The reputation of Japanese car reliability lives on, even in today's car market.
Japanese cars have built themselves a reputation for reliability that arguably extends beyond reality. There's a sort of mythical ethos surrounding this idea of a cheap Japanese car that'll last miles and miles. That's doubly true in today's market, with cars regularly trading hands for mountains of cash over MSRP and companies like Ford going to war with its dealers to prevent it.
Dig a little deeper (and wind the clock back by 10 years), and you can still find reliable, cheap, and satisfying-to-own cars, and unsurprisingly, the majority of them are Japanese. Take the 2012 Toyota Corolla, for example. Consumer Reports ranks it, the Avalon, and the Camry highly. On top of that, even the most expensive of those three (the Avalon) will only run you roughly $13,500 depending on mileage. And that's just the start.
The range of CR's look at affordable sedans for 2022 and found the 10-year mark to be the sweet spot for pricing, reliability, efficiency, and owner satisfaction. For reference, we're going to drop in the pricing next to each model, which will be the top-end of CR's own estimate.
Take the 2012 Acura TSX ($13,975), for example. Back then, the TSX offered two engines (a 201-hp four-pot and 280-hp V6), excellent reliability, and an average 26 mpg, not to mention high crash scores. The old Infiniti G ($10,675) series made the list as well and is probably the most sporty car on the list thanks to the same engine found in the Nissan 370Z. However, owner satisfaction was a low spot.
We've already mentioned that Toyota's run of sedans was a particularly high note in this era, and that also means that Lexus is much the same. The ES ($14,050) is probably the most highly-rated sedan on Consumer Reports' list, thanks to its luxury interior, solid fuel economy (23 mpg), and incredibly high owner satisfaction score.
That said, a Mazda6 ($11,275) will be cheaper and return better fuel economy (25 mpg), but at the loss of that luxury interior. Thankfully, the 272-hp V6 makes up for that.
To be fair to the rest of the global auto industry, there are some non-Japanese sedans that should do you nicely if you're looking for a solid used car. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class ($27,575), while pricey, is a bona fide German luxury sedan for less than a new Honda Civic. It also comes with more modern safety features like forward collision warning.
Still, the Acura TL ($14,150) was a reminder that you didn't need to go to the Germans for a nice interior. It had that, in spades, in addition to 23 mpg on average for about half the money. If that's not cheap enough, owners love the 2012 Honda Accord ($12,475), which returns better fuel economy (26 mpg).
Last, that leaves the Subaru Legacy ($15,000). Returning 27 mpg with standard AWD, this is one of the more all-weather capable Japanese sedans we've talked about. Plus, you might even be able to get the sporty GT model for a bit more cash.
While there are other non-Japanese contenders on CR's list, they pale in comparison to the value, reliability, and owner satisfaction, proving that the reliable Japanese car mythos is still well intact, even in today's market.