Price, performance, and features are all factors consumers consider when buying a car, but for many, the most important is reliability. People need to know that their vehicles will function as intended, with as few trips to the repair shop as possible.
To determine reliability, many turn to U.S.-based Consumer Reports (CR). The company rates vehicles by surveying owners about problems they’ve had with their vehicles — including issues with the engine and transmission, driveline, electrical system, brakes, body, and electronics.
Since SUVs are so popular, we’ve picked CR’s most and least reliable sport-utilities for 2023, in the categories of compact (two rows of seats); large (three rows of seats); and luxury. These are predicted reliability scores for 2023 models, based on the points each received out of a possible 100.
Most Reliable Compact SUV: Subaru Crosstrek
Subaru Crosstrek Photo by Subaru
The Subaru Crosstrek achieved a score of 80 points, earning much-better-than-average scores in every category of areas of potential issues. There is a caveat here: The Toyota Corolla Cross racked up an even higher score of 96 points overall, but CR used data from only one model year (it was introduced as an all-new model for 2022) while the Crosstrek’s data was built up over seven years to predict future reliability; and the Corolla Cross scored much-better-than-average on all but in-car electronics, where it was better-than-average.
The Crosstrek’s 80-point score tied with its Crosstrek Hybrid sibling, but CR is a U.S. company and that gas-electric model was only sold briefly in Canada in very limited markets. Below those Crosstrek twins were the Chevrolet Trailblazer at 76; Honda HR-V at 75; and the Buick Encore GX and Mini Cooper Countryman, tied at 55 points.
For owner satisfaction, the Crosstrek scored 77/100 for driving experience and 69 for comfort, along with 59 for value. In Canada, the Crosstrek ranges from $24,995 to $35,795. When Crosstrek owners were asked if they’d buy another, 75% said yes — the highest in the segment, where 73% would buy another Cooper Countryman and 65% would purchase another HR-V, but only 55% would return to Toyota for another Corolla Cross.
Most Reliable Large SUV: Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Toyota Highlander Hybrid Photo by Toyota
In its most recent best-and-worst survey among all vehicles, CR found that hybrids scored highest (along with sedans; electric vehicles and pickup trucks were the most problematic). That’s the case here, where the Highlander Hybrid scored 74, while the gas-only Highlander reached 71. Both are considerably better than the next-up Kia Telluride at 59 points, followed by the Mazda CX-9 at 57; Honda Pilot at 56; and Hyundai Palisade at 54.
The Highlander scored much-better-than-average in every area of reliability, improving over the previous year for body integrity (which includes squeaks, rattles, wind noise, and leaks) when owners found it was just “average.” When asked if they’d buy another Highlander Hybrid, 79% of owners would — but that was below the 88% of Telluride owners who would purchase another. That could be because the Highlander Hybrid scored only 48 points out of 100 for value among buyers. In Canada, the 2023 Highlander Hybrid comes only in AWD, and is $50,539 to $60,649.
Most Reliable Luxury SUV: Lexus GX 460 4WD
Lexus GX 460 Photo by Lexus
Toyota and Lexus traditionally rate high with CR, and the GX 460 – the fourth-largest of Lexus’ five SUVs, coming in under the LX – pegged a score of 91. In second place was the Lexus RX at 82, followed by the Lincoln Nautilus at 73; the Lexus RX Hybrid, kicking the CR trend of superior hybrid reliability, at 67; and the Acura MDX at 64.
The GX 460 scored much-better-than-average in all categories save for in-car electronics, where it was average among peers. Owner satisfaction was high on driving experience, comfort, and styling, but as with the Highlander, value was low at 43 points. In Canada, the GX 460 4WD starts at $76,340. Among owners, 71% would buy a GX again; but topping the list was the Porsche Cayenne, with 81% willing to shell out for another. Some 80% of Lexus RX Hybrid buyers would take another one. The GX also rated below the percentage of those who would purchase another BMW X5, Tesla Model X, Audi Q7, Genesis GV80, Lexus RX, and Acura MDX. Wait — what were we saying about the importance of super-high reliability scores?
Least Reliable Compact SUV: Hyundai Kona Electric
Hyundai Kona Electric Photo by Hyundai
Most battery models scored low with CR, but the Kona Electric managed a paltry five points out of 100 for predicted reliability. Among electric rivals, the Chevrolet Bolt EUV also earned just five points, but we don’t really consider it an SUV – it’s basically a slightly-longer version of the Bolt hatchback, which earned a score of 17 points, as it’s been around longer than the EUV and had more years of data available. The Nissan Leaf did the best at 53 points.
We will note that, as with the Crosstrek/Corolla Cross, there was a vehicle that scored lower than the Kona Electric. The Volkswagen Taos rated a mere one out of 100 — but as with the Corolla Cross, CR had just one year’s worth of data on it, compared to three years for the Kona, hence the Hyundai’s higher ranking on CR’s overall list. And, yet, do we still need to tell you that the low-scoring Kona wasn’t the one least likely to be purchased again? At 48% of owners queuing up for another, it was higher than the repurchase percentages for the Jeep Renegade or Fiat 500X, both of which scored 25/100 for reliability.
The Kona scored much-worse-than-average in the areas of major engine/motor and electrical issues, and worse-than-average for its climate system. Owners gave it 92/100 for driving performance, but 59 for comfort and only 40 points for value. In Canada, the Kona Electric is $44,399 for Preferred trim; and $49,499 for Ultimate, before any applicable “green” rebates. Still, 62% of owners would buy another Kona Electric, versus 65% who’d buy another Bolt, 69% who would turn over a new Leaf, and 72% who would purchase another Bolt EUV.
Least Reliable Large SUV (tie): Kia Sorento
Kia Sorento Photo by Kia
Among three-row sport-utes, the Kia Sorento tied with the Nissan Pathfinder for last place at 5/100. Among the areas deemed much-worse-than-average were engine cooling, and major and minor transmission problems. Issues deemed average were major engine problems, brakes, body hardware, and in-car electronics. It did score much-better-than-average for the driveline, fuel system, exhaust, and body integrity.
Despite all that, owner satisfaction was 70 points or better for driving experience, comfort, and styling; and only value fell short, at 31/100. In Canada, the Sorento runs between $34,995 and $48,595. Only 60% of Sorento owners would buy another one. The Kia Telluride topped the list with 88% of owners willing to take another. Compared to the Sorento, the only owners less likely to buy another one of the same were those who owned a Ford Explorer at 59%; or Dodge Durango or Volkswagen Atlas, both at 57%.
Least Reliable Large SUV (tie): Nissan Pathfinder
Nissan Pathfinder Photo by Nissan
The Pathfinder was redesigned for 2022, and the 2023 edition ties with the Sorento for lowest predicted reliability. It actually scored much-better-than-average in several areas, including engine, driveline, and brakes. That was offset by much-worse-than-average for body hardware, power equipment, and in-car electronics; and only average for major transmission issues and body integrity. While the Sorento and Pathfinder shared the bottom spot at 5/100, vehicles also scoring low were the Ford Explorer at 16; and Jeep Grand Cherokee L at 26. Others below 50/100 were the Dodge Durango at 43; Subaru Ascent at 44; Kia Sorento Hybrid at 45; Volkswagen Atlas at 46; and Chevrolet Traverse at 47.
For owner satisfaction, the Pathfinder followed the pattern we’re seeing here: high for driving experience, comfort, and styling, but very low – 28 out of 100 – for value. Canadians pay between $45,998 and $56,998 for one. While 60% of Sorento owners would buy another, 65% of Pathfinder owners would purchase one again.
Least Reliable Luxury SUV: Lincoln Aviator
Lincoln Aviator Photo by Lincoln
The midsize Aviator, which shares its platform with the Ford Explorer and is also available as the Aviator Grand Touring plug-in hybrid, scored a mere 8/100 for predicted reliability. It got much-better-than-average in several areas, including major engine, transmission, brakes and power equipment, but much-worse-than-average for its driveline, suspension, paint and trim, body integrity, and in-car electronics, plus only average for minor engine issues and electrical system. It’s a long way up from the Aviator’s eight points to the next-least-reliable Mercedes-Benz GLE at 23 points. The Tesla Model X, Land Rover Discovery, Land Rover Defender, Jaguar I-Pace, and Audi e-tron all scored 25 points each; and the Volvo XC90 came in at 28; the Infiniti QX60 at 30; Cadillac XT6 at 32; and Genesis GV80 at 38 points.
You know the story by now: Owners were satisfied with everything but value. The Aviator starts at $73,400 in Canada. Still, 63% of owners would buy another Aviator, while 65% of GLE owners would go back to their Mercedes-Benz dealer for another. But owners of six other models were less likely than Aviator owners to return for another: those owning a Cadillac XT6 (62%); Audi Q8 (61%); and Jaguar I-Pace, Land Rover Defender, and Land Rover Discovery, all at 55%.
Jil McIntosh specializes in new-car reviews, auto technology and antique cars, including the two 1940s vehicles in her garage.
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