Best Cars of 2007: Consumer Reports vs. Car and Driver
Consumer Reports released its top picks for 2007, which lists the organization’s favorite cars in several categories. Here is their methodology:
Our Top Picks are recommended vehicles that have met our stringent requirements in three key areas: Testing. Of the more than 250 vehicles weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve recently tested, each Top Pick has scored at or near the top of its category. Reliability. Each has proven average or better in reliability, which is based on more than 1.3 million responses to our Annual Car Reliability Survey. Safety. Top Picks also performed at least adequately in overall crash protection if tested by the government or the insurance industry…
Here is the list of Consumer Reports’ choices.
Fun to Drive: Mazda MX-5 Miata
Small SUV: Toyota RAV4
Small Sedan: Honda Civic (I drive a 2004 Civic)
Family Sedan: Honda Accord
Minivan: Toyota Sienna
Luxury Sedan: Infiniti M35
Midsized SUV: Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Budget Cars: Honda Fit
Green Car: Toyota Prius
Upscale Sedan: Infiniti G35
This list has much in common with Car and Driver’s 10 Best in 2007 list, but there are some notable differences. Consumer Reports includes not one American car, while Car and Driver includes the Corvette and Chrysler 300, as well as representation from BMW, Volkswagen, and Porsche.
Why such a wide discrepency between the two lists? Here’s Car and Driver’s methodology:
First, how well the car performs its intended functions. We expect sports cars to be fast and exhilarating, while we presume a family sedan will be practical. Second, we show a preference for the more engaging cars in each category; be it better driving manners, a double-take-inducing look, or a powerful engine. Finally, we are suckers for a good deal, so an inexpensive car that’s fast, fun, and practical will certainly rise to the top of our list.
It’s interesting the Car and Driver mention getting a “good deal,” while Consumer Reports doesn’t. However, the latter seems to feature more generally affordable vehicles, like the Honda Civic and Accord. Do these lists reveal a bias against or towards manufacturers headquartered in the United States (“American” cars)?
Cameron Johnson says American cars are high-quality but have a bad reputation. Then again, his family has been in the Ford business for generations and he is a business consultant for the automaker.
Here is how I judge quality. I mentally tally cars I see disabled in the breakdown lane (shoulder) while I travel every day on the highway. If all cars are created equal, the proportion of brands broken down should equal the proportion sold. There are of course other variables. For example, perhaps some cars are more likely to be owned longer and thus the average condition is worse. Regardless, my informal survey makes me feel comfortable about my Honda Civic. The only one I’ve ever seen towed is mine, but that wasn’t due to the quality of the car.
I too noticed the complete lack of American cars as well on CR’s list. I thought “well that’s odd, I know American car firms get a bad rep and all, but none?” Surprising, especially given that the 2001 Ford Focus that my dad owns has never gone wrong, not once in the 150k+ miles he’s driven it. Especially given the revamped auto lines. Especially given Ford’s new CEO’s strive to higher quality. And what about the German cars? I have driven in my friend’s G35 and noted that the tire roar is comparable to my Z4 with the top up… and the 335i I drove while my car was in scheduled maintenance was sublime. Guess the reviewer for the G35 was hard of hearing, or didn’t care that your eardrums bled while driving.
That does it, CR is just a front for the Japanese auto firms and I’ll discard anything they say until they get unbiased.
Russ: You do know that it’s not the same people, teams, or departments reviewing kitchen appliances who review cars at CR, right? They have specialists, just like Car & Driver. CR auto reviewers know their stuff, too. In fact, they don’t get special versions of cars sent to them like Car & Driver does. They go out and buy the cars just like a consumer would, and the salespeople do not know they work for CR. I’ve spoken with someone who works for CR in the auto review dept — a friend of a friend — and it’s amazing what they go through.
Being that Consumer Reports reviews almost every type of consumer product, I give much more credence to Car & Driver. They know their stuff.
However, I do think Consumer Reports’ guide to used cars and their reliability is definitely worthwhile if you’re looking to buy a car that’s a few years old.
It’s good to see that Autoweek magazine is not the only magazine being covered in comparison type surveys. Car and Driver is one of our more popular magazine subscriptions at MagMall. So you are on the right track.
I feel vehicle reliability is directly related to the maintence performed by the owner. I’ve had my fair share of domestics and I’ve never had a problem with any of them – the most recent I sold at 226k miles.
I also don’t like weighting user experiences since I feel those are biased. When you go into a product expecting it to be a certain way, you’re either going to go out of your way to find things wrong, or you’ll ignore minor things altogether.
The cars they chose really show a lot about the readership. The Consumer Reports is often about quality, while the Car and Driver is a bit more of a flashy, performance car enthuisist site.
You don’t need to go to another website to confirm what I’ll tell you right here: The Miata IS fun to drive. I love mine.
The Truth About Cars has a good editorial about Consumer Reports’ lack of transparency regarding their scoring. In contrast, other magazines explain how each feature is weighted.