Whether in the market for a flashy luxury sedan or a sturdy family vehicle, all car shoppers have one thing in common: They don’t want to drive a lemon off the lot. That’s why publications and watchdog groups and automotive publications like Consumer Reports, J.D. Power and The Car Connection carefully analyze and rate nearly every car model that comes on the market each year, and car owners would do well to heed their findings.
Here, we’ve rounded up the cars (in alphabetical order) that scored terribly low with the groups we listed above, as well as with journalists and everyday drivers, so you can stride into the dealership knowing exactly what not to buy.
Updated Jan. 29, 2021
When Consumer Reports put out its list of the 10 least reliable vehicles for the 2021 model year, the Chevy Colorado was one of only two pickup trucks on it. The publication gave the Colorado a grade of 44/100, which was the worst overall score any Chevy model got from them for the year. The review particularly slammed this truck for a lack of reliability, comfort and fuel economy. In the entire class of compact pickup trucks Consumer Reports tested, the slightly pricier Honda Ridgeline was the only one to get high marks across the board.
Volkswagen — which is the world’s largest automaker — impressively also only had one model show up on this list with the long-running Jetta. Consumer Reports rated this sedan 50/100 for its 2021 edition and put it on the list of popular cars to avoid buying. The publication recommended instead checking out the similarly priced Toyota Corolla. It was praised for having great fuel economy at 54 highway miles per gallon but slammed for being unreliable.
Just as pickup truck buyers should steer clear of the Chevy Colorado, it appears those in the market for a midsize car should avoid the 2021 Chevy Malibu. Consumer Reports graded it at the bottom of that class of vehicles, settling on a dismal overall grade of 45/100. It got respectable marks in the road test, as the publication praised its fuel economy and transmission performance, but it got a 1/5 for reliability, which should make any potential buyer nervous.
Your $24,000 would be better spent on the Toyota Camry, the publication argued.
Compared to some of the other vehicles on this list, the grades earned by the Nissan Pathfinder are stronger overall but they are still weak when compared against the vehicles in its class. Consumer Reports handed the 2020 Pathfinder a score of 54/100, with a predicted owner satisfaction score of 1/5. The publication called it “practical but rather boring to drive,” stating that it was more like a minivan than an SUV because of its many seats.
Midsize SUVs are arguably the most popular rides on the road today and the top grade of the class went to the Kia Telluride, which Consumer Reports gave a remarkable 97/100.
Like its arch-rival, Chevy, Ford has a number of current models that auto reviewers recommend you avoid. Chief among them is the Ford EcoSport, a subcompact SUV that starts at $19,995. Consumer Reports included the 2021 EcoSport among its 10 least reliable cars for the year and gave the model a grade of 45/100. The Car Connection gave it an even lower score at 3.5/10 and called it the worst small SUV on the market out of 16 models it tested.
Dodge Grand Caravan
Dodge discontinued its long-running Grand Caravan model in May 2020 and that’s likely a good thing, if you read its reviews over the past few years. The most recent model was dubbed the worst minivan or van of its model year by The Car Connection, earning a remarkably low score of 3.7/10. Perhaps the most incredible thing about the publication’s grade is that it gave the Grand Caravan a 2/10 for safety, which is typically the most important factor of a minivan, which is designed as a family hauler.
In 2019, research firm J.D. Power rated the Grand Caravan as the clear loser in its rankings for dependability in the minivan class, giving it below-average marks across the board.
Another black sheep of the current Ford family is the Ranger. This small pickup scored near the low end of its class from Consumer Reports for the 2021 model year, getting an overall mark of 46/100. It got dreadful marks for reliability and performance factors fuel economy and braking. While the Ranger starts at the cheapest price in the small pickup class, it seems like you’d be better off spending a little more.
While the GMC Canyon is slightly pricier than the similar-sized Ford Ranger, its reviews are about the same. Consumer Reports gave the 2021 model a 44/100 and The Car Connection gave it a 4.8/10, showing both publications were underwhelmed. Consumer Reports admitted that the newest version was a slight improvement over previous years but slammed it for a “stiff and choppy” ride and uncomfortable driving position, as well as its predicted reliability. Given that the Canyon sells for up to $44,700 with all the offered extras, a full-size truck would likely be the more cost-effective option.
In the important areas of predicted dependability and owner satisfaction, Consumer Reports gave the 2021 Jeep Renegade the lowest marks possible. This subcompact SUV got an overall grade of 37/100, despite the publication praising its outward design. “The Renegade has a lot of potential, but comes of half-baked,” Consumer Reports wrote in its review. It instead gave top marks to the Subaru Crosstrek, which starts at a similar price.
Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Land Rover brand brings luxury to mind but the automaker has a couple lemons in its lineup, according to reviews from top publications. The 2021 Discovery Sport, which starts at $41,900, was given a grade of 41/100 from Consumer Reports, which equates to roughly a point for every $1,000 you’re forking over. It was named the worst compact premium SUV of the year by that publication, who loathed its “stiff” ride and poor predicted reliability.
Alfa Romeo 4C
One thing you’ll notice on this list is that even high-priced rides can have some serious flaws. Alfa Romeo’s attractive 4C is an example of this. It starts at $67,150 but The Car Connection reported that it has some “massive shortcomings” in a review of the 2020 edition. In fact, the outlet gave it the lowest grade of any convertible for that year, out of 22 models its experts tested, including a brutal score of 1/10 for comfort and quality. The website instead recommended the Mercedes-Benz E Class, which got much higher grades and costs about $13,000 less!
Yet another ride from Chevrolet that has gotten hammered in recent years by auto reviewers is the Spark. This small car starts at less than $14,000, making it tantalizing for shoppers on a budget, but virtually everyone agrees to spend that money elsewhere. The Car Connection called it one of the three worst models in the 2021 class of small cars — which included 37 different models — grading it a 4/10 and calling it “simple and uninspired.” Consumer Reports agreed in a 45/100 review, while older model years have appeared on U.S. News and World Report’s list of used cars to avoid.
Speaking of J.D. Power rankings, the Dodge Journey also got dismal grades for dependability from that firm in 2019, bringing up the rear among all midsize SUVs. In light of the poor ratings and slow sales the Journey had been subject to, the automaker also scrapped it after 2020. The most recent model was rated as the worst midsize SUV by The Car Connection, which gave it an overall grade of 3.3/10. Like the Grand Caravan, the Journey was given a 2/10 for safety by that publication.
Fiat 124 Spider
As an automaker, Fiat has been hammered by various publications in recent years. Like Dodge, the Italian brand has discontinued several long-standing models that have underperformed, including the 124 Spider. This sporty option sold for less than $30,000, making it a budget-friendly for anyone looking for a convertible, but the grades were not kind. Consumer Reports gave the 2020 model year — the last one available — a 32/100, which was one of the lowest grades that publication handed out for the entire year. It was praised for its performance but got a 1/5 for dependability and similar marks for comfort and noise.
After the 2020 model year, Fiat also put its 500L on the scrap heap, which was good news to reviewers who had been slamming it for years. However, the automaker still offers its 500X model in the United States, despite that one also getting low marks. Consumer Reports gave the 2021 Fiat 500X a 31/100, which was only slightly better than the incredibly low 25/100 earned by the last model of the 500L. U.S. News and World Report has also listed older models among its list of used cars to avoid.
GMC Sierra 1500
Speaking of full-size pickups, the GMC Sierra 1500 apparently isn’t the one to buy. While Consumer Reports didn’t give any model in that class a grade higher than 63/100 — which was shared by the Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra — the Sierra 1500 earned just a 45/100. The publication has also listed it as a used truck to avoid, noting that the 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020 model years will likely bring headaches.
In its own roundup of used cars to avoid, the Jeep Compass has been singled out by U.S. News and World Report. But if you’re thinking of trying a new one, plenty of other outlets will steer you clear of this compact SUV. Consumer Reports ranked it among the 10 least reliable cars for 2021 and gave that model year an overall grade of 39/100. The researchers at J.D. Power also ranked it as the least dependable in its class in a 2020 study of vehicles from the 2017 model year.
While the Compass and Renegade got bad scores from Consumer Reports, the publication saved its lowest marks in the Jeep family for the 2021 Wrangler. This model got a brutal score of 29/100 from the publication, which ranked at the very bottom of the midsize SUV class. Its road performance was apparently a gas-guzzling mess and the site even placed it on its list of the 10 least reliable vehicles for 2021. In addition, J.D. Power gave it the worst dependability score of the compact SUV class in the group’s 2020 test.
In general, Kia vehicles have earned great marks in recent years despite being offered at very low price points but the Forte is an exception. While the grades for it aren’t as dismal as some others we’ve featured on this list, the 2021 model got a score of 43/100 from Consumer Reports. That was one of the worst scores the publication gave in the small car class for this model year, ranking far below similar rides like the Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla. It was described as uncomfortable, noisy and unreliable, which sounds disappointing even at its starting price of $17,890.
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
The Range Rover Evoque is even pricier than the Land Rover Discovery Sport — ranging up to $53,400 off the lot — and its marks were about the same. The researchers at J.D. Power had it tied as the worst small premium SUV in overall quality for 2020, far preferring the Jaguar E-Pace across the board. Consumer Reports gave the 2021 Evoque a score of 41/100, slamming its acceleration, visibility and predicted reliability.
When you’re spending around six figures for a vehicle, you should expect perfection but the Maserati Ghibli apparently doesn’t deliver. Ranging from $72,190 to $109,890 for its suggested retail price, this is the most expensive car featured on our list. Consumer Reports gave it a 42/100, which was easily the lowest score of the 11 it has reviewed in the luxury midsize sedan class for 2021 so far. For comparison’s sake, it was one of only three in the class to score less than 74/100, with the best marks going to the Lexus GS and Lincoln MKZ, both of which are far cheaper.
The Mitsubishi Mirage entices shoppers with its low price tag (starting at $14,295) but experts warn against letting that sway you. This compact hatchback was rated as the worst small car for 2021 out of a whopping 37 models tested by The Car Connection. The publication gave it a painful 1/10 overall grade and called it “a cheap car that looks, drives and feels like one.” Similarly, Consumer Reports gave it a 32/100 and had it at the bottom of its class of subcompacts.
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
The Car Connection also had it in for this Mitsubishi model, which it scored as the second worst midsize SUV of 20 models tested for 2021. The site gave the Outlander Sport a final grade of 4.5/10, which makes it sound like a rolling masterpiece compared to the Mirage, but is still a very poor grade from that outlet. Its expert reviewer called the vehicle “sluggish and dated in most respects.”
The Nissan 370Z looks like a sporty little ride but it apparently pales in comparison to the other options in its class. The Car Connection dubbed it the worst coupe of 26 models it tested for 2021, giving it a grade of 4.6/10. The reviewer said the 370Z “feels like the dated design that it is.” At roughly $30,000 to start, this car is much cheaper than many of the others in the coupe class but pricier than the Honda Civic, which got a far better score.
Chevrolet Silverado 1500
The only pickup truck aside from the Chevy Colorado to make Consumer Reports’ list of the 10 least reliable cars for 2021, the Chevy Silverado 1500 was actually rated as the least reliable of that entire group. The truck got an overall grade of 45/100 from the publication and The Car Connection wasn’t much happier with its own experience in the Silverado 1500, giving it a 5.3/10. Consumer Reports also recommends staying away from used models of this popular pickup, particularly the 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020 model years.
If you’re looking for a pickup truck that won’t let you down, the Nissan Frontier is apparently not the one to buy. The expert reviewer at Kelley Blue Book gave the 2020 edition a score of 3.7/10, which was even worse than the 3.8/10 it had given the 2019 Frontier. The Car Connection gave it a 3.8/10 for 2021 and rated it as the worst pickup truck for the model year of 12 that it had tested.
The world’s second biggest automaker, Toyota only had one vehicle show up on this list and it was the Tacoma. This pickup has failed to impress reviewers for years, despite several redesigns over its most recent editions. The Car Connection gave it a 5/10 grade for 2021 and nicked it for a cramped interior, stiff ride and sluggish pacing. Consumer Reports agreed, giving it a 51/100 and calling it “outdated.”
The final Chevy to make this list, this small crossover SUV hasn’t inspired many good reviews in recent years. When The Car Connection tested 16 different vehicles in the class of small SUVs for the 2021 model year, the Trax was the second worst of the class. The publication gave it low marks across the board, including a 3/10 for performance and a 4/10 for comfort and quality. For those trying to spend less than $25,000 on an SUV, the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson came more highly recommended.
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Consumer Reports is perhaps the most trusted source in America when it comes to unbiased car reviews. The publication tested out the 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia and was not impressed with the experience. This sedan, which ranges in cost from $39,500-$74,800, earned a grade of 43/100 from Consumer Reports, which was at the low end of all 15 of the luxury compact cars it tested last year. The Giulia actually scored high for performance and owner satisfaction but earned a horrible grade for predicted reliability, which tanked its overall mark.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Top automotive outlets were clearly not impressed with the offerings from Alfa Romeo in this past model year. The final model from that high-end Italian automaker to make our list is the Stelvio. The experts at The Car Connection were middling in their review of the 2020 edition but Consumer Reports was less impressed. That outlet gave the 2021 Stelvio a 45/100, including a 1/5 for predicted reliability and a 3/5 for owner satisfaction. That’s not what you’d hope for from a car that costs as much as $80,000 to take off the lot.