2013 Models Studied
Research firm J.D. Power and Associates has been producing its annual U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study for the past 27 years. The 2016 study examines problems experienced in the last 12 months by original owners of 2013 model-year vehicles, with overall dependability determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100). A lower score indicates higher dependability. As cars become technologically advanced, the issues experienced by new-car owners have evolved as well. Problems most reported in the last 12 months concerned infotainment, navigation and in-vehicle communication systems — collectively known as audio, communication, entertainment and navigation, or ACEN. In fact, 20 percent of the issues reported had to do with ACEN, and J.D. Power reports that this is the main cause behind a 3 percent year-over-year decline in dependability.
“The increase in technology-related problems has two sources,” noted Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power. “Usability problems that customers reported during their first 90 days of ownership are still bothering them three years later in ever-higher numbers. At the same time, the penetration of these features has increased year over year.” Let’s look at the brands and models that J.D. Power considers most dependable.
Highest-Ranked Nameplate — Lexus
For the fifth consecutive year, Lexus tops all other car brands with a score of 95 PP100. Porsche moves up from its fifth position in 2015 to follow Lexus with 97 PP100. Buick, Toyota and GMC round out the top five ranked brands. Eight models from General Motors ranked highest in their respective category, and Toyota earned six segment awards. At the other end of the scale, brands that did not fare as well include Jeep, Land Rover, smart, Ford and — at the bottom — Dodge with a reported 208 PP100. The industry average for 2016 is 152 problems per 100 vehicles.
City Car – Fiat 500
Runner up: smart fortwo
It had been a while since Fiat sold vehicles in North America, but in 2012 the brand made its return with the all-new 500. In 2013 Fiat expanded the lineup to include a new turbo version as well as the high-performance Abarth, which boasts 160 horsepower. The 500 stood out in 2013 with a low starting price of $16,100, unique styling and fun-to-drive qualities. Currently the 500 is available in a number of different bodystyles, including the new 500X crossover.
Small Car — Honda Fit
Runners up: Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent
The Honda Fit is the perfect example of a car that is small on the outside but big on the inside. The lowest-priced new Honda on the market, the Fit offers impressive versatility, courtesy of what Honda calls its “Magic Seat.” The rear seat can be configured in a number of ways, allowing for a variety of cargo shapes and sizes. In 2013 Honda also began offering an electric version of the Fit, rated at an impressive 132 MPGe.
Compact Car — Buick Verano
Runners up: Toyota Corolla, Toyota Prius
The Verano entered its second year of production in 2013 offering a nice mix of small car advantages with the premium quality expected in a Buick. The small sedan came well equipped with a backup camera, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot alert and a number of other high-tech safety features. With a choice of powerful engines — including a 250-horsepower turbo introduced for 2013 — the Verano attracted a new set of buyers to the Buick brand.
Compact Premium Car — Lexus ES
Runners up: BMW 1 Series, Acura ILX (tie), Audi A4 (tie)
Lexus introduced the sixth generation of the ES sedan in 2013 with a number of new high-tech features, as well as a fresh design featuring the now-signature Lexus spindle grille. Available with a 268-horsepower V6 or very-efficient hybrid powertrain, the ES has a class-leading 10 airbags as well as a radar-based pre-collision system that can detect objects ahead and prepare the car for a collision.
Compact Sporty Car — MINI Cooper / MINI Coupe / MINI Roadster
Runner up: Volkswagen GTI
The MINI Cooper was and remains one of the most fun-to-drive cars on the road. In 2013 a MINI had a starting price below $20,000 which made it a great sport-car option. An added bonus is its impressive fuel efficiency, rated at 36 mpg on the highway. One year later the MINI was redesigned, looking almost exactly as the previous model but slightly larger to offer a bit more room inside.
Midsize Car — Chevrolet Malibu
Runners up: Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry
One of GM’s best-selling cars, the Malibu name has been around for more than 50 years. The 2013 iteration represented the 8th generation of this legendary nameplate and was the first global midsize car from GM, sold in 100 markets on six continents. With more aggressive styling, a roomier interior and a lineup of powerful but fuel-efficient engines, this generation continued until the all-new 9th-gen Malibu was introduced for the 2016 model year.
Midsize Sporty Car – Chevrolet Camaro
Runner up: None
Chevrolet made a lot of Camaro fans happy when it brought back the famed nameplate in 2010. By 2013 the Camaro was available with a variety of powertrains ranging from a 323-horsepower V6 in the entry-level model to the top-level ZL1 with its impressive 580-horsepower V8 powerplant. Chevrolet also added the MyLink touchscreen display to the lineup with an intuitive menu and access to a number of radio and smartphone apps.
Midsize Premium Car – Lexus GS
Runner up: Mercedes-Benz E-Class
After skipping the 2012 model year, the Lexus GS was all-new for 2013. The fourth-generation GS featured fresh styling, updated suspension and could be equipped with a number of new high-tech features such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and a night vision system. A number of new powertrains became available, including the GS 450h hybrid that boasts 338 horsepower and 34 mpg on the highway.
Large Car — Buick LaCrosse
Runners up: Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon
The LaCrosse tops the Large Car category once again in this year’s J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, with the Buick brand ranking third overall. The 2013 LaCrosse was available with two powertrains including the new eAssist mild hybrid system that rated 36 mpg on the highway. Also available in 2013 was Buick’s IntelliLink system that provides a touchscreen display, voice activation as well as a number of audio and travel apps.
Small SUV — Buick Encore
Runners up: MINI Countryman, Volkswagen Tiguan
Introduced for the 2013 model year, the Encore gave Buick its first entry into the compact premium SUV market. With a signature Buick design and a roomy interior, the Encore went on to become Buick’s best-selling model. Encore gets power from a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine rated at an impressive 33 mpg.
Compact SUV — Chevrolet Equinox
Runners up: Toyota FJ Cruiser, Honda CR-V
As with many other vehicles on this list, the Chevrolet Equinox offered a number of new high-tech entertainment features for the 2013 model year. Chevrolet’s MyLink used a high-res 7-inch touchscreen display and featured integration of Internet radio such as Pandora and Stitcher into the audio system. Equinox also got a new 3.6-liter V6 in 2013 offering additional power with the same fuel economy as the outgoing smaller engine.
Compact Premium SUV — Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
Runners up: BMW X3, BMW X1
The first compact SUV to be offered by Mercedes, the GLK was designed to be a modern interpretation of the larger and tougher G-Class. Powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine teamed with a 7-speed automatic transmission and available 4MATIC full-time four-wheel-drive, the 2013 GLK came well equipped with such items as 19-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, roof rails, privacy glass and chrome details inside and out.
Compact MPV — Toyota Prius V
Runner up: Kia Soul
In 2012 Toyota expanded on its popular Prius lineup, adding a smaller Prius c and the wagonlike Prius v. For the 2013 model year the Prius v remained primarily unchanged compared with the previous year, offering the spaciousness and versatility of a larger hatchback with the impressive fuel economy drivers have come to expect of the Prius. The Prius v’s hybrid powertrain was rated at 40 mpg on the highway, 44 mpg in the city.
Midsize SUV — Nissan Murano
Runners up: Toyota Venza, Toyota 4Runner
The only top-ranked Nissan in this list, the Murano was easy to spot in 2013 with its unique styling in the crossover segment. The Murano also stood out from the crowd with an available convertible version called the Murano Cross Cabriolet. For the 2013 model year the Murano was upgraded with a number of new safety features, including lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection and rear cross-path detection.
Midsize Premium SUV — Lexus GX
Runners up: Lexus RX, Porsche Cayenne
The Lexus GX is one of six models from Toyota (Lexus is a division of Toyota) to be ranked highest in a category. Based on the Toyota 4Runner, the GX offers the luxury expected of a Lexus combined with impressive off-road capability featuring a standard full-time 4-wheel-drive system, with an electronically controlled transfer case and a TORSEN torque-sensing limited-slip center differential.
Minivan — Toyota Sienna
Runner up: Chrysler Town & Country
The Sienna was completely redesigned in 2011, bringing the third generation of Toyota’s minivan to market. Still the only minivan with available all-wheel drive, the 2013 Sienna offered features such as a conversation mirror, seating for up to eight passengers, a fold-flat third-row seat and an available rear-seat Dual View Entertainment Center that uses two displays side-by-side to create either a seamless 16.4-inch widescreen image from a single source or two individual screens, each with input from separate sources.
Large SUV — GMC Yukon
Runner up: Chevrolet Tahoe
There aren’t many vehicles on the road that can compete with the GMC Yukon (or its twin, the Chevrolet Tahoe). With seating for up to nine occupants, plenty of cargo capacity, the ability to tow more than 8,000 pounds and 9 inches of ground clearance for off-road adventures, the Yukon is one of the most capable SUVs on the road.
Large Light-Duty Pickup — Toyota Tundra
Runners up: GMC Sierra 1500, Chevrolet Silverado 1500
Toyota’s full-size Tundra pickup may not be able to compete with the likes of the Chevrolet Silverado or Ford F-150 in terms of sales, but it does top the segment as the most dependable option. The 2013 Tundra was available with a variety of engines, including a powerful 5.7-liter 381-horsepower V8 powerplant capable of towing more than 10,000 pounds.
Large Heavy-Duty Pickup — Chevrolet Silverado HD
Runner up: None
The 2013 Silverado HD (heavy duty) was the ultimate work truck for its time, with some impressive capabilities. When properly equipped the big pickup could tow more than 23,000 pounds or carry a payload of more than 7,000 pounds. With the powerful, efficient 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel engine, the Silverado HD can travel almost 700 miles between fill-ups.