Most Dependable Cars on the Road 2019
2016 Model Year Studied
Research firm J.D. Power has been producing its annual U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study for the past 30 years — a milestone anniversary for a study that automakers take seriously and consumers recognize and value. The 2019 study examines problems experienced in the last 12 months by original owners of 2016 model-year vehicles, with overall dependability determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles — PP100. A lower score indicates higher dependability. This year J.D. Power reports that overall dependability improved 4 percent compared to 2018 — however, the level of improvement is down compared to last year. The 2019 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 32,000 original owners of 2016 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. The study was conducted from October through December of 2018.
“Vehicle dependability continues to improve, but I wouldn’t say that everything is rosy,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. “Vehicles are more reliable than ever, but automakers are wrestling with problems such as voice recognition, transmission shifts and battery failures. Flawless dependability is a determining factor in whether customers remain loyal to a brand, so manufacturers need to help customers who are currently experiencing vehicle problems and address these trouble spots on future models,” Sargent noted.
The J.D. Power study also reveals the results of an automaker acting on how the brand fared in previous years — for example, in 2018 Chrysler was one of only two automakers eclipsing more than 200 problems per 100 vehicles. That said, for 2019 Chrysler was the most improved brand with a reduction of 65 PP100. Other brands that experienced significant improvement were MINI and Subaru. Another interesting element of the 2019 vehicle dependability study: Overall, mass-market brands outperformed luxury brands for the first time since the study began.
Highest-Ranked Nameplate — Lexus
For the eighth consecutive year, Lexus sits atop the dependability pedestal with 106 PP100, inching out second-place Porsche and Toyota (tied) by just 2 PP100. Chevrolet and Buick round out the top five. Volvo, Land Rover and Fiat reside at the bottom of the list as the only brands to show more than 200 PP100. Here are the top models from the 2016 model year in each of 20 categories, plus the overall winner.
Most Dependable Vehicle Overall — Porsche 911
For the first time ever, J.D. Power heralds the vehicle that rated best overall: The Porsche 911 earned the Most Dependable ranking for this year’s study. The 911 was updated for the 2016 model year with fresh design elements that included new headlights with 4-point daytime running lights, integrated door handle recesses, a redesigned rear decklid with vertical louvers, and new rear lights with the characteristic 4-point brake lights. One of the biggest changes was the addition of a new generation of twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat 6-cylinder engines that provide a 20-horsepower increase over the previous models. The 911 Carrera has 370 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque, while the 911 Carrera S has 420 horsepower and 368 lb-ft of torque with peak torque available from 1700 to 5000 rpm.
Small Car — Chevrolet Sonic
In 2016 the Chevrolet Sonic was one of the lowest-price vehicles in America. After years of imports dominating the small car market, it was nice to see American brands delivering high-quality, economical small cars — the Sonic being an excellent example. Available as a sedan or 5-door hatchback, the sporty little model offers good performance with a fuel-efficient 1.8-liter engine producing 138 horsepower and delivering up to 35 mpg on the highway. Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and six months free of OnStar Guidance Plan, which provides automatic crash response, stolen vehicle assistance, roadside assistance and turn-by-turn navigation.
Compact Car — Buick Verano
The Verano was Buick’s entry-level sedan that joined the lineup as a 2012 model, but left the portfolio following the 2017 model year. Featuring a sportier design that was created to appeal to a younger demographic, Verano offered OnStar 4G LTE connectivity and a standard built-in Wi-Fi hotspot to provide a mobile hub. The standard engine was a 2.4-liter EcoTec four cylinder that produces 180 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission to achieve an EPA rating of 21 mpg city / 32 mpg hwy / 25 mpg combined. Surprisingly, Buick even offered the Verano with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Verano showcased Buick’s QuietTuning technology, designed to block and absorb sound and eliminate vibrations to give Verano one of the quietest interiors in its class.
Compact Sporty Car — MINI Cooper
Considerably larger than the original version produced by British Motor Corporation, the MINI Cooper is still one of the smallest cars on the market. And like that original, the MINI (now owned by BMW) is still front-wheel drive, fuel efficient and great fun to drive. The MINI Cooper was redesigned for the 2015 model year followed by the 2016 MINI Convertible. The base 2016 MINI Cooper is powered by a turbocharged MINI TwinPower 1.5-liter engine 3-cylinder engine that produces 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, while the Cooper S bumps up to a turbocharged MINI TwinPower 2.0-liter engine that produces 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard with a 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission optional.
Compact Multi-Purpose Vehicle — Kia Soul
The Soul is not a typical compact car — and that’s part of its charm. The cute, boxy hatchback makes great use of space; it has a small footprint but a surprisingly roomy interior for passengers and cargo. The 2016 Kia Soul features a 1.6-liter engine that generates 130 horsepower and delivers up to 30 mpg on the highway. Soul comes with a number of high-value standard features including an AM/FM/MP3 player, satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, air-conditioning and a trip computer. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control and a brake assist system are also standard.
Compact Premium Car — Lexus ES
One of the best-selling luxury cars in America during the 2016 model year, the ES is an entry-level Lexus that came with many of the comfort and convenience features found in more expensive models. Updated with a bold new grille for 2016, the ES 350 sources power from a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine driving the front wheels. It may have been the entry-level sedan in the Lexus lineup, but the 2016 ES offered plenty of standard luxury amenities expected in a Lexus. Leather trim was standard, as were a power moonroof, automatic climate control, a high-end audio system with Bluetooth audio streaming and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Midsize Car — Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry had been the best-selling car in America for 14 years straight, and it was redesigned for the 2015 model year with an aggressive new grille and front bumper. The new look continued for 2016 featuring available LED headlights with integrated front turn signals and LED daytime running lights. New taillights wrapped around into tapered rear quarter panels. The standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine in the 2016 Camry produces 178 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque; with a 6-speed automatic transmission it is EPA rated at 25 mpg city / 35 mpg hwy / 28 mpg combined.
Midsize Sporty Car — Dodge Challenger
The Challenger is Dodge’s retro-styled coupe offering an impressive list of standard features, even on the most basic models. The 2-door Challenger offers the latest in high-tech entertainment and safety features, but this retro-looking coupe is really all about performance. The Challenger is available in several torque-generating versions, but the most talked-about variant in 2016 was — and still is — the Challenger Hellcat. The Hellcat had the first production use of a supercharger on a HEMI V8, resulting in a massive 707 horsepower that summons 60 mph in less than 4 seconds with a top speed of almost 200 mph. Even more impressive, this beast seats up to 5 passengers and boasts an EPA rating of 22 mpg highway.
Midsize Premium Car — BMW 5 Series
The BMW 5 Series was in the last year of its sixth generation in 2016 with an all-new model arriving the following year. With a perfect blend of luxury and sportiness, the 5 Series was available as both sedan or Gran Turismo — which was almost a crossover but still not quite an X5. Rear-wheel drive was standard on the 2016 5 Series, while all trims were available with full-time all-wheel drive. A variety of powertrains were available, including hybrid, diesel and a powerful 4.4-liter V8 engine.
Large Car — Buick LaCrosse
The largest car in the Buick lineup, the LaCrosse continues its claim as the Most Dependable Large Car. Receiving a major redesign two years earlier, the 2016 LaCrosse carried on with features that included OnStar with 4G LTE and a standard built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, IntelliLink with text messaging alerts and Siri Eyes Free. LaCrosse also featured Buick’s “QuietTuning,” designed to reduce or block unwanted noise, making the LaCrosse one of the quietest models in the segment. This large Buick was also available with forward collision alert, lane departure warning and blind spot alert.
Small SUV — Volkswagen Tiguan
Tiguan was and continues to be Volkswagen’s compact SUV. One of the lowest-priced SUVs on the market in 2016, back then the Tiguan was powered by a 200-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with a 6-speed automatic transmission and was available with either front-wheel drive or 4Motion all-wheel drive. Standard features were numerous, including V-Tex leatherette seat surfaces, heated front seats, keyless access with pushbutton start, an MIB II infotainment system with a 5-inch touchscreen, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers.
Small Premium SUV — Audi Q3
The Q3 is the smallest of Audi’s SUV offerings and has earned the Most Dependable rating for each of its first two years on the market. Available with either front-wheel drive or Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel-drive system, the Q3 was designed to offer the agility of a small car without losing the capabilities of an SUV. Powering the 2016 Q3 is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder powerplant producing 200 horsepower. In keeping with Audi’s reputation for luxurious amenities, the Q3 comes well equipped with heated 12-way power front leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, Xenon headlights, and keyless entry/start.
Compact SUV — Chevrolet Equinox
One of the most popular crossovers in America, the Equinox is Chevrolet’s smallest SUV but with a roomy interior and seating for up to five occupants. Equinox received a number of design and feature updates for the 2016 model year including a new front fascia, a dual-port grille with chrome accents, projector-beam headlights, new dual-element taillights, a new lower rear fascia, new wheel designs and LED daytime running lights for LT and LTZ trims. Inside, the revised center stack offered a new storage shelf and updated control graphics with a new 7-inch Color Touch Radio and rear-vision camera standard on entry-level L and LS trims.
Compact Premium SUV — BMW X3
It may look like an SUV, but according to BMW the X3 is an SAV — a Sports Activity Vehicle. Whatever you call it, the X3 is one of the sportier small crossovers on the market and was in its third generation in 2016. Styling updates a year earlier brought the exterior looks more in line with the rest of the BMW family. Three different engines were available, including a powerful and fuel-efficient diesel option on the xDrive28d. The 2016 twin-turbo diesel delivers 181 horsepower and — more importantly — 280 lb-ft of torque, which makes it rather quick off the line. With an 8-speed automatic transmission the 2016 X3 28d is rated at 34 mpg on the highway.
Midsize Pickup — Nissan Frontier
The Frontier is Nissan’s entry in the midsize pickup truck market and it hasn’t really changed much in the last ten years. Available as a King Cab or Crew Cab, the 2016 Frontier could be had with rear- or 4-wheel drive as well as with long or short truck beds. Two engines were available: a 2.5-liter 152-horsepower 4-cylinder unit or a 4.0-liter V6 producing a more respectable 261 horsepower. Frontier could be equipped with a variety of features including a heavy-duty suspension, available off-road-tuned Bilstein high-pressure performance gas shock absorbers, skidplates (PRO-4X grade), and an innovative Utili-track Channel System for easy cargo securing.
Midsize SUV — Hyundai Santa Fe
In 2016 the midsize Santa Fe was one year away from a complete redesign. The versatile crossover was available as a 7-passenger Santa Fe or 5-passenger Sante Fe Sport configurations, with front- or all-wheel drive. Features included a power Hands-Free Smart Liftgate with Auto Open, and the electric power steering had been redone for better steering feel. The Santa Fe Sport was available with either a 190-horsepower 2.4-liter engine or a 264-horsepower turbocharged 2.0 liter, while the Santa Fe sported a 290-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 engine.
Midsize Premium SUV — Lexus GX
Although the trend had moved toward luxury crossovers that are more at home on pavement than on dirt, the 2016 Lexus GX still retained its impressive off-road prowess. Based on the Toyota 4Runner, the GX had full-time 4WD and all the equipment needed to do some serious off-roading. Utilizing a trucklike body-on-frame construction, the GX460 is powered by a 4.6-liter V8 engine that produces 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of torque with a full-time 4-wheel-drive system, advanced dynamic control systems and a 6,500-pound towing capacity. Despite exceptional off-road capability, the GX460 features luxurious amenities inside while the standard Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System delivered a smooth, comfortable ride.
Minivan — Chrysler Town & Country
In 2016 Chrysler introduced the all-new Pacifica, which meant it was the final year for the Town & Country minivan. The Chrysler Town & Country was available in multiple levels of luxe, and for 2016 Chrysler celebrated its 90th anniversary with a special Anniversary Edition of the brand’s versatile luxury van. All Town & Country trims came standard with leather seats, 3-zone climate control, powered sliding doors, a power liftgate, a premium audio system and Chrysler’s well-known Stow ‘n Go seats. There was also plenty of storage throughout — as you’d expect in a minivan.
Large SUV — Ford Expedition
The Expedition is Ford’s largest SUV offering with seating for up to eight occupants as well as a spacious cargo area. Available as standard or Extended Length, for 2016 Ford added the new SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system, but otherwise the Expedition was very much the same as the year previous. Powering the 2016 Expedition is a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, the only engine available, producing 365 horsepower and giving the big SUV a towing capacity of 9,200 pounds.
Large Light-Duty Pickup — Toyota Tundra
The full-size truck market is one of the hardest for a non-domestic brand to crack. Although the Tundra had improvements in sales over the years, it still made up a small percentage of overall truck sales. Just one year after getting a complete redesign, the 2016 Tundra carried through with a variety of cab styles and bed lengths as well as rear- or 4-wheel drive. Two V8 engines were available, with the higher trims getting a 5.7-liter V8 that put out 381 horsepower that allowed the big truck to tow more than 10,000 pounds.
Large Heavy-Duty Pickup — Chevrolet Silverado HD
When it comes to heavy-duty pickup trucks, there are only a few choices on the market. The 2016 Silverado HD combines impressive capability with a comfortable cabin and driving ease. The latter was further improved in 2016 with Chevrolet’s Digital Steering Assist power steering — designed to make hauling and trailering easier with electronic controls that enhance road holding and stability on the highway. The 2016 Silverado HD can tow as much as 18,000 pounds when properly equipped.
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