2022 Subaru Ascent

Consumer Reports: Affordable Cars Beat Luxury Cars; Subaru Beats All

2022 Subaru AscentYou’re better off buying the most luxurious trim level of a mainstream car brand than treating yourself to a luxury car. And, when you do buy, look at Japanese brands before going domestic.

Those are two of the remarkable conclusions from the 2022 edition of Consumer Reports’ automotive brand rankings.

CR Rankings are Unique

Many publications rank the best car brands (we can recommend a favorite). CR is unique in that its studies are based partly on road tests, and partly on surveys of its paying members.

That arguably means two things. They’re a thorough examination of the brands CR members own, and they’re weak on examining brands CR members have shied away from. People who pay to join a consumer testing organization may have different tastes than people who don’t, which could skew the results. Some popular brands – such as Ram – are missing entirely because not enough CR members own one. But there is certainly value in an in-depth examination of part of the market.

Shoppers should also keep in mind that there is a lot of variation within any brand. CR explains, “each brand has a range of performance among its vehicles. Shoppers should always research specific models to make sure they find the performance and quality they expect.”

Luxury Cars Have a Complexity Problem

This year, Subaru walked away with top honors, taking the crown from Mazda, which slipped to second. Six of the 10 brands CR most recommends were Japanese. Not one was domestic. And mainstream brands tended to outperform their own luxury divisions.

Why do survey respondents prefer simpler Hondas to more luxurious Acuras, or less-expensive Hyundais to more feature-rich Genesis vehicles, even when they’re built on the same platforms? Because many luxury features “complicate the driving experience rather than making it better,” says Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ senior director of automotive testing.

The same is true of electric cars, Fisher says. “The control systems and things like the door handles are often different than previous gasoline models. All this new technology creates an unreliable vehicle, which is strange because the electric vehicle on its own should be a very reliable system.”

Tesla, the most well-known electric brand (and now America’s best-selling luxury marque), finished 23rd of 32 brands ranked.

Consumer Reports 2022 Automotive Brand Ranking:

CR gives brands a score out of 100 points based on road test impressions, consumer satisfaction surveys, and safety scores. There are no ties in the list because CR calculates scores with decimal values, but doesn’t publish them.

 

Rank Brand Score
1 Subaru 81
2 Mazda 78
3 BMW 78
4 Honda 77
5 Lexus 77
6 Audi 75
7 Porsche 74
8 Mini 74
9 Toyota 74
10 Infiniti 72
11 Buick 72
12 Acura 72
13 Chrysler 71
14 Hyundai 70
15 Nissan 68
16 Dodge 67
17 Volkswagen 67
18 Kia 65
19 Genesis 64
20 Volvo 64
21 Chrysler 63
22 Ford 62
23 Tesla 60
24 Chevrolet 60
25 Mercedes-Benz 60
26 Lincoln 57
27 Jaguar 54
28 Alfa Romeo 50
29 Land Rover 49
30 Mitsubishi 49
31 GMC 48
32 Jeep 45