Paying more for a new car doesn't guarantee better reliability. As a group, inexpensive small cars and midsized family sedans are the most reliable. That's one of the findings of our 2009 Annual Auto Survey, based on our subscribers' experiences with 1.4 million vehicles.

Small cars stand out. Twenty of 37 small cars have above-average predicted-reliability scores. Family cars fare nearly as well, with 21 out of 41 scoring above average. Other interesting findings include the following:

But reliability isn't everything. Some very reliable models do not perform well enough in our road tests for us to recommend them. One example is the Toyota Yaris: Its ironclad reliability doesn't make up for its below-average performance. The same applies to the Honda Insight and the Volvo S40, one of the most reliable nonhybrid family cars.

For full reliability charts and predicted reliability on hundreds of 2010 models, plus a list of what's up and what's down, visit

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Ford Dominates the Domestics
Ford has consolidated its position as the only Detroit automaker with world-class reliability. Of the 51 Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln products that we surveyed, 46 — or about 90 percent — are average or better, including the new Ford Flex SUV. But the Lincoln division has mixed results; some models score below their Ford equivalents. All-wheel-drive versions of the Lincoln MKS, MKX and MKZ, essentially high-end versions of the Ford Taurus, Edge and Fusion, respectively, are all below average.

GM shed the Hummer, Pontiac, and Saturn brands after emerging from bankruptcy. It now consists of Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC. Of the 48 models we surveyed from those brands, 20 have average scores, and only the Malibu v6 sedan is better than average.

Some newer GM products are bright spots. In addition to the Malibu, the Buick Lucerne did well in our road tests, and it scores average in reliability. The Chevrolet Traverse SUV also makes the cut, as does its cousin, the Buick Enclave, but only in the all-wheel-drive version. The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 pickups, two good performers, earn our recommendation as well. GM has a number of strong contenders either just released or in the pipeline, but they are too new for us to have reliability data on them.

We recommend the Pontiac Vibe, the V8 version of the Pontiac G8, and the Saturn Aura, which have average or better reliability. Some of those cars can still be found on dealer lots.

As for Chrysler, we couldn't recommend any of its products in last year's survey because of mediocre performance, poor reliability, or both. Now we can recommend one: the four-wheel-drive version of the redesigned Dodge Ram 1500 pickup. It did well in our road tests and rates average in reliability. Still, more than one-third of Chrysler products are much worse than average, including its new car-based SUV, the Dodge Journey.

Asian Brands Still Command
The major Japanese brands and South Korea's Hyundai and Kia make plenty of reliable vehicles. Of the 48 models with top reliability scores, 36 are Asian. Toyota accounts for 18; Honda, eight; Nissan, four; and Hyundai/Kia and Subaru, three each.

Japanese vehicles are consistently good. All Hondas and Acuras are average or above. Toyota, with its Lexus and Scion brands, provides a broader product range. The Lexus GS AWD is the only Toyota model below average in reliability.

Nissan and its Infiniti luxury division have mostly been very reliable. The once-troublesome Infiniti QX56 and Nissan Armada are now average, as is the four-wheel-drive Nissan Titan, although its rear-wheel-drive version is still troublesome. The Nissan Versa has produced uneven results. Over the last two surveys, the hatchback has been average while the sedan has been far below average. The Nissan Quest minivan also remains troublesome.

Subaru has been a very reliable brand. But this year the turbocharged Impreza WRX turned up with a worse-than-average reliability score, even though other Imprezas have been average or better, as are all other Subarus.

Hyundai and Kia continue to make reliable cars. The Hyundai Elantra and Hyundai Tucson, and the Kia Sportage get top marks. The new Hyundai Genesis V6 is better than average; the V8 version is average. Only Kia's Sedona minivan and Sorento SUV score below average.