Sometimes, certain cars are popular for a reason. The Honda CR-V isn’t ever going to handle like the Porsche Macan, but it delivers a fantastic combination of practicality, reliability and fuel economy that keeps customers coming back generation after generation.
Other times, you see lots people driving certain cars, but they’re really just not the best choice for the money. Everyone’s allowed to make their own decisions, so it’s not necessarily wrong to buy any of the cars our friends at Consumer Reports say to avoid, but odds are, you’ll be happier if you go for one of the two alternatives they suggest.
As far as new cars go, the Chevrolet Trax is pretty darn inexpensive, and you get a good number of features for your money. Still, there are plenty of downsides, including uneven power delivery and a cheap interior that cause the Trax to come up short of earning Consumer Reports’ recommendation.
Buy: Toyota Corolla Hatchback
Considering how small the Trax is and the fact that it’s front-wheel-drive only, odds are you’ll get everything you’re looking for from the Toyota Corolla Hatchback. It’s a much better vehicle overall and should get better gas mileage, as well.
Alternative: Nissan Kicks
If you really want a subcompact crossover and can’t make yourself go with the Corolla Hatchback, then another alternative to the Trax is the Nissan Kicks. It’s not quick or sporty, but you’ll probably end up liking it better overall.
Avoid: Volkswagen Jetta
The Volkswagen Jetta can be a tempting choice due to its low base price, but reliability issues and low owner satisfaction mean it’s probably best to pass on buying the Jetta.
Buy: Mazda 3
Odds are, if you like the Jetta, you’ll find everything it offers and more in a Mazda 3. It has a higher base price, but it also delivers a nicer cabin, sportier handling, a quieter cabin and, most importantly, significantly better reliability.
Alternative: Hyundai Elantra Hybrid
If you’re interested in getting better fuel economy, the Hyundai Elantra Hybrid may be the way to go instead of the Mazda 3. Not only does it get great gas mileage, but it also comes with pretty good handling.
Avoid: Mercedes-Benz CLA
The Mercedes-Benz CLA is another car that makes a good first impression, but the ownership experience may make you regret buying one of the least expensive models that Mercedes sells. In addition to below-average reliability, the rear seat is, as Consumer Reports put it, “so small that it’s almost useless.”
Buy: Audi A3
Rear-seat passengers won’t be greeted with a ton of legroom in the Audi A3, but it’s an all-around better car. The fact that the A3's base price is significantly lower than the CLA’s certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
Alternative: Acura Integra
The Acura Integra may be based on the Honda Civic, but it still provides impressive handling and fuel economy at a lower price than you’ll pay for the CLA. It’s also quite practical since it’s technically a hatchback.
Avoid: Mercedes-Benz C-Class
With its baby S-Class styling, powerful engine options, impressive handling and surprisingly good fuel economy, we understand why an initial test drive is enough to convince people to buy the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Unfortunately for those that do, its poor reliability and owner satisfaction scores suggest that’s probably a bad idea.
Buy: BMW 3 Series
It’s not the E46 that we all remember so fondly, but it’s still hard to beat the current BMW 3 Series if you’re shopping for a compact sport sedan. It may take time to get used to the controls, but beyond that, you’re going to have a hard time coming up with any complaints unless you really don’t like the styling.
Alternative: Cadillac CT5
The Cadillac CT5 may technically be a midsize sport sedan, but it also happens to come with a base price that is less expensive than the C-Class and the 3 Series. That means that for similar money, you can upgrade to the more powerful V6 instead of sticking with the less-refined four-cylinder.
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