When it comes to automotive tests, Consumer Reports is virtually the most strict and ruthless examiner in the world. Its impartial and in-depth techniques separate the also-rans and the real contenders giving an unbiased view of a vehicle’s true performance. To this end, the magazine has earned itself the top position in the industry, being able to break or make a new car in ways other publications can only dream of. Their testing covers everything from the interior trim quality to the car’s capability of handling emergency scenarios which get totaled up by their 5-point grading system.
In very few circumstances, cars will fall below the poorest ratings earning a foreboding and harsh “Not acceptable” rating. And, if we’re to go with anything from the last few decades, this is when everything goes haywire. Back in the days, between 1980 and 1990, automakers were hell bent on throwing SUVs into the market to cater to the rising demand. Consumer Reports, at this time, got its hands full urging the public to be careful in regards to the increased rollover risks. This led to them fighting lawsuits brought forth by irate car makers who were of the opinion that the magazine’s tests were biased against SUVs.
Even so, Consumer Reports had already done its part of warning consumers way before SUVs took America’s market by storm. History has since then proved the magazine to be right as it’s now public knowledge that aged full-size SUVs have a bigger rollover disadvantage compared to that of the smaller vehicles. From the smallest vehicles to the biggest SUVs, below are 25 vehicles that would be better off the road according to Consumer Reports.
- 1963 DAF Daffodil
We’re sure that most of you might have never come across the Daffodil, but it’s actually a real auto pioneer. Making its way into the market in 1961, this micro car was the first of its kind to feature a Continuously Variable Transmission technology that has seen almost all top automakers adapt it. DAF did a few imports of the car to the US which gave Consumer Reports the opportunity to get one for their endeavors in 1963. Among the headlines was not its CVT, but the performance, however, did make headlines. In CR’s findings, they unearthed that the 0 to 60 sprint was achieved at a shocking 28.9 seconds, basically making it the slowest car to ever pass through their tests.
- Pontiac Aztek
For the 17 years that Pontiac Aztek has scoured the earth, it has made history as one of the most horrible cars ever created. With its terrible built interior, hideous styling, and bizarre high tag price, the Pontiac not only joins Edsel on the list of worst cars, but it’s also put in one pit with the likes of Crocs, Apple Newton, DDT as one of the worst inventions ever according to Time Magazine. If we’re talking about the worst cars to ever been made, the auto team at Consumer Reports couldn’t hide the embarrassment they had when they took the thing on public roads which led to them doing most of the drive tests at night. As of 2014, the radioactive Aztek was still an active member in the Customer Reports’ campus.
- 1957 Dodge Royal
In 1956 when they got launched, Chrysler’s straight-to-the-point look sparked serious chatter in the automotive industry. The model hit the ground running in a way that saw both GM and Ford go back to the drawing table and have their ’58s and ’59s redesigned to keep up with the pace. But, this glory didn’t last long for Chrysler. To keep up with the high-demand, they scrimped on quality, rendering the cars highly-unreliable.
Dodge Royal owners took their grievances to Consumer Reports about the disastrous water leakages in the trunk and interior, rattles and squeaks, missing bolts and rusting suspension components a few months after purchase. After CR was done with its review of the ’57 Chrysler vehicles, the Chrysler brand took a hit to its reputation which haunted it for decades.
- Cadillac Escalade
The Escalade is in many ways the quintessential Cadillac: hulky, V8-driven, and packed to the gills with exceptional goodies. If we’re mentioning the benefits, this is a strong plus for the year after year sales it accrues. But, the not so friendly price tag of $73,000 attracts some nasty competition from brands such as Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Range Rover, and Lexus. Its lack of interior awesomeness and refinement with cited examples in the big SUVs puts it on Consumer Reports’ radar of “no-go zone.”
- 1959 Chevrolet Impala
1959 may sound like a lifetime ago. In those days, popularity was the first name of the Impala and it was a favorite for families. This was because this era was marked with no disc brakes, collapsible steering columns, seatbelts, airbags, crumple zones and many other types of safety features that we take for granted nowadays. The ’59 Impala was driven to its death by Consumer Reports in 2009 when it was compared to the new Chevy Malibu.
If you’re a classic car enthusiast, watching the video should be the last thing on your to-do list. In short, it just depicts how in the last 50 years vehicles have gone through a huge metamorphosis of growth.
- Fiat 500L
When talking about Fiat 500L, it’s hard to fail to mention that it was forged in the former Yugo plant. Unfortunately, most of Yugo’s bad traits – horrible build quality, frumpy styling, and unreliability found their way onto Fiat’s contemporary model. Even though it’s pocket-friendly, the Fiat 500L has proved to be a tough nut to crack in terms of sales and since its launch, it’s been making rounds in Consumer Reports’ book of shame.
- 1957 Buick Roadmaster
Until today, the Buick Roadmaster is viewed as an iconic model of the midcentury Detroit, but this wasn’t always the case because, in 1957, the Consumer Reports was all over it. Thrown into the pit against the Lincoln Capri, Packard Clipper, the Chrysler Imperial and Cadillac 62 in the “luxurious-priced car category” with a price range of $4,054 to $5,614, the ’57 Roadmaster didn’t have too much to offer in the category compared to its counterparts.
This was as a result of lacking build quality and too-soft-ride-feel. Given that in the ’50s vehicles were popular for their hazy, mattress-like ride, that’s portraying too much about the Roadmaster’s handling.
- Mercedes-Benz CLA
For the price tag of $32,000, the Mercedes – Benz CLA is a compact, good-looking sedan. But, for such bucks, you can find something better. If you’re looking to get this front-wheeler to have a much more Mercedes-feel, you might have to part with around $40,000 for which you can find even better models within the Mercedes lineup.
It’s not completely a horrible car, but its failure to reach the set expectations of comfort, quality, and luxury gave it a spot on the Consumer Reports’ list of shame ever since its American debut in 2012.
- 1967 Renault 10
History might have blown this away, but going back to the 1960s, the air-cooled, rear-engine Renault 10 was one of the imports that took the US by storm. In an outlandish comparison between the Renault 10, Porsche 912, Opel Kadett, and BMW 1600 in its August 1967 feature, the French beauty was something of an impression for all the wrong reasons one could think of. Upscale competition aside, it was charged with crimes of fade-prone brakes, excessive tire squeals, unpredictable handling, and challenging exit and entry.
- Mitsubishi Mirage
If the Mitsubishi Mirage got introduced 20 years ago, then it would have achieved the middle-of-the-pack econobox status. But this is not the case as it made its way into the US market in 2014 and attracted much chatter due to its buzzy build quality, cheap-feel interior, and a somewhat sleek three-cylinder mover. If an affordable basement means of transportation is what you’re looking for, the Mirage will fit it just fine.
Apart from that, it has nothing to offer. Trusted Authorities like Road and Track, Car & Driver and Motor Trend have in one voice trashed the Mirage. The Consumer Reports has also featured it in its bad books since it launched in the market.
- 1980 Chevrolet Citation
In the 1980s, General Motors made its entry into the market with a front-wheel drive, dense X-body lineup with the Chevrolet Citation being the first on the list. In the first year, the vehicle achieved a sales record of over 800,000 scooping “Car of the Year” award from Motor Trend.
But, as usual, Consumer Reports was one of the first watchdogs to bring the vehicle’s build quality and hazardous engineering flaws into question. Within a year after the reports, the Chevrolet Citation was rendered a sales poison and by 1985, the Citation was history.
- 2014 Honda Fit
Since it entered the US market in 2007, economical, reliable and fun-to-drive is what describes the Honda Fit and the Consumer Reports has been doing it some good on its reviews. For this reason, when it fell out with Consumer Reports in 2014, it had to make headlines.
This was after its dreadful crash tests carried out by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (which honestly speaking, had only one car pass the test among several others in the category.) Nevertheless, CR couldn’t let that go and pulled its support for the Honda Fit. The Fit was entirely re-designed in 2015 and once again got back into CR’s good graces.
- 2015 Tesla Model S
It’s now public knowledge that the Model S from Tesla racked havoc on CR’s metrics in late 2015 getting a 103 score out of 100. This, however, didn’t last long as Consumer Reports hadn’t yet closed the book on it. Model S owners in large numbers recorded reliability problems of the car a few months later after the report. This led to the magazine withdrawing its praises for the model and branding it “Not recommended.” Over the years, Model S has again gained favor with the watched dog group.
- 1986 Yugo GV
Malcolm Bricklin once again came with the idea to sell the imported Zastava Koral, also known as the Yugo, in America as the cheapest vehicle. Just like the Subaru 360, the Yugo was hysterically small, dangerously unsafe, and terribly built. Consumer Reports tore this econobox into shreds in its reviews referring to it as “a barely brought-together bag of bolts and nuts.” Even in the age of cheap cars, the Yugo still became a “cheap laughing stock.”
- 1975 Zagato Zele / Elcar 2000
When it comes to innovativeness and elegance, Zagato has been known to fit this description with some of their magnificent creations, mostly butting heads with brands like Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo. In 1970, however, it decided to go on its own creating one of the first electric production models, the Zagato Zele. After CR was done testing it in October 1975, it revealed that the 20-mile range that Zagato had promised dropped by 10 mph in extreme weather conditions of 40 degrees and below. With poor safety features and a long recharging time of eight hours, CR threw the model to the wolves.
- 2007-2012 Dodge Nitro
Making its way into the market just before crossover cars took over, the Dodge Nitro seemed to answer a question that no one was asking. Taking on a poor design and inferior quality, the Dodge Nitro was the perfect example of what a pre-bankruptcy Chrysler looked like. Consumer Reports didn’t hold back in its footage review of the Nitro, concluding that its sluggish engine, cheap feel, and cramped interior would feel like a chore when driving it.
The reviewer couldn’t even say anything positive about the car when asked. Even though it made a significantly aggressive entry, many car buyers saw it for the rip-off it was.
- 1968 AMC Ambassador SST
The AMC brand was on the brink of a sales success in 1968 when they introduced their Ambassador sedan. Prior to its production, the vehicle had made headlines as being America’s first vehicle to feature standard air conditioning and the automaker quickened the production process to help meet the potential demand. However, it never came to pass as the first designs were terribly engineered and had poor inferior-built features. The early-production designs were bad enough to get a “Not Acceptable” rating.
This was mainly due to the failure of a fitted fuel filler neck which didn’t hold up during a heavy brake testing and ended up spilling out gasoline. Even after solving the problems, the Ambassador had already taken a hit that it couldn’t recover from and the AMC struggled for 20 years until it was bought off in 1988 by Chrysler.
- 2003 Nissan Murano
With its entrance into the market in 2003, it came with good tidings for the Nissan brand. The company’s design direction was portrayed in this masterpiece and the compact size and enhanced interior made it a favorite for sales. It even got a nomination spot at the North American “Truck of the Year” Award. However, the Consumer Reports didn’t spare it.
Their tests indicated it had hard cornering issues where the steering was stiff, making it difficult to control the Murano. Even with the popularity that the Murano attracted, the magazine wouldn’t still give it a green light until the problem was rectified. Consumer Reports gave the 2005 model a high recommendation after the problem was remedied.
- Subaru 360
After hitting a successful run of the Fuji moped imports in the 1960s from Japan, Malcolm Bricklin thought why not cheaply import the Subaru 360 vehicles from Fuji to the US as their weight and size exempted them from the American vehicle safety requirements. On the records, it weighed 900 pounds and just under 10-feet long, the Volkswagen Beetle wore a Lincoln Continental look compared to it.
However, it was no exception to Consumer Reports’ “Not Acceptable” ratings, being rated as America’s unsafest car. The Subaru 360 failed miserably in the US with a particular dealer in the US offering six of them for only $2,000 just to do away with them. However, it still worked to Subaru’s advantage as 50 years later the brand is still going strong in America with high sales records.
- 1978 Dodge Omni
We’re pretty sure you won’t believe it when we tell you this was actually one of the highly-regarded vehicles ever built in America. When it released the Omni, Chrysler was in bankruptcy protection mode and the sales accrued from Omni’s sales almost brought it back from the bankruptcy pit. 1978 saw the Omni being virtually America’s future car. It was America’s first front-wheel drive hatchback featuring a transverse mounted engine as well as the first to have a semi-independent suspension at the back.
Though it made a killing in the market and even scooped the “Car of the Year” Award from Motor Trend, its dangerously unstable steering put it on Consumer Reports’ radar. Consumer Reports’ findings were later confirmed by the Times Magazine which did an investigation of their own. This, however, didn’t deter Americans from buying the hatchback. Chrysler produced about three million of these cars between 1977 and 1990.
- Smart ForTwo
Mercedes-Benz’s expectations of the Smart ForTwo did not live up to the standards in America as expected. Its 38 mph gallon excellence would have been a bragging factor way back in 1998 when it entered the European market. This has left it 19 years later as one of the unsafest cars around.
Featuring a more dated interior, polarized styling, sizeable storage space, and one of the worst transmissions around, there’s nothing fancy about the Smart ForTwo. The only positive remarks it gets from the magazine are its gas-friendly features and parking suitability. In 2016, a new Smart ForTwo was launched and we’re still yet to see whether American buyers will be more kind to the new model.
- 2010 Lexus GX 460
With years passing on, Consumer Reports had learned its lesson the hard way and did everything by the book when the full-sized GX 460 from Lexus had some rollover tendencies. The magazine bought a second model to perform extensive tests on both SUVs after discovering the rollover problem from the first test run.
The results from the second test were the same as the first which led to the magazine issuing a more well-thought statement urging consumers not to buy the vehicle. Lexus recalled the big SUV for slight modifications as pertains to the stability controls. The magazine later tested the Lexus and found it safe for use.
- 2001 Mitsubishi Montero
After the release of its new 2000 Montero SUV, Mitsubishi was keener on the truck’s safety and size but Consumer Reports’ tests had something else to say about that. The Montero gained favor with the magazine in the beginning but later on, CR forged out a different opinion after finding out that the Montero wasn’t road-safe, taking turns when doing speeds of 37 mph. The Montero was served with a harsh judgment of the “Not Acceptable” rating. But, by then, Customer Reports’ image and reputation had really gone down the drain after the earlier events of Isuzu and Suzuki.
This only saw Mitsubishi publicly shrub off the magazine’s testing techniques. However, in 2006, the Montero got unplugged from the American market. While the magazine’s impartial and strict tests made it a must-have since its entry in 1936, it persevered through the hard times in the 1990s and has since then emerged as a force to reckon with. Under the Consumers’ Union management, the magazine won’t stomach selling ad space to avoid external interference. It caters for the product testing budget and doesn’t allow manufacturers to take advantage of the positive reviews they give. For this reason, 80 years later, millions of new car buyers are using their Car Buyer’s Guide.
- Isuzu Trooper
Similar to the Samurai ordeal, Consumer Reports also had their day in court over the accountability of their findings in regards to the rollover tests carried out on the Isuzu Trooper. Shortly after attaining the “vote of no confidence” rating from Customer Reports’ rollover tests, the Isuzu distributor from Puerto Rico sued the magazine claiming that they took a sales hit after the reports rendered the trucks unsafe for use.
During the case trial in 2000, the jury found that staff from the magazine had issued several false narratives in an article which suggested the Isuzu Trooper sports vehicle was unsafe for the roads. This brought a major embarrassment to the magazine, and this marked one of the few times that Isuzu ever appeared again in American public news. In 2008, Isuzu did away with passenger vehicles in the US market.
- Suzuki Samurai
With its appetite for smallness and sleek look, the Suzuki Samurai might, for the most part, appear to be a pretender, but in actuality, it’s been viewed for years to be one of the most durable and rugged diminutive 4x4s in the world. Still, this didn’t make it any harder for Consumer Reports to throw it to the dogs. Entering the market in 1985, the Samurai was more of a cheaper and smaller option to the CJ-7 and Wrangler designs. The Samurai was until 1988 a major success after which Consumer Reports rated it as a safety hazard on American roads.
The report was categorically harsher than usual and publicly urged the Suzuki brand to do a recall of all the 150,000 Samurais. This resulted in an investigation which later revealed that the magazine had done some modifications to their tests to enhance the rollover possibility. In 1996, Suzuki brought a lawsuit against the magazine for the damages incurred due to the magazine’s report. The case did its rounds in court for years before finally an agreement was reached outside the court in 2004. Suzuki never really came back from the whole encounter as they ended up pulling out of the American car market later in 2012.