YONKERS, N.Y. — Consumer Reports’ automaker report cards for 2012 revealed that Subaru has earned the top score for the first time.
Subaru's score of 75, two points higher than last year, reflects better test scores for its redesigned models, including the Impreza, Legacy and Outback. The 2012 Impreza now tops the small-sedan class and is the Consumer Reports Top Pick in that category. Subaru's average road-test score of 82 was the highest in the company's analysis.
Honda, which had been the perennial winner for the past four years, slipped two points to No. 4 among 13 major automakers, behind Mazda and Toyota. Honda has been hurt by several redesigned models — including the Civic and Odyssey — that didn't measure up to their predecessors, according to Consumer Reports.
Toyota remains among the Top 3 automakers for the fifth straight year, buoyed by consistent above-average reliability and high test scores for most of its models.
Consumer Reports automaker report cards reflect the performance, comfort, utility, and reliability of more than 275 vehicles that the company recently rated. Each automaker's overall score is based on the average road test scores and reliability ratings for all of its models that Consumer Reports has tested.
"While Japanese automakers still hold the top five spots, their lead is shrinking. In some of Honda's and Toyota's recently redesigned models, cost-cutting has become more noticeable," said David Champion, senior director of the Consumer Reports Automotive Test Center.
Mazda showed the most dramatic improvement among the 13 manufacturers rated by Consumer Reports, climbing to No. 2 from last year's No. 7 spot and increasing its overall score by nine points. It was helped by an improved Mazda3 and the shedding of two models that dragged down its score, the Tribute SUV and RX-8 sports car.
Ford dropped the farthest on the list, from No. 5 last year to No. 10. Ford's road-test score improved by two points over last year's, but subpar reliability of some new vehicles, due largely to the MyFord Touch infotainment system and Power-Shift automatic transmission, hurt its report-card grade, according to Consumer Reports.
"GM and Chrysler are building nicer cars with each redesign. Still, their scores are dragged down by several older designs that score low in Consumer Reports testing or have reliability issues," Champion said. "As more new products are introduced, their fortunes could change if they can improve their overall reliability."
Although Chrysler remains in last place, its overall score jumped eight points, making it the second most improved automaker. Chrysler's average road-test score also increased by eight points, the most of any automaker. Its overall reliability also improved to average. The turnaround can be credited mostly to Chrysler's extensively freshened and redesigned vehicles.
Volvo earned the best grade of any European automaker, thanks in part to improvement in the redesigned S60 sedan. Average reliability and less-than-stellar test scores, however, kept it from making further progress.
Like Toyota and Honda, Volkswagen's redesigns of some of its best-selling models, including the Jetta and the Passat, dropped in Consumer Reports road-test scores. On the other hand, the redesigned Audi A6 and A8 posted big gains in Consumer Report’s road tests.
BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles received high scores in Consumer Reports road tests, but were hurt by the reliability of some popular models. Mercedes' S-Class sedan joined the company's large GL SUV with subpar reliability, while the reliability of some turbocharged Mini Coopers and the 5 Series hurt BMW's grade.
To view the full report, visit ConsumerReports.org.
The Top 10 Picks By Category:
Family Sedan: Toyota Camry Hybrid
Sporty Car: Ford Mustang
Small SUV: Toyota RAV4
Affordable Family Sedan: Hyundai Sonata
Family Hauler: Toyota Sienna V6
Sports Sedan: Infiniti G
Green Car: Toyota Prius
Small Car: Subaru Impreza
Pickup Truck: Chevrolet Avalanche
Family SUV: Toyota Highlander