We are all watching our wallets these days, but when looking for a new car, we still want a reliable model that will be worry free and dependable. To help narrow the field to such models that are unlikely to break the bank, we looked through the most reliable cars based on our 2013 Annual Auto Survey.
To filter the list down to models priced under $25,000, we focused on the price paid for testing, as we buy cars popularly equipped. (Basing such research on advertised base prices may lead to disappointment, as those bare-bones models often are not on dealership lots and they are less-equipped than what most buyers expect.)
To create a list of truly good cars, we also made sure the final roster only included those models that meet the criteria for a Consumer Reports recommendation, including performing well in our road tests and in safety tests conducted by the government and/or insurance institute.
These vehicles have been relatively problem-free as reported by car owners in our survey, so they should keep running for a long time. The cars are listed in rank order starting with the highest predicted reliability score.
Click through to our model pages to see further details including road test score, fuel economy, safety ratings, and more.
Scion xB: $18,360
The funky-looking Scion xB is a versatile and reliable little hauler. With its enormous backseat, spacious cargo area, easy access, and relatively powerful engine, the Scion xB is a practical alternative to a similarly priced small sedan.
Honda Fit $16,020
The Fit seems roomier on the inside than you might expect, with an interior that is unusually versatile and flexible. It has easy cabin access and a very good view out. It also comes relatively well equipped and has comfortable seating.
Tremendously practical, the Mazda5 has a wide range of attributes that can't be matched by any other vehicle on the market. Sliding side doors and seating for six make it an alternative for larger and more-expensive minivans and SUVs, yet its fuel economy is decidedly more carlike, returning 23 mpg overall.
Subaru Legacy 2.5: $24,189
The Subaru Legacy scores among the top tier of family sedans and offers standard all-wheel drive. It is roomy and relatively quiet , with impressive ride comfort, responsive handling, and good fuel economy.
Subaru Impreza: $21,345-$22,345
A comfortable ride, responsive handling, good visibility, simple controls, and a relatively spacious rear seat combine to make the Impreza sedan easy to live with. Standard AWD and impressive fuel economy of 27 mpg add to the appeal. The hatchback version offers similar experience with added versatility.
Honda Civic EX: $21,605
The Honda Civic is a competitive small car with a quiet ride, nice interior, and spacious cabin. Fuel economy is good for the class at 29 mpg overall and a backup camera is standard across the line. The EX trim we tested is nicely equipped, with a moonroof, upgraded stereo, and automatic climate control.
Volkswagen Golf 2.5: $20,314
A nice ride, crisp handling, versatile interior, and solid feel make the Golf a compelling choice. The interior is high-quality with good visibility and good access. Handling is quite agile, thanks to quick, well-weighted steering and restrained body lean.
Hyundai Accent SE: $16,695
There's nothing fancy about the Accent, but it hits the mark well for basic, sensible transportation. The well-constructed cabin offers plenty of room up front and the engine provides adequate power and responsive handling. It is also inexpensive to buy and own.
Distinguished by a coupe-like silhouette that stands out with eye-catching looks, the Mazda6 provides a sporty alternative to the conventional humdrum midsized sedan. Steering is responsive and fuel economy is class leading at 32 mpg overall, thanks to the thrifty SkyActiv engine.
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen 2.5: $24,324
The Jetta wagon combines good driving dynamics and cargo-and-passenger versatility with excellent fit and finish. This is a premium small car with the high-quality trappings and solid feel of a much more expensive car.
For more on our latest reliability survey, see our complete report and guide to vehicle reliability.
To find other vehicles that suit your needs, see our full best and worst lists on fuel economy, comfort, safety and more.
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