Japan has long been associated with producing reliable automobiles, and while that may be true, which models from the country hold up the best? To help find out, the expert editors at Autobytel have researched to come up with a list of the 10 Most Reliable Japanese Cars. We’ve limited ourselves to the top cars in each category, and our selections range from green cars to sports cars, and subcompacts to luxury cars, so no matter what you’re looking for we’ve got you covered in the next few pages. Read on to discover which makes and models hold up the best.
10 Most Reliable Japanese Cars
Photo Credit: Nissan
2018 Nissan Leaf
If you’re in the market for a reliable Japanese electric car then the 2018 Nissan LEAF is the vehicle you should be looking at. Our research indicates that it’s far less troublesome than any other electric car on the road, and you won’t be spending much time at the dealer for routine maintenance either since there’s no need for the typical oil change and tune-up with an electric car. While previous versions had smaller batteries, the new for 2018 models have a range of 107 miles, more than enough for most daily commutes and day-to-day tasks. The Leaf comes with Nissan’s regular warranty plus 96 months/100,000 miles (whichever occurs earlier) of lithium-ion battery coverage just in case.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2018 Toyota Prius
If you want a green car from a Japanese manufacturer but can’t get over the range anxiety that comes with an all-electric vehicle, then the 2018 Toyota Prius might be perfect for you. Despite its relatively complex hybrid powertrain and battery pack (which help the Prius earn a combined fuel economy rating of up to 56 miles per gallon,) like many other vehicles in the Toyota family the Prius is a very reliable car. It’s also quite practical, with ample space for five passengers and their luggage, and offers a quiet ride. In case you still have fears about its dependability, in addition to its regular new-car warranty, the Prius also comes with an 8-year/100,000 mile warranty on its hybrid-related components (including the battery and control modules.)
Photo Credit: Mazda
2018 Mazda Miata
When it comes to sports cars many enthusiasts are fans of the Mazda Miata because of the way it handles at the limit, but everyday drivers also love the car’s affordable combination of open-top motoring and reliability. One of the keys to both the car’s fun and its reliability is its mantra of keeping things light and simple. For example, in the tradition of old British sports cars the top doesn’t use any motors to open and close (which are heavy and could eventually fail,) yet still opens and closes easily in seconds. To keep the simple and light theme going while maximizing fun, in the 2018 model we’d opt for the six-speed manual transmission to maximize the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine’s 155 horsepower.
Photo Credit: Subaru
2018 Subaru BRZ / 2018 Toyota 86
The 2018 Subaru BRZ and 2018 Toyota 86 twins are the result of a collaboration between the two brands (which was probably helped along by the fact that Toyota owns a stake of Subaru’s parent company,) with Toyota providing design work and electronics and Subaru providing the 205-horsepower 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder engine. While this could have resulted in a reliability disaster, the result is actually a pair of remarkably reliable and extremely fun to drive sports cars, with an emphasis on predictable handling over outright speed. Enthusiasts have been demanding a more powerful STI version ever since the cars were released, but the cars aren’t slow and you can have lots of fun with what’s on tap.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2018 Toyota Yaris iA
The fun to drive 2018 Toyota Yaris iA sedan is actually one of the most reliable cars that Mazda makes, and Mazda might be doing itself a disservice by allowing such a good car to be sold under the Toyota brand (and with a model name so similar to the slightly less reliable and far less exciting Yaris hatchback.) There’s only one trim, with a nice interior and a comfortable ride, and power comes from a 106-horsepower four-cylinder engine backed by either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The latter is the most efficient with a combined fuel economy rating of 35 miles per gallon, but we’d still be tempted to choose the manual for its more captivating drive and lower price.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2018 Toyota Corolla
Yes, it’s yet another Toyota on our list, but our research shows that the 2018 Toyota Corolla is the most reliable Japanese vehicle in the compact car segment. It isn’t the most exciting car in its class, but it is refined and comfortable and it should outlast most of the competition. All models come with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that develops between 132 and 140 horsepower, backed by either a six-speed manual or continuously variable transmission. We’d choose the manual as it’s a bit more fun to drive and there are theoretically fewer parts to go wrong (not that we’ve heard of real problems with any of Toyota’s transmissions.) A new model should be arriving next year, but that doesn’t make the current version any less reliable.
Photo Credit: Lexus
2018 Lexus GS
The 2018 Lexus GS might not be your grandparent’s Lexus, but despite its extra emphasis on sportiness, it can still match the history of reliability and easily outshines its competitors (Japanese, German or otherwise) in that department. You might not get quite as many bells and whistles as some other cars in the same class, but you do get a fun-to-drive car with a fairly smooth ride and a good-sized interior. Engine options include a 241-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder and a hybrid version that makes 338 total horsepower, but we’d stick to the GS 350 with its 311-horsepower V6, as it is a simpler design and is the most fun to drive (as well as the best sounding.)
Photo Credit: Toyota
2018 Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry has long set the reliability standard when it comes to mid-size family cars, and the new for 2018 models should continue the tradition. The new Camry is also remarkably agile while remaining comfortable. A normally aspirated four-cylinder that puts out 203-206 horsepower (depending on the model) is standard and a spritely V6 with 301 horsepower is optional, while a hybrid model offers 208 horsepower and manages an impressive combined fuel economy rating of 52 miles per gallon. If it were us we’d probably choose the base engine as it offers plenty of power and reasonable economy at an affordable price. But no matter which model you choose you should end up with one of the most reliable Japanese cars.
Photo Credit: Infiniti
2018 Infiniti Q70 / Q70L
The mid-size 2018 Infiniti Q70 and the slightly larger long-wheelbase Q70L are getting slightly long in the tooth now, but they’ve aged well and use proven components. In fact, they are some of the most reliable vehicles that the brand makes, and also some of the most reliable in their class. Powertrain options in the Q70 include a 330-horsepower V6, a 416-horsepower V8 (which makes 420 horsepower in the Q70L) and a 360-horsepower hybrid model (not available with the L.) We’d opt for the V8, as we are fans of both the sound and the extra power compared to the other models, and believe some will find the V6 a bit over-worked in such a large luxury car.
Photo Credit: Lexus
2018 Lexus LS
If you’re looking for a reliable full-size luxury car from Japan then the 2018 Lexus LS needs to be at the top of your list. It has set the reliability bar high ever since its introduction nearly thirty years ago, even when loaded with all of the newest gadgets and tech that you may expect to become troublesome. The new model year brings a new version, but we expect it to be just as reliable as the outgoing model, despite the replacement of the tried-and-true V8 with a 416-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6 and a new ten-speed automatic transmission. A hybrid model will also be available, but we’re not sure it will be worth it as it’s less powerful and only marginally more efficient.