Top 20 Lemon Cars Named & Shamed

top 20 lemon cars named and shamed

Consumer Reports in the USA has listed the 20 least reliable cars - and those manufacturers must be so pleased. (Consumer Reports is a highly respected independent quality advocate in the USA - almost like Choice here in Australia, but several orders of magnitude more robust.) 

Sadly, there’s bugger-all information like this available here in Australia - and that's truly appalling. Australian consumers are rather in the dark on this, and most car reviewers don't help because they concentrate on assessing handling, performance and styling and avoid thornier issues like quality for fear of curtailing advertising agreements between their publishers and the car industry. (Yeah - it's a huge conflict of interest.)

Plenty of the cars in that Consumer Reports list aren’t sold here, but of the cars we do get: a couple of surprises. Or is that 'highlights'? It's important reading if you're in the market, because I'd be crossing these off my list if I were you.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class: developing quite the reputation as a stylish, upmarket and elegant heap of crap

Mercedes-Benz C-Class: developing quite the reputation as a stylish, upmarket and elegant heap of crap


The quintessential case of perception versus reality. With something like 300 different vehicles on sale in most markets, being in the bottom 20 on reliability is a disgrace for a mainstream brand. But for Mercedes-Benz, it's a disaster.

Incredibly, for the C-Class, the actual owners surveyed in this market assessment put the vehicle in the bottom seven per cent of all vehicles for reliability. 

Mercedes-Benz C-Class came in at number 20, making it the most reliable, least reliable car. According to Consumer reports, it's developing quite the reputation for the power steering crapping out - as well as rattles, stalling at idle and infotainment system controller failure and a display screen that just freezes.

It shows you just how out of touch most motoring journalists are, huh?

Merc GL-CLass: the ultimate bad-taste tank is a complete shocker on reliability

Merc GL-CLass: the ultimate bad-taste tank is a complete shocker on reliability


Also on the Consumer Reports epic Shitbox Top 20 Hit Parade, the GL-Class Mercedes-Benz at (lucky) number 13.

Incredibly (and this really says it all, shitbox-wise) the GL-Class is less reliable than a Chrysler 300.

According to Consumer Reports, the GL-Class's numerous woes are longer than Ron Jeremy's claim to fame. The botched quality inclusions include more death-row power steering, which also plagues the C-Class, aided and abetted by collision warning sensors that fail to warn of impending collisions, blind spot warning systems that also fail to warn, early brake system wear, and windscreen wiper motor failure. Apparently the GL Class also caught the C-Class’s infotainment system collapse disease, as well as suffering from dodgy Bluetooth pairing, voice recognition that - problematically - doesn’t recognise voices, rattles in the door and tailgate, transvestite transmission syndrome (driving repeatedly in the wrong gear) and the engine control computer making like Apollo 13 … except for not ultimately making it back to Earth.

top 20 lemon cars named and shamed


If you buy a Great Wall or a Chery, or a Jeep, and it fails to proceed one day … you think: yeah. Not entirely unexpected. But if you fork over the big bucks for the Benz - the great automotive icon - that’s different. You’re in a full-on relationship with a Benz. It’s ‘the one’, right? You go out to dinner. Have a few drinks. Go dancing. When the time is right, you slide your hand down over its arse. You make your move. And if it chooses that moment, right then and there, to crap into its underpants spontaneously … or does so at any time during the subsequent honeymoon, well, that’s obviously going to redefine your relationship for the foreseeable future. (Probably subdue the fires of passion for the time being. Or eternity.)

People say I'm hard on Mercedes-Benz - but the reality is: they set themselves up as the great icon. You expect them to be better than everyone else, and they're not. And they deserve to be called on it, not tolerated for over-promising and under-delivering, repeat. In my view, Mercedes-Benz has its head so far up its arse on the issue of what it is, and what it represents, that it can see what it's having for brunch next Sunday. That's almost as completely inserted, in terms of the position of the head, vis-a-vis the lower digestive tract, as the Volkswagen Group. I predict, with the facts and the perception being so completely at loggerheads, on this issue, they'll go for 'denial'. And they'll primarily pretend this report does not exist.


Above (left to right): Chrysler 300, Ford Focus, Nissan Pathfinder, Jeep Cherokee, Ford Fiesta, Fiat 500L (click to enlarge)

Counting down now from best of the worst (C-Class, #20): Also on Consumer Reports’ bottom 20 epic bad choices list: The Chrysler 300 (#15) - knock me down with a feather - plus the Ford Focus (11) - one of the worst transmission R&D jobs of all time there. They include: false alarms from the security system, defective alternator, failed climate control, UConnect system frozen, Bluetooth failure, voice command out to lunch - permanently - plus inoperable remote start feature, rattles, squeaks, erratic transmission shifting, and complete transmission failure.

The somewhat tragic Nissan Pathfinder (#9) cursed with its appalling Jatco shitbox CVT. (Nissan’s been asleep at the wheel for a decade - so: not really a surprise there.) 'Continuous on' status for the passenger airbag warning light, jerly driveline, slipping transmission, intermittent failures of the reversing camera, battery drain with the car shut down, failed seat heaters, loose trim and mouldings.

All terrain spawn of Satan, the Jeep Cherokee (#4). List of defects there: incredible. Would have been easier to list the things that worked properly. Top of the pops - sorry, poops - the nine-speed transmission, apparently straight from a Stephen King novel. Nine speeds - a bit ambitious for Chrysler, don’t you think? Plus defective engine control computer, GPS on the fritz, reverse camera failure, touchscreen failure, leaking oil, squeaks from the dash, defective ball joints, vibrating driveline, loose weather strips, and rattles from the sunroof, seats, dash and tailgate. What fun... 

Ford Fiesta’s there too (#2): clutch replacement, jumping out of gear, transvestite shifting logic, fuel pump failure, transmission failure, rattles, loose trim.

And the 'winner'? The Fiat 500L - the number one overall for number twos (if you know what I mean). Radio failures, reverse camera failures, voice command system failure, battery failure, poor shifting, unable to engage gears, transmission reprogram required, turbo failure, engine failure, DTRL failure, malfunctioning tyre pressure monitoring system. Apart from that, all good...

See my earlier report on the top 20 dog and lemon cars to avoid >>


Consumer Reports independently surveyed 740,000 vehicle owners - an incomprehensibly huge independent research project - and those are the objective findings, from real people who own those cars. I don’t generally recommend those brands because they’re a dud deal. To paraphrase Tom Skerritt from Top Gun: their egos are writing cheques their vehicles just can’t cash. If you're thinking about buying one of these cars - don't. It's not as if there aren't alternatives. You can also contact me for advice using one of the red links on this page.