Every year, Consumer Reports puts the latest car models through rigorous testing, and then offers its rankings of each vehicle. Cars that rank well get to gloat. Cars that don’t … well, they have a PR problem. The auto insurance rates for each vehicle may even be adjusted to reflect a poor safety rating.
Many car manufacturers are resigned to their ranking, for good or ill. Still, nothing is worse than falling from the top of the list to the bottom. Here are three cars that Consumer Reports found less impressive than their predecessors in 2011.
#3) 2011 Ford Explorer
American SUVs have always struggled when it comes to Consumer Reports. Detroit is regularly chewed out for low fuel economy, flawed design, the lack of safety features, ugly stying, and a whole host of other problems that no car should really be toting around. So the Ford Explorer was already at a disadvantage when it came to the ratings. Then 2011 rolled around.
In Consumer Reports‘ tests, Ford ranked consistently near the bottom. The fuel economy of the model itself had improved from 15mpg to 18mpg, but the rest of the field averaged at least 20 mpg. The engine also sounds like it pulls 18mpg: it’s loud, very loud. They also found the driver’s position to be difficult to use, and the confusing controls didn’t help. Lastly, the car wasn’t found to be very agile, even for an SUV.
On the bright side, the Explorer apparently is a much smoother ride as compared to last year. The problem is simply that for all the improvements, the rest of the field showed a lot more innovation and better design details. That sank the Explorer to the bottom.
#2) 2011 Volkswagen Jetta
Still, the Explorer did better than the Jetta. Volkswagen has long seen the Jetta as just a Golf with a trunk, but for 2011 decided they were going to target the budget sedan market and steal some market share out from under the Japanese. Unfortunately, Consumer Reports didn’t think this car will be enough to seduce … well … anybody away from their cars. At all.
The problems start with the engine, which comes as a 2.0 liter standard and musters 115 horsepower; in other words, there are lawnmowers more powerful than the 2011 Jetta. You can get a slightly less underwhelming 2.5 liter engine … for an extra $2,000.
But what cost the Jetta the most was its cabin. Volkswagen takes pride in its interiors: you get a nice looking car when you buy one. Not the Jetta, though. Consumer Reports compared the interior to “a five-year-old Ford” and chastised VW for putting cost cutting ahead of making a good product. Still, as bad a day as VW had, even they had it better than…
#1) 2011 Honda Civic
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Civic was, for years, the leader in its class of small sedans. Not anymore. So much went wrong in 2011.
The list of problems associated with the Civic is kind of shocking: it’s a choppy drive, it’s loud, the interior is cheap and ugly, and the stopping distances have gone from reasonable and safe to dangerously long. How badly did it do? For the first time in years, Consumer Reports can’t recommend buying a Civic.
We guess there’s a lesson to be learned here: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!