By Suzanne Kane

Looking for the best used car overall? Of course, you’ll want reliability, but also performance, safety, fuel economy, comfort and convenience and a few other considerations. According to Consumer Reports, the most reliable vehicles come from the Asian nameplates. Topping the lists are vehicles from Honda and Toyota.

The top 3 best used Japanese cars identified here are listed for their high marks from Consumer Reports, Consumer Guide, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and other sources. Certainly they are somewhat subjective, and there are other vehicles that could be on the list as well, given that Toyota (Lexus) and Honda each has numerous models to choose from. Your own choice may be something different than any of this trio, but they’re definitely worth a look.

  • Lexus LS 460 (2007-2008) – The flagship model of Toyota’s upscale division, Lexus, the LS 460 is both Lexus_LS460_Paris_2006Consumer Reports highest-scoring vehicle and Consumer Guide’s best buy choice. The LS, available in regular-length 460 and 460 L configurations, is a rear-wheel drive (RWD) sedan that was redesigned for model year 2007 and features the industry’s first 8-speed automatic transmission and lots of high-tech amenities. All-wheel drive (AWD) is optional. Powered by the 380-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 engine, the 460 has standard front, front-side and curtain airbags and front knee airbags, with rear side airbags optional. Also standard is antilock brakes (ABS), traction/antiskid control and steering-linked headlights. Consumer Guide says of the LS 460 that it’s “outstanding in its own right in terms of power, refinement, standard features and available gadgets.” Pros include acceleration, quietness, ride, seat comfort and control layout. Cons include fuel economy and cargo room. Consumer Reports calls the LS 460 “luxurious, uncompromising driving excitement with a supremely comfortable ride and a roomy, well-finished and exceptionally quiet interior.”
  • Acura TL (2006-2009) – From Acura, Nissan’s luxury division, the TL is an entry-level luxury car which Edmunds hails as “well built and exceedingly easy to live with as an everyday companion… an excellent choice overall.” Acura TL, whose third generation debuted in 2004, features a 258-horsepower 3.2-liter V-6 engine or 286-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine in Type S, 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The 2009 TL is an IIHS Top Safety Pick, and also receives a perfect 5-star rating in NHTSA crash and rollover testing. Consumer Guide gives TL its Best Buy recommendation, and in a review of 2004-2008 models, says TL is “an impressive balance between sport and luxury.” Pros include build quality, steering/handling and acceleration. Cons include cargo room. Consumer Reports lists TL as best in overall safety.
  • Honda Accord (2006-2009) – No list of best Japanese models would be complete without mention of the Honda Accord. Consumer Reports lists Accord as its best Family Sedan in Top 5 Economical Cars for 2008, saying Accord is a “roomy, well-rounded sedan that’s easy to live with and enjoyable to drive. With 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder powertrains available, Accord features standard electronic stability control, Consumer Guide gives the 2003-20007 Accord its Best Buy recommendation and says, “Augmented by precision engineering, enviable refinement and Honda’s own envious record of reliability, that hit-making blend helps make the Accord a Best Buy.” Pros include acceleration (V6), instruments/controls, steering/handling, quietness and build quality. Cons include rear seat entry/exit and rear-seat room (coupe). Redesigned in 2006, the Accord remains popular on consumer used car buying lists. It receives the IIHS Top Safety Pick in 2009 and impressive NHTSA crash and rollover testing marks.

Other top used Japanese cars worth a look include the Honda Civic and Odyssey, Infiniti G35, G37 and M35, Lexus ES 350, and Toyota Prius, Echo, Camry, Corolla, Matrix and Sienna XLE (FWD). Is your top pick among any of these? Do your research and then go out and make your best deal.

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