When you hear the words “Consumer Reports,” what comes to mind?
Integrity? Protection? Auto recommendations?
All valid, but two words that I’m beginning to associate with the famous publication are “superiority” and “complex.”
Consumer Reports is famous for making influential recommendations on what cars the public should purchase, and when a car falls off that list of recommendations, you can often expect big changes from the manufacturer.
For example, when CR testing revealed that the stability control on the 2010 Lexus GX failed to reign in crazy slides, thereby creating risk for a potential roll-over, the big SUV was placed on the magazine’s Do Not Buy list. That’s not good for business, and the testing resulted in an immediate internal investigation at Toyota that quickly produced a software fix that lifted the GX from its temporary time-out on the blacklist.
In that case, it was a good catch by CR with a good result. But is having so much power a good thing?
The Honda Civic has been CR’s highest-rated small vehicle for quite some time, but the publication will no longer recommend it. Not because of a potentially unsafe problem or a defect in workmanship, but because electronic stability control (ESC) is available only in uplevel EX-L, Si, and Hybrid trims.
Pretty lousy reason, if you ask me.
That means the cheapest Civic with stability control has a sticker price of $22,705—significantly higher than the typical small sedan price in our Ratings of about $19,000. And those sedans don’t force you to buy an expensive options package to get stability control; it’s standard on almost every small sedan for 2011. For that matter, it’s standard on many less expensive subcompact cars, including the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, and Toyota Yaris.
I like Consumer Reports, but I have to call it out here for a bad decision. The Civic is still tops in reliability and resale. It’s an extremely solid, safe car with a legendary reputation. A lack of ESC certainly doesn’t take any of that away and is absolutely not a reason to stop recommending the car. People buy Civics because they run forever, not for the stability control.
Should Consumer Reports base its recommendations on available options or the quality and reliability of a car?