And the winner is...Japan (again)

A leading US vehicle-buying guide has, for the second year in a row, ranked Japanese models as its top choice in all 10 vehicle categories, underlining the uphill battle faced by the three Detroit-based carmakers in their turnround efforts.

Consumer Reports, published by Consumers Union, a non-profit advocacy group, gives nine of this year’s 10 top spots to Toyota, Honda and Infiniti, Nissan’s upscale brand. Mazda, 34 per cent owned by Ford Motor, holds the remaining place with its Miata sports car.

Honda’s Fit won the best small car category, while the Honda Accord was the top-ranked family Sedan.

By contrast, the guide has harsh criticism for Chrysler, whose future is currently under review by DaimlerChrysler, its German parent. The guide recommends only a fifth of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models based on performance and reliability. Several new models, it says, “have noisy engines, bad visibility and cheap interiors”.

The annual car-buying guide is based on tests of 250 models, covering performance, comfort, safety and fuel economy.

Asian carmakers’ share of the US market climbed to 42.1 per cent in January from 37.5 per cent a year earlier, according to Autodata, a New Jersey consultancy. February sales figures, due to be published today, are expected to show gains at the expense of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

Consumer Reports picks the Honda Accord as the top family saloon for the fifth year in a row. Toyota’s Prius petrol-electric hybrid hatchback is named for the fourth time as the vehicle giving most satisfaction to existing owners. GM’s Chevrolet Corvette sports car was second.

But the guide is not entirely flattering to Japanese vehicles. It lists Toyota’s small Yaris car among the biggest disappointments, citing “sloppy emergency handling, excessive noise and uncomfortable driving position”.

Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, slipped from first to fifth place in reliability.

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