before 2011 electronic stability control (ESC) was available only on models with the optional navigation system.

Family cars
Toyota Prius

The Prius has had outstanding reliability and has delivered standout fuel economy. But the redesigned 2010 model has only average reliability. Look for one with optional ESC, starting with 2004 models.

Upscale cars
Lexus ES
The ES has long been a strong contender in this category. It has had outstanding reliability over the past 10 model years and is quiet and comfortable. ESC became standard with the redesigned 2007 model, which included a bigger engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.

Luxury cars
2005 Acura RL

While the RL isn't the sportiest car, it has had excellent reliability wrapped in a comfortable and refined package. The 2005 redesign brought standard all-wheel drive but complicated controls. The Infiniti M35 is sportier and the much-larger Lexus LS is more luxurious.

Sports & Sporty cars
Mazda MX-5 Miata

The Miata is affordable and fun to drive. Look for models after 2006, when ABS became standard. The Lexus SC is a top-down cruiser with the added comfort of a folding hard-top roof. For a sportier alternative, consider the Acura RSX coupe and the Honda S2000 roadster.

Small SUVs
Honda CR-V
The CR-V is comfortable and drives like a car, with a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine. In 2005 ESC and curtain air bags were made standard, and the 2007 redesign brought more power and improved fuel efficiency. The Acura RDX is quick and agile but has a stiff ride. The Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander offer third-row seats.

Midsized & Large SUVs
Toyota Highlander
The Highlander is quiet and refined, with a comfortable ride. It delivers good fuel economy, especially the Hybrid model. The Toyota Land Cruiser combines luxury with serious off-road ability.


A Lexus-like ride and comfort are hallmarks of the Toyota Sienna. The well-mannered suspension and refined V6 engine, along with very good reliability, are among its strong suits. Look for post-2004 models, which are roomier and more powerful. AWD is optional, but the run-flat tires may wear somewhat quickly. The Honda Odyssey has better handling, but its reliability has not been as good.

Pickup trucks

The Honda Ridgeline combines car-like handling with the utility of a pickup truck. It is easy to get in and out of the cabin, the tailgate can open horizontally or drop down, and the composite bed has a lockable, all-weather trunk. The Toyota Tundra offers greater towing and cargo-hauling capacities.

 Worst of the Worst
These models, listed alphabetically, have multiple years of reliability that's much worse than average among 2001 to 2010 models.

Audi A6 (2.7T, 3.0T)                          GMC Acadia (AWD)
BMW 535i (AWD)                                  GMC Canyon (4WD)
BMW X5                                          GMC S-15 Sonoma (4WD)
Cadillac SRX (AWD)                          GMC Safari
Chevrolet Astro                                  Hummer H3
Chevrolet Aveo                                  Jaguar S-Type, XF
Chevrolet Blazer                                  Kia Sedona
Chevrolet Colorado (4WD)                 Mercedes-Benz R-Class
Chevrolet Impala (V8)                         Mini Cooper Convertible
Chevrolet S-10 Pickup (4WD)         Pontiac G6 Coupe & Convertible
Chevrolet Uplander                         Saturn Outlook (FWD)
Chrysler PT Cruiser (turbo)                 Saturn Relay
Chrysler Town & Country                Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible
Dodge Caravan                                Volkswagen Passat (V6, FWD)
Dodge Grand Caravan

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