Consumer Reports (CR) has published its annual vehicle reliability survey. The survey ranked cars, trucks, and SUV models on 17 potential trouble spots including engine, power equipment, body, and electronics. The cumulative score of a company’s models determines the brand’s overall reliability ranking for 2021 models.
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The CR survey, which includes over 300,000 vehicles, determines predicted reliability for new vehicles on a 0-100 scale, with the average vehicle being between 41 and 60 points. The fewer the problems, the higher the score. Due to insufficient data, or brands not having enough vehicles, some brands and models were not included in these ratings.
The Most Reliable 2021 SUV
In the survey findings, the Lexus NX. The NX is the company’s entry-level compact crossover with a starting price under $40,000.
The NX blends interior comforts, with lots of standard safety features, and great reliability. It was just one model that helped push Lexus to 3rd overall in brand reliability ratings.
Overall, the top 5 most reliable SUVs in the reliability survey were the NX, Buick Encore, Lexus GX, Honda HR-V, and Hyundai Kona. These models cover the subcompact, compact, luxury, and full-size SUV categories.
The Least Reliable 2021 SUV
The CR survey found that the Ford Explorer was the least reliable SUV. The Explorer was plagued with problems in its engines, electronics, power equipment, body, and transmission. It scored a paltry 1 out of 100 in the reliability survey.
The Explorer, which was redesigned for 2020, was plagued by a rushed production. More specifically, this caused problems with faulty seats, digital displays with buggy software, and loose wiring harnesses.
“The Ford Explorer, redesigned for 2020, is one of the lowest scoring models from any manufacturer — domestic or foreign — this year” – Consumer Reports
The redesigned Ford Escape compact crossover didn’t perform much better. And the subcompact Ecosport crossover was another downer. Overall as a company, Ford did poorly finishing in the bottom 5.
The other lease reliable SUVs based on the survey were the Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, Jeep Compass, and Volvo XC90.
The Least Reliable Car Brand
Ford’s luxury brand, Lincoln, finished as the lowest-rated brand for reliability overall. However, there were other manufacturers they didn’t have enough data to rank including Fiat, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, Mitsubishi, and Land Rover.
Lincolns were plagued with similar problems as described with the Explorer with the Aviator and Corsair having poor reliability.
Mazda Has the Most Reliable Cars
Overall, for the first time ever, Mazda ranked first as the brand with the most reliable vehicles. This is a big win for the Japanese automaker to dethrone Toyota and Lexus at the top spot of the annual vehicle reliability survey.
Mazda’s small CX-3, still subcompact CX-30, and compact CX-5 also performed well in reliability ratings, all scoring 85 or better.
These types of consistent results helped push Mazda into the most reliable car brand spot. We recently ranked the CX-30 on our best SUV list.
The Top 5 Most Reliable Car Brands
In 2020, Lexus took the top spot in the survey. The LS model didn’t fare as well this year and that contributed to dropping the luxury automaker to the third spot. Lexus’ parent company Toyota finished second in the reliability survey for 2021 models.
Buick and Honda rounded out the top five most reliable car brands. Honda’s midsize crossover, the Passport, had reported reliability problems.
What Helped Mazda Have the Most Reliable Vehicles?
Based on the survey Mazda’s success with reliable vehicles is due in part to their use of more durable, six-speed automatic transmissions in lieu of continuously variable transmissions (CVTs).
CVT use is growing in popularity among automakers but they tend to be more fragile and less reliable. That means more repairs, more expense, and a lower reliability score.
Mazda has accomplished while still maintaining above-average fuel economy in their vehicles. And with their crisp handling and quality fit and finish, their vehicles are known to be fun to drive.
CR also noted that Mazda takes an iterative approach to vehicle design. Instead of making wholesale changes on models, they take a more gradual approach to change. This has lead to less flaws with defects and other unexpected flaws due to new technology.
Despite having less emphasis on cabin tech, Mazda still garners excellent safety ratings. It’s subcompact CX-3 model earned an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick+ award for its crash test ratings.
However, if you like touch screens, large infotainment systems, or other advanced tech, Mazda may not be the brand for you.
The Most Improved 2021 SUV
Most Reliable Compact Suv 2020
Buick was the most improved brand for reliability, jumping up 14 spots to the 4th spot overall among carmakers. Its subcompact crossover, the Encore, showed significant improvements in reliability and came in as the second most reliable crossover model.
Other brands that showed improvement in reliability included BMW, with its midsize X5 model making gains, Volvo, with its XC40 performing well, and Jeep with the Wrangler doing better.
German SUV Reliability
Porsche was the highest-ranked European automaker finishing 9th overall among automotive brands in the reliability survey.
Audi was in the middle of the pack. The A5 and A4 models both rated above average. However, its reliability rating was hurt by the subcompact Q3 crossover, the new tech-heavy midsize coupe crossover Q8, and its e-tron electric SUV. These models were found to have below or well below average reliability in the study.
Mercedes may do well on the innovation, comfort, and technology side but they didn’t fare well in reliability. Mercedes finished last among German automakers in the 20th spot.
Tesla’s new Model Y crossover, unfortunately, didn’t fare so well in the CR reliability survey. Reported issues with fit and finish including misaligned body panels and mismatched paint tanked its rating.
The Model Y’s rating was much worse than average. It dragged the electric automaker down to the penultimate spot in the reliability rankings, ahead of only Lincoln.
Keep Reliability in Mind When Buying an SUV
Most Dependable Small Suv
Vehicle reliability is important as not only is it a major headache when your SUV is in the shop, it can be downright costly. Not only can it increase your maintenance and repair costs, but it also can decrease the resale value of your vehicle.
You can learn more about the CR reliability survey and get the overall brand ratings list here. To view how rating have changed over the past year, check out our most and least reliable 2020 SUVs article.
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