Japan's Mazda zoomed to the top of Consumer Reports' annual reliability survey, marking the first time the carmaker was crowned most dependable and beating out traditional winners in the process.
Despite being "a little bit conservative when it comes to new technology", the Fuchu, Hiroshima-headquartered brand's cars and SUVs are "still fun to drive", said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing for the magazine and website.
“A lot of times new technology gives us trouble,” he added.
Some Mazdas don’t have touch screens, which often are a source of problems in the surveys, Fisher said. And the company still uses six-speed automatic transmissions while others have gone to more efficient but sometimes glitch-prone continuously variable or nine- and 10-speed transmissions, he said.
Mazda has also bucked industry trends as it doesn't rely on overly-fancy infotainment systems, with cockpits that discourage screen use during driving and encourage buttons and dials that can be handled without taking your eyes off the road.
The most reliable Mazda was the MX-5 with a score of 98 out of 100, followed by the CX-30, CX-3 and CX-5, all scoring 85 or better.
The company beat out traditional winners Lexus and Toyota to be the most dependable auto brand in the survey, which this year included Consumer Reports organisation members who own more than 300,000 vehicles from model years 2000 to 2020.
Ford and its Lincoln luxury brand fell in the survey with Lincoln finishing last among 26 brands after introducing new SUVs. Electric car maker Tesla was second from the bottom with reliability troubles on three of its four models.
After Mazda, Toyota, Lexus, Buick and Honda rounded out the top five brands. Following Lincoln and Tesla, Volkswagen, Mini and Ford were the five lowest-scoring brands.
Normally high-scoring Buick jumped two spots after cancelling two unreliable cars, the Regal and Regal TourX, Fisher said.
Consumer Reports said that the Ford Explorer SUV, redesigned for the 2020 model year, is among the lowest-scoring models of any manufacturer with transmission, electronic and engine issues. The redesigned Ford Escape also was subpar, the magazine said.
Ford’s Lincoln luxury brand shares underpinnings with the Fords, so it dropped to last place after discontinuing two reliable sedans, the Continental and MKZ, Consumer Reports said.
Closely-watched Tesla had problems with the newly introduced Model Y SUV, Fisher said, with many owners reporting issues with misaligned body panels and mismatched paint. One owner reported that hair was stuck in the paint, he said. Only the company’s Model 3 small car was rated as reliable and recommended by Consumer Reports. “It’s surprising with all the technology on Teslas, it’s somewhat the basic issues they seem to struggle with,” Fisher said.
Dozens of new models came out last year, and that caused a reshuffling of the brands. Nearly half of the new models have much worse than average reliability, Consumer Reports said.
Many buyers check the magazine and website’s rankings before making their purchases.
The 2020 rankings were released at an online meeting of the Automotive Press Association of Detroit.
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