Car Quality Ratings 2011 – Consumer Reports' Top 10 Best-Value Cars

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Recently, Consumer Reports published the 2011 list of new cars offering the best value to the discerning consumer. CR uses the Value Score to identify the cars that offer the most in reliability and performance for the least amount of money. The Value Score is a composite quality index that encompasses a vehicle’s 5-year ownership cost per mile, its road-test score, and its predicted short-term reliability rating. This article lists the Top 10 best-value automobiles by Value Score and the second 10 best buys.

The Top 10 Best-Value automobiles by Consumer Reports’ multi-factor Value Score, in approximate descending order (best first), are:

The base Honda Fit, a small 4-door hatchback,
The manual transmissionVolkswagen Golf TDI, a small hatchback,
The 4-door, 2.5-liter, 5-cylinder, 6-speed automatic transmission Volkswagen Golf 2.5, a small hatchback,
The base, 2-door, 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder, 6-speed manual transmission Mini Cooper,
The 4-door, 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder, 5-speed automatic transmission Honda Civic EX, a small car,
The 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder, 4-speed automatic transmission Toyota Corolla LE, a small sedan,
The 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder, 6-speed automatic transmission Hyundai Sonata GLS, a family sedan,
The Toyota Prius IV, a 4-door, family-size, hybrid hatchback,
The 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder, 6-speed automatic transmission Toyota Camry LE, a family-size sedan,
The 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder, 4-speed automatic transmission Subaru Forester 2.5X, a small, 4-door, all-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicle.

The next ten Best Buys are:

The base, 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder, 4-speed automatic transmission Toyota RAV4, a small, 4-door sport-utility vehicle,
The Toyota Camry Hybrid, a family-size sedan,
The 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder Nissan Altima 2.5 S, a family-size sedan,
The 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium, an all-wheel-drive, family-size sedan,
The 5-speed automatic transmission Mazda5 Grand Touring, a 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder, 182-inch wagon,
The 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel, 6-speed manual transmission Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen, a 179-inch wagon,
The 4-speed automatic transmission Hyundai Elantra Touring, a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, 176-inch wagon,
The Honda CR-V EX, a small, 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder, 5-speed automatic transmission, 4-door sport-utility vehicle,
The V6 Toyota RAV4 Limited, a small 4-door SUV,
The 4-cylinder Mitsubishi Outlander SE, a small 4-door sport-utility vehicle.

All of the foregoing automobiles have a Value Score of 1.5 (rounded to the nearest tenth) or better. The base Honda Fit has the highest Value Score, 1.97. A vehicle with a Value Score of 1.5 is rated by Consumer Reports as having a value that is 1.5 times the average value.

The above vehicles listed by 5-year ownership cost per mile are:

Base Honda Fit
Toyota Corolla LE
Base, manual Mini Cooper
Toyota Prius IV
Manual Volkswagen Golf TDI
Honda Civic EX
Volkswagen Golf 2.5
Manual Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI
4-cylinder Toyota Camry LE
Subaru Forester 2.5X

Hyundai Sonata GLS
Toyota Camry Hybrid
Hyundai Elantra Touring
Base, 4-cylinder Toyota RAV4
4-cylinder Nissan Altima 2.5 S
Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium
Honda CR-V EX
4-cylinder Mitsubishi Outlander SE
Mazda5 Grand Touring
V6 Toyota RAV4 Limited.

The 5-year ownership cost per mile ranges from $.43 for the base Honda Fit to $.63 for the V6 Toyota RAV4 Limited.

The 5-year ownership-cost estimates include fuel costs, insurance premiums, interest on financing, sales tax, depreciation, maintenance, and repairs. However, they do not include compensation for time lost in tending to repairs, and the accompanying inconvenience and stress. For those consumers for whom time is valuable, reliability is important.

If the list of the Top 20 Best Buys is cut to include only those Best Values with a Much-Better-Than-Average predicted short-term reliability, the list shrinks considerably. The Best Buys with the highest predicted short-term reliability are:

Base Honda Fit
Honda Civic EX
Volkswagen Golf 2.5
Subaru Forester 2.5X
Base, 4-cylinder Toyota RAV4
Honda CR-V EX
4-cylinder Mitsubishi Outlander SE
V6 Toyota RAV4 Limited.

And if the last list is further restricted to those vehicles with a 4-year reliability history consisting of only Much-Better-Than-Average reliability ratings or a 5-year-or-more reliability history with at least 60% Much-Better-Than-Average reliability ratings, the list shrinks to:

Base Honda Fit
Honda Civic EX
Base, 4-cylinder Toyota RAV4
Honda CR-V EX.

This elite list is dominated by Honda Motor Company.

Consumer Reports’ latest edition of Best & Worst New Cars reports that of all the 2011 top models by value, Toyota Motor Corporation accounts for 12 and Honda Motor Company accounts for another 7. The remaining top models are made by several automobile manufacturers, nearly all East Asian and European.

About the author: James Benjamin Bleeker has a B.A. from Carleton College in mathematics, a J.D. from Northwestern University, and an M.S. from the University of Minnesota in mathematics. He has practiced law, and taught Introductory Statistics, Calculus III, Business Calculus, Finite Math, College Algebra, Introductory and Intermediate Algebra and Foundations at various universities and colleges. He currently has two websites – Auto on Info at and Cars on Info at – which provide detailed auto quality information for cars and trucks sold in North America. For much of the 2000s, has been the dominant provider of auto reliability and durability information, some of it gathered from its own online surveys and questionnaires and some from the reliability studies of the Consumer Union and CAA. In January of 2002, received the Open Directory’s Cool Site award for its data-rich tables and graphs. It is the only automobile website to have received the Open Directory award.


Frequently Asked Questions

    Hot car can be totally damaged and beyond repair?
    I am looking to purchase my first car. Down the street from where I live there is a red ’93 Toyota Celica for sale. It looks really nice and I am in love with it. It is in great condition on the inside and out. Of course I would have to check under the hood too but I have not done that yet. I just need advice on what things to look for when purchasing from an owner instead of a dealership or car lot. Car history reports? Maintenance reports? Accidents?? Body work?

    Should I settle for this car or keep looking? I know i can find WAAAYY better cars that fit my budget but this one is like candy red and so attractive, that’s just the body though. It might be on its way to the junk car lot.

    Also there is a 2001 Black Toyota Celica on I like it too but its like 4k over my budget. What can I do?

    • ANSWER:
      Yes, a hot car can be totally damaged, but not beyond repair. It depends on how much money you want to put into it. Suggest having a competent mechanic check the car out. Condition of engine oil, tires, CV joints, and many other points should be looked at. A 93 Celica is a solid car, depending on the mileage, but have it checked out anyway. A record of operator maintenance is a definite plus.

    New car – what now? (Maintenance and Prevention)?
    Hello everyone!

    I just got home from the dealership a few hours ago. I purchased a brand new 2 door 2010 Chevy Cobalt LT. Now, I want to do everything I possibly can to keep performance as high as possible, and to maintain the car for as long as possible. I got all the sheets on maintenance like oil changes and whatnot – and OnStar will send me diagnostic reports to let me know what needs to be done as well… but what can I do?

    For example, is it useful to use gasoline anti-freeze since it’s Winter, or is that just a waste of money? What brand of oil performs best? Is there anything I should buy for, use on, or put in the car to help keep it new? Really I’m looking for ANY sort of advice on this. 🙂

    Hope someone can help. :]

    • ANSWER:
      Do oil changes at 3000 miles or every 3 months (whichever comes first). Especially if the car is being driven in harsh conditions (stop and go traffic). Check the oil every other gas fill up. Make sure the tires are properly inflated. Avoid automatic car washes with brushes. Gasoline antifreeze really isn’t necessary. Just be sure to keep at least 1 tank of gas when its cold out. Wash the vehicle regularly. Have the coolant flushed every other winter. Wax the car no more than twice a year, making sure that you don’t apply wax in direct sunlight. As far as oil, many cars come with synthetic from the factory. I personally use synthetic because of the higher viscosity in cold weather.

    most economical and low maintenance commercial car?
    based on 2009 consumer reports buying guide,lets discuss wats the best car to replace crownvic taxi cars for a small town where modern facilities of car repair are not as good as winnipeg or toronto,but its still not bad,maybe a honda cr-v which canbe repaired and found parts for it locally without losing lot of time as time is money in taxi business.which car u prefer and if honda civic is good but small car can we modify it and make it more spacious somehow for cheap price and if yes should we use it as a taxi.please

    • ANSWER:
      The problem with your question and logic is that the most economical and lowest maintenance car may not necessarily be the best car for a taxi service.

      A Toyota Corolla would be extremely economical to drive and offers very reliable low maintenance but it would make a lousy taxi cab.

      A great cab has to have lots of room for passengers and luggage and be reasonably inexpensive to drive and repair. Something like a Mazda5 or a Toyota Sienna.

    How many Volvo owners with automatic transmission have had to replace the transmission on their car?
    I’ve been told by two reliable mechanics that Volvos with automatic transmission are much more likely to need major repairs or replacement than the same make with manual transmission. I’m seriously considering a used 1999 Volvo S70 with over 65,000 miles. The car is being sold by the original owner who has all the maintenance records, and mechanically everything else checks out, including the 60,000 mile service (new brakes plus other things) and a clean Carfax report. I drove cars with manual transmssion for 15 years and strongly prefer an automatic.

    • ANSWER:
      Don’t be fooled the Volvo trans is the same in the Toyota it’s a t50 trans on the inside and vary reliable if you keep the maintenance up. On the drive shaft is a bushing witch is the leading cause of failure to the Volvo transmission. Easy fix If it wears out replace it