Consumer Reports, the independent and non-profit champion of All Things Reliable, has published its 2016 list of the 10 most reliable cars and, surprise-surprise, fully half the list is comprised of Toyota and Lexus models.
But right off the top, we'll point out what we see as a flaw in CR's normally solid reliability reporting: nearly half of the cars made it onto this list are brand-new designs whose inclusion is based on just one year's worth of data from the organization's annual auto survey. They include the Chevrolet Cruze, Toyota Prius, Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class.
We feel the need to point this out because CR, elsewhere in its used vehicle purchase advice pages, suggests never buying a brand new or redesigned model in its first year on the market in order to avoid bugs that can make those first-year models less dependable than subsequent model years.
A fifth model inclusion, the Infiniti Q70, was also based on a single year of data because the car simply didn't sell in large enough numbers prior to 2015 for CR to rate its reliability.
To us, one year is not enough time to make predictions about a vehicle's durability for a used-car buyer looking for something they can hopefully drive trouble-free for another four or five years. Nonetheless, these are the cars CR thinks will give their owners fewer headaches than their competitors, based on data collected on more than a half-million vehicles.
Number one on the list is the all-new Toyota Prius. We won't quibble too much here, because we know the Prius as one of the most reliable vehicles of any kind, anywhere, despite its relatively complex hybrid drive system.
It's followed by the Lexus CT 200h, whose inclusion is unsurprising given its last-generation Prius underpinnings and drivetrain.
Third is the Infiniti Q70, a big luxury sedan that was called the M37 before Infiniti revamped its nomenclature around the letter Q for the 2014 model year. This car has been around, largely unchanged, since 2007, so CR unfortunately has nothing more to say about its long-term reliability prospects. But we've done our research, and feel the Q70, and its M37/M56 forebear, is a solid luxury car.
Number four is Audi's Q3 subcompact crossover. Curiously, CR says this one's inclusion is based on more than a year's worth of survey data, and yet they have no reliability data listed on the Q3's model page, despite the car having launched as a 2015. But CR says the larger Q5's reliability rates average at best since its introduction in 2009; maybe CR has more confidence in the quality control at the Spanish factory where the Q3 is assembled than the Ingolstadt plant that cranks out the Q5.
Fifth on the list is the Lexus GX mid-size SUV. Here's another slow seller that has only generated enough data to allow CR to publish durability ratings for 2008, 2014 and 2015 models. Still, knowing what we know about Lexus and its Toyota parent, we can't quibble with the GX's inclusion here.
Same goes for the Lexus GS sedan, which places sixth here. CR's data is more extensive in this case, with the GS earning a "much better than average" used car reliability ranking.
Mercedes-Benz' new GLC compact crossover gets the number seven spot. While CR doesn't have any reliability info on this car's GLK-Class predecessor, we know that model to be uncharacteristically trouble-free for an upscale German car, so we have no issue with the GLC's inclusion.
The Chevrolet Cruze occupies the eighth position on the list, with its all-new body and a selection of new engines. CR seems confident this second-generation design will fare better than the original, which has exhibited strictly average long-term reliability, at least from the car's 2011 launch through 2013, and wasn't good enough to earn CR's "good bet" used car rating. We like this new Cruze a lot, but we're not quite ready to call it one of the most reliable cars around.
Next up is Audi's big and brand-new-for-2017 Q7 SUV. CR has reliability data on two most recent model years (2015 and 2016) for the first-generation Q7, in which it earns "much worse than average" (2015) and "much better than average" (2016) ratings. Excellent and terrible average out to, well, average, and Audi's skill at engineering electrical quirks into their cars doesn't inspire us with confidence for the long-term ownership experience. And again, the organization is telling us a brand-new design is one of the most reliable out there, when elsewhere it says to avoid brand-new designs until their makers have worked out the weirdness.
Indeed, we find it interesting that two Audi SUV/crossover models placed ahead of the Toyota 4Runner on this list. This truck is well-known for being a tough customer, even as it gained refinement and luxury through the first half of this decade. CR even gives the 4Runner its "good bet" rating as a used vehicle purchase, and we think it deserves to be placed higher in this ranking.