Each year, the Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue featuring the latest ratings, rankings and expert insights garners significant attention. The focus invariable turns to Top Picks and the automaker report cards. Both special reports given a quick snapshot of how makes and models compare, informing car buyers, as well as auto industry trivia enthusiasts. While everyone loves a winner, what about those brands that just never made the Top Pick cut?
With Toyota claiming five of the 10 Picks this year, it is easy to believe that some brands have never earned their way on to the coveted list, having been crowded out by the dominant players. And no wonder, the threshold to be named a Top Pick is quite high.
To be eligible, Top Picks must meet our criteria in three areas:
- Road test. Each must rank at or near the top of its category in overall test score.
- Reliability. Each must have earned an average or better predicted-reliability Rating, based on the problems Consumer Reports subscribers reported on 1.3 million vehicles in our latest Annual Auto Survey.
- Safety. Top Picks must perform well if included in crash or rollover tests conducted by the government or the insurance industry.
Consumer Reports has published Top Picks since 1997, and in that time, 20 brands have been included: Acura, Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jeep, Kia, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Plymouth, Pontiac, Subaru, Toyota, and Volkswagen.
Among the brands that were on the market in 2011, 17 never made the list: Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Fiat, GMC, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Lotus, Mini, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Saab, Scion, Smart, Suzuki, and Volvo.
Of course, since its inception, there were several other brands that retired to the pages of history without claiming a Top Pick honor, including Daewoo, Hummer, Isuzu, Mercury, Oldsmobile, and Saturn.
That is not to say that the excluded brands did not offer good cars. In fact, there are numerous desirable examples produced by some of these brands in the past decade. But being good isn’t enough to make the cut. With Top Picks, we are looking for great. Not just the cars that hit all the numerical benchmarks, but those cars that the staff feel exemplify the best attributes in a category and that we would personally recommend.
On occasion, the Top Pick may not be the highest-rated model in a given category. (Such a list is considered a “Best and Worst” in our parlance.) Instead, the candidates are carefully deliberated and test findings scrutinized before committing to our choices. And the final Picks are those vehicles we most strongly recommended.
Read about this year’s Top Picks, and watch videos on each to learn more about what makes them shine.