You’ve got a lot of options if you’re shopping for a new car. There are hundreds of models to choose from, dozens of brands, and a lot of new tech and safety features to think about. This can all get overwhelming, and that’s why we’re here to help.
We’ve created our Best Car Brand award to identify the automakers with the highest-quality vehicles. We evaluated factors like safety and predicted reliability ratings. We’ve also considered the driving impressions of automotive critics.
Take a look through this slideshow to see the car brands we review from worst to best.
Average Overall Score: 7.47/10
Fiat slips to the back of our car brand rankings. The Fiat 500 hatchback and 500L wagon are older than many of the vehicles they compete against, and this age shows in their subpar cabin materials and few advanced safety features. Dependability is another demerit. Fiat is among the least reliable car brands, according to J.D. Power.
It’s not all bad news, though. The Fiat 124 Spider (pictured above) is one of the best sports cars on the market, and – though it shares a platform with the Mazda Miata – it has a character all its own. The 124 boasts elegant styling, a peppy turbocharged engine, and well-balanced handling. Another highlight is the brand’s Uconnect infotainment system, which is very easy to use.
Average Overall Score: 7.67/10
Nissan has spent the past few years giving its lineup a major update. The 2019 Altima is all-new and vies for a top spot in our competitive midsize car rankings. The Nissan Maxima (pictured above) earns praise as one of the most fun-to-drive large cars. The Nissan Leaf electric car has also been recently updated; it pairs an impressive 151 miles of all-electric range with brisk acceleration, a roomy interior, and affordable pricing.
Nissan update process isn’t complete yet, though. Vehicles like the Nissan Sentra and Versa are dated in terms of interior styling, materials, and safety features. Even the high-performance Nissan 370Z looks and feels quite behind the times.
Average Overall Score: 7.9/10
Over the years, the Buick brand has become known for its upscale cars, and that’s still the case today. The Buick LaCrosse and Regal glide smoothly over rough pavement, and both offer generous seating space and a hushed cabin. The Regal is also offered in a new TourX wagon variant (pictured above), making it a practical option for growing families. What hurts Buick the most is the interior quality of its cars – the materials are good, but they should be better for the price.
The future looks uncertain for Buick’s sedan lineup. Like most companies, the brand has made a decisive shift toward SUVs, like its top-ranked Encore and Enclave models, and it may soon produce only one sedan – the Regal. General Motors will end production of the LaCrosse because of low demand. The Cascada convertible is also expected to bow out, though it wasn’t well-received from the start.
Average Overall Score: 8.05/10
The Dodge lineup includes just two models that aren’t trucks or SUVs: the two-door Challenger coupe (pictured above) and the four-door Charger sedan. Both impress with spacious and nicely trimmed interiors, user-friendly touch screens, and refined handling. Both also pack an engine lineup with heavy punching power. Base models have a muscular V6 engine with around 300 horsepower; the optional V8 engines range from 375- to 797-horsepower. Needless to say, acceleration is snappy, no matter what’s under the hood.
The brand finishes just outside the top 10 however, mainly because of the low-to-average reliability scores of its vehicles.
Average Overall Score: 8.1/10
The Mini lineup is also quite, well… mini. The Mini Cooper is available in stylish two- and four-door hatchback models, as well as a two-door convertible. The Mini Clubman is a variant of the four-door Cooper hatchback; it adds extra cargo space and funky rear doors that swing open to the side.
Mini outfits both of these subcompact cars with zippy turbocharged engines and quality cabin materials. Both also yield an engaging and sporty driving experience.
The recipe isn’t perfect, though. These cars ride a bit too harshly on uneven pavement for many tastes. They’re also quite pricey, considering their small size and limited standard features. The Mini Cooper starts at around $21,900, while the Clubman starts at $24,900.
Average Overall Score: 8.12/10
Subaru may be known best for its SUVs, but there’s still a lot to like about the brand’s car lineup. The Subaru Outback wagon (which also competes in the SUV class) is a very practical vehicle, thanks to its roomy seating space and vast cargo area. The sporty WRX sedan (pictured above) and BRZ coupe are a thrill to drive. Subaru’s advanced EyeSight safety features have become standard in a few models as well, including the Legacy sedan.
Notably, all models – except for the BRZ – are outfitted with all-wheel drive, making Subaru a popular car brand for those living in snowy regions.
The brand ranks in the middle of the pack, largely due to its average predicted reliability scores, but also because a number of its car models provide weak acceleration. The engine and CVT transmission offered in the base Impreza, Legacy, and Outback sacrifices too much power in pursuit of fuel economy.
Average Overall Score: 8.28/10
There’s a common theme that underpins the Ford car lineup: performance. The Mustang is a blast to drive, and it can serve up to 526 horsepower in its raciest trim. The Focus and Fiesta are among the sportiest cars in their respective classes; both reward with playful handling and peppy engine performance. The Fusion sedan is another standout in its class, thanks to its balance of ride comfort and handling, and it’s offered in fuel-efficient hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. Ford also pleases with its Sync 3 infotainment system, which is one of the easiest to use on the market.
The Ford Taurus and C-Max models aren’t as impressive, though. The C-Max offers disappointing interior space, as well as low fuel economy for a hybrid. The Taurus’ drab and cramped cabin leaves a lot to be desired, considering its price.
You can expect Ford’s car lineup to look very different soon; Ford has announced it will discontinue all of its non-SUV and non-truck models in the U.S. except for the Mustang.
Average Overall Score: 8.33/10
The Volkswagen new car lineup includes iconic models like the Beetle, as well as comfort-oriented cruisers like the Passat and the all-new Jetta. But it’s the Golf line that earns the highest praise.
The VW Golf hatchback offers a great mix of performance and practicality It has a zippy turbocharged engine, spry handling, quality cabin materials, and generous room for passengers and cargo. The Golf SportWagen doubles down on those attributes, adding even more cargo room and optional all-wheel drive. For those who want driving thrills, there are the sporty Golf GTI and even-sportier Golf R variants.
Another highlight of the VW brand is its extensive new car warranty. All 2019 Volkswagen models come with a lengthy six-year/72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
5) Toyota (tie)
Average Overall Score: 8.35/10
For many car buyers, the Toyota brand is synonymous with dependability and value. That still rings true in 2019. Toyota’s lineup includes several models with nearly perfect predicted reliability scores. Almost every Toyota comes standard with active safety features as well, such as lane departure warning and forward collision warning with brake assist, which can help you avoid potential collisions.
The latest Toyota models are also upping the brand’s fun-factor, and by a large margin. The Toyota Camry and Avalon are the highest-ranked cars in their segments, and both deliver a comfortable ride and well-balanced handling. The subcompact Yaris iA offers playful driving dynamics and a posh interior. Even the Prius feels athletic around turns – a nice bonus, considering its superb fuel economy (up to 58/53 mpg).
5) Hyundai (tie)
Average Overall Score: 8.35/10
Hyundai built its brand on value as well. Its new car lineup is competitively priced, trimmed with quality materials, and backed by an excellent 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. All current models also rate better-than-average for predicted reliability.
Two of the brand’s most-compelling models are the Accent sedan and all-new Veloster hatch. The Accent starts at just $14,995 and impresses with its crisp styling, user-friendly touch screen, and airy interior space. The Veloster (starting at $18,500) ups the ante with sporty handling and a long list of standard features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, forward collision warning, and lane keep assist.
The Sonata is another highlight of the automaker’s lineup; it rates near the top of the competitive midsize car class. The Sonata is handsomely designed inside and out, it rides comfortably over rough pavement, and its cabin is quite roomy.
Average Overall Score: 8.36/10
Like a few other car manufacturers, Chevrolet is downsizing its car lineup as consumer interest shifts to crossover SUVs. GM has announced that the Cruze and Impala will be discontinued, along with the Volt plug-in hybrid. The subcompact Sonic is expected to meet the chopping block after 2019 as well.
There’s still a lot to like about the Chevy lineup, though. The Bolt is one of the newest entries in the electric vehicle segment; it has a great all-electric driving range of 238 miles. It’s also quite spacious inside, it’s rewarding to drive, and it comes packed with lots of standard features like a 10.2-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.
The Spark (starting at $13,220) is one of the least-expensive new cars on sale today. It’s also well-equipped, and it yields a smooth ride and great fuel economy (up to 30/38 mpg).
At the other end of the performance spectrum is the highly rated Camaro. This sports car slices confidently around turns yet still delivers a comfortable ride. Its powertrains include four-, six-, and eight-cylinder engine options ranging in output from 275 horsepower to a searing 650 horsepower.
Average Overall Score: 8.55/10
The Honda brand finishes in the top three, and that’s not entirely surprising, given its highly rated lineup of subcompact, compact, and midsize cars.
The Honda Fit (starting at $16,190) provides unmatched practicality in its class – its roomy interior can seat five passengers comfortably or carry up to 52.7 cubic feet of cargo.
The Honda Civic is one of the best-selling cars in the U.S.; it offers a superb mix of fuel economy, engine performance, handling verve, and interior quality.
The Honda Accord is another top-seller, and its upscale cabin wouldn’t look out of place in an Acura model (Honda’s luxury brand).
Both the Civic and Accord come standard with Honda Sensing safety features, which include forward collision warning with brake assist, adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist. The brand’s cars consistently rate well for crash safety and reliability.
Honda is also making waves with its growing family of alternative fuel vehicles. The all-new 2019 Honda Insight hybrid yields an excellent 55 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway. The Honda Clarity is offered as a plug-in hybrid, an all-electric model, and a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.
Average Overall Score: 8.62/10
Kia secures second place in our rankings. Its vehicles earn praise for their stylish and well-trimmed interiors, generous standard features, user-friendly UVO infotainment system, and lengthy warranty coverage. Kia, like its parent company Hyundai, backs its vehicles with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
You can find this refinement and attention to detail in Kia’s midrange cars like the Optima and Cadenza sedans, but even more so in the brand’s small cars – a segment that typically trades quality for price.
The subcompact Kia Rio pairs its low $13,900 starting price with agile handling, an energetic four-cylinder engine, and great standard features like a 5-inch touch screen and satellite radio.
The Kia Soul hatchback (starting at $16,490) offers an excellent amount of passenger and cargo room.
The redesigned 2019 Kia Forte ($17,690) yields great fuel economy, and it piles on the standard features; even base models are equipped with an 8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, forward collision warning with brake assist, and lane departure warning.
Average Overall Score: 8.7/10
Mazda claims the title as our 2019 Best Car Brand. While its lineup may be small, it’s comprised of top-notch vehicles.
The compact Mazda3 (starting at $18,095) is offered in both sedan and hatchback variants, and it wows critics with its combination of pleasant handling, zippy acceleration, and solid fuel economy – up to 28 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. The Mazda3 also impresses with its luxe cabin, easy-to-use infotainment system, and many standard features, like Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support (low-speed forward collision warning with brake assist).
The Mazda6 sedan ($21,950) adds to the 3’s great recipe. This midsize car is a blast to drive on winding roads, yet it remains very comfortable when navigating the uneven pavement of city streets. Its interior outshines some luxury cars with its materials and crisp design. Standard features are another highlight – every model has an 8-inch touch screen, blind spot monitoring, and Smart City Brake Support. For those seeking high performance, Mazda offers the 6 with a 250-horsepower turbocharged engine.
The gem of this lineup is the top-rated Mazda MX-5 Miata. It’s the benchmark of the sports car segment, offering wonderful driving dynamics, a handsome interior, and great fuel economy at a price that’s hard to beat (starting at $25,730).
We could not include Chrysler in this ranking because the automaker only offers one car model – the 300. Still, the brand deserves a shout out. The 300 sedan supplies luxury car refinement at an everyday price (starting at $28,995). It rides smoothly, treats passengers to a roomy and nicely trimmed cabin, and boasts an excellent 8.4-inch touch screen. The 300 also packs more than enough engine power, no matter which trim you choose. A 292-horsepower V6 is standard; a 363-horsepower V8 is optional.
Though the 300 is one of the oldest cars in its segment – it was last redesigned in 2011 – it’s still a fine option for shoppers.
Mitsubishi offers just one car in its lineup as well, the Mirage, but it’s best to cross this model off your shopping list. The Mirage is the worst-rated car in our rankings. Its interior is cramped and awash with cheap-feeling materials. There are few advanced safety features. The Mirage’s three-cylinder engine manages just 78 horsepower, which contributes to awful acceleration. One of the car’s few highlights is its high fuel economy – up to 37 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway.
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U.S. News’ Best Car Brands of 2019
- Fiat – Average Overall Score: 7.47/10
- Nissan – Average Overall Score: 7.67/10
- Buick – Average Overall Score: 7.9/10
- Dodge – Average Overall Score: 8.05/10
- Mini – Average Overall Score: 8.1/10
- Subaru – Average Overall Score: 8.12/10
- Ford – Average Overall Score: 8.28/10
- Volkswagen – Average Overall Score: 8.33/10
- Toyota – Average Overall Score: 8.35/10
- Hyundai – Average Overall Score: 8.35/10
- Chevrolet – Average Overall Score: 8.36/10
- Honda – Average Overall Score: 8.55/10
- Kia – Average Overall Score: 8.62/10
- Mazda – Average Overall Score: 8.7/10