Honda Fit, Hyundai Elantra and the Chevrolet Avalanche got high marks from Consumer Reports in its annual auto report card.
The influential consumer guide said Honda and Subaru make the best vehicles overall, while Ford posted the largest quality gains among the major automakers. Ford improved in both the road tests of its vehicles and its reliability scores.
Ford has made greater strides than rival American automakers General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group in recent years, according to Consumer Reports. With a score of 67 based on combined road tests and reliability, it was ranked the top U.S. auto company.
"Current offerings such as the Fusion, Flex and Mustang have been impressive, and even the new Fiesta scored well in tests," the magazine said.
Honda Motor Co., including its Acura division, had the highest overall score, 74, and the best reliability record of any manufacturer, the magazine said.
Subaru was just behind in second place with a score of 73.
Despite a year of big recalls for unintended acceleration, sticking gas pedals and other problems, Toyota still did well in the Consumer Reports tests, finishing in third place with 71 points. The magazine said that the company's Toyota, Lexus and Scion models "remain solid choices overall," although some of the newer vehicles "have slipped in interior fit and finish."
Toyota vehicles also made up three of Consumer Reports' 10 top picks.
General Motors, with 56 points, has also improved its average road-test and reliability scores. Consumer Reports said it liked newer GM models such as the Buick Enclave and LaCrosse and the Chevrolet Equinox and Traverse. But the company was still well down in rankings because of its older models.
Chrysler came in last in the class, with a score of just 43.
The magazine named the Honda Fit the best budget car and the Hyundai Elantra the best small car. It said the Nissan Altima was the best family sedan and the Toyota RAV4 was the best small SUV. The Toyota Prius hybrid was the best "green" car and the Kia Sorento was the best family SUV. That was the first Kia to make the Consumer Reports list of top picks.
The Ford Mustang was the best sporty car and the Toyota Sienna was the best "family hauler." The Infiniti G37 was named the best sports sedan and the Chevrolet Avalanche was best pickup truck.
The magazine was not enamored with expensive German luxury cars. It said Mercedes-Benz and BMW had below-average reliability; they finished near the bottom of the rankings. Both had just 57 points, only a point ahead of General Motors.
The SUVs from both brands had especially poor reliability marks. Mercedes-Benz was the only manufacturer "with the dubious distinction of having year-over-year drops" in both its average road-test and reliability ratings ? from average to below average.
The Consumer Reports report card is based on tests of more than 270 models. Each automaker's overall score is based on a composite of road-test and predicted-reliability scores for all its tested models.