DETROIT-Most small, compact and mid-sized cars are far more reliable than most minivans, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, according to a Consumer Reports reader survey published in its annual auto issue. That's because smaller cars are generally simpler than the bigger vehicles, said Bob Knoll, director of automotive testing for the consumer magazine.
``There's less to go wrong,'' according to Mr. Knoll. ``The four-wheel-drive vehicles tend to have more trouble than two-wheel-drive. That may account for some of it.''
The reader survey, published in the Consumer Reports April issue, critiqued the reliability of 486,000 vehicles of 1991-1993 model years.
Japanese vehicles topped the reliability charts in most segments, although the Geo Prizm and Buick Skylark were in the top five in the small and compact car ranks.
``The Japanese are ahead in all the measures of reliability ...but the Americans are doing much better than they used to,'' Mr. Knoll said. ``The so-called gap is narrowing. Competition is a great thing.''
The issue also gave reliability estimates of 1994 models based on the same models tested in previous years.
Top ranked cars for reliability included Toyota Tercel, small car category; Infinity G20, compact car; and Nissan Maxima, mid-sized.
The Hyundai Excel, Pontiac Sunbird and Cadillac Eldorado ranked worst in those categories.
The Toyota Previa was ranked the most reliable minivan by far. Its closest competition was the Oldsmobile Silhouette, which ranked slightly above average. The rest, including the popular Dodge Grand Caravan and Plymouth Grand Voyager four-wheel-drives ranked worse than average.
The Toyota 4Runner V6 was the most reliable sport utility vehicle, but most others in that category ranked below average. The Jeep Wrangler was at the bottom of the chart.
Ms. Prodis is an Associated Press business writer.