Ford unveils drastic makeover for top-selling Escape

Automakers should step out of the box and make cars that don’t alike. The Escape looks like every other SUV that we see on the road today. Nonetheless, current Escape owners will be surprised to see what direction Ford is heading with the styling.

I do not like the style nor the inside. Inside; the stick is blocking the center stack buttons, there’s no place to put change/keys/things in the center console, the back and front of the car is unappealing, the grille is ugly as there isn’t any.

It just looks like a taller version of the new Ford Focus.

Twelve years after it entered the market as a family-friendly, reasonably sized sport/utility box, the Ford Escape finally is getting the attention to design that something this popular deserves. The ironic thing is the outgoing model is flying off dealer lots, thanks in part to end-of-lifecycle discounting and the shortage of key Japanese competitors Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

The new 2013 model, which goes on sale in the first half of ’12, converges like most of the rest of non-F-Series/Mustang North American models with their European counterparts. The new one looks much more like the replacement for the European Ford Kuga than for the U.S. Escape. In Europe, the compact crossover with two rows of seating is far more popular, and far easier to find, than the three-row midsize and large crossoversthat serve as replacements for full-on sport/utilities as well as minivans here.

 

 

Ford unveiled the Escape Wednesday at the Los Angeles International Auto Show. The new model does share one thing in common with the F-150, and indeed the new Focus and Fiesta: It tries to be the compact crossoverfor everyone, with a long list of features that allows aspiring and luxury buyers alike to load up the option sheet without paying for a prestige name. Like the Focus Titanium vs. the Verano, it could compete with Buicks.

The new model tosses out any V-6 option for three four-cylinder engines — two of them turbocharged gas direct-injection EcoBoosts — while maintaining a 3500-pound tow rating with either front- or all-wheel drive. The Escape Hybrid is scrubbed, with no apparent plans to reintroduce one in the future. Ford’s C-Max will be hybrid-only in the North American market, with a distinctive hybrid shape like the new Toyota Prius V, and without the heavy, mpg-sapping all-wheel-drive option. We also expect the ’13 Fusion, which will be Ford’s biggest new car intro of the model year when it bows at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, to carry on with a hybrid powertrain option.

 

2013 Ford Escape Rear Left Side View

The ’13 Escape’s carryover 2.5-liter four will be a price leader engine accounting for just 10 percent of sales, mostly to rental fleets. Its mainstream “replacement” is a new 1.6-liter EcoBoost rated at 173 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque, while the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four will replace the 3.0-liter V-6 and make “at least” 237 horsepower and 250 lb-ft. Ford expects the EcoBoost engines to split the other 90 percent of sales. 

Though EPA fuel economy ratings will be released closer to the new Escape’s on-sale date, Ford estimates up to 5 mpg better than the current Escape, with the 2.0 making more torque than a Toyota RAV4 V-6, and achieving higher fuel economy than a Honda CR-V, which is rated 23/31 mpg FWD, 22/30 mpg AWD. Ford says the current Escape sells about 50/50 front-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive, and expects that kind of split to continue with the new model, but that seems high. An AWD take rate like the Chevrolet Equinox’s 28.7 percent seems pretty reasonable, though Ford likes to think of itself as the SUV leader, and more likely to attract buyers who aspire to go off-road.

Escape’s “Intelligent Four-Wheel Drive” puts 35 percent to 80 percent of the torque to the rear wheels, and constantly evaluates road conditions to adjust the split. There is no driver control. With AWD or FWD, the new Escape will come with the full complement of Ford’s latest nannies, including torque vectoring control, curve control, hill start assist, electronic brake assist, roll stability control, trailer sway control, and torque steer compensation. Curve control uses the ABS to “correct” impending oversteer or understeer in tight, fast off-ramps and the like, in both the FWD and the AWD versions. It cannot be turned off, and if it’s anything like the system introduced in the new Explorer, it will feel anal in its responses to any enthusiast who tries to push the Escape faster than the posted limit in a curve or off-ramp. So it’s probably just right for the vast majority of customers for this type of vehicle. Conversely, Ford promises “sportier” steering and handling than the RAV4 or CR-V.

Tangible showroom features will include interior quality up to the modern standard, and a simplified MyFordTouch reverting to actual knobs for radio volume and tuning. It also will have Ford’s hands-free liftgate, which allows you to open it simply by sliding your foot under the rear bumper when your hands are full, as long as the key fob is in your pocket. Improvements to MyFordTouch also include more tactile climate and navigation controls, a reaction to thorough market research Ford conducted to fix the updated version of Sync that sold so many cars and trucks in the last few years, and is now blamed for helping sink Ford’s quality scores. Ford shouldn’t worry so much. The hands-free liftgate is a cool enough feature to distract most buyers from any finicky MyFordTouch controls. It could be Ford’s biggest wagon-back feature breakthrough since the magic liftgate on 1966 models, and will assure that the Escape remains one of the most popular models in its class for years to come.

 

 

Kia and Ford most brand-loyal buyers

Keeping existing customers is a hallmark to success in any business, and it’s especially important in the automotive industry, where the average product costs well over $30,000 and the typical ownership cycle is five or more years.

 

While automakers in the luxury segment are often thought of as enjoying among the most loyal customers in the business, the top names in this regard are all mainstream makes, according to a just-released report based on second-quarter 2011 sales compiled by Experian Automotive in Schaumburg, Ill.

 

Data shows that Kia currently boasts the most loyal owner body, with nearly 48 per cent of buyers returning to the brand this year. Ford is second highest with 46.5 per cent repeat business. Chevrolet, Hyundai, Toyota and Honda all registered around 40 per cent brand loyalty, with Subaru bringing back buyers at the rate of around 36 per cent.

 

Among luxury automakers, the highest-ranking brands were Mercedes-Benz with 34.8 per cent repeat buyers, BMW at 31.7 per cent, Porsche at 23 per cent and Jaguar at 16 per cent.

Kia’s parent company Hyundai Motor Group posted a corporate loyalty rate of 49.6 per cent, according to Experian’s data, just edging out Ford Motor Co. at 48.1 per cent and General Motors at 47.6 per cent.

 

“According to our latest market report, Hyundai Motor Group has been making strides in customer loyalty for several years,” says Jeffrey Anderson, director of consulting and analytics for Experian Automotive. “In North America, both Kia and Hyundai have made improvements in vehicle styling and quality among both brands. This has clearly helped them gain and maintain a strong and loyal customer base.”

 

Three Kia models ranked among the top 10 vehicles having the most brand loyalty in Experian’s report, including the list-leading Kia Forte compact sedan at 68 per cent, along with the Soul compact wagon and the two-door compact Forte Koup.

 

Seven out of 10 of the models in Experian’s list were comprised of mainstream domestic-brand models, topped by the Chevrolet Cruze in second place with 64 per cent brand loyalty. The remainder were Ford models, including the subcompact Fiesta, the midsize Fusion sedan, the seven-passenger Flex crossover SUV, the Taurus full-size sedan and the compact Focus.

 

Experian’s study also concluded that among automotive segments, full-size truck owners were the most likely to purchase another big pickup, registering 58.6 repeat business during the second quarter of 2011. Owners of hybrid cars trade in for other hybrids at the rate of 43 per cent, as do those buying premium crossover SUVs. The least brand-loyal were found to sports car owners, with just 21 per cent buying another equally racy model, and those driving mid-range SUVs – a segment that been steadily losing traction to car-based crossovers in recent years – at 21 per cent.

Accord and Camry top October midsize sedan sales; Fusion, Sonata, and Altima stay strong

The mix-up in the hotly contested midsize sedan segment seems to be over as Japanese manufacturers recover volume. The Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, which had been in short supply in the wake of the March 11th earthquake in Japan, have regained the foothold as the leaders of the segment. They are, however, being closely chased by the Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion, and Nissan Altima.

The Perennial Leaders

Honda Accord

Sales of the Toyota Camry were 22,043 in October, representing a decline of 8.5 percent year-over-year. That brings the car’s year-to-date sales to 251,564, which is similarly 8.8 percent below the pace set last year. However, the Camry is on track for sales to recover as inventory increases. Moreover, the launch of the 2012 model is expected to draw more customers to dealerships.

“The all-new 2012 Camry launch is off to a great start,” said Toyota Motor Sales vice president Bob Carter. The company has 35,000 units of the 2012 Camry en route to dealerships as of writing.

The Honda Accord had been hit much harder by the Japanese supply crisis: at the end of September, its annual sales total was down 16.1 percent compared to the first nine months of 2010. In October, however, a greater supply of vehicles meant monthly Accord sales jumped to 22,589 — up 9.4 percent versus a year prior. That brings the car’s cumulative sales tally to 203,603 so far this year, down only 13.8 percent from the first ten months of 2010.

“As dealer inventories continued to replenish in October, we saw increased momentum over last month’s sales,” said Honda vice president of sales John Mendel.

The Challengers

Hyundai Sonata

Hot on the heels of the Japanese champions are the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Nissan Altima. Last month, sales of the Fusion and Altima outpaced that of the struggling Accord. This month, the traditional order of midsize sales volume has been resumed as Accord volume recovered. The Nissan Altima took third place in the midsize wars, with 21,838 monthly sales representing a 15.1 percent year-over-year gain.

The Hyundai Sonata followed with 18,192 monthly sales, a gain of about 4 percent over October 2010. The Sonata has experienced year-over-year sales growth of nearly 16 percent, with 192,953 cars sold through the first ten months of 2011.

Finally, the Ford Fusion saw sales climb 4.2 percent to 18,094 units. While that’s far below the competition for October, year-to-date sales of 206,533 are up 15.4 percent versus a year prior, which puts the Fusion on track for record-setting sales this year.

The Lower Rungs

Even though they can’t keep up with the heady numbers of competitors, midsize sedans from Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Volkswagen are still enjoying sales gains this year.

Although sales slipped slightly last month, dropping 17.1 percent to just 10,239 cars, the Malibu is still on track for a strong sales year. So far this year it has sold 181,505 units, up 3.4 percent over the same period in 2010. That makes the Malibu the third best-selling Chevrolet of the year, after the Silverado pickup and Cruze sedan. A new version of the Malibu is set to debut in early 2012, but the car’s imminent arrival doesn’t appear to be hurting sales of the current car.

“We’re on track to beating our [Malibu] sales figures for last year,” Chevrolet spokesman Dave Darovitz told us last month.

Chrysler Group’s mechanical twins, the 200 and Dodge Avenger, also are enjoying healthy sales this year, even if their overall volumes lag behind segment leaders. The Chrysler 200 sold 11,205 cars last month, up 405 percent over the car’s predecessor a year prior, and bringing the 200’s yearly total to 69,755 cars. Last year, the car’s predecessor — the Chrysler Sebring — sold just 35,827 units through October 2010. The Dodge Avenger has likewise seen an explosive growth over last year, with October sales of 7136 cars bringing it to 52,164 total units this year — up 17 percent over the same period in 2010.

Chrysler spokeswoman Kathy Graham said the sales gain can primarily be attributed to the fact that the two sedans were redesigned in late 2010. She said customers are now more impressed with the cars’ levels of interior quality, and with the improved ride and handling. On top of that, Chrysler cut the prices of both cars for 2011, making the sedans a better deal for customers. “For the value and what you’re getting, these vehicles are really attractive,” Graham said.

Finally, the new Volkswagen Passat, designed specifically for the U.S. market and built in Tennessee, helped the nameplate record 5040 sales last month — a gain of 986 percent year-over-year and bringing total sales this year to 9877, up 2.1 percent versus the same period in 2010.

Worst Car Flops of 2011

The redesigned 2012 Honda Civic suffered from numb driving dynamics and a downgraded interior.

John McElroy, the loquacious host of the Autoline Detroit TV and radio shows, is optimistic about the auto industry.

More than one million new cars sell each month in the United States, he points out. Ford and GM have become more profitable than many analysts had expected; record sales numbers at luxury brands like Audi and BMW don’t hurt, either. And there are some exciting new models in the pipeline for 2012 and beyond.

Just don’t ask McElroy about some of the cars on the market this year. You’re likely to get a different story.

“The Lincoln MKT is an unmitigated disaster,” McElroy says. “It’s actually a vehicle I like, but nobody agrees with me. No matter how you slice it, the MKT is just a dud.”

The MKT joins eight other vehicles that have performed significantly less than expected this year in the United States. Along with the Acura ZDX, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and Chevrolet Aveo, these are the worst automotive flops of 2011.

Behind The Story

To develop this list of cars, we consulted three expert analysts: Jake Fisher, senior automotive engineer for Consumer Reports; Tim Healey, the senior writer at Web2Carz, an automotive website; and McElroy. Each discussed what they think are the worst vehicles on the market, all things considered. Nominations were allowed for any 2011 model-year vehicles and any 2012 model-year vehicles available for sale this year.

Admittedly, it’s a subjective tally. Dwindling sales are one way to determine an automotive flop. Excessive hype before a launch, with media silence afterward (see: Acura ZDX) is another. So is a round of scathing reviews from auto critics, or a Consumer Reports rating that places it among the 10 worst values of the year (see: Dodge Nitro).

Sales Matter, Sometimes

Still, flops do indeed have much to do with sales rates. The Chevrolet Aveo, for instance, sold just 65 cars nationwide last month, down 98 percent for the same period in 2010. It’s largely because Chevy’s Aveo replacement, the 2012 Sonic, is much better than its predecessor and already scooping up sales.

The same can’t be said for the Smart Fortwo, which sold just 327 units in October, down 11 percent for the month and nearly 21 percent for the year to date. (The car will have a successor, in a forthcoming partnership with Renault, but it won’t be ready for next year.)

Things Are Looking Up

The bottom line, despite the stragglers on this list, is that the general level of quality, performance and value of both domestic and foreign vehicles on the American market has never been better. Each expert consulted for this list agreed that the future is bright for drivers in America.

“Automakers have gotten a lot better at producing what the public want,” Healey says. “They’ve realized that it really is all about the product—it’s not just about marking. And that’s a good thing.”

2011 Smart Fortwo

McElroy says the jerky transmission in this tiny two-door has hurt it the worst — he called it “the worst transmission maybe of all time.” The car has reportedly lost more money than it has made for the Daimler family since its launch in the late 1990s; rumors have circulated for years that the company will shutter the brand. An agreement to share a new platform with Renault could mean a big improvement for the coupe in a few years.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta

Fisher says the 2011 redesign cost the Jetta much of what had made it a standout in the small car segment. Its responsive handling and sharp steering are long gone, Fisher says, and the high-quality interior has been replaced with hard plastics that don’t fit together well. The engines in the new Jetta are unimpressive with regard to both acceleration and fuel economy.

2012 Honda Civic

Like the new Jetta, the latest Civic was designed only for the U.S. market. The 2012 redesign plummeted in Consumer Reports scores from one of the best small cars to one of the worst, Fisher says. Its nimble handling was replaced with a “soggy” suspension, and braking distances are too long. The interior quality also declined, with lots of hard plastics throughout the cabin.

2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Fisher says “there’s nothing sporty about the Outlander Sport SUV, and there’s not much utility either.” Compared to the larger Mitsubishi Outlander, it is barely cheaper and barely more fuel efficient. More apparent are the cramped interior and numb steering, he adds. The Outlander is a better value and much sportier to drive.

2011 Acura ZDX

McElroy says that while the ZDX isn’t horribly bad in any one category, it suffered from the compilation of several minor inconveniences with no real outstanding qualities: cramped quarters, polarizing looks, lackluster handling. And it didn’t sell a whit: Acura sold 131 of them last month. Total.

2011 Lincoln MKT

McElroy says the MKT suffers from “ungainly” body styling and an “unmitigated disaster” in sales. The fact that the Lincoln brand is no longer en vogue, coupled with the fact that Ford shuttered its sister brand, Mercury, has only served to enlarge the problem. So far, only 4,000 have been sold stateside this year.

2011 Dodge Nitro

The Nitro shares many design attributes with the much-panned Jeep Liberty. It earns only 16mpg on average and is rated in Consumer Reports as a noisy SUV that is clumsy and stiff while lacking agility. Web2Cars calls it “behind the times.”

2011 Chevrolet Aveo

Chevy’s tiny coupe gets sub-average reliability ratings and unimpressive acceleration. Driving can feel clunky and noisy, and the interior quality is subpar compared to other affordable compacts. Look for the Aveo replacement for 2012: the Chevrolet Sonic.

2011 Nissan Titan

Web2Cars warns potential buyers that the Titan’s “noisy V-8 and exhaust may interrupt the driving experience.” It also notes that the truck’s reliability has dropped well below average for the past five model years. The Titan lacks a full-time AWD to match the power output, and a lack of passenger room for crew cab models makes it subpar compared to competitors.

What it feels like to drive over 700km/hr

We hate to be the ones to tell you this, but there’s a scant chance most of us will ever exceed 200 kilometres per hour here on planet Earth. Sure, you can hop in a commercial jet liner and easily best that figure in the comfort of coach, but its not quite the same as skimming along mere centimetres from the ground in an hurling ball of aluminum, glass and fury. Maybe that’s what makes the Speed Demon’s latest run on the salt so impressive. As you may recall, the team behind this particular Streamliner recently pulled off a standing mile of 686 km/h.

They recently headed back out to try their hand at another pass, and the result was a standing mile of 737.38 km/h with an exit speed of 744.07 km/h. This time, the crew strapped enough ReplayXD cameras to the Streamliner to catch every aspect of the high-speed run, and the finished video gives us a pretty good idea of what it’s like to clip along at ludicrous speed. Hit the jump to check it out for yourself.

Does All Wheel Drive help in the winter?

One of the options I had when I bought the Fusion was AWD, V6 and Hybrid.  I don’t need a V6 and why would I when it eats up more gas. And Hybrid would of been nice but that would of added $14,000 to the price tag (because of all the options I currently have). Before I bought the car I’ve done research and almost all resources said AWD is not necessary if you have good all weather tires. We’ll see when its icy and snowy outside.

The automotive world abounds with myths and misconceptions.

There can be much controversy over technology and driving tactics made by experts, manufacturers and the driving public in general. Everyone seems to have an opinion or suggestion particularly about driving.

There is one in particular that is quite relevant this time of year. This particular misunderstanding is actually one expounded by the manufacturers and it entails all wheel drive (AWD) and four wheel drive (4WD). It is not uncommon to see TV commercials in which the manufacturers are linking safety with AWD.

More: Got AWD? Then change your tires in pairs

More: AWD vehicles gaining in popularity

More: How to change your driving for winter weather

The last time I wrote that AWD was not a safety feature I had numerous readers telling me that I had no idea what I was writing about. According to many of them, AWD was God’s gift to winter driving.

As winter sets in, I think this is an excellent time to discuss it. Usually motorists with AWD or 4WD become overconfident in limited traction conditions leading to a visit to the ditch or the rear bumper of another vehicle. Each winter there is a disproportionate number of AWD vehicles sitting in snowy ditches.

Safety is all about how much grip you are getting from your tires. The more traction your tires develop, the shorter your stopping distances and the superior your steering inputs will be.

To begin with, tire grip is only a function of the interface of your tire tread and the road surface. What determines the amount of grip is the rubber compound of the tread and how well it reacts to cold temperatures, the construction and age of the tire, the depth of the tread, air pressure and the size and shape of the actual contact patch.

A rolling tire will give the driver only as much traction as its above-stated characteristics dictate. Putting engine power through that tire will not make it deliver more traction. In other words, a given tire on a skid pad will only develop “x” amount of grip. If you try to power that tire by putting engine torque to it, that tire will not make any more grip than if it was freewheeling.

Having said that, AWD or 4WD will not help a vehicle turn (steer) with more traction. For example, if we had a vehicle in which AWD could be turned off so the vehicle also drove with only 2WD, that vehicle will generate the same amount of lateral grip on the skid pad whether it was in AWD mode or 2WD mode.

Bottom line, AWD or 4WD will not enhance the active safety of steering, such as collision avoidance or cornering grip.

Now if we look at another active safety feature of vehicles — braking — AWD does not help shorten braking distances. It actually can make braking distances longer due to the added mass of the AWD system.

So what benefit is there to having AWD on a vehicle? It allows the vehicle to accelerate better in slippery conditions. It is basically a performance feature, not a safety feature.

AWD will distribute the torque to the tires with the most traction and to all four tires if required. This translates into less tire slip and better acceleration. This is also a double-edged sword.

Many readers have told me because there is less chance of the tires slipping (only when power is applied) that this in itself is a safety feature.

Not necessarily so. That slip of a tire under power can be a good thing. It tells the driver there is very little traction. If the tires do not slip as can happen with AWD, it can mask how slippery the road surface really is and contribute to an overconfident driver.

There is no place better to show this concept than at our winter driving schools. When we discuss tire grip and AWD in the class, I’ll get my share of strange looks from the students as this is contrary to what they have been told. It’s not until they are driving on the ice and realize they cannot negotiate the skid pad, slalom, collision avoidance or emergency stopping any better than front wheel or rear wheel drive vehicles. Then I get the “I see what you mean” look from the drivers.

If you drive a vehicle with AWD or 4WD drive keep these rules in mind.

1. You may be able to get going much better than 2WD vehicles but you cannot stop or steer better. AWD only helps acceleration.

2. If you drive a vehicle with AWD or 4WD you should have winter tires on all four wheels. It’s the stopping and steering that will save your life and AWD does not enhance these aspects of active safety.

3. Slow down as there may be less grip than you are experiencing while accelerating.

Why it pays to break slowly

I drive every day, and only if a lot of the drivers out there educate themselves (because a lot of them drivers are crappy drivers) on how to drive the streets would be a much better place to drive. A lot of times I wonder how people got their driver’s license. Maybe these are the people that failed numerous times.

In something as simple as braking, there is a smart way and there is also a less efficient way of performing this straight forward driving task.

Many motorists tend to wait until the last second to get on the brakes for red lights, stop signs or a traffic slowdown. There is a danger to this method as well as waste.

Braking late and aggressively is a sign of haste on the driver’s part. Many feel that by staying at a higher speed as long as possible they can make up time or save time. The fact is, if you are coming to a stop, waiting until the last second to brake aggressively will not save time. That red light will not change quicker because the motorist approached it in a hurry.

The negative side of this late braking tactic is multi-fold.

More: 10 things you shouldn’t do to your car

More: The big problem with rush-hour traffic

More: The art of passing and being passed

Drivers who wait until the very last second to brake hard stand a greater chance of being rear ended by a following vehicle. If the driver behind is distracted or expecting the vehicle in front to continue on, the result could be a rear-end collision. When a driver slows sooner and more gently, it tends to get the attention of the following vehicles. This forces the vehicles behind to also brake more gently reducing the chance of being hit from behind.

When braking gradually for a traffic light drivers get an added benefit to the gentle slowing method. The red light they were slowing for may just turn back to green before they arrive at it. This can result in not having to accelerate from a dead stop saving on fuel costs.

When approaching a stop sign, motorists who use the late braking method can fool drivers on the through street into thinking the vehicle approaching the stop sign may not in fact stop. Even though all motorists should not assume any driver will actually stop at a red light or stop sign, this rush to the stop sign can deceive the approaching driver and cause them to veer slightly away from the stopping vehicle.

It also goes without saying that aggressive late braking induces more wear on your brake components. Braking hard from 80 km/h to 0 km/h will use up noticeably more brake pad and rotor material than slowing gently from 80 km/h to around 60 km/h and then braking gently to 0 km/h. Heavy braking will also wear out tires faster by making them work harder.

Nothing is gained by the aggressive late braking technique unless you are at the race track. It costs in wear and tear and reduced safety. Very little time, if any, is saved and it only increases the risk and stress.

The best method of braking is employing good vision technique by looking farther up the road, processing driving information and planning gentle, smooth braking to reduce wear, save fuel and increase safety.

Leave the late braking for race car drivers. They don’t mind replacing brake pads and rotors quite often and it can save them a few tenths of a second — which actually matters at the race track.

Most Reliable Cars

How do you measure car reliability? Research its warranty, for one. Check out all its specs, too — that’ll help. But above all else, here’s what you do: ask.

Indeed, there may be no better way to gauge a car’s dependability than by polling its drivers, who experience the peaks and flaws of a vehicle that could only present themselves in day-to-day use. Based, then, on the responses of 1.3 million car owners to a recent Consumer Reports survey, here are the 10 most reliable auto brands on the road today.

Ford is not on the list as it has had issue with the MyTouch (which controls heating, air bond, radio etc) system in the Edge, Explorer and Taurus models. Otherwise it would of been #10 on the list.

This is list not entirely accurate, as J.D Power has different results.

* Survey covers model years 2002 to 2011.

10. Volvo

Reliability: 5% better than average

Volvo may be the lowest-ranked car maker on this list, but it’s nonetheless the most reliable European manufacturer, by Consumer Reports‘ survey. Leading Volvo’s lineup this year is the top-rated C70, the Swedish-based brand’s hardtop convertible, which received the automaker’s highest reliability score.

9.  Nissan

Reliability: 7% better than average

As a whole, Nissan is a fine auto brand, but there is a major discrepancy between its most- and least-reliable model, based on Consumer Reports‘ findings. According to the survey, the Nissan Titan, the Japanese brand’s pickup, is nearly 60 per cent more reliable than the average car. By contrast, though, the Nissan Z sports car, the auto maker’s lowest-rated model, is 120 per cent less reliable than the average vehicle.

8.  Subaru (Tie)

Reliability: 26% better than average

Subaru is the second Japanese brand to appear in this top 10, and you’d better get used to car makers from the country. Of the 91 Japanese models studied by Consumer Reports, 87 (96 per cent) were rated average or better in reliability, and each of the nine most reliable auto brands are based in the island nation.

7. Infiniti (Tie)

Reliability: 26% better than average

Infiniti, though it’s down two spots from last year’s Consumer Reports auto reliability rankings, isn’t just a dependable brand in 2011 — it’ll be just as trusted next year, too. According to Consumer Reports‘ predicted reliability rankings for 2012, where to-be-released models are measured by the watchdog agency, the Infiniti G sedan is forecast to be some 40 per cent more reliable than the average car.

6. Toyota

Reliability: 27% better than average

Toyota is so reliable even its spot on this top 10 stays consistent. Throwing out the Sienna AWD minivan, which received the worst dependability score (nearly 40 per cent less reliable than the average car) of the auto maker’s 22 models surveyed by Consumer Reports, every Toyota was ranked at least average or better when it comes to reliability. As it scored last year, Toyota is the sixth-most reliable manufacturer on the road today.

5.  Honda

Reliability: 28% better than average

Like Toyota, Honda’s lineup is almost entirely reliable save for one ugly duckling. Of the 11 Honda models surveyed by Consumer Reports, all were above average in terms of reliability with the exception of one — the Odyssey minivan. Still, even the Odyssey ain’t all that bad; its score of 30 per cent less reliable than the average car is much more favourable than the worst vehicles of other auto makers like Hyundai, Lincoln and Volkswagen. Pictured is the midsize segment’s gold standard, the Honda Accord.

4. Mazda ( I was surprised to see Mazda on the top 10, wait til you see #1)

Reliability: 36% better than average

What a difference a year makes. Despite few major redesigns, Mazda is the most improved brand on this top 10, jumping eight spots up the reliability rankings in 2011, as per Consumer Reports‘ rankings. Each and every surveyed Mazda model, seven in all, boasted above average dependability on this year’s list.

3. Acura

Reliability: 37% better than average

Acura is one of four auto makers surveyed by Consumer Reports to not have a car with a below average reliability score. In fact, the lowest-scored Acura, the TSX, still has a reliability score of about 15 per cent more dependable than the average car. That score — remember, we’re talking about the lowest for Acura — is higher than the highest-ranked vehicles for major brands like Jeep, Porsche and Jaguar. Pictured is the brand’s midsize TL sedan, which underwent styling changes for 2012.

2. Lexus

Reliability: 40% better than average

Another big winner in Consumer Reports‘ 2011 reliability rankings is Lexus, which rebounded seven places from last year’s list. And, at number two, the Toyota-owned line is in good standing. All 11 of the surveyed models can lay claim to above average reliability, and the most dependable of all cars considered by Consumer Reports — the IS convertible, at 67 per cent more reliable than the average vehicle — is a Lexus.

1.  Scion

Reliability: 52% better than average

You may not know anyone with a Scion, and certainly the brand’s sample size is small. Only two of the Japanese auto maker’s cars were considered by Consumer Reports for this survey, but perhaps that’s a testament to how under-adopted the Scion is in North America. The xB and xD models measured by Consumer Reports are two of the most dependable cars on this entire feature, and of all the top Japanese brands — Lexus, Mazda, Honda — it is Scion that can wear the reliability crown in 2011.


2013 Ford Fusion and Escape to get major make-over

A year after researching, test drives and renting I finally went with a brand I never had in mind.  Ford was not a brand I thought I could trust but then I researched more and learned that the new  Ford CEO has changed everything at Ford headquarters, including making better quality cars and I am here to attest to that and to say that the former CEO of bombardier knows what he’s doing. I’ve owned the 2011 Ford Fusion for about 4 months now and I have only good things to say about it. Agile, quiet, fuel efficient, loaded with tech stuff, and it talks to you and YOU TALK TO YOUR IT! You’ve made a new Ford Car friend practically. 

I’ve read only positive reviews on the Ford Fusion and after renting it for a bit in the summer and owning it for 3 months, I have no complaints. I actually love how it drives, very agile, inside hardly any road noise, has all the bells and whistles, tech stuff except for the review mirror and for a mid-size sedan you don’t need one.

Now here comes the redesigned Fusion next year.

WH-FORD
What MAY be the 2013 Ford Fusion.

COLOGNE, GERMANY — The final production details and on-sale dates of all-new versions of two of Canada’s most popular new vehicles, the Ford Escape and Fusion, are still being held under lock and key behind Ford’s doors.

But during this year’s Frankfurt auto show, Canada’s best-selling automaker offered several puzzle pieces as to how its next model-year Escape compact crossover and Fusion mid-size family sedan (due sometime next year) will look, drive, ride and handle.

Despite the Escape being around since 2000, riding on a platform that dates back to the 1990s’ Mazda 626, it remains a solid seller in Canada.

With more than 31,000 sold through the end of August this year, the small SUV is Ford’s second best-selling vehicle, only behind the top-selling F Series trucks.

The Fusion, which debuted in 2005, also qualifies as an oldie but a goodie.

More: Ford’s stunning new concept shows off future style and features

More: Ford falls hard in new Consumer Reports ranking

With more than 14,000 sold so far this year, it’s the best-selling mid-size sedan in Canada.

Ford has already previewed the looks of the 2013 Escape in the shape of the Vertrek concept, first seen at last January’s Detroit show.

The 2013 Fusion and its European Mondeo platform-mate had their design previewed by the Ford Evos concept at the Frankfurt show.

The Ford concept’s gull-wing doors won’t make it to production. But the 2013 Fusion (expected at next January’s Detroit show) should wear a similar rendition of the Evos’s front grille, swept-back side window treatment, and production-ready versions of its head- and tail-lights.

To get a feel for how the next Fusion and Escape may drive, Ford offered me the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a current 2012 Mondeo sedan and the Escape’s European counterpart, the Kuga crossover, near the German city of Cologne, where many of Ford’s European engineering facilities are found.

Like the recently introduced Fiesta and Focus, Ford is minimizing the differences between its vehicles globally.

I was told that, in regards to steering, ride and handling, the current European Mondeo and Kuga give big clues as to what to expect in regards to driving dynamics for our next Fusion and Escape.

In the case of today’s Escape, that can only be a good thing.

Similar to rivals like the Kia Sportage or Volkswagen Tiguan, piloting the Kuga is similar to driving a tall compact hatch.

The model I drove (powered by a diesel engine that will not be initially offered in the next Escape) offered a lot more linearity and feel in its steering than today’s Escape.

In fact, the Kuga had a trio of driver-adjustable steering settings.

The Escape has one: numb.

Of course, much of the Kuga’s driving appeal comes from its compact dimensions, which more than likely are upsized slightly for the North American Escape.

The difference between today’s Fusion and Mondeo sedans is more subtle.

The current Fusion is one of the more fun-to-drive family sedans, but it lacks the driving refinement of its European counterpart. The Mondeo feels more composed, better planted in corners, and with more communicative steering than its North American cousin.

Even at speeds up to 180 km/h on a stretch of unrestricted speed on the autobahn, the Mondeo felt rock-solid.

If Ford can make the next Fusion drive like today’s Mondeo, fans of European sedans on a budget may have to add the Ford to their shopping list.

The other piece of the 2013 Fusion’s puzzle was what was under the Mondeo’s hood.

It’s the same 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder EcoBoost gas engine that’s becoming optional in the Canadian-market 2012 Edge and Explorer.

If you haven’t heard, “EcoBoost” is what Ford calls its new powertrain strategy. It involves using gas engines, but with smaller displacements to reduce fuel consumption (the “Eco” bit), then bolstered with high-tech (turbo charging, direct-injection and twin-independent variable cam technology, etc.) to make up the difference in performance (the “Boost” part).

The 2.0L four is one of four EcoBoost engines, which also includes the 3.5L V6 iteration (now offered in various Ford and Lincoln full-size products, including the F-150 truck), a 1.6L four available in the European Focus, and a new 1.0L three-cylinder (that will become the smallest engine Ford makes) available in European Fiesta and Focus models in 2012.

Ford won’t confirm it, but I expect the 2.0 EcoBoost four will replace the current Fusion’s V6 engines as an upgrade over a naturally aspirated four in the base model.

Compared with the 2012 Fusion’s 2.5L four, the Mondeo’s 2.0 EcoBoost has a lot more horsepower (237 vs. 175), and pound-feet of torque (251 vs. 172). But it sips about the same amount of fuel: around 7.5L 100 km combined city and highway.

Back on the autobahn, the Modeo’s 2.0 EcoBoost is more refined than racy.

As with the Mustang, Ford added a bulkhead-directed “sound symposer” to create the addition of some “naturally aspirated” engine sound at high engine revs and during stomps on the accelerator.

The engine is smooth, but the power won’t startle you. Turbo lag is non-existent. And the Mondeo is heavy for its class, which may have dulled the EcoBoost’s responsiveness as well.

Also know that there’s a large performance gap between the 2.0 and 3.5 EcoBoost engines.

A fifth engine to fill that hole, and possibly power a high-performance Fusion ST, would offer some competition to my current family sedan pick: the Kia Optima SX, with its 274 hp four.

With the looks from the Evos and Vertrek concepts, power from the EcoBoost engine family, plus vehicle dynamics and driving characteristics developed in Europe, Ford has outlined many of the pieces that will make up the 2013 Fusion and Escape models.

How all those pieces come together is another thing. Come this time next year, we should have our answers.

Travel for freelance writer John LeBlanc was provided by the automaker.

Best and Worst Used Cars

Savvy car buyers know that the best way to get the most vehicle for their money is to buy a used car. With the average new car losing 47 percent of its value in the first three years, buying used is an affordable way to get the safety and comfort features you want at a far better price.

The Best of the best list guides you to the 2001 to 2010 models that scored well in our road tests when new and have been consistently reliable over time. Each has achieved multiple years of above-average used-car verdicts (available to subscribers), indicating that owners have had relatively few problems.

Models built by Toyota and Honda dominate the list once again, and many of the best used vehicles are from Asian manufacturers. But high-quality vehicles are available from domestic and European automakers as well.

The Worst of the worst list shows models that have had multiple years of below-average reliability in our survey. It is dominated by vehicles from domestic and European manufacturers, primarily General Motors, which had 16 of the 29 models listed.

Our reliability data are derived from our Annual Auto Survey, which generated responses from subscribers on 1.3 million vehicles.

Best and worst used cars

The most reliable models and those to avoid

Last reviewed: April 2011
2009 Honda Fit
2009 Honda Fit
 

Savvy car buyers know that the best way to get the most vehicle for their money is to buy a used car. With the average new car losing 47 percent of its value in the first three years, buying used is an affordable way to get the safety and comfort features you want at a far better price.

The Best of the best list guides you to the 2001 to 2010 models that scored well in our road tests when new and have been consistently reliable over time. Each has achieved multiple years of above-average used-car verdicts (available to subscribers), indicating that owners have had relatively few problems.

Models built by Toyota and Honda dominate the list once again, and many of the best used vehicles are from Asian manufacturers. But high-quality vehicles are available from domestic and European automakers as well.

The Worst of the worst list shows models that have had multiple years of below-average reliability in our survey. It is dominated by vehicles from domestic and European manufacturers, primarily General Motors, which had 16 of the 29 models listed.

Our reliability data are derived from our Annual Auto Survey, which generated responses from subscribers on 1.3 million vehicles.

We also list reliable cars by price range (available to subscribers), so that you can easily see what’s available for your budget.

Our Used cars to avoid list (available to subscribers) highlights specific models and the years that they had below-average reliability.

 

Best of the best

Here we highlight the most reliable and well-rounded vehicle in each category. We also list other contenders in order of their overall reliability scores for model years 2001 to 2010. Each model has at least three years of reliability data.

Small cars

Honda Fit

The Fit has been an economical, reliable, and versatile hatchback ever since it went on sale in the U.S. in 2007. It packs a huge amount of usable space into a small package and has standard antilock braking and curtain air bags. But before 2011 electronic stability control (ESC) was available only on models with the optional navigation system.

  • Other good choices:
  • Toyota Echo
  • Honda Civic
  • Scion xB
  • Pontiac Vibe
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Toyota Matrix
  • Mazda3
  • Subaru Impreza (nonturbo)
  • Honda Civic Hybrid
  • Volkswagen Rabbit
  • Suzuki SX4
  • Mazda Protegé
 

Family cars

2004 Toyota Prius

2004 Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius

The Prius has had outstanding reliability and has delivered standout fuel economy. But the redesigned 2010 model has only average reliability. Look for one with optional ESC, starting with 2004 models.

  • Other good choices:
  • Ford Fusion (FWD)
  • Mercury Milan (FWD)
  • Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • Honda Accord
  • Toyota Camry
  • Nissan Altima Hybrid
  • Mazda6 sedan (4-cyl.)
  • Nissan Altima
 

Upscale cars

Lexus ES

The ES has long been a strong contender in this category. It has had outstanding reliability over the past 10 model years and is quiet and comfortable. ESC became standard with the redesigned 2007 model, which included a bigger engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.

  • Other good choices:
  • Lexus IS sedan
  • Toyota Avalon
  • Acura TL
  • Acura TSX
  • Infiniti G35, G37
  • Infiniti I30, I35
  • Volvo S60 (FWD)
  • Lincoln MKZ, Zephyr (FWD)
 

Luxury cars

2005 Acura RL

2005 Acura RL

Acura RL

While the RL isn’t the sportiest car, it has had excellent reliability wrapped in a comfortable and refined package. The 2005 redesign brought standard all-wheel drive but complicated controls. The Infiniti M35 is sportier and the much-larger Lexus LS is more luxurious.

  • Other good choices:
  • Lexus LS
  • Lexus GS (RWD)
  • Infiniti M35
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan (V6, RWD)
 

Sports & sporty cars

2007 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2007 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Mazda MX-5 Miata

The Miata is affordable and fun to drive. Look for models after 2006, when ABS became standard. The Lexus SC is a top-down cruiser with the added comfort of a folding hard-top roof. For a sportier alternative, consider the Acura RSX coupe and the Honda S2000 roadster.

  • Other good choices:
  • Lexus SC Acura RSX
  • Honda S2000
  • Toyota Camry Solara
  • Honda Civic Si
  • Ford Mustang
  • BMW Z3, Z4
  • Toyota Celica
  • Porsche Boxster
  • Scion tC
  • Volvo C70
  • Mercedes-Benz SLK
 

Small SUVs

Honda CR-V

The CR-V is comfortable and drives like a car, with a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine. In 2005 ESC and curtain air bags were made standard, and the 2007 redesign brought more power and improved fuel efficiency. The Acura RDX is quick and agile but has a stiff ride. The Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander offer third-row seats.

  • Other good choices:
  • Acura RDX
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Kia Sportage (’05-09)
  • Hyundai Tucson (V6)
  • Subaru Forester
  • Infiniti EX
  • Nissan Rogue
 

Midsized & large SUVs

Toyota Highlander

The Highlander is quiet and refined, with a comfortable ride. It delivers good fuel economy, especially the Hybrid model. The Land Cruiser combines luxury with serious off-road ability.

  • Other good choices:
  • Toyota Land Cruiser
  • Toyota 4Runner (V6)
  • Honda Pilot
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid
  • Lexus RX
  • Lexus RX Hybrid
  • Acura MDX
  • Infiniti FX35
  • Toyota Sequoia
  • Mazda CX-9
  • Lexus GX
  • Subaru B9 Tribeca, Tribeca
 

Minivans

2008 Toyota Sienna

2008 Toyota Sienna

Toyota Sienna (FWD)

A Lexus-like ride and comfort are hallmarks of the Sienna. The well-mannered suspension and refined V6 engine, along with very good reliability, are among its strong suits. Look for post-2004 models, which are roomier and more powerful. AWD is optional, but the run-flat tires may wear somewhat quickly. The Honda Odyssey has better handling, but its reliability has not been as good.

 

Pickup trucks

2007 Honda Ridgeline

2007 Honda Ridgeline

Honda Ridgeline

The Ridgeline combines car-like handling with the utility of a pickup truck. It is easy to get in and out of the cabin, the tailgate can open horizontally or drop down, and the composite bed has a lockable, all-weather trunk. The Toyota Tundra offers greater towing and cargo-hauling capacities.

  • Other good choices:
  • Toyota Tundra (V8, 4WD)
  • Toyota Tacoma (V6, 4WD ’05-10)

Worst of the worst

These models, listed alphabetically, have multiple years of reliability that’s much worse than average among 2001 to 2010 models.

Audi A6 (2.7T, 3.0T) GMC Acadia (AWD)
BMW 535i (AWD) GMC Canyon (4WD)
BMW X5 GMC S-15 Sonoma (4WD)
Cadillac SRX (AWD) GMC Safari
Chevrolet Astro Hummer H3
Chevrolet Aveo Jaguar S-Type, XF
Chevrolet Blazer Kia Sedona
Chevrolet Colorado (4WD) Mercedes-Benz R-Class
Chevrolet Impala (V8) Mini Cooper Convertible
Chevrolet S-10 Pickup (4WD) Pontiac G6 Coupe & Convertible
Chevrolet Uplander Saturn Outlook (FWD)
Chrysler PT Cruiser (turbo) Saturn Relay
Chrysler Town & Country Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible
Dodge Caravan Volkswagen Passat (V6, FWD)
Dodge Grand Caravan