Sales of used cars and the popularity of “certified pre-owned” (CPO) programs continue to increase as millions of Americans realize an affordable used car doesn’t have to be a clunker. Reliability is available on a tight budget. You just have to choose the right car.
According to owners surveyed by J.D. Power, these nine models from 2017 are the most dependable. They’re also new enough to be purchased from a CPO program, which usually includes extended warranties. Many offer modern in-cabin tech features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. This list includes a wide range of vehicles, from large sedans to sports cars, subcompacts to luxury models. There’s even an EV in the pack. Here they are in alphabetical order.
Surveyed owners say the BMW 2-series is the most reliable small premium car of 2017, beating the likes of the Mercedes CLA-class, Audi A3, and Acura ILX. Available as a two-door coupe or convertible, the rear-wheel-drive 2-series was offered in two turbocharged models, the four-cylinder 230i and six-cylinder 240i. BMW also offered all-wheel drive and a choice of a manual or automatic transmission. More nimble than the larger 3-series, the 2-series is one of the quickest and most entertaining cars on this list. Even the slowest 2-series, the all-wheel-drive 230i xDrive, is plenty quick. In our testing it sprinted from zero to 60 mph in only 5.3 seconds. The hot rods of the bunch, the M240i and M2, offer so much driving enjoyment they made our 2017 10Best list.
Quality and reliability awards in the mid-size sedan class have traditionally gone to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Not this time. According to owners surveyed by J.D. Power, the Buick Regal is the most reliable mid-size sedan of 2017, its final year of production. Credibly athletic, it was Buick’s sportiest model thanks to a front-wheel-drive chassis engineered in Europe and its responsive four-cylinder engines. A 182-hp 2.4-liter was standard, along with a six-speed automatic transmission, however, we prefer the turbocharged 259-hp 2.0-liter, which could be paired with all-wheel drive. An infotainment system with a large 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and on-board Wi-Fi was also available. The Regal’s cabin is quiet and comfortable, but it lacks rear-seat headroom compared to its most spacious rivals. The sportiest Regal, the GS, was fitted with 19-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, and unique interior trim.
Owners of mid-size sporty cars report that the 2017 Ford Mustang is more reliable than the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger of the same vintage. The rear-wheel-drive Mustang was offered as a sleek fastback coupe or soft-top convertible. Not counting the almighty Shelby models, both were available with three engines and a choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The base engine was 3.7-liter V-6 making 300 horsepower, or you could step up to a 310-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-four. The 5.0-liter V-8 in the GT cranks out 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. With a complete redesign in 2015, which included an independent rear suspension for improved ride and handling, the muscle car landed on our 10Best list, and by 2017 little had changed. These Mustangs deliver the right mix of retro design, daily civility, and speed.
In 2017, Genesis split off from Hyundai and became a stand-alone luxury brand. The mid-size G80—previously the Hyundai Genesis—was one of its first products, and the rear-wheel-drive sedan has been competing with the more expensive BMW 5-series, Mercedes E-class, Audi A6, and Lexus GS ever since. The G80’s combination of refined performance, luxury, safety, and features helped establish the brand, and according to owners the G80 is the most reliable mid-size premium car. Two engines were available, including a 420-hp V-8, however, its standard 311-hp 3.8-liter V-6 was more popular. Both were paired with an excellent eight-speed automatic transmission, and the V-6 models with the optional all-wheel-drive system hit 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. All the usual luxuries were available, including heated seats, navigation, leather interior, and a sunroof. A long list of active-tech safety systems and driver aids were standard, and the G80 was given a Top Safety Pick+ rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
According to Honda Fit owners, the five-door hatchback is the highest quality, most reliable small car from 2017, beating out others like the Toyota Yaris, Chevy Sonic, and Nissan Versa. Since its last full redesign in 2015, the Fit has been one of the more enjoyable cars to drive in the subcompact class. It’s the sports car of the segment, plus it offers the most space for people and cargo thanks to its excellent packaging and “magic” rear seat, which flips up as well as folds flat. Under the hood is the same powertrain you’ll find in the 2020 Fit, a lively 130-hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, paired with either a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic (CVT). With the CVT, fuel-economy estimates were among the highest in its class at 33 mpg city and 40 mpg on the highway.
Lexus has such a strong reputation for quality that we’re not surprised the ES lands on this list. According to owners, it’s more reliable than other premium sedans, including the BMW 3-series, Mercedes C-class, and Audi A4. A mechanical twin to the Toyota Avalon, which is also on this list, the luxurious ES is the best-selling Lexus sedan ever. Two models were offered in 2017: the quicker and more powerful ES 350 and the more fuel-efficient ES 300h hybrid. The ES 350 got a 268-hp 3.5-liter V-6 and a dated but smooth six-speed automatic transmission. In our testing it hit 60 mph in a quick 5.8 seconds. The 200-hp hybrid is two seconds slower, but its EPA fuel-economy estimates are impressive at 40 mpg city and highway. A list of active-tech safety systems and driver aids were available, including automatic emergency braking. With the optional LED headlamps, the ES 350 was rated Top Safety Pick+ by IIHS.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
If you’re looking for the most reliable compact sports car, this is it. As the T-shirt says, the answer is always Miata. Since 1990, the small rear-wheel-drive roadster has become one of the most popular sports cars in history with well over a million produced. In 2016, Mazda introduced its fourth generation, and it made our 10Best list four years in a row. That generation’s not only the most comfortable Miata ever, but it’s also the best performing. Under the hood in 2017 was a 155-hp version of Mazda’s 2.0-liter four backed by a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. In our testing, getting from zero to 60 mph took 5.9 seconds. Not every MX-5 is a soft-top convertible, however. In 2017 Mazda introduced the coupe-like Miata RF, with a power-retractable center roof section, similar to the current Porsche 911 Targa. It’s noticeably quieter inside and more weather resistant, but it offers a half-inch less headroom. The Club trim level has a firmer suspension, and manual-transmission models got a limited-slip differential.
According to its owners, the most reliable small car from 2017 is the only fully electric car on this list, the Nissan Leaf. Let that sink in for a second. The data collected by J.D. Power tells us the Nissan Leaf is more reliable than the Toyota Prius, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Civic. No wonder the Leaf has been the best-selling EV in the world since it was first introduced in 2011. (The Tesla Model 3 is catching it quickly.) The first generation of the Leaf, which ran until 2017, helped establish the EV market, and those cars are now dirt-cheap alternatives for buyers looking to drive emissions free. Just don’t expect Tesla-like range and acceleration. In 2017, the Leaf’s top SV and SL trim levels had higher-capacity, 30.0-kWh battery packs and an EPA-rated range of 107 miles. The base Leaf S still used the smaller 24-kWh battery pack for a range of just 84 miles. Both models reach 60 mph in 10.4 seconds.
In 2018, we said this about Toyota’s largest sedan: “Basically a Toyota Camry rendered in size XL, the Avalon is a big BarcaLounger of a sedan aimed at buyers who are more interested in higher levels of comfort and space than they are in performance or prestige—think Baby Boomers who are nearing retirement.” So, it’s no sports sedan, but the front-wheel-drive Avalon owns the large-sedan segment, which includes the Nissan Maxima and Chevy Impala. And according to Avalon owners, it’s the most reliable big four-door out there. As we mentioned, Avalon shares its platform and powertrains with the Lexus ES, so it’s powered by the same 268-hp V-6 or 200-hp four-cylinder hybrid. Some may prefer the Avalon’s slightly wider cabin and marginally larger trunk, plus the Toyota’s touchscreen infotainment system is much easier to use than the complicated system in the Lexus.