Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that it may not be the best time to buy a Toyota. With an unprecedented number of vehicles recalled for incidents of unintended acceleration and brake-related issues, the Japanese automaker’s once-solid reputation for reliability is quickly careening out of control.
That doesn’t mean Toyota won’t get back on track. The company has already issued a fix for its braking and acceleration woes and has begun a large-scale PR campaign to win back consumer confidence. However, car shoppers have become understandably skeptical of the brand -- especially as reports and investigations continue to shed more light on a possible recall cover-up.
Ever competitive, other automakers are jumping on the opportunity to win over current and would-be Toyota drivers. In fact, competitors -- like Ford, General Motors, Chrysler and Hyundai -- are offering attractive incentives to current Toyota owners who switch to one of their vehicles. And why not? Those car makers offer alternatives that are just as good if not better than what Toyota has.
If you’re in the market for a 2010-model vehicle and want to steer clear of Toyota’s offerings, check out your alternatives. These cars are worthy competitors and haven’t had any worrisome safety recalls.
Buy This: Honda CR-V (MSRP: $21,545 - $29,745)
Not That: Toyota RAV4 (MSRP: $21,675 - $27,985)
In the market for a compact SUV? While the RAV4 is being recalled, the similarly-priced Honda CR-V is good to go. Critics find that the 2010 CR-V features a higher-quality interior and easier-to-use tailgate than the RAV4. The CR-V doesn’t offer a V6 engine option like the RAV4, but their four-cylinder models have comparable fuel economy ratings and horsepower outputs. The two SUVs even feature similar cargo space -- a little over 70 cubic feet. The RAV4’s greatest advantage over the CR-V is that it offers an optional third-row seat. However, reviewers report that it’s too cramped for anyone but kids. And though critics used to be bored by the CR-V’s exterior design, it features a new, more attractive look for 2010.
Buy This: Ford Taurus (MSRP: $25,170 - $33,620)
Not That: Toyota Avalon (MSRP: $27,945 - $35,285)
Opt for a Ford Taurus over a Toyota Avalon and you’ll save thousands while getting more for your money. Though the Taurus and Avalon provide similar power output and fuel economy ratings, test drivers find that the Taurus provides a better overall ride. The Taurus also looks bold and aggressive, while the Avalon is elegant but forgettable. Inside, both the Taurus and Avalon provide loads of comfort, refinement and technology. However, no vehicle in the class can match Ford’s SYNC in-car connectivity system, which allows drivers to control Bluetooth-enabled devices inside the car, like cell phones and MP3 players, with voice commands. The Taurus is more practical than the Avalon too. Not only does it provide more cargo room, but it features a cargo-friendly folding rear seat -- which the Avalon doesn’t.
Buy This: Hyundai Elantra Touring (MSRP: $15,995 - $19,795)
Not That: Toyota Matrix (MSRP: $16,700 - $22,110)
In terms of comfort and utility, the Hyundai Elantra Touring is a better family wagon than the Toyota Matrix. While reviewers praise the Elantra Touring for its roomy back seat, the Matrix is criticized for its lack of adult leg room. Many also like the fact that the Elantra Touring provides more than 15 cubic feet of cargo room than the Matrix, putting it on par with the space in some SUVs. Under the hood, the Elantra Touring provides slightly more horsepower than the base-trim Matrix, but marginally worse fuel economy. Shoppers keen on peace of mind will appreciate Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, which Toyota just can’t match.
Buy This: Chevrolet Traverse (MSRP: $29,224 - $39,985)
Not That: Toyota Highlander (MSRP: $25,855 - $34,670)
The Chevrolet Traverse starts at about $3,000 more than the Toyota Highlander. But in this case, you get what you pay for. For instance, the Traverse’s 281- and 288-horsepower V6 engines are stronger than the Highlander’s 270-horsepower V6. And though Toyota offers a more fuel-efficient four-cylinder option, test drivers say it lacks punch. Things are worse for the Highlander on the outside -- with critics calling it dull and anonymous, while praising the Traverse’s contemporary design. Inside, the Traverse features a standard third-row bench and comfortably seats eight adults. Meanwhile, the Highlander’s third row costs more and only increases capacity to seven, and that last row is cramped. Best of all, the Traverse leads its class with 116.4 cubic feet of cargo room.
Buy This: GMC Sierra 1500 (MSRP: $20,850 - $46,435)
Not That: Toyota Tundra (MSRP: $23,455 - $42,455)
While the Toyota Tundra is a solid workhorse, the GMC Sierra 1500 offers more features and options that allow you to tailor it to your liking. For example, both the Sierra and Tundra offer powerful V8 engine options. However, the Sierra features a broader range of six engine choices -- from a 195-horsepower V6 to a 403-horsepower V8. And while the Tundra is also available in three different cab configurations, the Sierra lets shoppers choose among three cabs and three different size cargo beds. Choices continue on the inside, with the Sierra offering four interior packages -- ranging from styles and features geared toward blue-collar workers to luxury shoppers. To top it all off, the Sierra comes with a longer powertrain warranty, five years or 100,000 miles.
Buy This: Kia Forte (MSRP: $13,695 - $18,695)
Not That: Toyota Corolla (MSRP: $15,450 - $20,150)
Critics agree that the Kia Forte is a better buy than the Toyota Corolla -- especially if you’re in the market for a small and affordable commuter car. Boasting an EPA-estimated city/highway fuel economy of 27/36 mpg, the Forte is only slightly more fuel efficient than a similarly equipped Corolla (26/35 mpg), but features 24 more horsepower. But where the Forte really shines is its cabin. While the Corolla’s no-frills design leaves reviewers bored, the Forte features loads of the latest technology -- including standard iPod connectivity, Bluetooth and SIRIUS satellite radio. With 14.7 cubic feet of trunk space, the Forte also leads its class in cargo room. Need more incentive? Kia’s ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty blows away Toyota’s five-year/60,000-mile coverage plan.
Buy This: Chevrolet Tahoe (MSRP: $37,280 - $53,615)
Not That: Toyota Sequoia (MSRP: $39,030 - $59,405)
If you like road trips, have a large family or just need an imposing set of wheels to show up to your next sold-out concert, the Chevrolet Tahoe features clear advantages over the Toyota Sequoia. To start with, the Tahoe’s exterior design looks sleeker than the Sequoia’s -- which shares its front end with the boxy Tundra pickup truck. And although they’re both powered by V8 engines, the Tahoe is more fuel efficient -- netting an EPA-estimated city/highway fuel economy of 15/21 mpg verses the Sequoia’s ratings of 14/19 mpg. Inside the cabin, the Tahoe seats nine passengers while the Sequoia seats eight. Still, critics note that the Sequoia’s third row is more comfortable for adults. Cabin materials, however, are better inside the Tahoe -- especially when comparing lower-end trims of both models. The icing on the cake: the Tahoe’s five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty is longer than the Toyota’s five-year/60,000-mile offering.
Buy This: Ford Fusion (MSRP: $19,695 - $28,355)
Not That: Toyota Camry (MSRP: $19,395 - $29,045)
The Toyota Camry has been the best-selling passenger car in America for seven consecutive years -- but the Ford Fusion is quickly gaining ground. Both models’ base four-cylinder and high-end V6 engines provide comparable power and fuel economy. However, the Fusion splits the difference by offering a third engine option that slots between the two -- letting you pick just the amount of power you need. And while the Camry looks dramatic and elegant, it’s bland in comparison to the Fusion’s aggressive styling cues. Inside, reviewers find that the Fusion offers more comfortable seating and higher-end technology -- including Ford’s famed SYNC infotainment system. The Fusion even provides 16.5 cubic feet of trunk space, which beats the Camry by two cubic feet and puts it on par with full-size sedans.
Note: Certain models of the Toyota vehicles listed above have been recalled for unintended acceleration due to a sticking accelerator pedal. Other vehicles recalled for unintended acceleration due to the accelerator becoming trapped under the floor mat and braking issues may not have been covered. For the latest news on Toyota’s recalls, see U.S. News’ Toyota recall information page.