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Audi, GMC, Volvo crack reliability survey Top 10

Monday - 10/28/2013, 2:07pm  ET

Audi Q5 TDI (AP)
Audi has several cars on the Consumer Reports' list. (AP)

By DEE-ANN DURBIN
AP Auto Writer

DETROIT (AP) - Japan's lock on Consumer Reports' vehicle reliability rankings is starting to ease.

Three Japanese brands - Lexus, Toyota and Acura - took the top spots in this year's survey, and seven of the top 10 brands are Japanese.

But three non-Japanese brands - Audi, Volvo and GMC - cracked the top 10. And the magazine announced Monday it's not recommending that consumers buy 2014 models of the Honda Accord V6 and Nissan Altima sedans, two of Japan's top sellers, because of poor reliability scores. Two other Japanese mainstays, the Toyota Camry and Toyota RAV4, won't be recommended because they flunked a frontal crash test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

That's a blow that could impact sales. Consumer Reports' recommendations are frequently cited among the top reasons people buy particular cars and trucks.

Yonkers, N.Y.-based Consumer Reports predicts the reliability of 2014 model year cars and trucks based on a survey of subscribers who own vehicles from current or prior model years. This year, the survey questioned the owners of 1.1 million vehicles.

Problems with infotainment systems, from frozen touch screens to poorly performing voice-operated navigation systems, were frequent complaints. Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' automotive testing director, said electronic problems may even be underreported, since some drivers find the systems so confusing they don't use them. German cars tended to have the best infotainment systems.

The 2014 Subaru Forester got the top score for predicted reliability, but the magazine noted that the 2014 Forester had only been on sale for a few weeks in the spring when owners were surveyed, so there wasn't much time for errors to crop up. The Subaru Legacy was the top-performing midsize car.

Electric cars and hybrids generally performed well, but the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid got the worst reliability scores. Ford and its luxury Lincoln brand were near the bottom of the rankings because of customer complaints about their glitch-prone touchscreen dashboard systems and lower-than-expected fuel economy numbers.

The key to reliability is a conservative approach to vehicle redesigns. The brands that do best, like Toyota and Honda, often use time-tested engines, transmissions and other parts from prior models in their newer cars, Fisher said. Automakers with new engines or other untested features in their new cars - like Ford or Cadillac - tend to do worse.

"When you redesign cars from the ground up, you're going to expect those issues," Fisher told The Associated Press.

Brands with many older models, like GMC and Volvo, also tend to do better.

Here are the top three models in each category, according to Consumer Reports:

Type of carModelModel Model
SUBCOMPACT CARSHonda FitHyundai Accent Mazda2
SMALL CARSScion xBDodge DartSubaru Impreza
MIDSIZE CARSSubaru LegacyToyota Camry Mazda6
COUPESMercedes-Benz E-ClassInfiniti GAudi A5
LARGE CARSLexus ESAcura TLToyota Avalon
SPORTS CARSPorsche BoxsterBMW M3BMW 1 Series
HYBRID/ELECTRIC CARSToyota PriusLexus ES 300h Toyota Prius C
LUXURY SMALL CARSInfiniti G37 (AWD)Infiniti G37 (RWD) Acura TSX (4-cylinder engine)
LUXURY SEDANSAudi A6Lexus LSAudi A7
WAGONSMazda5Toyota VenzaAudi Allroad
MINIVANSToyota Sienna (FWD)Nissan QuestToyota Sienna (AWD)
SMALL SUVsSubaru Forester (non-turbo)Mitsubishi Outlander SportToyota RAV4
MIDSIZE SUVsToyota 4RunnerToyota Highlander (V6) Toyota Highlander (4-cylinder engine)
LARGE SUVsToyota SequoiaChevrolet Tahoe Chevrolet Yukon
LUXURY SMALL SUVsBMW X1 (4-cylinder engine)Infiniti EXAudi Q5 (V6)
LUXURY SUVsLexus RXLexus RX hybridAudi Q7
SMALL PICKUPSHonda RidgelineNissan Frontier Toyota Tacoma (4-cylinder, FWD)
LARGE PICKUPSToyota Tundra (V8, 2-wheel-drive)Toyota Tundra (V8, 4-wheel-drive)Ford F-150 (V6)

Here are the brand rankings, the number of spots the brand moved up or down from the previous year and the best-performing and worst-performing model in each brand. Porsche was not on last year's Consumer Reports list because the magazine didn't have enough data from readers.

Brand Spots up or down from 2013 Best model Worst model
1. Lexus Up 2ES 300h hybrid GS
2. Toyota SamePrius hybrid Prius plug-in hybrid
3. Acura Up 4TLILX
4. Audi Up 4A6 (four-cylinder engine)Q5 (four-cylinder engine)
5. Mazda Down 1Mazda5 Mazda2
6. Infiniti Up 3G sedan (all-wheel-drive)JX
7. Volvo Up 13XC70 S60
8. Honda Down 3CR-Z Accord Coupe (V6 engine)
9. GMC Up 3YukonAcadia
10. Subaru Down 5 Forester (non-turbo) BRZ
11. ScionDown 10 xBFR-S
12. Buick Up 9Verano LaCrosse (V6 engine)
13. Mercedes-BenzUp 13E-Class ConvertibleM- Class (diesel engine)
14. Porsche N/ABoxster 911
15. BMWUp 13X1 (four-cylinder engine) 335i sedan
16. KiaDown 6 Optima hybridOptima (turbo)
17. Chevrolet Down 2Tahoe Cruze (1.8-liter engine)
18. Chrysler Up 5 300 (V8 engine) Town and Country
19. Ram Up 61500 (V8, four-wheel-drive) 2500 and 3500 (diesel)
20. Volkswagen Down 2Golf Beetle
21. Hyundai Down 4Accent Genesis coupe
22. Nissan Down 9 Leaf Pathfinder
23. JeepDown 4 PatriotGrand Cherokee (V6 engine)
24. DodgeSame Dart (2.0-liter engine) Grand Caravan
25. CadillacDown 14 ATS (2.0-liter engine) XTS
26. Ford Up 13 F-150 (V6 engine) C-Max Energi
27. LincolnDown 1MKS MKT
28. Mini Down 6 CooperCooper Countryman

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)