Look no further than the annual Top Picks list and you’ll see there are many great cars on the market today. At the other end of the spectrum are models that fall well short of being competitive. Here, we highlight the disappointing models—cars Consumer Reports has recently tested with the lowest test scores.
In perusing these models, you’ll find a wide range of car types—small cars, luxury cars, SUVs and pickups. Likewise, there are several brands represented, with Fiat, Jeep, and Toyota each having more than one model to capture this undesirable distinction. At the corporate level, both Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Toyota Motor Sales each have more models on the list.
Criticisms of these vehicles are often similar, with common shortcomings being poor ride, sloppy handling, tepid acceleration, too much engine noise, and an uncomfortable driving position. Sure, these models may be better than the old jalopy you want to trade-in, but they do not hold up against the latest competition.
Whatever your car-buying budget might be, the key is to make an informed purchase decision and, we’re here to tell you, there are better choices than these models.
Presented beloware this year’s disappointing models, ranked by overall test score, with accompanying highlights where they came up short. Overall score is based on a 0-to-100 scale.
Mitsubishi Mirage: 29 overall score
Lows: Clumsy handling, noise, vibration, acceleration, feels really cheap and insubstantial.
The Mitsubishi Mirage lives up to its name. While its low sticker price and good fuel economy of 37 mpg overall may conjure up an inviting image of an enticing, economical runabout.That illusion quickly dissipates into the haze when you drive this regrettable car.
Built in Thailand, this little hatchback is powered by a tiny and vibrating three-cylinder engine. To make it saleable, Mitsubishi primed the pump with a rather impressive list of standard features. But the car is way too slow and noisy, even for a cheap subcompact, to effectively compete in this competitive class. Further lowering its standing is its Poor score in the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety small-overlap crash test.
Chevrolet Spark: 42 overall score
Lows: Noise, ride, acceleration, transmission, agility, front-seat comfort, complicated radio.
The Spark is a tiny car that’s smaller than Chevy’s sub-compact Sonic and intended primarily to provide easy urban maneuverability and parking. But while its low price and rich feature list might be tempting for some entry-level buyers, the Spark’s drawbacks can grate on your nerves in daily driving. It’s painfully slow, relentlessly noisy, rides uncomfortably, and feels Spartan and insubstantial. You’d expect such a tiny car to deliver fabulous fuel economy, but with only 31 mpg overall, which is less than several larger, quicker, more substantial cars. Forget enjoyable handling in the Spark, too. Handling is secure enough, but it’s neither agile nor engaging, especially for such a diminutive car.
Toyota Yaris: 47 overall score
Lows: Noise, ride, agility, driving position, front seat comfort, fit and finish, radio controls, rear visibility.
The Toyota Yaris, the company’s impressively fuel-efficient and least expensive car, falls short of making the cut as a Consumer Reports-recommended model. For 2015, Toyota freshened the front appearance but that can’t hide the shortcomings. The powertrain remains a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 106 horsepower and hooked up to either a five-speed manual or vastly outdated four-speed automatic. But ultimately the Yaris remains barebones in an age of increasingly refined subcompacts. The Yaris is noisy, its ride is choppy and its driving position is awkward with stretched arms and bent knees and the front seats are uncomfortable. Plus, handling lacks agility and acceleration is slow.
Toyota Tacoma: 49 overall score
Lows: Ride, handling, driving position, high step-in, low rear seat.
With a punchy powertrain, the Toyota Tacoma excels for hauling, towing, and off-road use. But for everyday driving or commuting, the Tacoma feels dated and is uncomfortable. Clumsy handling makes it a chore to drive, and the rough ride is fatiguing, with constant jiggling and a rubbery feel over even small imperfections. The cabin’s high floor and low roof make access tricky and compromise the driving position. The rust-free composite bed is a handy and practical feature. Options can easily drive up the price well into full-sized truck territory. Fair cornering capabilities and long stopping distances contributed to the low score. A redesigned Tacoma launches in the fall.
Jeep Compass: 52 overall score
Lows: Engine noise, acceleration, driving position, front-seat comfort, rear visibility, cornering limits, braking, reliability.
In 2014 the Compass received a freshening that replaced the CVT with a six-speed automatic for most versions. But it remains outdated and uncompetitive. Its low-speed ride is composed and handling is secure, but not agile. The sluggish 2.4-liter four-cylinder returned 22-mpg overall. The upright front seats are narrow and are not particularly comfortable, and the cabin is cramped. Controls are straightforward, and the basic interior is austere. The high rear window makes the cabin feel claustrophobic, though, and the styling restricts visibility to the rear. Reliability has dropped to well below average.
Nissan Versa sedan: 56 overall score
Lows: Agility, engine noise, front-seat comfort, fit and finish, small-overlap crash-test results.
Nissan’s subcompact Versa sedan is unimpressive, with a noisy and cheap interior. The engine drones as the car gathers speed, and the continuously variable transmission exacerbates engine noise. Handling, though secure, lacks agility. The ride is compliant but jumpy. To its credit, the rear cabin is relatively roomy and fuel economy is commendable at 32-mpg overall. The Versa sedan scored a Poor in the small-overlap crash test. It also received one of the lowest scores in our Owner Satisfaction Survey.
Jeep Patriot: 56 overall score
Lows: Engine noise, acceleration, driving position, front-seat comfort, complicated optional radio, small overlap crash-test result.
Although the small Patriot SUV has a compliant ride and mostly simple controls, little else stands out. Even with its 2014 freshening, which included replacing the CVT with a six-speed automatic for most versions, it’s pretty much outdated and outclassed. Handling lacks agility, and the sluggish 2.4-liter four-cylinder returned just 21-mpg overall. Once inside, passengers will notice the narrow cabin, wide center console, low-rent interior, and small windows, which give the car a closed-in feeling. On top of all that, the cargo area is small. Reliability has been average, but the Patriot scores too low for us to recommend it.
Lexus IS: 58 overall score
Lows: Acceleration, ride, road noise, lackluster handling, fuel economy, driving position, controls, tight quarters, access.
The IS fails as a sports sedan. Though the 250’s small V6 is refined, performance is rather pokey, and its 21-mpg overall is unreasonably thirsty. The IS 350 is punchier but also underwhelming to drive. Handling is secure but not engaging enough to run with true sports sedans. Ride comfort is neither tied down nor plush. Even by the class’s minimal standards, the IS interior is extremely cramped. Getting into and out of the vehicle is an ungraceful chore. Fit and finish is OK but not a standout. Controls use a mouse-like controller, which takes too much attention away from driving. Reliability of the IS 350 is well above average; the IS 250 is average, but it scores too low to be recommended.