Consumer Reports assesses vehicle performance data by more than 300,000 car owners to put together their rankings, which reflect the magazine’s predictions of 2021 model-year reliability.
Reliability is a huge factor in what makes cars worth buying. Folks at Consumer Reports evaluate based on regimented performance tests and survey results.
More than 250 models compete each year to meet the highest standards for performance, safety, reliability and more.
Here are the top 10 least reliable cars of 2021, according to Consumer Reports.
10. Volvo XC60
Volvo’s second-generation XC60 is a scaled-down version of the XC90, which is also included on this list. Similar to the XC90, it has some downsides making it unreliable. The major issues are in the electric system, power equipment, in-car electronics and engine.
While the XC60 did score favorably in the road test portion of CR’s testing, it didn’t impress as much as its big brother, XC90. The ride is stiff, and the controls are convoluted and distracting.
Even though its 250-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is responsive, its eight-speed automatic transmission has occasional hiccups.
9. Ford EcoSport
Ford isn’t known for making the most reliable cars. The Ford EcoSport’s ride is harsh, and the cabin is noisy. In addition, the side-hinged rear hatch door can be annoying to use when the vehicle is parallel-parked.
BSW with cross-traffic warning is offered on higher trims, but neither FCW nor AEB is available. It also suffers from an underpowered base engine and limited advanced safety features.
Unfortunately, the EcoSport is not particularly economical or fast. The 2.0-liter is more fuel-efficient than the 1.0-liter, though neither matched EPA estimates in Car and Driver’s testing. The 2.0-liter is powerful but still struggles to get the EcoSport up to highway speeds.
8. Jeep Wrangler
In 2020, the Jeep Wrangler was the lowest-rated car by consumer reports. Reviews say the handling and ride are much more suited for the trail, not the highway. It doesn’t have the reflexes a modern SUV should. Its box-like shape catches wind, making for a noisy ride regardless of the roof type.
The Wrangler’s body is unreliable, which is one aspect of any vehicle you never want to worry about. Body problems can lead to expensive repairs and days without your car while it spends time in the body repair shop.
We can’t forget to highlight the awkwardness of getting in and out of the Jeep Wrangler, which hasn’t seemed to change over the years and after many complaints. The handling of this vehicle lacks precision. The ride is stiff and jiggly and often results in the scary “Death Wobble” if turns are taken too aggressively.
7. Tesla Model S
The Tesla Model S has lost Consumer Reports recommendation for multiple reasons. First of all, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted an investigation revealing over 158,000 Model S’ and Model X’s could suffer from screen issues.
Screens will suddenly go blank, or loss of the backup camera may occur. Air suspension problems are also recurring. The huge center touch screen interfaces with most functions but proves to be distracting. Other drawbacks include restricted visibility and range limitations in cold weather.
6. Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon
The GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado are practically twins. For the 2017, 2018 and 2019 model years, CR reported seeing recurring minor and major problems with the six-speed automatic transmission in both trucks. However, there was reliability improvement in this department for the 2020 model year.
More contributions to the pickups’ poor performance in the reliability-based index include issues with the paint/trim, body integrity, body hardware and in-car electronics categories. When CR gives a Reliability Score, data from road tests are considered, which didn’t play into these trucks’ favor.
The Chevy and GMC have previously been criticized for their choppy and stiff ride, uncomfortable standard cloth seats, awkward driving position and weak feeling. Engine problems further contributed to the poor reliability score.
5. Volvo XC90
The Volvo XC90 is a nicely appointed three-row SUV but suffers from problems that lower its reliability score. It has a bumpy ride and baffling controls. Audio, phone and navigation are controlled through a touch-screen infotainment system that’s difficult to use.
The most troubling parts of this vehicle are the drive system, suspension, brakes, body integrity and power equipment.
CR has tested every XC90 since the introduction of the second-generation model. Testing history allows us to see that major issues have been apparent since its introduction.
4. Jeep Compass
The Compass’s most common problems have to do with its transmission and its body integrity. These parts are often reported not to be working well or simply breaking down.
The vehicle has also had many issues with the drive system and some minor issues with its interior electronics systems and engine. Its power comes from a 180-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is unrefined and sluggish.
In addition to that, the 2018 Compass is the subject of six recalls involving critical systems, such as the Compass’s brakes, its suspension system and its airbags.
Recalls have also happened due to the electrical systems. One of them involves the Compass’s instrument panel, but there’s also a recall affecting the electrical wiring.
All-wheel-drive versions have the nine-speed automatic, which is neither smooth nor responsive. Handling isn’t agile, though the Jeep is secure when pushed. The ride is stiff and jittery, and the rear seat is much too low.
3. Volkswagen Atlas
The reliability of the Atlas’ engine and transmission has improved over the past couple of years. However, many other important areas, including the fuel system, the body integrity and the power equipment, have either remained the same or worsened.
Though the V6 engine and smooth eight-speed automatic make the Atlas enjoyable for everyday driving, it lacks acceleration compared to competitors’, and its 20-mpg overall fuel economy is not outstanding.
It struggles with fuel economy, and unfortunately, it continues to lack reliability in many areas. Although the Atlas continues to be unreliable, it’s worth hoping that it will improve in the years to come.
2. Subaru Ascent
While the Subaru Ascent proves to excel in short-term testing and road tests, it struggles long-term. CR surveyed Ascent owners and found some significant issues contributing to its low-reliability score.
Major trouble areas for the 2019 model were the transmission, climate system, brakes, power equipment and in-car electronics. The model apparently received some major improvements since then.
Now, the only trouble areas are in the transmission and power equipment categories. Regardless, continuous problems in major components could be trouble for long-term ownership.
1. Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500
The 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 has all of the requirements to be a great full-size pickup truck. Along with a luxury interior, the Sierra has various engine options and impressive safety tech.
Despite its great assets, CR found that the GMC Sierra 1500 is one of the least reliable pickup trucks currently available. Similar to the 2021 Chevy Silverado covered in the same report, it struggles in critical areas. The worst being the brakes, power equipment and in-car electronics. Given the vehicle’s large size, having faulty brakes is not a good look.
Tech features in the Sierra don’t seem to be very reliable either. These sections cover the infotainment screen and vital components such as the instrument cluster, cameras and sensors.
Since the 2014 model, Sierra owners have consistently reported poor brakes. Although CR does not state exactly which brake issues plague the 2021 Sierra, the category covers components including the calipers, rotors and master cylinder.
On the bright side, the GMC’s previously reported issues found in the transmissions and drive system have supposedly subsided. And it seems that engine reliability has improved slightly since the 2020 model. While the scores are far from ideal, the Sierra seems to be on the right path.