2016 Consumer Reports Survey of the 10 Least Reliable Cars

Article by Christian A., on November 13, 2016

There are many reasons why customers purchase a brand-new car. It could be the likelihood of no-hassle ownership or the fewer instances of service problems over time. But while there’s no guarantee of perfection, we all still want to get the most value for our money.

Consumer Reports recently released its 2016 Annual Auto Survey, which lists the 10 least reliable vehicles. These car owners face the highest risk of visiting their dealerships sooner and more frequently than others.

The same survey considers the different factors that can go wrong, specifically in 17 trouble areas. These include simple nuisances like an interior trim that is broken or noisy brakes, all the way to major problem areas like issues with the 4-wheel drive systems or transmission repairs no longer covered with warranty.

To get to the Overall score, the group took note of how severe each problem is to make a Predicted Reliability Score. This rating is then combined with data sets like safety information, those gathered from track testing, and even owner-satisfaction surveys. The 10 least reliable vehicles are listed below with the top-ranked car being the most problematic.

10. 2016 Fiat 500L - Price as tested: $24,595

General Problem Areas: in-car electronics, drive system, power equipment, lock-up transmission

The general feel is that this latest offering from the Italian automaker is underwhelming and presents some significant flaws. Having a rather odd driving position when combined with the flat seats and the stiff ride resulted in this model obtaining a low road-test score. Owner satisfaction is low as well as the survey showed that a good number of them revealed that it would have been better not to buy this one.

Fiat 500L not only has what may be the worst reliability scores in the survey as in terms of the small-overlap frontal crash test, it has been rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as Poor.

9. 2016 Ford Fiesta - Price as tested: $16,595-$24,985

General Problem Areas: leaks and noises, power equipment, slipping transmission, clutch replacement

The group tested the Fiesta using the 1.6-liter engine (120 hp) paired with the manual 5-speed transmissions. While fuel economy was indeed efficient, the drive felt sluggish at the time.

Pairing the engine with the automatic 6-speed transmission meanwhile resulted in the Fiesta stumbling especially under stop-and-go traffic. There is the option though to go with the Fiesta ST or the 3-cylinder 1.0-liter turbocharged engine. However, the drive is only good if you think your organs can manage the stiff ride.

8. 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon - Price as tested: $60,100

General Problem Areas: in-car electronics, power equipment, steering vibrations

Being fitted with the 5.3-liter V8 engine paired with the automatic 6-speed transmission does not result in good fuel economy and the engine is not responsive as one would expect on a daily drive.

Though having the Magnetic Ride Control suspension helps with the handling response and the ride comfort, the ride remains to be unyielding and comfort is not at its optimum. Overall, SUVs that are car-based show more efficiency and better handling.

7. 2016 Ram 2500 - Price as tested: N/A

General Problem Areas: components of the 4WD, power equipment, emissions control, sensors, steering vibrations

As expected from a heavy-duty truck, the 2500 experiences a tumble in standard fashion. Driving remains to be rigid but having the coil-spring rear suspension ensures that it continues to be a better option than the HD trucks from its rivals.

Using the turbocharged 6.7-liter Cummins Six diesel engine, the tests showed that fuel efficiency was at 14 mpg. Though the Laramie variant brings with it a nice trim for the interior, the rather high step-in height could be a problem for some.

6. 2016 Tesla Model X - Price as tested: N/A

General Problem Areas: in-car electronics, power equipment, locks and latches, climate system, Falcon-wing doors

Generally, the Model X is more about being showy than being a practical vehicle. Though the doors in the rear open in a way that allows for easier access to the seats, it does take some time to complete an operation.

While there are different options when it comes to seating configurations, utility is still compromised considering that the second row cannot be folded. Handling is comparable to the S though noise isolation and ride comfort are not as good.

5. 2016 Chrysler 200 - Price as tested: $25,790-$33,620

General Problem Areas: drive system, rough shifting, lock-up transmission

For a model that belongs in a category where there are a number of excellent and competent choices, the 200 from Chrysler looks to be a mediocre one. In addition to delivering driving that appears to be from a previous generation, the ride is both unsettled and rough while handling is rather clumsy. Even the 4-cylinder engine fitted to it shows underwhelming performance.

The transmission itself is not only difficult to manage but oftentimes appears to be a burden. Going inside, the tightness of the seat in the rear is bound to result in claustrophobia and access is not that easy. The Chrysler 200 did not only get the lower score under the road-test but even obtained the lowest in the Predicted Reliability Rating.

4. 2016 Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL - Price as tested: $69,790

General Problem Areas: in-car electronics, power equipment, rough shifting of the 8-speed transmission, components of the 4-wheel drive

The only positive thing about these models is that they both allow enough room for seven people and their cargo plus offer an interior that is quiet.

Add in the fact that both the second row and third row seats can be folded and have features like the cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring, and that is all you need to know. Other than that, they appear to be the standard hauler.

3. 2016 Jeep Renegade - Price as tested: $27,525

General Problem Areas: radio, power equipment, transmission, drive system

Appearance-wise, this subcompact is attractive. While the 2.4-liter engine has a fuel economy of 24 mpg, the automatic 9-speed transmission paired to it is neither responsive nor smooth.

As such, its ride is unremarkable with handling not that inspiring. Driving experience is also ruined by the touchy brake pedal and the vibration when idle.

2. 2016 Ford Focus - Price as tested: $20,485-$40,990

General Problem Areas: driveline vibrations, slipping transmission, clutch replacement

Available in three versions which are the hatchback, sedan, and electric, the Focus initially looks to be a classy and solid vehicle. The reality is that it is beset with poor reliability and when running at low speeds, its transmission is noticeably erratic.

Though the cabin reveals the use of materials that are of good quality, the space is narrow when compared to newer models from rivals. While the turbocharged 3-cylinder 1.0-liter engine (123 hp) is offered as an option, it is not only slow but fuel economy is the same as the 2.0-liter version which is 29 mpg.

1. 2016 Cadillac Escalade - Price as tested: $87,360

General Problem Areas: in-car electronics, power equipment, 4-wheel drive components, rough shifting, transmission replacement

Marketed as a luxury SUV, the Escalade is unfortunate as it failed in some basic aspects. The ride for example is too stiff. In terms of handling and stopping, this offering from Cadillac does not have the same gracefulness shown by those in the same segment.

Though the interior is indeed roomy, the seats in the second row are not comfortable and those in the third row are even cramped. The only way to get more room would be to avail of the ESV version. Meanwhile the Cue infotainment system fitted inside is confusing. Overall, reliability is scored to be below average.

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