We all know that the best auto makers aren’t defined by just one car – unless of course we’re talking about an iconic brand like the Lamborghini or Ferrari. For the rest of us, the best car makers are those that consistently deliver a range of vehicles that serve their customers well.

Consumer Reports has taken a look at the best auto brands that have at least two models with test and reliability data and scored them according to road-test performance, reliability, safety and owner satisfaction. The numbers were then averaged to rank the best auto brands that consistently deliver great vehicles.

By the way, some car brands you may have expected to see aren’t in this lineup.

Top 10 Best Auto Brands of 2016

Here’s the final lineup of the top 10 best auto brands for 2016:

10. Honda

Overall Score:                 71

Road-test Score:             73

Predicted Reliability:      Average

According to Consumer Reports, most Honda models have competitive fuel economy and strong resale value. 88 percent of Honda’s models are recommended.  Honda’s reliability, which used to be very good, has declined in recent years. Recent EX models have touch-screen infotainment systems that are frustrating and distracting to use. The driving experience, ride comfort and noise isolation are just average. Exceptions are the Honda Accord sedan and Odyssey minivan which are both roomy and capable.

Side note: By the way, for those of you who remember the 2012 Honda Fit, it’s still in Honda’s model lineup though no longer aimed just at women. A disastrous marketing and design idea from the start, the Fit was named and aimed for “She’s” – those delicate women “lady drivers”. The sub-compact came in an awful shade of pink, with a pink leather steering when and pink plated air conditioning. Yes, it also had special UV-protective windshields to protect our delicate skin and a heart in place of the apostrophe in the name “She’s”.  Thankfully, the vehicle was only available in Japan, and only for two years. And even more thankfully, someone at Honda finally realized that women buy cars for the same reasons men do.


9. Kia

Overall Score:                 72

Road-test Score:             75

Predicted Reliability:      Better than Average

Only 67 percent of Kia’s models are recommended but over the last few years, the Kia brand has overhauled its entire lineup of cars and now has a nice portfolio of cars and SUVs that are both stylishly modern and great value. Reliability has been improving ranging from average to well above average. A range of powertrain options offer good acceleration and fuel economy.

8. Toyota

Overall Score:                 72

Road-test Score:             69

Predicted Reliability:      Best

The Toyota brand is very well known for its reliability and it receives a best rating from Consumer Reports in this category. However, Toyota suffers from inconsistency with some of its models road tests, with only 62 percent of models recommended. Toyota’s models did well with refined powertrains, good fuel economy, good noise isolation, comfortable rides and intuitive controls. The Toyota Camry is a consistent standout and best seller, and the RAV4 and Highlander consistently score at the top of their class for SUVs. The Prius is a fuel-economy champion and hybrid technology is available throughout much of the Toyota line.

7. Buick

Overall Score:                 74

Road-test Score:             76

Predicted Reliability:      Better than average

Buick’s lineup of vehicles tend to be upscale and refined, though not particularly modern. A respectable 80 percent of its models are recommended. The only American manufacturer in the list of best auto brands, Buick is trying to shed it’s old-fashioned image with a redesigned product line that’s positioned between mainstream and luxury brands. The sporty Cascada convertible and redesigned LaCrosse sedan will soon be joined by an Envision SUV.

6. Mazda

Overall Score:                 74

Road-test Score:             74

Predicted Reliability:      Better than average

While Mazda’s road-test score came in lower than Buick’s, 100% of its models are recommended by Consumer Reports. For those of us who enjoy the driving experience Mazda provides plenty of it. Using lightweight construction and efficient powertrain technology, Mazda provides excellent fuel economy. Easy handling and good reliability are strong points, but design gaps remain with noise isolation and ride comfort.

5. BMW

Overall Score:                 76

Road-test Score:             85

Predicted Reliability:      Average

As expected, the German BMW had the highest road-test score among all auto brands. Unfortunately, reliability is this car maker’s weakest area, and only 50 percent of test models are recommended. To remain competitive these days, BMW has focused on technology, comfort, refinement and fuel efficiency. It has a good range of sporty and luxury models, including a nice variety of SUVs and hybrids.

4. Porsche

Overall Score:                 76

Road-test Score:             84

Predicted Reliability:      Average

Another luxury brand, Porsche’s overall, road test and reliability scores are almost identical to BMW’s, with a slightly higher 60% of its models recommended. Porsche has also taken pains to expand its product line and now includes two SUVs and a luxury 4-door along with its sports models. With the same Porsche DNA of high performance that we’ve come to expect embedded into every model, Porsche never fails to deliver on handling, control and luxuriously crafted interiors. Hybrid technology is also available.

3. Lexus

Overall Score:                 76

Road-test Score:             74

Predicted Reliability:      Best

Dropping significantly for its road-test score compared to Porsche, Lexus’ reliability score far surpasses that of Porsche and BMW, lifting its overall score to 76. Additionally, 88% of Lexus models are recommended. Lexus’ reputation for excellent value is exemplified by it’s well finished interiors, fairly powerful yet smooth rides, and good fuel efficiency. Owner satisfaction consistently scores high with the Lexus brand. While the GX SUV design is a bit outdated, the new RX and NX SUV designs are daring, sleek and modern.

2. Subaru

Overall Score:                 78

Road-test Score:             80

Predicted Reliability:      Better than average

Subaru’s reputation for reliability and consistency are what drove this auto maker to almost the top of this list. 100 percent of models tested for this brand are recommended. Consumer satisfaction consistently rates this Japanese automaker highly. Good fuel economy, a comfortable ride, roomy interiors and intuitive controls all contribute to an overall great driving experience. Subaru has recently added a suite of high-tech safety features and a contemporary infotainment system to most of its models.


1. Audi

Overall Score:                 80

Road-test Score:             83

Predicted Reliability:      Better than average

At the top of our top 10 best auto brands list is the German car manufacturer, Audi. A luxury brand known for technology and performance, as well as stylish, beautifully crafted interiors, reliability has also improved more recently to solidly above average. Audi’s line of sports cars, SUVs, sedans and coupes are consistently excellent with 100% of its models recommended.

Worth Noting

Some of the more recent emissions scandals affected the list of brands and vehicle models that were assessed in this report. Neither Audi nor Volkswagen diesel vehicles were included in the scoring. As the recent scandals have affected the reputations of both of these auto makers, Consumer Reports did not include vehicles that have been pulled from dealership showrooms.

It’s worth noting that most American car manufacturers did not make it into the top 10 list, including Ford, Chevrolet, Lincoln and GMC. A few notable German and Japanese automakers, such as Mercedes and Nissan, and the leading Swedish manufacturer Volvo, also scored well below other auto makers.  While road test scores were somewhat comparable to those in the top ten list, reliability and consistency across the product line were the biggest factors for these brands’ overall lower scores.

What It Means For You

If you’re in the market for a new or used vehicle, make sure you do your homework not just on the car manufacturer, but on the brand as whole. The best auto brands are those that have a history of caring about their products and their customers. While safety, fuel economy, style and drive-ability are all important factors, reliability and consistency across the entire product line are great indicator of a car manufacturer’s commitment to excellence.