Consumer Reports: Low-Scoring Japanese Cars

Japanese carmakers take all five top spots in Consumer Reports' list of "who makes the best cars." Those winning companies are Acura, Lexus, Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota. But not all Japanese cars earn accolades at the Consumer Reports test track.

One car that really disappointed Consumer Reports was the Acura RLX. The luxury sedan costs $55,000, and it’s just not competitive. For $16,000 less, Consumer Reports says the Chevrolet Impala delivers a much more comfortable ride and handles better.

NBC 5 reached out to Acura and this was the company's response:

The RLX is the most advanced sedan Acura has ever offered. And with a starting price of $48,450, it is very competitively priced. The RLX comes equipped with a very long list of standard features, as any luxury sedan should. Upper trim levels offer advanced driver assist technologies like Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking System and Lane Keep Assist. When so equipped the RLX typically costs thousands less than comparably equipped luxury sedans, assuming these advanced features are even available on said competitors.

The Acura RLX with Technology package that Consumer Reports tested, was among the most affordable sedans in it's competitive set, and had among the highest overall fuel economy (23 mpg). And, befitting a flagship model, Consumer Reports rated the interior fit and finish, 'excellent' -- the best score possible. Additionally, the RLX scored very competitively in braking performance, emergency handling, acceleration, driving position, visibility, and seat comfort. The overall composite score of these indices earned the RLX the best possible score of 'excellent' in this category (Accident Avoidance).

The RLX is off to a very strong start in the market, outselling the previous model several times over. The previous model, the Acura RL, was exceptionally reliable and we expect the RLX to be the same. It is an Acura after all, and Acura's are well known for being very reliable and having low repair costs.

Chris Naughton
Northeast Regional Manager
Public Relations
Honda North America, Inc.

Another Japanese car that Consumer Reports does not recommend is the Honda Crosstour. It aims to have the comfort of a sedan, the flexibility of an SUV, and the cargo space of a station wagon. The problem is it doesn’t really do any of that well.

NBC 5 reached out to Honda and this was the company's response:

Although we appreciate the opinions of the editors of Consumer Reports, we feel strongly the 2013 Honda Crosstour offers unique and rugged styling, class-leading fuel efficiency and innovative features that Crosstour owners love.

In fact, via focus groups and surveys, Crosstour customers are very pleased with both the performance and the functionality of their vehicle, and report high overall levels of satisfaction.

Our customers enjoy Crosstour's award winning Honda LaneWatch™ blind-spot display, which uses a camera system mounted on the passenger mirror to provide an enhanced rearward view of the passenger-side roadway, and other features such as the available Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Forward Collision Warning (FCW) systems, and other high-tech driver aides.

Sara Pines
Honda Public Relations
Honda North America

Some small Nissans also score too low for a Consumer Reports recommendation. The Nissan Sentra is good on gas, but handling isn’t agile, it’s noisy inside, and the front seats are uncomfortable. The subcompact Nissan Versa has those same drawbacks, and it hasn’t proved very reliable.

NBC 5 reached out to Nissan North America and this was the company's response:

Nissan is greatly interested in third party reviews and, more importantly, our customers’ feedback. We constantly strive to refine and improve all of our products in order to continue exceeding customer expectations.

The Nissan Versa has led its segment in sales for 38 out of the past 42 months because it offers an outstanding combination of versatility, style and technology in an affordable package. The all-new Nissan Sentra sales are up more than 18 percent year over year, and it recently topped 15 competitors to win AutoPacific’s Best in Class Award for Compacts.

Nissan is confident that automotive consumers will experience the quality and superior value of our products when they take a test drive.

Consumer Reports also doesn't recommend Toyota’s least-expensive car, the Yaris. Though the Yaris is very reliable and fuel efficient, it just feels extremely cheap and unpleasant to drive. For the same money, about $16,000, Consumer Reports says you’re better off with the Hyundai Accent.

NBC 5 reached out to Toyota and this was the company's response:

We are disappointed in Consumer Reports' subjective assessment of the Yaris and recognize that this is a matter of different driver expectations and preferences. By numerous objective measures the Yaris delivers economical, reliable and durable performance that satisfies the practical needs of many compact car buyers.

Two other Japanese carmakers, Mazda and Subaru, have an excellent record at Consumer Reports' test track. Almost all of their models are recommended.

Though Japanese cars often earn top scores and are often quite reliable, Consumer Reports says it’s not a sure thing.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports' website.

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