These are the 10 most and least reliable 2021 cars, trucks and SUVs, Consumer Reports says

Nathan Bomey

Toyota lost its seemingly unshakable perch atop the closely followed Consumer Reports Auto Reliability rankings, usurped by previously second-place Mazda for the first time in the 2020 list.

But Toyota – whose vehicles have topped the rankings in every previous year – still performed well, with the automaker's namesake brand placing second and its luxury brand, Lexus, placing third.

Tesla, which has struggled in quality studies due to manufacturing miscues, placed second to last. Ford's luxury brand, Lincoln, was last.

The Consumer Reports rankings reflect the magazine's predictions of 2021 model-year reliability based on an assessment of recent vehicle performance data reported by more than 300,000 car owners. The fewer problems reported in the last 12 months for vehicles from the last three model years, the better the score.

The group also rated the top 10 most-reliable cars of 2021, ranking the Toyota Prius at the top, and the 10 least reliable, with the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups earning the dubious honors of least reliable. (Scroll down to see the full list.)

GM to offer OnStar auto insurance:Promising lower rates the safer you drive

Retirement planning:Making a committed effort to save on your raises you increase your 401(k) savings by 10%

Mazda achieved the highest overall score among 26 rated brands, due in part to what Consumer Reports called an iterative approach to vehicle redesign. In other words, Mazda doesn't change a lot when it redesigns its vehicles, making it less likely that its vehicles will experience unexpected flaws and defects due to new technology.

But Mazda still has a stylish design that ensures its vehicles aren't stodgy, said Jake Fisher, senior director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports.

"When it comes to reliability, it's always been this argument of making the cars exciting or making them reliable," Fisher said. Mazda "shows you can make cars that are fun and reliable."

The 2020 Mazda CX-5.

One factor boosting Mazda's scores: It hasn't invested heavily in modern infotainment systems, which tend to generate complaints about flaws.

"They’re just about the only manufacturer that’s launching new models without a touch screen," Fisher said.

While infotainment systems remain problematic in many cases, owners are increasingly reporting flaws with their vehicle transmissions, as well, according to Consumer Reports.

Fisher attributed the trend to automakers' introduction of high-tech transmissions, such as dual-clutch gear-shifters, a form of automatic transmission that uses electronic controls to mimic the performance of a manual.

Silverado and Sierra owners reported transmission issues, for example, Fisher said.

Meanwhile, Tesla owners continue to report problems with the assembly of their vehicles, including fit-and-finish defects.

"One owner found what they thought was human hair stuck in the paint," Fisher said. "We don’t see other manufacturers having those types of issues."

Of Tesla's four vehicles – the Model 3 compact car, the Model Y crossover, the Model X SUV and the Model S sedan – Consumer Reports said it can recommend only the Model 3.

Here is Consumer Reports' ranking of the major automotive brands, according to their average reliability score:

  1. Mazda (83)
  2. Toyota (74)
  3. Lexus (71)
  4. Buick (70)
  5. Honda (63)
  6. Hyundai (62)
  7. Ram (58)
  8. Subaru (57)
  9. Porsche (55)
  10. Dodge (54)
  11. Infiniti (54)
  12. BMW (52)
  13. Nissan (51)
  14. Audi (46)
  15. Kia (45)
  16. GMC (43)
  17. Chevrolet (42)
  18. Volvo (41)
  19. Jeep (41)
  20. Mercedes-Benz (40)
  21. Cadillac (38)
  22. Ford (38)
  23. Mini (37)
  24. Volkswagen (36)
  25. Tesla (29)
  26. Lincoln (8)

The 10 most reliable cars of 2021, according to Consumer Reports:

1. Toyota Prius

2. Lexus NX

3. Buick Encore

4. Lexus GX

5. Honda HR-V

6. Toyota Prius Prime

7. Hyundai Kona

8. Audi A5

9. Audi A4

10. Mazda CX-5

The 10 least reliable 2021 models, according to Consumer Reports:

1. Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500

2. Subaru Ascent

3. Volkswagen Atlas

4. Jeep Compass

5. Volvo XC90

6. Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon

7. Tesla Model S

8. Jeep Wrangler

9. Ford EcoSport

10. Volvo XC60

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.