Consumer Reports puts cars through more than 50 tests - over rough roads, on highways, in braking tests, and emergency handling.
While many Japanese cars score very high, a surprising number haven't made the grade recently.
Tom Mutchler with Consumer Reports says, One car that really disappointed us was the Acura RLX. This luxury sedan costs $55,000 and it's just not competitive."
For $16,000 less, Consumer Reports says the Chevrolet Impala delivers a much more comfortable ride and handles better.
Tom says, "Another Japanese car we don't recommend is the Honda Crosstour. It aims to have the comfort of a sedan, the flexibility of an SUV, and the cargo space of a station wagon. The problem is it doesn't really do any of this well."
Some small Nissans also score too low for a Consumer Reports recommendation.
Tom points out, The Nissan Sentra is good on gas, but handling isn't agile, it's noisy inside, and the front seats are uncomfortable."
The subcompact Nissan Versa has those same drawbacks, and it hasn't proved very reliable.
Consumer Reports also doesn't recommend Toyota's least expensive car - the Yaris.
Tom says, "The Yaris is very reliable and fuel efficient, but it just feels extremely cheap and unpleasant to drive."
For the same money - around $16,000 - Consumer Reports says you're better off with the Hyundai Accent.
So while Japanese cars often earn top scores and are often quite reliable, Consumer Reports says it's not a sure thing.
Two other japanese carmakers, Subaru and Mazda, have an excellent record at Consumer Reports' test track. Nearly all their models are recommended.