Subaru climbs, Tesla falls in Consumer Reports’ top brands of 2022

February 17, 2022

Subaru climbed to the top spot in Consumer Reports' annual rankings of 32 automotive brands, while Tesla suffered the biggest drop from last year, falling seven spots that resulted in a 23rd-place ranking. Six of the top 10 brands were Japanese makes, and the top 10 cars by category ranged from the Nissan Sentra to the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the nonprofit organization announced Thursday. 

The top 10 brands for performance, safety, owner satisfaction, and predicted reliability are, in order: Subaru, Mazda, BMW, Honda, Lexus, Audi, Porsche, Mini, Toyota, and Infiniti.  

"Brands that rise to the top tend to have the most consistent performance across their model lineups," Jake Fisher, senior director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. "For mainstream brands like Subaru, Mazda, and Honda to have such a strong showing is remarkable. For consumers, it shows that you don’t need to splurge on a luxury brand to get a safe, satisfying, and reliable car.”

The annual report card weighs four main categories based on more than 50 tests for each evaluated vehicle: independent road tests of new vehicles purchased anonymously by the consumer research magazine; active crash and safety tests conducted by the NHTSA and the IIHS, with extra points awarded to vehicles that come with automatic emergency braking; owner satisfaction based on "hundreds of thousands" of owner survey responses asking if they'd buy that same vehicle again given the chance; and predicted reliability based on owner survey responses to 17 trouble spots in the organization's annual survey. 

The criteria results in an overall score for each model to give a composite brand ranking, which is why consistency is key for CR's rankings. 

"Subaru is quite conservative with their redesigns, which I think helps their rating," Fisher explained in a call. "The redesigned Forester is hard to tell one from (its predecessor)."

The refreshed 2022 Forester earned a spot in CR's 2022 Top 10 Picks in the small SUV category with a price range of $25,000 to $35,000. Of the 10 category model winners, half of them also received a Green Choice designation, indicating they emit "among the lowest amount of greenhouse gases and other pollutants," according to CR

Green Choice vehicles included the 2022 Nissan Sentra for a small car that costs less than $25,000; the 2022 Toyota Prius hybrid and Prius Prime for hybrids and plug-in hybrids costing less than $35,000; the 2022 Honda Accord mid-size sedan, with special mention for its available hybrid powertrain; the 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime for a two-row SUV costing less than $45,000; and the 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E electric vehicle priced between $45,000 and $55,000.

The Mach-E usurped the spot taken by the Tesla Model 3 in recent years, though CR still recommends the Model 3. Why the Ford Mustang Mach-E now?

"It's simply better," Fisher said. "It’s a bit easier to live with, so far the reliability is above average. We'll have to keep an eye on it as it ages but right now we're hearing very few problems from owners."

Fisher explained that its rating benefited from Ford's Blue Cruise advanced driver-assist system that keeps the driver engaged and monitored in hands-free driving scenarios, unlike Tesla. Direct driver monitoring is a key distinction in safety analysis this year. Top 10 picks must have standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection that operates at highway speeds as well. 

"Even without (Blue Cruise), Mach-E would be a Top Pick," Fisher said. 

Tesla as a brand fell seven spots for the opposite reason Subaru climbed two spots to the top: aggressive updates to its most expensive products, the Tesla Model S full-size sedan and Tesla Model X three-row SUV, which both dropped 10 points. 

Tesla Model S yoke steering wheel in use

Tesla Model S yoke steering wheel in use

"They replaced the steering wheel with a yoke," Fisher said. "They removed the shifter, the turn signal, the horn...it's all operated by capacitive controls. It makes these great-to-drive vehicles frustrating to drive."

Most American brands fared worse than Tesla at 23rd, followed in order by Chevrolet, Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, GMC, and lastly, Jeep. 

“Jeep is no stranger at the bottom," Fisher reasoned. "I don’t think Wrangler owners are surprised when they see (Wranglers) don’t ride well, are noisy, are not fuel efficient. They know it and they’re OK with it. We just lay out the facts. Owners can still be happy with the Wrangler.”

For the complete rankings, visit Consumer Reports

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