- Nonluxury vehicles accounted for half of the top 10 auto brands in Consumer Reports' 2021 Brand Report Card, out Thursday.
- Mazda topped the list followed by BMW, Subaru, Porsche and Honda. Alfa Romeo fell to last place among 32 brands.
- Tesla, which was last year's top-ranked American auto brand, fell five places to 16th.
Mazda just topped Consumer Reports' annual ranking of the most reliable automotive brands for the first time.
Mazda's North America sales grew last year despite the Covid pandemic, thanks to the popularity of its CX-9 seven-seat sport utility vehicle and CX-30 crossover.
BMW, Subaru, Porsche and Honda rounded out the top five spots on the Consumer Reports 2021 Brand Report Card, which was released Thursday.
To determine the rankings, Consumer Reports buys vehicles anonymously from dealerships for road testing. It conducts tests for braking, handling, comfort, convenience, safety and fuel economy, and includes survey responses from Consumer Reports subscribers in its analysis.
In 2020, Porsche and Genesis (which is owned by Hyundai) topped the report card. Genesis fell 13 places this year "due to declining predicted reliability among its models," Consumer Reports said.
Lincoln saw the worst declines in the rankings, dropping 15 spots down to 28th. Consumer Reports noted that the brand's redesigned sport utility vehicles, the Aviator and Corsair, performed well in road tests but had "much below average reliability."
Last year's top American-owned auto brand, Tesla, fell five places to land at 16.
Elon Musk's electric vehicle venture was "dragged down by reliability issues with the Model S, Model Y, and Model X," Consumer Reports said.
In the U.S., Tesla recently issued a voluntary recall of tens of thousands of its older Model S and Model X vehicles due to touchscreen failures that pose a safety risk for drivers. Tesla also recalled around 9,500 Model X and Model Y vehicles over faulty roof trim and bolts in November.
Tesla garnered high scores for owner satisfaction and performed well in road tests, Consumer Reports said. But only the Model 3, Tesla's more affordable electric sedan, held a high enough reliability and overall score to be recommended to drivers by Consumer Reports.
Lagging just behind Tesla were Mini, Kia and Volkswagen, which all followed in Tesla's footsteps and now offer pure battery electrics.
At the bottom of Consumer Reports' 2021 rankings were Mitsubishi, Land Rover and in last place, Alfa Romeo. Alfa Romeo dropped by 5 places because of "worsened reliability" and poor performance in road tests, Consumer Reports said.
-- CNBC's Phil LeBeau contributed to this report.
Correction: This story has been revised to correct that the Mazda CX-9 has seven seats and the CX-30 is a compact crossover.