Consumer Reports Picks Its Top Car Brands


Four brands stand at the top of the annual Consumer Reports car issue. Three of them, Porsche, Genesis, and Subaru all received brand rankings of 80 or more. The magazine gives a recommended rating to every model sold by Porsche, Genesis, and the fourth-highest-scoring brand, Mazda, while every Subaru is recommended except for the WRX.

Two vehicles earned the highest overall scores: the Toyota Avalon family sedan (main photo) and the Kia Telluride SUV that won several car/truck of the year awards. Each received 93 of 100 possible points. The details are in the magazine’s April 2020 issue.

33 car brands ranked by overall score, which comprises road tests, reliability, owner satisfaction, and safety. CR says the road-test score is based on 50 different tests; reliability is based on 17 problem areas. It covers cars surveyed for the last three years.

Porsche, Genesis, Subaru, Mazda, Lexus, Audi, Hyundai, and BMW all received overall brand scores of at least 75 on a 100-point scale. The midpoint score (half above, half below) was 70. The biggest gainer was Tesla, which jumped eight spots from 19 to 11; its weak point remains reliability, which is below (but not significantly below) average. It’s not clear if there’s a statistical difference between brands rated a couple of points apart.

The 2020 Kia Telluride, tied with Toyota Avalon for the highest overall score, is one of Consumer Reports’ Top Picks and one of ExtremeTech’s 10 Best cars of the year.

Ten Top Picks (And They’re Super-Safe)

Consumer Reports has an annual Top Picks comprising the one top vehicle in each of 10 categories. To be considered, the vehicles must have received a recommended rating from the review and come standard with:

  • Forward collision warning (FCW)
  • Automatic emergency braking (AEB)
  • Pedestrian detection, an adjunct to AEB

CR does not, however, require blind spot detection or adaptive cruise control. The CR-required safety features can be implemented by a single, sub-$100 camera mounted at the top of the windshield. Blind-spot detection (BSD) requires multiple rear sonar/radar sensors. Some safety experts say BSD is crucial especially for older drivers who have trouble looking over their shoulders. Adaptive cruise control (ACC) makes rush-hour commutes and long highway drives less stressful and safer as well. But it, too, requires a separate front-facing radar. With forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, you don’t know the device is working until it’s almost too late, while ACC slows you as soon as the vehicle in front slows or brakes.

CR Top Picks Per Segment Score
Midsize 3-Row SUV: Kia Telluride 93
Big Sedan: Toyota Avalon 93
Midsize Sedan: Subaru Legacy 87
Small SUV: Subaru Forester 84
Midsize SUV: Lexus RX 80
Sports Car: Toyota Supra 80
EV: Tesla Model 3 80
Hybrid: Toyota Prius 79
Compact Pickup: Honda Ridgeline 76
Small Car: Toyota Corolla 75

These are the 19 vehicles to which Consumer Reports awards a score of 85 or higher. That’s out of 260 vehicles rated.

CR 2020 Highest Rated Cars Score
Toyota Avalon Hybrid 2.5L 93
Kia Telluride 3.8L 93
Lincoln MKZ 2.0T 89
Genesis G80 3.8L 89
Audi A4 2.0T 88
Porsche 718 Boxster 2.0T 88
Porsche Cayenne 3.0T 88
Subaru Legacy 2.5 87
BMW M240i 3.0T 87
Subaru Outback 2.4T 87
Hyundai Palisade 3.8L 87
Lexus ES350 3.5L 87
Lexus GS350 3.5L 87
Mazda Miata MX-5 86
Mazda CX-9 2.5T 86
BMW 740i 4.4T 86
Subaru Crosstrek 2.5L 85
Toyota Camry 2.5L 85
Kia Cadenza 3.3L 85
Score of 85 or higher (of 100 points).

Interesting Factoids (to Us, at Least)

Consumer Reports, April 2020.

The top individual-model rankings (above, those rated 85 and higher) are skewed toward Japanese, German and Korean automakers:

  • Japan: Toyota/Lexus 4, Subaru 3, Mazda 2
  • Germany: BMW 2, Porsche 2, Audi 1
  • Korea: Kia 2, Hyundai 1, Genesis 1 (all part of Hyundai)
  • US: Lincoln 1

Among the overall brand ranking, the biggest loser was Acura, which fell eight places from 16 to 24 among the 33 brands. Lincoln and Volkswagen each fell five places, from 8 to 13, and from 11 to 16. The eight automakers at the bottom, scoring below 60 points, remained the same, and CR noted:

The bottom brands are an unchanged club, with Fiat [lowest scoring, 43], Mitsubishi, Jeep, Land Rover, Cadillac, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, and GMC again falling short. We tested a total of 36 models from these brands, and we recommend only the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Among small cars, Consumer Reports picked 33 best used vehicles under $20,000. They have to have performed well on tests when new and have above-average reliability. That includes:

  • Toyota, 13 models
  • Lexus, 6
  • Mazda, 4
  • Honda 3

While Honda and Toyota both sell a lot of vehicles, the recommended-used-cars differential is more than 4-1 (13 Toyota, 3 Honda). Mostly because of the $20K price cap, there are only two premium-brand European cars cited, the Volvo Xc70 and BMW i3. And in what may be an ominous sign for the US-flagged automakers, among recommended used cars, not a one is from GM, Ford/Lincoln, or Dodge/Chrysler/Ram.

Much of Consumer Reports car coverage is behind a paywall. But it does make freely available safety news (recalls) and some top lines on cars on the site if you don’t want to lay out $39 a year for digital access.

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