Yonkers, New York – Honda and Subaru still make the best vehicles overall, but Ford posted the largest gain in test scores and reliability, according to Consumer Reports. The magazine has issued its latest Automakers Report Card for 2011.

Honda, Subaru and Toyota took the top three spots for the third year in a row. Most of their vehicles do well in Consumer Reports’ tests and are relatively trouble-free.

The Report Card reflects the performance, comfort, utility and reliability of more than 270 vehicles that Consumer Reports recently tested. Each automaker’s overall score is based on a composite of road tests and predicted reliability scores for all of its tested models. The road test score is based on more than 50 tests and evaluations covering performance, safety, fuel economy, comfort and convenience, while the reliability scores come from the Annual Auto Survey, which included histories of 1.3 million vehicles provided by subscribers.

Ford has outpaced its rivals in reliability in recent years, the magazine said, and this year its average test score for all tested models rose from 66 to 70. The magazine currently recommends 71 per cent of the Ford vehicles it has tested.

Honda, including its Acura division, has had the best reliability record of any manufacturer and has made mostly “good” to “outstanding” vehicles, with no Honda product scoring less than “average” for reliability. Currently, Consumer Reports recommends 76 per cent of the Honda vehicles it has tested. However, the magazine said that some new models have been unimpressive, including the CR-Z and Insight hybrids, which didn’t score well enough in tests to be recommended. The redesigned Odyssey is still the magazine’s top-ranked minivan, but it dropped a few points in its test score compared with the previous year.

Subaru, which has the highest average road-test score at 81, makes only about a half-dozen models but almost all do well in the road tests and reliability scores. Only the Impreza WRX has below-average reliability.

Toyota, Lexus and Scion models have better-than-average reliability and an average score of 74 for all tested vehicles, but the magazine said that some newer Toyotas “have slipped in interior fit and finish.” The Yaris and FJ Cruiser have shown “superb reliability” but are not recommended because of their low road-test scores. Consumer Reports currently recommends 74 per cent of the Toyota vehicles it has tested.

General Motors has also improved in both its average road test and reliability scores, especially newer models such as the Buick Enclave and LaCrosse, and Chevrolet Equinox and Traverse. GM’s average test score for all tested models improved to 67 from 65 last year, but the company “still fields a few lackluster cars, including the Chevrolet Impala sedan and Colorado pickup,” the magazine said. The below-average reliability of Cadillac and GMC models also drags down the overall score. The magazine currently recommends 46 per cent of the GM models it has tested.

European cars generally perform well in road tests, but many have “confusing controls and inconsistent reliability,” and Volvo is the only European brand with an above-average reliability score. Consumer Reports recommends 53 per cent of the Volkswagen and Audi models tested. Mercedes-Benz and BMW have below-average reliability and are near the bottom of the Report Card’s ranking. SUVs from both carmakers had reliability problems, despite being good performers, and Mercedes-Benz is the only manufacturer that had year-over-year drops in both its average road test ratings, from 77 to 73, and reliability ratings, from “average” to “below average.”

Chrysler came last on the report, with its 50 average test score the lowest. As its overhauls its lineup, newer models such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Ram have done better in tests than older models and the magazine said it is encouraged from early looks at upcoming redesigns, but the automaker’s below-average reliability “needs to improve for the automaker to be competitive.” Only the Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck is recommended by the magazine.

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