Best vehicle brands and best certified pre-owned, as ranked by US News

Get your motor running.

U.S. News & World Report have released its annual Best Vehicle Brands and Best Certified Pre-Owned lists. And once again, it’s good to be a Mazda owner.

In this April 17, 2019 file photo, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 is shown at the New York Auto Show.  (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Mazda took top honors as the best car brand for a fifth consecutive year based on the strength of the Mazda3, Mazda6 and Mazda MX-5 Miata. All three feature tight, sporty handling and have a more upscale interior than their price tags suggest.

“Mazda has held on to that top spot because, simply put, they make a lot of very good cars,” Jamie Page Deaton, executive editor of the U.S. News Best Cars, told WTOP.

“There is not a bad car in the Mazda lineup, whereas other automakers might have a couple of good cars and then one or two bad cars that drag down their total score.”

Mazda has cars that are “very fun to drive,” Page Deaton said.

“They’re very fuel efficient. And their interiors are very upscale, especially when you consider that Mazda cars tend to come with a fairly low price tag.”

Page Deaton and her team looked at over 200 vehicles for this list, with a goal of helping consumers.

“A lot of people don’t know exactly which car they want, but they know that they want, say, an SUV,” Page Deaton said. “And so by identifying the best brands for SUVs, it helps consumers narrow down their shopping right from the get-go.”

When it comes to the best SUV brand, Kia gets the nod thanks to its practical nature and affordability.

The 2019 Kia Niro EV starts under $39,000 has a 239-mile range. Fully loaded ones like the one pictured here are priced at $44,000. (WTOP/Mike Parris)

“According to our awards, if you’re looking for an SUV, just head on over to the Kia dealership, because all of their SUVs are excellent and there’s going to be one that’ll suit almost any buyer’s needs,” Page Deaton said.

Kia’s win was a surprise, she said.

“A lot of consumers may not think of Kia when they’re thinking of anything beyond budget,” she said.

“Kia is known for having low prices and very good warranties. But Kia really invested over the past three or four years into their SUV lineup, all of their SUVs now have been very recently redesigned or are brand new models, and that investment has paid off in things that really matter to consumers.”

The other big surprise was the fall of Ford from the No. 1 truck spot. Dodge’s Ram is now the boss in that category thanks to the Ram 1500, a vehicle strong enough to tow and haul but comfortable enough for that daily commute.

“This is really surprising because the Ford F150, which is their full size truck, is the best selling vehicle in America. It’s incredibly popular,” Page Deaton said. “Ram has been slowly creeping up on Ford with their Ram 1500, and it’s a very great, high-tech truck. It uses a different suspension setup, which makes it much more comfortable when you’re not driving or towing or hauling with a full load.”

Ford’s misstep was the release of the Ranger, which Page Deaton says “just wasn’t very good.” As a result, Ford’s score got dragged down.

The other winner is for those with deep pockets: Porsche is the best luxury brand.

For the best Certified Pre-Owned, look no further than Lexus. Pre-owned Lexus vehicles come with lengthy warranty coverage (up to two years with no mileage limit and no deductible), numerous program perks, including free roadside assistance, and a stellar dependability record.

Why go with a certified pre-owned vehicle? Money.

“The main reason is price. A new car will depreciate on average 20% of its value, just in the first year of ownership, and some cars depreciate a lot more than that,” Page Deaton said.

“If you buy a CPO car, you’re getting close to the latest technology, you’re getting a lot of backing in terms of warranty and service plans. But what you’re not doing is you’re not paying for that depreciation. Someone else is. So if you’re willing to go for a car that’s two, maybe three years old, maybe has 30,000 miles on it, you’re able to save a lot of money.”

To determine the rankings, U.S. News collected and analyzed credible reviews of a given vehicle mode. Then it combined that analysis with safety and reliability data from organizations that specialize in vehicle-related information, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and J.D. Power.

See the full list of U.S. News’ Best Vehicle Brands.

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