Consumer Reports’ road testing is one of the most thorough and punishing automotive tests in the world. Its in-depth and impartial methods separate the serious contenders from the also-rans, and gives an unvarnished view of a car’s real-world performance. Because of this, the magazine has the unique position of being able to make or break a new car in a way that no other publication has. On top of the report card-like rating system, everything from the quality of interior trim to a car’s handling in emergency situations can be summed up in their five-point rating system ranging from excellent to poor.
On rare occasions, cars fall below even the lowest poor rating, earning a harsh and foreboding “Not Acceptable” rating. And as the last few decades have shown, that’s when all hell breaks loose. During the 1980s and 1990s, automakers began rushing SUVs to the market to satisfy the growing demand. Consumer Reports soon had its hands full warning the public about the increased risk of rollovers, and fending off lawsuits from irate automakers who felt the magazine’s tests were unfairly biased against SUVs.
But CR issued its fair share of “Not Acceptable” ratings long before the SUV dominated American roads, and history has largely absolved the magazine, as it’s now conventional wisdom that older full-size SUVS are a bigger rollover risk than their smaller counterparts. From microcars to hulking SUVs, here are 25 cars that Consumer Reports never wanted to see on the road.
1. Suzuki Samurai
With its diminutive size and cute looks, the Samurai may look like a pretender, but for years it’s been considered one of the most rugged and durable small 4x4s in the world — and it was absolutely savaged by Consumer Reports. Introduced in 1985, the Samurai was a smaller and cheaper alternative to the Jeep CJ-7 and Wrangler models, and was a considerable sales success until a 1988 Consumer Reports test deemed it dangerously unsafe for American roads.
The report was unusual in its strong language, and publicly called for Suzuki to recall all 150,000 Samurais and immediately replace them with a safer model. A damning investigation later found that the magazine altered their tests to increase the possibility of a rollover, and in 1996, Suzuki sued Consumer Reports for the damage the report did to the brand’s sales and reputation. The lawsuit dragged on for years before it was settled out of court in 2004. Suzuki never fully recovered from the ordeal, and pulled out of the American auto market in 2012.
2. Isuzu Trooper
Like the Suzuki incident, Consumer Reports was taken to court over their questionable rollover testing on the Isuzu Trooper (and the identical Acura SLX, pictured here). After receiving “Not Acceptable” ratings in the magazine’s rollover tests, Puerto Rico’s Isuzu distributor sued the magazine alleging a sharp decline in sales after the trucks were deemed unsafe. When the case went to trial in 2000, a jury found that the magazine’s staff “had made several false statements in an article and at a news conference in which it branded the Isuzu Trooper sport utility vehicle unsafe.” The lawsuit was a major embarrassment for the magazine, and it was one of the last times the American public heard from Isuzu. The company stopped selling passenger vehicles in the U.S. in 2008.