Honda and Toyota are perennial success stories in Consumer Reports' closely watched automaker brand ratings. And for the last four years, Honda has led the field.
No longer. CR announced its 2012 Automaker Report Cards results today, and Subaru now leads the pack. At the same time, Toyota captured top honors in five of the survey's vehicle categories - an impressive result for an automaker beleaguered recently by problems such as sticky gas pedals and loose floor mats that brought "unintended acceleration" into the scare-story lexicon.
The survey results bore some bad news for Ford, which dropped from 5th place to 10th place in the overall ratings. "Ford’s road-test score improved by two points over last year’s, but subpar reliability of some new vehicles, due largely to the troublesome MyFord Touch infotainment system and Power-Shift automatic transmission, hurt its report-card grade," CR said in its announcement.
Reliability data also dragged down results for GM and Chrysler, as well as that of European automakers. Japanese manufacturers captured the top five spots - helped by Mazda's jump from seventh to second place. For more information, go to the magazine's website - be warned, though, that much of it requires a subscription.
The magazine said Toyota's capture of five of the top-10 categories marked the first time in nearly a decade that a single automaker led so much of the field. Here are the category leaders:
FAMILY SEDAN: Toyota Camry Hybrid ($29,052). In addition to its impressive 38 mpg overall fuel economy, other high points include a comfortable ride; a roomy, quiet, cabin; fairly quick acceleration; and for 2012, a nicer interior and somewhat crisper handling (although the Camry is still no sports sedan).
SPORTY CAR: Ford Mustang ($28,880 to $43,880). The heart of this iconic sports car has always been its strong acceleration and rumbling V8 power. But now there’s more to the Mustang than power. Agile handling, a decent ride, comfortable front seats, and very good fit and finish make the current version an inviting package. The Mustang delivers good fuel economy (22-24 mpg) for its class.
SMALL SUV: Toyota RAV4 ($24,405 to $30,328). With a four-cylinder engine, the RAV4 delivers some of the best gas mileage in its class (23 mpg). The spirited V6 version accelerates as quickly as many sports sedans and gets only 1 mpg less than the four-cylinder model.
AFFORDABLE FAMILY SEDAN: Hyundai Sonata ($21,800). CR chose the four-cylinder Sonata as a more affordable alternative to the Camry Hybrid. The Sonata provides a roomy, well-equipped cabin, supple ride, nimble handling, and thrifty 27 mpg overall, for just a little bit more money than many small sedans.
FAMILY HAULER: Toyota Sienna V6 ($35,810). The Sienna fits the bill nicely for families looking for a comfortable, roomy interior, plenty of features, and the ability to carry up to eight people. Among its high points are lively performance, decent fuel economy (20 mpg), and a comfortable ride, although the handling is rather lackluster. It’s the only minivan that has at least average reliability.
SPORTS SEDAN: Infiniti G ($34,225 to $37,225). The G37’s agile handling, blistering acceleration, and comfortable, well-crafted interior make it one of CR’s highest-scoring sedans. The G is on this list for the sixth straight year. The less expensive but equally inviting G25 isn’t as quick, but gets 24 mpg overall, 3 more than the G37.
GREEN CAR: Toyota Prius ($26,750 to $28,217). The Prius sets the standard for fuel efficiency, practicality, and affordability with its overall 44 mpg. Its roomy interior, comfortable ride, and hatchback versatility make it easy to live with. The 41 mpg of the new Prius V wagon easily tops its class.
SMALL CAR: Subaru Impreza ($21,345). Redesigned for 2012, the all-wheel-drive Impreza is a well-rounded roomy sedan with nimble handling and a compliant, absorbent ride that rivals some luxury sedans. Fuel economy of 27 mpg overall is impressive for an AWD car.
PICKUP TRUCK: Chevrolet Avalanche ($47,435). The Avalanche provides the best combination of utility and versatility of any pickup CR has tested. Its unified bed and cab help give it a steady, comfortable ride, and the cabin is quiet. Its overall mpg is 14.
FAMILY SUV: Toyota Highlander ($38,578 to $47,255). The refined, comfortable, and quiet Highlander has consistently ranked near the top of its class in CR’s road-test scores and has had above-average reliability. The V6 version delivers a decent 18 mpg overall, and the hybrid model tops all SUVs at 27.