Talking Cars with Consumer Reports #92: Compact Trucks, Audi A4

Prompted by a viewer question, we review the compact pickup truck market and discuss our test of the updated Toyota Tacoma. We also discuss the redesigned Audi A4 and Chevrolet’s new Spark and Cruze. Finally, we answer one of the most oft-asked viewer questions: what cars do we own?

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26 thoughts on “Talking Cars with Consumer Reports #92: Compact Trucks, Audi A4

  1. Because of Consumer Reports and your review of the Audi A4, I had to tried one. Recently rented one from SilverCar in San Fran for four days. By the time I finished, I can honestly say I was converted favorably to two things I have never been a fan of. 1) Turbo 4 engines and 2) german cars. I've always been a fan of Asian luxury vehicles like the Lexus vehicles I have owned. They were smooth, sweet and had V6's. But now I realize that I was just floating only, which was okay at the time. I've rented the BMW and A3, as well.

    Personally I felt the BMW felt inside as solid as a rock, and it is a little quieter on coarse pavement. But the Audi A4 felt a little more lightweight and easier to toss around. Took it into the twisty paths of highway 50 at night, with darks cliffs and no guard rails (scared myself almost to death for over an hour) up to South Lake Tahoe. I couldn't turn around and I couldn't slow down, because of the pressure from folks who obviously drive that mountain path everyday. I finally got behind someone in a station wagon and follow him up the twisty mountains with tight curves and switchbacks. It was the surefooted nature of the Audi A4, that helped me make it through. On several short straight sections the station wagon tried to distance itself. The smooth surge from the A4 Quattro, immediately closed the gap.

    It was the ultimate test drive and something I'd never do again (drive in strange mountains at night). But the car proved itself a more confident driver than I was. I'm sold, it will be my next car.

    Oh yes, one more thing. I swore I would never think of buying a car that required premium gas. But surprisingly with the high mountain driving and speeds exceeding 80mph when coming out of that mountain area from Truckee, on Interstate 80 back to San Fran, which allowed wide sweeping turns in the descent on a major highway (with guard rails), I still achieved about 30+ mpg. I was impressed. Before you comment, I was not intentionally speeding. Eighty plus miles per hour, is what the traffic around me was doing coming back down to near sea level, so you couldn't go any slower without getting creamed. I would have felt totally uncomfortable at the speed in my own car, but the A4 definitely made me feel in complete control.

  2. The 2011-15 Tacoma has better than average reliability, not uncommon for a Toyota on CR. Yet the 2016-17 is horrible on your chart. WHY!!! You hardly mention this staggering fact. What happened to the Tacoma's reliability, it seems worth mentioning. Thank you for the information.

  3. I'm one of those who wanted a full size truck. But, the wife hated the idea of parking one. We ended up with a 4-door Frontier. She's been happy so far. Plus, she let me choose the Pro 4X package as a compromise.

  4. If you tow a lot full size trucks are fine…… but for the average person they are just way too big………..
    I like the truck size from the 1990's better. They were smaller and easier to maneuver.
    Steps are needed because the trucks are too big……… The full size trucks are too big……..
    the mid size trucks are better but they lack in style and features……….

  5. VW made a bad business decision when it focused on diesel cars…………..
    It should have focused it future production plans on ALL ELECTRIC VEHICLES………
    Electric vehicles have NO EMISSIONS…………..
    Electric vehicles are the future…..ICE fossil fuel cars are the past……..
    Think cell phones vs land lines……….

  6. I would love to see a new compact pickup, about the size of an old Ranger or a first-generation Tacoma. Basic, two-wheel-drive, four-cylinder, with a stick shift. Slow, economical, simple, and reliable. I recently sold a 1997 Ranger in mediocre condition for $3,000–WAY more than I expected to get for it. Those old-style compact pickups aren't being made anymore, and they are holding their value. I don't want a full-sized Silverado, Ram, or F150–they're too cumbersome, too expensive, and WAY too thirsty. I just want something that I can easily throw a canopy on and haul musical equipment that won't fit in my Scion.

    I'm not paying $35,000 for a four-wheel-drive Tacoma with a bunch of bells and whistles that I don't need. Call me old-fashioned at the ripe, old age of (not even 30), but they don't make them like they used to. If Toyota built a "Tacoma Jr.," they'd make a KILLING.

  7. Last gen Toyota Tacoma had a lot of issues that the owners looked the other way on. If it had been a Chevy or Ford having similar issues the outcry would have been outrageous. My father in-law had an 06 that suffered from some of these more common issues. It was reasonably reliable but nothing special…

  8. @consumerreports , I'm looking for a sporty wagon used car option under $30k. I love the Volvo V60, BMW, Audi,, but what options / years should I look for?

  9. The one thing the Tacoma offers to the enthusiast over the GM twins: a reportedly decent 6MT available with 4×4 in a non-base trim. Hopefully Nissan comes through with a competitor in this space post refresh with the Frontier.

  10. here is a topic for consumer reports to do a in depth discussion on ——these driverless or self driving cars…..and? should they even be legal on the roadways since the driver is suppose to be in control of their vehicle at all times by the laws of our roads and ? for getting a drivers license in the first place……and? has there been a long term in depth study with full transparency on these vehicles to see what really happens when they malfunction overtime as these vehicles age?  i would like some real input on what you and everyone reading this and consumer reports think about this ……..when we all know human built machinery =technology breaks/fails eventually…..

  11. Still driving an 2004 Ranger. Bought and paid for many years ago. Don't see any reason to go into debt when my truck works just fine and gets me from point A to point B!

  12. can you guys talk about reliability of hybrid cars. Not just Prius but also across all makes and models. Things like serviceability, warranty on batteries, expenses, etc.thanks….big fan!!

  13. I don't think people who buy trucks expect them to ride and drive like sports cars or luxury cars.

  14. Question: you talk about AEB automatic emergency braking as being very important but different manufacturers appear to have different systems: low, medium and higher speed systems. How can you tell which one to choose, which one is best, etc.? Is it best to choose a system that works at most/all speeds? Thanks!

  15. First of all: I enjoy your videos. Your reviews are concise and to the point.
    I am in the market for a car with manual transmission that is fun to drive and comfortable.
    Having a transmission that is nice to shift is a great motoring pleasure for me.
    I am thinking about the 2016 Accord Sport. What is your opinion on this vehicle? Would you call it Sport?
    Also, I'd like to suggest a comparison test for the future. An Accord Sport and a Mazda 6 equivalently priced, both with manual transmission. Usually people test drive only automatic cars. However, there is still a group of people that want to buy manual transmission vehicles, of which I am one. Can you please give me your opinion and/or suggest something else? I didn't want to break the bank, so $30 K would be the max.
    Thank you.
    Keep up the good work.

  16. What would be good used high performance sports car for somebody in college that can afford it?

  17. Find it very interesting on their own cars they don't follow their reliability advice.  That year BMW X3 is below average in reliability, and the Dodge Durango (buying the first year of the redesign) is way below average.  Only the Prius tests above average in reliability in their tests.  I own a Saab 9-3 2006 that originally they said avoid as the car was severely unreliable.  Instead, it is highly reliable (which they agreed a couple of years later when they had few issues and changed the rating to a red circle). Then again, I had inside knowledge that GM was at that point in the mid 2000s adopting six sigma/Kazien process improvement.  It works and many GM cars are much better now than they used to be – it was just starting out then 10 years ago but today it is why GM is doing better – not perfect – but better than before.

  18. The first generation tundra was heavily criticized in its debut for being too soft and car like, even though its payload and hauling capacities approached the big 3 trucks. The second generation tundra came out with much beating of hairy chest and gnashing of teeth. This was a blue collar work truck by golly, with knobs that can be operated with gloved hands, man sized climate control vents, and a drive train that can tow the space shuttle! And it's been criticized for being to rough and tumbly. How dare it ride like a, gulp, truck. The Tacoma rides good. Maybe not as smooth and quiet as the GM mid sized trucks, but definitely not bad. Definitely not a platypus.

  19. Viewers who rarely miss an episode should have known what vehicles all three of these guys own, because they've said it before. 🙂

  20. It is so so sad that the entire automobile industry refuses to make a basic no frills small pick up truck. The tax structure is such that it is almost impossible to import one.

    I wish Subaru or VW would do what the domestics refuse to do. Make a very basic small pick up truck with no frills for 25k or so. They could build it in the states. They could sale more units than the Tesla 3.

  21. I loved my 2012 X328i. It was a wonderful machine. Would not dip below 23 mpg. Fun to drive. Beautiful engine. I did not have one problem with it. BMWs warranty program is excellent. Sorry I sold it. BMW offered an insane amount of money for it and it was just about out of warranty.

    I love the Durango also. Good driving position ride handling for such a large suv. The infotainment is also excellent. My cousins Durango has had problems with CEL's and random stalling.

    The Prius is automotive hell. I understand its purpose.

    I have had a few modern Toyotas go over 100,000 with zero brake problems. I replaced my front pads on my 2000 Celica at 110,000 miles. They still had life in them.

  22. The A4 clearly got more expensive as the A3 got larger and more established. CR even previously stated that the new A3 is much like the B5 gen Audi A4 in size and behavior, so it makes sense that the new A4 gets bigger with more features and higher price. I still miss my B5 A4 – it was a beautiful balance of attributes.

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