MORE AT CONSUMERREPORTS.ORG
Just because a car generates a lot of buzz or is a best seller doesn't mean that it's a good choice for you.
The five models here may be on a lot of buyers' shopping lists, but we suggest you steer clear. They didn't perform well in our testing or they suffer from subpar reliability. Either way, there are better choices.
For years, the Civic has been an iconic small car. But Honda took too many shortcuts in its latest redesign. The Civic is still one of the more reliable and fuel-efficient cars in its class. But the current model suffers from a choppy ride, noisy cabin, vague steering, and mediocre interior quality. The Subaru Impreza, Hyundai Elantra, and Mazda3 are better small cars with similar or better fuel economy.
You might be drawn to this SUV's rugged looks. But that style comes with an equally rugged and unrefined driving experience. The Liberty can tackle tough off-road terrain. But on pavement its ride is unsettled and handling is clumsy. The interior is cramped and cheap feeling. And the engine is noisy and thirsty, getting only 16 mpg overall. All of this has earned it one of the lowest road-test scores of any vehicle we've recently tested. You'll give up some off-road prowess, but the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester are much nicer SUVs overall, with notably better gas mileage.
Toyota Prius C
It's all the buzz: a less expensive Prius with great gas mileage. What more can you ask for? Plenty. Yes, this new subcompact gets a stingy 37 mpg in city driving and 43 mpg overall, 1 mpg shy of the larger Prius hatchback. But all-around quality really drops. Related to the lackluster Toyota Yaris, the Prius C suffers from a stiff ride, noisy cabin, slow acceleration, and cheap-looking interior trim. Though it can't match the C's stellar mpg, the Honda Fit scored much higher in our tests and costs thousands less.
Dodge Grand Caravan
This is one of the best-selling minivans on the market. It's versatile, comfortable, quiet, and well equipped. But according to our annual reliability survey, it's also the most problematic minivan, suffering from numerous reports of squeaks and rattles, loose interior trim, and power-equipment and sliding-door troubles. The Grand Caravan also didn't measure up to its competitors in our testing, delivering unimpressive gas mileage of 17 mpg overall and sloppy at-the-limit handling. We favor the front-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna, which has had better reliability and gets 20 mpg.
Ford Edge (V-6)
The stylish lines of this crossover SUV might catch your eye, but we suggest that you keep on looking. In our testing of the V-6 all-wheel drive version, we found a jittery ride, pronounced road noise, and distracting controls, especially with the complicated and unintuitive MyFord Touch infotainment system. And in our annual survey of subscribers, it had much-worse-than-average reliability. There is also a turbo four-cylinder engine that works well and gets better fuel economy, but it can't be paired with all-wheel drive. For about the same price, better alternatives include the Toyota Highlander, Nissan Murano, and Mazda CX-9.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.