15 Most Problematic Cars of the Decade in Consumer Reports Rankings
A problematic car can have a negative impact on your life in many ways. If it’s a new model still under warranty, recurring issues will force you to take a car in for frequent service, disrupting your daily routine. Once a trouble vehicle’s warranty expires, you either buy a service contract or start paying for repairs out of pocket.
People who drive a Toyota 4Runner or Prius hybrid typically don’t feel this pain. In Consumer Reports surveys and long-term testing, these two models have proven to be the most reliable vehicles produced since 2010. Year after year, their records remained spotless.
Over that same period, other models have been driving their owners nuts and racking up steep repair bills (if not forcing them to sell). Here are the 15 most troubled vehicles of the decade according to data from Consumer Reports.
15. Tesla Model X
- After 3 years with the lowest reliability ratings, Model X stands out among debuts since 2015.
While Tesla Model X has not had the same amount of time on the market as other models on this list, the electric SUV stands out with its many problems. Owners complained of loose exterior trim, discolored paint, malfunctioning falcon-wing doors, squeaks, and several other issues.
All the complaints led to Model X getting the worst SUV reliability rating Consumer Reports gave out in 2018. It remains to be seen whether Tesla can reverse this trend, as the automaker successfully did with the Model S sedan.
14. Dodge Dart
- Poor reliability for each year rated
While the Dodge Dart didn’t stick around long enough to make the top 10, the small sedan made a bad-enough impression in its time on the market. The debut model (2013) rated among the worst for its transmission, brake system, suspension, power equipment, and interior finish.
Meanwhile, the ’13 Dart racked up five recalls and 833 complaints on the NHTSA website. The following model year showed some improvements, but not enough to escape another poor reliability rating.
By 2016, Dodge announced it was discontinuing the Dart and Consumer Reports stopped rating it. But you’ll still find many on the used market.
13. Jeep Wrangler
- Below-average or poor reliability in 8 of 11 years
The 11-year run of the last Jeep Wrangler ended in 2018 with the release of the new “JK” Wrangler. For owners who spent more time on city streets than rocky trails, it’s been a bumpy ride in terms of dependability.
Reliability ratings were poor (twice) or below average (six times) for the majority of those years. Problems with the transmission and drivetrain (2009-12) eventually shifted to body integrity and power equipment (2011-14).
Recalls have been an annual ritual for Wrangler owners. The situation came to head with the 2010 model, which clocked 10 recalls and 569 NHTSA complaints.
12. Mini Cooper Countryman
- Below-average or poor reliability in 5 of 8 years rated
The Mini Countryman got a redesign in 2017, but this model has been among the least reliable cars of the decade (especially in the previous generation). From 2012-14, owners reported problems with the Countryman’s body integrity, transmission, power equipment, and electronics.
Overall, this Mini only posted one good reliability rating (in 2015), and it immediately shot back down to the bottom of the pack the following year.
11. Dodge Journey
- Poor reliability in 4 of 6 years rated
The current-generation Dodge Journey has been on the road since 2009. Given this SUV’s record over that time, it should give pause to consumers considering a used or new Journey.
Problems with the brakes, suspension, and climate system have plagued Journey, leading to four “poor” ratings possible in six years of evaluations. All things considered, consumers should probably pass on this vehicle.
10. Chevrolet Suburban
- Since 2014, Suburban landed the worst reliability rating every year.
In 2015, Chevy brought out the redesigned Suburban, and the large SUV has gotten the worst reliability rating every year since. Problems with in-car electronics, body integrity, and hardware turned up regularly over that time.
In the previous generation, suspension issues (2010-12) were an area where Suburban fell behind the pack. Overall, it’s been one of the least reliable SUVs of the decade in Consumer Reports rankings.
9. Chevrolet Cruze
- Below-average or poor reliability in 7 of 8 years
Since the 2011 model year, we’ve seen two versions of the Chevy Cruze, and neither could be called reliable. In the previous generation, the debut model kicked off with seven recalls and problems with the engine, transmission, climate system, and body integrity.
With the redesign (2016), owners have complained mostly about squeaks, leaks, and rattling in the Cruze, which landed another poor reliability rating for 2017. Overall, that added up to four poor ratings and three below-average ratings, with only one decent year (2015) to mention.
8. Volkswagen Golf GTI
- Below-average or poor reliability in 7 of 8 years
You don’t but a Volkswagen GTI for its reliability, and that’s a good thing. In eight years of Consumer Reports ratings, the hot hatch landed the worst scores four times and below-average ratings three times.
Since the 2015 redesign, problems with GTI’s body integrity and fuel system have been the most common. In the previous generation (especially 2010-12), engine and transmission problems were the areas to watch.
7. Jeep Grand Cherokee
- Poor reliability in 5 of 8 years
Since 2011, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has never gotten better than an average reliability rating — and that only happened once. Over the other seven years in question, this Jeep landed the worst rating five times and score below average the other two.
If you pore through the records, you’ll find Grand Cherokee underperforming in everything from transmission and climate system to power equipment and drivetrain. The worst model of all was probably the 2014 edition, which racked up 15 recalls and 1,085 NHTSA complaints.
Indeed, Grand Cherokee has had more complaints than nearly every vehicle on the road over the past 13 years.
6. Ram 3500
- Poor reliability in every year tested since 2012
There have been two versions of the Ram 3500 since 2010, but neither has scored better than “poor” for reliability. In the five years of tests, each score came out among the worst in the pickup class.
Issues with the drive system, fuel system, and suspension were noteworthy. If you’re looking for a particular version to avoid, the first year of the redesign (2013) may be the worst, with 14 recalls altogether.
5. Chevrolet Corvette
- Poor reliability ratings from 2014-18
There’s good and bad news about Corvette reliability ratings. The bad news is they couldn’t be worst since the redesign for 2014. However, this car also ranks as the least-driven vehicle.
In other words, no one (outside of maybe Chuck Norris) would commute to work in a Corvette. Considering there have been enough engine, transmission, and drivetrain issues with the latest model, that’s a good thing.
Oddly enough, the previous generation ‘Vette (2005-13) rated among the best in reliability.
4. Fiat 500
- Poor reliability every year since 2012
While the Fiat 500 is a fun little car to drive, you don’t pick up a $17,000 subcompact for thrills. Most people hoped for practicality as well as style, and it appears the 500 only met them halfway.
According to Consumer Reports reliability ratings, no Fiat 500 since 2012 has scored better than “poor” in this category. In 2014 (a doomed model year for Fiat Chrysler overall), every major mechanical function proved unreliable in this car.
3. Mini Cooper
- Below-average or poor reliability in 7 of 9 years
If you wanted to commend Mini, you’d congratulate the automaker on improving the reliability of the Cooper with the 2014 redesign. However, that doesn’t erase the horrendous run this model had from 2007-13.
Over that period, owners could expect major engine and electrical system problems every year. (Transmission and fuel system issues were also common.) If you plan on buying a used Cooper, make sure it’s from 2016 or later.
2. Ford Focus
- Since 2012, Focus scored the worst reliability rating every year.
The Ford Focus is another commuter car that had extraordinarily poor reliability across the decade. From 2012-15, Focus’s transmission was as problematic as they come.
In the first model-year of the redesign (2012), Ford’s compact sedan racked up seven recalls and 2,387 NHTSA complaints. (One can only hope that’s a record amount.)
1. Ford Fiesta
- Poor reliability every year since its 2011 debut
In the Ford Fiesta’s eight-year run on the U.S. market, it got the worst possible reliability rating from Consumer Reports every year. No other vehicle on the U.S. market had such a poor record this decade.
As with the Focus, Fiesta’s main issues are found in the transmission, but trouble with the drivetrain, body integrity, and in-car electronics have been all too common as well. With Focus and Fiesta both exiting the market soon, consumers should look to avoid the problems used models will bring.
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