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Consumer Reports Offers Used-Car Ranking Best Used Buys Are Little Japanese Models; Worst Are Off Big Three Assembly Lines

Tue., March 21, 1995, midnight

Consumer Reports magazine’s annual auto issue - a buyer’s bible for many showroom browsers - gives added attention to used cars this year with its first list of the worst and best.

The magazine’s increased focus on used cars acknowledges their growing importance in a marketplace where the average new vehicle carries a price tag of about $20,000, making them unaffordable for many consumers.

Based on reports from owners of 580,000 cars and light trucks, the April edition says:

The 10 most reliable 1987-93 vehicles were built by Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Nine of the 10 were cars; the exception was Nissan’s Pathfinder sport utility. The Honda Accord topped the list.

The domestic Big Three automakers and Korea’s Hyundai accounted for the bottom 10, with the Ford Bronco sport utility labeled least reliable.

The 10 most reliable cars costing $10,000 or less, which the magazine called its “Best Buy” list, were the 1991 Acura Integra, 1992 Geo Prizm, 1990 Honda Accord, 1992 Honda Civic, 1991 Mitsubishi Galant, 1990 Nissan Maxima with automatic transmission, 1993 Saturn SL and SW models, 1991 Toyota Camry, 1992 Toyota Corolla and 1990 Volvo 240.

The used-car picks were based on owner surveys and testing.

Consumer Reports also rated new models based on its own testing and said it expects most 1995 sedans to be more reliable than the average for all light vehicles, the category that includes cars and light trucks.

Most minivans, pickup trucks and sport utilities will be less reliable than average, the researchers predict.

But in general, new cars and trucks are improving, said Bob Knoll, head of automotive testing for Consumers Union, the nonprofit organization that publishes Consumer Reports.

“It’s harder and harder for us, with a group of truly competitive cars from different manufacturers, to find differences,” Knoll said. “There aren’t very many losers any more.”

Of the 115 cars and trucks tested from the 1995 model year, 84 fared very good or excellent by the magazine. Only 11 earned an overall score of fair or poor.

The ratings reflect researchers’ assessment of performance, comfort, convenience and fuel economy. Because the vehicles are new, reliability doesn’t figure into the overall rating, but a model must do well in the tests and have had at least average reliability in previous model years to be recommended by the magazine.

More than half the 1995 models tested were recommended.

Car buyers pay close attention to the report, as do carmakers who exchange information with Knoll and his researchers.

“It’s probably safe to say that Consumer Reports has a very strong effect with certain segments of the car-buying population,” said Tom Kowaleski, director of product public relations for Chrysler Corp.

The April 1995 Consumer Reports is due on newsstands March 28.

Tags: auto

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