Ford’s Mustang Mach-E tops Tesla’s Model 3 in Consumer Reports list

People visit Ford’s Mustang Mach-E all-electric SUV at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, the United States, November 22, 2019.

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Ford’s Mustang Mach-E, the automaker’s bold bet to lead its transformation toward selling more electric vehicles, replaced the Tesla Model 3 as Consumer Reports’ “Top Pick” for an electric vehicle in 2022.

The designation is further validation of CEO Jim Farley’s belief that Ford can not only compete with Tesla, but also beat Elon Musk when it comes to electric vehicles.

Jake Fisher, senior director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports, says he was impressed with the Mach-E as soon as the nonprofit group purchased it. “Not only is it a really fun vehicle to drive, it’s sporty, it’s also extremely mature,” Fisher told CNBC. “When I say it drives well, it’s very quiet. I mean it feels really well built.”

Consumer Reports says the reliability data it has collected shows the Mach-E has very few issues, so far. That data, along with reviews from owners and testing by Consumer Reports, prompted him to make the Mach-E his 2022 “Top Pick” for an electric vehicle, replacing the Tesla Model 3.

Consumer Reports still recommends the Model 3, but Fisher says the small electric car fails to match the Mach-E in some areas, including hands-free driving and warning of unwary drivers. Ford’s BlueCruise system uses a camera to monitor and alert drivers when they’re not paying attention. The Model 3 also has a camera monitoring the driver, but Consumer Reports says the camera could be more effective.

“In our testing we can cover the camera, we couldn’t look at the road and it really doesn’t give the driver any alerts to make sure they’re looking where they’re going,” says Fisher.

Overall, Tesla fell seven spots to 23rd in Consumer Reports’ ranking of 32 major auto brands. It’s the worst showing in the seven years that Tesla has been included in the “Top Picks” issue.

In addition to concerns about Tesla’s Autopilot system, Consumer Reports criticizes the automaker’s steering yoke, a change from the steering wheel in the Model S and X. Fisher says using the yoke is frustrating. “It’s not only made it harder to turn the steering wheel, but they also got rid of the turn signal stalk,” he said.

Fisher added that the quality of “Top Picks” for 2022 is better than ever, with the brands once again being dominated by Japanese automakers. Subaru was ranked No. 1, followed by Mazda, BMW, Honda and Lexus. At the bottom of the list this year are Mitsubishi and GMC, just above Jeep which was the lowest rated brand.

CNBC Meghan Reder contributed to this report.

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