en espanol † What’s the secret to coming up repeatedly? Consumer reports’ esteemed list of best cars and car brands? Part of the answer is consistency: do it right and don’t change much.
Car brands such as Honda, Mazda, Subaru and Toyota are sticking to proven features and are firmly on the list, said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer reports. The nonprofit evaluates and tests cars to choose its Top Picks annually.
Toyota and Subaru, for example, don’t seem to change much from one year to the next, regardless of whether the automakers are touting “updates” in an effort to give new models an exciting buzz.
“Toyota and Subaru’s dirty secret is that when they redesign, they really redesign?” asks Visser.
Case in point: Subaru’s Forester, a small, sneaker-style SUV, has always used the mechanical underpinnings — known as the platform — of the automaker’s tiny Impreza car and its proven hardware. This year the Forester appears for the ninth time in a row Consumer reports’ top 10 list, this time in the $25,000-$35,000 category. The categories of the organization are not identical from year to year.
The entire Mazda brand is also in “steady as she goes” mode. “We recommend anything they make,” Fisher notes, although none have taken the top spot in any particular price range this year.
Top brands also unveiled
Consumer Reports‘brand rankings can be just as interesting and informative as the individual model rankings.
The organization’s list of the top 10 brands this year, based on the overall scores of each brand’s models, are: Subaru, Mazda, BMW, Honda, Lexus, Audi, Porsche, Mini, Toyota and Infiniti.
“It is remarkable for mainstream brands such as Subaru, Mazda and Honda to put in such a strong performance. For consumers, it shows that you don’t have to spend money on a luxury brand to get a safe, satisfying and reliable car,” says Fisher.
This information can be especially useful now, when a particular car model is hard to find or has a premium due to COVID-related shortages. Microchips, which are used in vehicles everywhere from simple telephone jacks and power seats to electronic engine controls, are scarce, meaning some car models are also scarce.
If the model you want is not available, there may be a model that is similar in size and features to the same brand.
For example, if you’re running into a shortage of Toyota RAV4 SUVs, perhaps consider the recently launched Toyota Corolla Cross, a Corolla sedan-based model that’s been transformed into SUV/wagon styling slightly smaller than the RAV4.
Or maybe replace a Subaru Crosstrek with the Subaru Forester that is on the Consumer Reports list, but maybe untraceable. Both are four-wheel drive SUVs and both have the highest crash safety rating from the federal government. And if the Crosstrek is hard to find, shoppers might want to consider the larger Subaru Outback instead. Although the Outback looks a bit more wagon-like than the Crosstrek or the Forester, it has the same safety ratings and the same total fuel economy of 29 miles per gallon according to government testing.