- Helping you drive happy

Consumer Reports’ Most Reliable Brands in 2020: Mazda Leads, Ford Falls

Mazda MX-5 | Photo: D.Boshouwers
Get the best interest rate
Daniel Rufiange
Surprise, Toyota and Lexus aren’t hogging the top of the podium this year

Yesterday, Consumer Reports magazine presented its list of manufacturers with the most reliable and least reliable vehicle lineups in the industry. To the surprise of many, accustomed no doubt to seeing the names Toyota and Lexus show up at the top of the annual Auto Reliability Survey, Mazda has taken top honours in 2020.

This is quite a big, colourful feather in the Japanese automaker’s cap.

According to Consumer Reports, one of the reasons Mazda was able to take top spot was thanks to its powertrains, which use solid and durable 6-speed automatic transmissions instead of continuously variable transmissions, which are generally more fragile. Mazda also didn't rely on overly sophisticated multimedia systems. Rather, it has ignored industry trends by proposing systems that discourage the use of touchscreen functions while driving. Rather, the controls are operated using thumbwheels on the centre console, and this can largely be done without taking one’s eyes off the road.

See also: Porsche Named Top Car Brand in Consumer Reports 2020 Study

The Mazda model with the best reliability record was the MX-5 with a score of 98 out of 100, followed by the new CX-30, CX-3 and CX-5. In all cases, models received scores of 85 points or higher.

Overall, Toyota and Lexus still ranked well above average, taking second and third place respectively; Mazda's arrival at the top of the heap ended a six-year domination by those brands. Lexus was affected by problems with the new LS, though Consumer Reports didn’t specify the nature of those problems.

Discover Shopicar! All new makes and models and all current promotions.

2020 Toyota Camry
2020 Toyota Camry | Photo: D.Boshouwers

The climbers
Buick was the most improved brand, gaining 14 spots to place 4th. The American premium brand can thank it Encore for that, the SUV having earned a score of 91 points. Honda moved up 7 spots to complete the top 5, a nice reversal for the company that’s had a few setbacks in recent years. The automaker did get penalized by the by poor results earned by its Passport and Odyssey models (between 30 and 40 points each).

Among European brands, Porsche did best with a 9th place. BMW moved up 5 rungs to 12th place, while Audi maintained its midfield position in 14th. And Mercedes-Benz? 20th.

Buick Encore
Buick Encore | Photo: Buick

The fallers
As usual, we can’t help but take a gander at the other end of the list. The bottom feeders this year are Ford, Mini, Volkswagen, Tesla and Lincoln. In the latter case, Ford's luxury division actually dropped 11 places this year to sit dead last. To be fair, the end of production of the Continental and MKZ sedans, two models that generally performed well on the reliability test, hurt it. At Ford, the Explorer struggled to score many points at all. The problems that have dogged the latest edition after its launch, which ranged from the engines to the body, electrical equipment, electronics and transmission, made for a woeful performance on Consumer Reports’ appraisal system. Ford assures us all the issues have been resolved. If that's the case, things should right themselves for the automaker in next year’s ranking.

At Tesla, meanwhile, the new Model Y dragged the electric carmaker down to second-to-last place among brands. Owners of Model Y, which went into production in January, reported problems with misaligned body panels that needed to be repaired and mismatched paint, including, in one case, human hair caught in the paint, according to Consumer Reports. The Model Y finished with a reliability rating of "much worse than average".

2020 Ford Explorer
2020 Ford Explorer | Photo: Ford

Consumer Reports' rankings are established annually based on a survey of 300,000 consumer-owned vehicles. The results are tabulated based on the number of complaints received; the lower the number of complaints, the higher the score.

It should be noted that the more vehicles a manufacturer has, the more stable its ranking is likely to be, as its entire lineup (averaged out) is used to establish its score. If a firm offers only two or three models, it can move up the ranking quickly if they do well, but it can quickly fall to the bottom end of the ranking if their vehicles generate complaints.

As for Mazda, it's the crowning achievement of years of work, as we've gradually seen the reliability bonafides of several of the firm's models grow in recent years. The 2020 result is a consecration of the company’s efforts. Now, the hard part will be to maintain its position at the top.

2020 Mazda Mazda3 Sport GT
2020 Mazda Mazda3 Sport GT | Photo: D.Boshouwers

Here is the full Consumer Reports ranking.

1 – Mazda     83
2 – Toyota    74
3 – Lexus     71
4 – Buick    70
5 – Honda     63
6 – Hyundai     62
7 – Ram    58
8 – Subaru     57
9 – Porsche    55
10 – Dodge    54
11 – Infiniti    54
12 – BMW     52
13 – Nissan    51
14 – Audi     46
15 – Kia     45
16 – GMC     43
17 – Chevrolet 42
18 – Volvo    41
19 – Jeep     41
20 – Mercedes-Benz     40
21 – Cadillac    38
22 – Ford    38
23- Mini    37
24 – Volkswagen 36
25 – Tesla     29
26 – Lincoln    8

Daniel Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 75 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 250 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists