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2012 Prius C

Bill Petro/Toyota

Yes, Toyota took a painful hit this week. Consumer Reports dropped the Camry sedan, RAV4 compact crossover and Prius v hybrid hatchback from its list of recommended vehicles. Ouch.

All three performed poorly in an overlap crash test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. How did Toyota let that happen to the RAV, a very popular, newly-engineered crossover with a good history for being safe and reliable? Embarrassing.

But amidst the hubbub surrounding that crash test story, many overlooked the Toyota Prius. The Prius is nearly 80 per cent more reliable than the average vehicle in CR's latest reliability study. That's stunning. Second place among hybrids and EVs (electric vehicles)? The Lexus ES 300h hybrid. Third? Toyota Prius c.

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In fact, six of the top 10 most reliable hybrids or EVs come from Toyota. All of Toyota's hybrids, even the plug-in Prius, are rated above average for reliability. Eight of the 15 hybrids or EVs ranked above average for reliability come from Toyota or its Lexus luxury brand.

For a contrast, look at Ford's hybrids: the Fusion Hybrid, C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid all are ranked below average for reliability. CR says that only four per cent of Prius owners reported problems, while 25 per cent of C-Max Energi owners said they'd had problems.

CR rated 21 hybrids or EVs for reliability, based on a survey of owners. Aside from the three Fords, only the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and two mild hybrid from General Motors – Chevrolet Malibu Eco and Buick LaCrosse eAssist – ranked below average.

"Hybrids and electric cars continue to do well," said Consumer Reports. "The Toyota Prius, Lexus ES 300h, Toyota Prius c, and Honda CR-Z hybrids, as well as the Nissan Leaf electric car, were among the top models," said CR, adding that the "Tesla Model S electric car performed well enough in the survey to earn a Recommendation from CR for the first time."

Two lessons here. First, car companies as a group are working hard to ensure the reliability of their EVs and hybrids. And second, Toyota continues to build reliable vehicles, especially hybrids. Anyone interested in a hybrid that is unlikely to break should note that Toyota Canada has a $3,000 factory discount available on the dependable 2013 Prius (with $26,100 base price).

The Prius comes with an eight year/160,000 km warranty on its hybrid electrical components. The latest research from CR suggests that you'll never need to use that warranty.

globedrive@globeandmail.com

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

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