Honda has grabbed three places and German luxury cars two, but no American brand has made it onto the influential Consumer Reports list of top cars for 2013.
Lexus was named the top all-around brand, and the twin Toyota 86 Scion and Subaru BRZ speedsters also made the list as the best sports cars, described by the magazine as fun to drive, low-priced and fuel-saving.
The perennial domination by Asian makers on the list was unsurprising, but underscored the still-uphill climb Detroit's Big Three carmakers have to match their foreign rivals on the combination of performance, safety and reliability emphasized by Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports’ annual rankings and regular in-depth car reviews influence the decisions of millions of car buyers across the United States.
The company, independent of marketers and advertising and supported only by subscribers and donations, reviewed 280 cars, weighing their own road and safety tests together with reliability reports based on surveys of 1.2 million subscribers.
The magazine said Detroit's Big Three had made gains, but it could still only recommend half of 26 General Motors models, five of 16 Fords, and just three of 14 Chryslers.
It said GM was being held back by old models and Buick's “sub-par reliability”; Ford and Lincoln by a poor controls interface, “unrefined” dual-clutch transmissions and underperforming engines, and Fiat-controlled Chrysler by an all-around poor range of vehicles, it said.
FEWER THAN HALF
“Overall, Consumer Reports recommends fewer than half of the domestic models the organisation has tested, and most of them come from GM,” it said.
Honda, absent from the 2012 list, took three categories: best midsized sedan, with the Accord; best minivan, with the Odyssey; and best small sport utility vehicle, with the CR-V.
“Honda nailed it with this redesign - it's roomy, nice to drive, well-equipped and very fuel-efficient,” Consumer Reports said of the new Accord.
Toyota's Prius maintained its lock on the best electric car, and its Highlander garnered the best family SUV for the second straight year.
Subaru's all-wheel drive Impreza earned kudos as the best compact car, also for a second year.
“Both sedan and hatchback versions are good, sensible cars, with nimble handling and a compliant, absorbent ride that rivals some luxury sedans,” Consumer Reports said.
After a 10-year absence, both BMW and Audi earned their way back onto the list. Audi's A6, redesigned IN 2012, was named the best luxury car, described as “agile, quick, and a joy to drive” with a “sumptuous” cabin.
And the BMW 328i was the best sports sedan.
Hyundai's Elantra, at $18 445 (R128 000) took the honours as the best budget car.
And Subaru and Toyota completed the list together, their co-developed rear-wheel drive sports cars the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ “exhilarating to drive, with super-sharp handling” and having “impressive fuel consumption and reasonable prices”.
Lexus held onto the top spot, all of its models recommended by Consumer Reports.
“That is quite a feat for a brand whose cars are brimming with technology including impressive hybrid drivetrains and complicated infotainment systems,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' director of automotive testing.
Mazda was named the all-around most reliable brand.
The Americans were not the only one to come in for criticism in Consumer Reports’ 17th annual ranking. European brands were cited for “inconsistency,” with Volkswagen hit for “well-below-average reliability” for its Touareg SUV and the New Beetle.
On the bottom of the European pile was the Mini, the brand ranking 20th of all 26 brands reviewed.