10 Top 2011 Cars With Problems

DETROIT ( MainStreet) -- It's easy to make a list of great vehicles. Automakers think all of their vehicles are great.

Making a list of not-so-great vehicles, however, can be a little tougher, because the standards are not so clear.

Recently, editors and staff at web2Carz, a Chicago-based auto shopping site, got together to select the 10 worst cars of the year. They based their analysis on Consumer Reports reliability evaluations, fuel efficiency, cost, continued relevance and their own feelings about certain vehicles.

It is worth noting that in four cases, automakers are in such full agreement that they plan to take the vehicles off the market for 2012.

The vehicles include two small pickups, a troubled sector; several utility vehicles that are being left behind in a sector in which fuel efficiency is becoming part of the equation; and a subcompact car that stacks up very well against some tough competitors.

Here is the list, in alphabetical order.

Cadillac Escalade
The Cadillac Escalade sells for $62,000 and gets 14 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway.

The Escalade "made the list due to poor fuel economy, especially at that price," says Tim Healey, web2Carz senior writer. "It's a vehicle that sells fairly well because of the luxury aspect -- it has cachet -- but in terms of reliability and economy it is low on the list."

The Escalade is also an aging vehicle, Healy said. The platform was launched in 2006 and was also used for the Yukon and Tahoe.

In November, GM ( GM) sold 1,274 standard Escalades, down 5.4% for the month. For the full year, standard Escalade sales are down 4.6%, to 13,189.

Chevrolet Aveo
The Aveo sold for $12,000 and gets 27 mpg urban and 35 mpg/highway.

The subcompact "made the list for poor reliability, poor acceleration and poor performance overall," Healey said. "Any car that size will have good fuel economy."

For 2012, GM has replaced the Aveo with the Sonic, "a much better vehicle," Healey said.

Sonic had a good November, with sales of 4,496, compared with Aveo sales of 3,262 in the same month a year earlier.

Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
The Tahoe Hybrid has a base price of $38,000 and gets 20/23 mpg.

" Consumer Reports gave it a poor rating based on braking performance, and the fuel economy is not what it should be for a hybrid," Healey said. "It is still a very big vehicle and it has issues with mass and physics that are tough to overcome, even as a hybrid."

GM has introduced some successful midsize crossovers, such as the Terrain and the Buick Enclave, but it has not gotten as far with its larger SUVs, he said.

Dodge Dakota

The Dodge Dakota has a base price of $23,000 and gets 15/20 mpg.

In a declining market for small trucks, Chrysler discontinued production of the Dakota in August, and has not sayswhether it will make a replacement vehicle, although Healey says"that has pretty much been implied."

"The four-wheel-drive models have below-average reliability; the V6 engine lacks power, although the V8 is sufficient; the platform is aging and the market is no longer receptive," he said.

This year, Dodge has sold 11,748 Dakotas, down 2%, although November sales fell 46%, to 449.

Dodge Nitro
The Nitro starts at $22,300 and gets 16/22 mpg.

In September, Chrysler saysit would extend production of the 2011 Nitro through this month "to meet a burst in customer demand ahead of the vehicle's previously scheduled phase-out."

For the extended model year, the Dodge Nitro R/T, which is built in Toledo, Ohio, will join the Heat model as the last in the line of the sporty five-seat SUV from Dodge, the automaker said.

The Nitro has a 33 out of a possible 100 for its Consumer Reports reliability rating. Also, its competitors have better mileage ratings, and "it has performance issues and lackluster styling," Healey said.

Ford Ranger
The Ranger starts at $17,500 and gets 22/27 mpg.

Ford ( F) has saysit will discontinue the Ranger, making a bet that consumers would move up to the larger and more popular F Series.

In November, consumers had a dramatic reaction to the end of the Ranger. They bought 7,056 of them, up 86% from the same month a year earlier, no doubt lured by incentives. For the full year, Ranger sales are up 25%, to 64,114.

The Ranger "has a very old platform and over time is not selling well," Healey said. Web2Carz saysthe Ranger has poor consumer reviews, poor power and performance and minimal safety features.

Jeep Wrangler
The Jeep Wrangler starts at $22,000 and gets 15/19 mpg.

Whatever anybody says about, the Wrangler has been a popular utility vehicle. In November, sales rose 41%, to 9,225. For the full year, sales are up 29%, to 111,045.

"Not every car on this list is a sales flop," Healey said. "But the 2011 Wrangler had poor fuel economy and was underpowered with a V6, and its safety was subpar. The 2012 model has a better engine and a new interior."

Nissan Titan
The Nissan Titan starts at $27,400 and gets 13/18 mpg.

In November, Titan sales rose 20%, to 2,146. For the full year, sales are down 7.6% to 19,608.

Healey saysthe V8 engine is noisy, Consumer Reports has found the reliability below average for the past five years and the design is aging. On the plus side, he said, "the life cycle on trucks is a little longer than on passenger cars."

Smart For Two
Smart ForTwo starts at $12,500 and gets 33/41 mpg.

The Smart ForTwo "has been a very polarizing car," Healey says.

On the one hand, "it might be an advantage have a car so easy to park if you don't often carry passengers and park in Manhattan or downtown Chicago.Plus it is quirky and unusual and makes a fashion statement," Healey said.

On the other hand, the Smart ForTwo is noisy, has a below-par transmission and the mileage is not great for such a small car. At $12,500, Healy said, "you might as well get a Fit or a Fiesta."

Toyota FJ Cruiser

Toyota FJ Cruiser
The Toyota ( TM) FJ Cruiser starts at $25,790 and gets 17/22 mpg.

In November, Toyota sold 989 FJ Cruisers, down 8%. For the full year, sales are down 9%, to 12,441.

"This is another polarizing vehicle," Healey said. "It was No. 2 last week on the Kelley Blue Book highest resale value, and it is positioned for folks who want to go offroading."

On the other hand, the fuel economy is low, the handling is subpar, and visibility and fuel economy are poor, he said. Also, Consumer Reports scores the FJ Cruiser 36 out of a possible 100 points, making it the poorest-rated Toyota vehicle.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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